The essence of Jeffersonianism, in his own time and in ours, is individual freedom. The federal government should be empowered to do only that which it alone can do (i.e. foreign affairs and national defense), while state and local governments should handle those lower-level matters that the members of those respective communities decide are necessary (i.e. public education). Whenever possible, the people should not turn to the government at all, but work together cooperatively to achieve common goals. But the bottle line in everything must be individual freedom.
Jeffersonians talk a great deal, and rightly so, about unnecessary government infringements upon individual freedom. We talk rather less about corporate power, which poses at least as much danger to individual freedom as government, if not a greater one. And of all the corporations that threaten the Jeffersonian vision of America, none is more dangerous and more sinister than the retail and grocery giant Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart is the world's largest corporation, with a massive share of the retail and grocery market in the United States and a strong presence overseas as well. Since its founder, Sam Walton, died in 1992, the company has steadily evolved into a monster that destroys local communities, tramples on the rights of its employees, and attempts to strangle the Jeffersonian dream of America.
Wal-Mart's modus operandi is simple, brutal and effective. It opens a store in a community, often a small town or a compact neighborhood. Because of the massive scale of its operations, its ruthless exploitation of foreign workers, and its disregard for such things as environmental quality, it can offer prices much below those of locally-owned independent businesses. When a Wal-Mart opens, locally-owned independent businesses are unable to compete and are gradually forced out of business. The old main streets of innumerable American small towns now stand empty and deserted, victims of Wal-Mart's greed.
The destruction of locally-owned independent businesses is far more than a simple economic matter. "Mom-and-Pop" hardware stores, retail establishments, and small grocers were once the backbone of communities across this nation. It is establishments like these which give communities their unique local characters; without them, every American community would look like every other American community, dominated by the same bland chain-stores. In destroying these locally-owned independent businesses, Wal-Mart is attacking the very heart and soul of America.
Wal-Mart also brutally exploits its own workers. Pay is minimal and the "benefits" provided are pathetic. Stories abound of workers being told that they would be fired if they didn't do hours of work off the clock, women subjected to regular sexual harassment, and even of Wal-Mart taking out massive life insurance policies on their workers without their knowledge or consent (literally making these workers worth more to Wal-Mart dead than alive).The way this business treats its own people is an affront to human dignity as well as to individual freedom.
Watch this powerful documentary, titled Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. It was done by the outstanding documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald, and should be watched by every Jeffersonian.
This is the kind of stuff that should make the blood boil in every 21st Century Jeffersonian. We should encourage our friends to boycott this monster of a corporate store and, if they attempt to move into our communities, we must fight to keep them out with every means at our disposal.