The Big Empty Box (Store)

Stacey Mitchell of The Institute for Local Self-Reliance reports that empty big-box stores are about to join the foreclosed homestead as a defining feature of the American economic landscape:

Within a few months, more than one-eighth of the country's retail space will be sitting vacant, according to some estimates. That's about 1.4 billion square feet, or 50 square miles, of empty store space, ringed by roughly 150 square miles of useless parking lot.

It will be tempting to blame the weak economy for all of this wreckage. But the recession has merely been the trigger. This avalanche of vacant retail, much like the mortgage crisis, has been a long time in the making.

Since the early 1990s, the pace of retail development has far outstripped growth in spending. Between 1990 and 2005, the amount of store space in the United States doubled, ballooning from 19 to 38 square feet per person. Meanwhile, real consumer spending rose just 14 percent.

Stacey Mitchell is the author of Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses. which we reviewed here.


don pedro Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 6:41:00 PM CST  

this is sort of out of place, but I didn't know how else to get this question to you guys. Could you possibly do a post on what monetary policy you endorse (if any). I'm sorry if this is common knowledge, but I only faily recently started following this blog and I wanted some fellow distributists opinions on the matter. And of course please address fiscal (not tax) policy if you could. Thanks! =)

Anonymous,  Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 2:20:00 PM CST  

We don't want a monetary policy we want a credit policy that's decentralized i.e. interest free local currencies from a local (city) treasury. Now we may have need of certain Federal rules regarding these as a political reality to allow for smooth interstate commerce but ideally speaking monetary policy should be set locally.

Taxes are complicated. I'm not sure about the other folks on this site but I say no taxes on labor i.e. income. Tax Land, User Fee and Tolls, and Tariffs to protect local small producers.

I would ask John and Richard what they think about a Tobin tax. I'm thinking it would somewhat Distributist as it would tax taking money out of local economies.

I'm also thinking we should tax usury between private exchanges to discourage lending at high interest. For example, if Credit Card company wants to raise interest rates to 30% then they have to pay 30% tax on the interest collected but if they lower the interest to 10% then they only pay 10% tax on interest.

Again I'm not sure that John, Richard, and Paleocrat would agree exactly on what policy for reducing the extorting of wealth using "unnatural exchanges" would be per say but Distributism starts with recognizing there's problem with usury, speculation, labor arbitrage, insurance, etc...i.e rentier income.

We believe that Man should earn a living by skilled productive work using the capital that his family owns not by rents and swindling other people with so called "investments."

John Médaille Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 3:19:00 PM CST  

Don, I agree with Septeus. I can say for certain that no distributist will agree to the current Federal Reserve system, by which the banks create credit out of thin air and charge usurious rates for it. Some distributists are, I'm sure, gold bugs, believing that money should be backed by gold. I am not of that school.

I believe that money is "backed" by the commodities produced by the economy that it represents, and the monetary trick is to keep the supply of money roughly equivalent to the amount of goods in circulation. Money as 'legal tender' (money the gov't will accept in payment of taxes and can require everybody else to accept in payment of debts) is a public power, not a power of the banks. The gov't can simply print its own money interest-free, which is a right of sovereigns since time immemorial. And anybody can establish their own money system if they can get people to accept it as money.

Anonymous,  Friday, January 30, 2009 at 12:04:00 PM CST  

A good friend of mine who had his own business for years told me when I was a teenager, "The only way to have a decent life was to own your own business." You won't prosper working for the man. Also "trade your talents or goods for someone elses rather than hire someone to repair something you don't excel in."

Richard Aleman Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 1:10:00 PM CST  

Hi Septeus,

The Tobin tax is certainly worthy of some reflection. It could work between local currencies on a national level, however if I understand it correctly, this tax would be implemented on foreign exchanges, and as a result, in theory would necessitate an international body to oversee it.

I am in favor of taxation on imported goods competitive with domestic production. An exception should be measured, in relation to goods we do not, or cannot, produce in our nation.

However, the Tobin tax, at least theoretically, would require (if you allow me to shift gears and speak of international trade) an international body for oversight.

I have to look more into it and definitely reflect on this a bit.

In regards to our conversation about monetarism, I agree with John. I do not support the Fed, but I also agree that gold is not a necessary element towards monetary reform as anything can be a unit of measure. Corn could be our new currency. If people supported stickers becoming a currency, that would be currency. What matters is its relationship to the actual worth of any local community, based in part, on the circulation of goods, and the acceptance of the community.

Now I have one last thing to add. I understand that there are distributists who do not support current local currencies because they are based on fiat currency. However, I want to reiterate that supporting local currencies today does serve many purposes. First it educates the local community about the need to support small, local business. Two, it teaches them about the flow of goods and services within that same local area, and even how it works on a national level. Finally, I believe it brings an awareness about the independence of the family and the interdependence of society.

Yes, I realise it isn't a permanent fix. But as distributists we must recognise the need to come up with not only permanent solutions, but transitional ones as well.

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