here is what I wrote in a letter to the editor at the daily illini:
I am writing in response to John Ostrowski’s ridiculous argument about the influx of chain stores on Green Street. His argument seems to contain three main thrusts: 1. The replacement of local businesses with corporate chains makes people feel bad, but not that bad, because people more commonly identify with our nation instead of our local communities. 2. Those who actually realize that it’s a bad thing continue shopping at the chain stores, anyway. 3. Higher property taxes push businesses out because they are not doing enough business to be able to afford those taxes.
I will begin by saying that people’s feelings about the trend are quite irrelevant when discussing whether or not the results of the trend are good or bad for them. People constantly “don’t mind” or “feel okay about” things that ultimately do them more harm than good. Sometimes this happens when people fail to take into consideration the consequences or deeper meanings of things, and sometimes its because they are simply indifferent or apathetic. I know, it’s hard to imagine college students fitting this bill, but please humor me.
It should be no surprise that students at this university do not identify themselves with the local community considering the fact that a bulk of them are from Chicago suburbs, which coincidentally are lined with the types of businesses we now find on Greet Street. Why would they be concerned with the well-being of the community that provides them a home during the course of their higher education? Especially considering the fact that the money that they spend here is earned by their parents’ investments in the lovely, conscientious corporations whose tentacles collect cash where local businesses once provided goods and services.
Finally, higher taxes don’t necessarily push small businesses out because they don’t do enough business. They are unable to pay the higher property taxes when they fail to generate profits as high as corporate chains. Mass production is a great deal cheaper than giving care and attention to each product or service, and yet the prices in these chain stores don’t compete so well with those of their local counterparts. Where does the extra money go? Profits go to the guys at the top. With local business, the guys at the top live in the community and invest there. So the money you spend on lunch not only fills your belly, it helps to encourage local growth and development. Say that about corporate stores.
If you’re okay with the idea that all of the profit generated when you live your everyday life goes up the ladder to folks who live hundreds or thousands of miles away, then by all means, shop at the chain stores. But if you want to believe in the idea that any average American can become a business owner, can do what they love and meet other peoples needs with their goods or services, then support that local business owner, and stop supporting the people who make money off of everyone else’s labor.