On Thursday, in my excellent sociology class on “Technology and Modern Society,” we had a local farmer who works at Caretaker Farm, a local Community Supported Agriculture farm (definition of CSA farming here), come talk to us about the CSA movement. His basic point was that big agriculture is bad because small, family farms produce better tasting food that is environmentally safer and it is a good thing for members of a community to have a relationship with local farms and farmers. He also spent a good chunk of time criticizing WAL-MART which allegedly is evil because it puts “mom and pop” stores out of business.

Out of protest, yesterday when I needed to buy more Advil, I made a point of taking the extra 20 minutes to go to WAL-MART rather than Hart’s Pharmacy on Spring St. How do I love WAL-MART (and hate Hart’s)? Let me count the ways.

1) WAL-MART provides an amazing selection of products at very low prices. The effect of these low prices has been to allow the average American a standard of living that is substantially higher than it would be if we followed the CSA people’s advice and returned to “mom and pop” stores and farms. Hart’s pharmacy is ridiculously over-priced (I was going to stop by and compare prices, but had too much else to do… trust me on this one though). Those who choose to shop at Hart’s are either wealthy enough to have the luxury of paying a premium for Hart’s charm/convenience or else they are making sacrifices in other aspects of their quality of life. Either way, all the more power to them, but for the rest of us thank you WAL-MART.

2) Those who criticize WAL-MART for destroying sense of community are blaming the company for something that it’s not responsible for. The phenomenon of out of town shopping didn’t develop because of WAL-MART. WAL-MART is just very good at providing that service.

3) WAL-MART is great for its employees who would otherwise have trouble getting jobs (they tend to be overwhelmingly immigrants and older people.

4) WAL-MART’s approach to competition is to beat it by having longer hours, better service, and cheaper prices. Hart’s is to whine about it.

Also, Jay Pasachoff, professor of astronomy, notes that we should be skeptical of organic food. Anyway, go shop at WAL-MART and enjoy some GM foods.

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