The Liberal Country Music Fan

Welcome to the Liberal Country Music Fan blog. Life sometimes gets a bit Blue for us country music fans on the Left. With any luck, this blog will provide a home and a voice to us Roosevelt-lovin' Rednecks. It'll be our "Big Blue Note".

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Country Music's Wal-Mart Paradox

Wal-Mart’s reputation in country music has never been better. In 2004, the gargantuan corporation received positive mention in Gretchen Wilson’s runaway hit “Redneck Woman”. More recently, Garth Brooks announced that he will come out of retirement for a night to thank Wal-Mart for the success of his exclusive marketing agreement with the company.

While I am in favor of anything that brings Garth out of his cave, Garth should think twice about his newfound love for Wal-Mart. The fact is, Wal-Mart is detrimental to one of the most widely-held values of country music: small town pride.

I’ll explain.

Geographers (like me) have two simple constructs for examining how a particular economic activity benefits a community:

1) Basic Activity: Economic activity that brings money into a community from outside the community. A manufacturing plant is an excellent example.

2) Non-Basic Activity: Economic activity that does not bring in new money, but shifts existing money around a community. A locally-owned grocery store or country store are examples.

Basic economic activity is obviously more beneficial to a town than non-basic, but both are necessary to a functioning community. Where does Wal-Mart fit in? It doesn’t. Wal-Mart needs a whole new category, one that refers to parasitic economic effects:

3) Anti-Basic Activity (unofficial term): Economic activity that removes money from a community, like Wal-Mart does.

Before Wal-Mart enters a community, most folks shop at locally-owned stores, recycling most of their money into the community. When Wal-Mart comes into the picture, all of the profits that used to go straight back into the community get sent off to Bentonville, AR, to one of the largest corporations and some of the richest people on the planet.

This is not the only way Wal-Mart contributes to the poverty of small towns. For instance, Wal-Mart's wages tend to be less than those of the locally-owned stores they replace.

As such, when someone buys Garth’s or Gretchen’s CDs at Wal-Mart, they are literally taking part in the destruction of small towns...The very same small towns that are boasted about on the albums they are buying. This is the case whether the purchaser is an urbanite or a small town native; by buying the CD, both contribute profits to a corporation that is actively ruining the economy of small towns. The irony is depressingly thick.

Left-leaning Garth and Gretchen, as well as other country stars of all political stripes, should reconsider explicitly supporting Wal-Mart if they truly value small towns, or at least value their fans’ love for small towns. I realize that commercial reality demands that they sell their CDs through the chain, I’m just suggesting that they cut out the pro-Wal-Mart lyrics and the “Thank You Wal-Mart” concerts and associated exclusive record distribution deals.

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