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Consequences and Costcos

November 14th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

A new Costco just opened in my community.

Most people in my community are happy about this although their reasons are pretty self-centered.  They are reasons like they no longer have to drive 20 minutes to get to Costco, or that their teenage daughter has more job options in town.  Some are happy for deeper reasons, like the increased income tax revenue that will be coming into our community from many neighboring communities (which lack Costcos) as a result, or that it seems to be an indicator that perhaps the recession is taking a positive turn.

Some people in my community aren’t very happy about this at all.  This story is about them, in a way.

A number of years ago, my community was quite a bit smaller than it is today.  20 years ago it was a smallish community of just over 10,000 inhabitants, with a lot of sizable tracts of family land.  The people who lived here liked that small-town feel, sans big-town national business chains, and wanted to preserve it, so they routinely elected mayors and city council members who would keep the town small.  So when Wal-Mart came along wanting to build a new store in town, the request to rezone land for the chosen location was not approved.  Wal-Mart moved on to a neighboring community.

The citizens of my town were alright with this, seemingly.  But there was one other aspect to what they were looking for.  Individually, they wanted to take advantage of the general population growth in our area by subdividing their family land and selling it.  So when they elected the mayors and city council members that would keep the town from adding the big nationwide business chains, they also elected those that would repeatedly zone their family land as residential so they could make subdivisions full of nice little family homes.  A lot of them made some pretty good money doing it.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how this develops.  Over the next 20 years the town tripled in population, and the people that moved in didn’t hold to the same values as those who had lived here for so long.  These new move-ins had a different idea for our community.  It didn’t take long before us new move-ins could sway the vote for the mayors and city council members.  When Costco came calling, things were different.  The new city leaders were in favor of bringing in businesses like this, so land was condemned and rezoned to allow for the new Costco and many other businesses that are now moving into the surrounding business park.

I find it interesting how many long-time residents opposed this shift in the community’s mindset, yet they basically brought it as a consequence of the choices they made.  In fairness, I don’t know of any specific individuals that this story describes, but it is a pretty accurate representation of the series of events.

We humans do this a lot.  We want the freedom to make our own choices but not have to deal with the natural consequences.  I think a big part of maturity is recognizing that just because you declare that gravity doesn’t apply to you doesn’t keep you from coming down if you jump up.

That’s why it was so discouraging this last election season to see so many people who don’t seem to understand this point.  No amount of wanting to be able to afford universal health care and social security and lower taxes and green energy subsidies and better education and great social programs can change the fact that our nation is deeply in debt and we cannot afford all these things.  It was our choices that led us here.  We can only get out of this mess by making the choices that lead naturally to the consequences we are looking for.  Wishing it alone doesn’t make it so.

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