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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Economic success should not be presumed to equal socio-economic progress for U.S.

    Having options is arguably the greatest and most important ideal in this, our great country. Yet in our opportunist-inclined society, has the idea of “”options”” slowly dissipated as capitalism increases?

    It’s a sad reality that one day we’ll all probably be faced with the following question when choosing where to buy groceries: “”Should I shop at Wal-Mart or … the Wal-Mart superstore?”” But dismissing a system that has existed for as long as most of us can remember would be exceptionally ignorant; after all, Wal-Mart does have great prices.

    Yet just as it is unfair to call capitalism entirely erroneous, it is equally unjust to hail it as flawless since just as much is lost as is gained in the progression of our “”supply and demand”” society.

    Many of us might remember the long-gone grocery store ABCO for its ridiculously pink checkout lanes, but very few of us would have picketed and marched for its preservation. By 2001, the long-time Arizona grocery chain was sold off and replaced by companies such as Safeway, Albertson’s and Bashas. Though the crumbling of such a business may not have caused quite as extensive a ripple in the economy as the more recent crash of the sizable, Tucson-based mortgage company First Magnus, its effects were still felt and not without consequence.

    A 2001 Tucson Weekly article reported that many employees of the relatively small-scale ABCO chain received great benefits and salaries. It also stated that many of the workers were single parents or sole supporters for their families. After the fall of ABCO, Safeway, the major buyer in Tucson, put all former ABCO employees on a probation that cut a single mother’s full-time schedule in half, dropped her pay and eliminated her health insurance that had previously included her children. These circumstances were not restricted to her; the majority of employees who had previously worked for ABCO were deprived of all health insurance and other benefits for a five-month “”trial period.””

    This occurrence was more than just the sob story of a few single parents’ hard lives. It raises the question: Can all of the business growth in the United States be called progress?

    Other examples where socio-economic progress is assumed include the recent buyouts in wireless providers, the most notable being Cingular’s acquisition of AT&T in 2004 and the most recent merging of Verizon and Alltel. Though both companies boast that they will now be empowered to bring their customers better service and more options than ever before, it is safe to say that the “”options”” are getting smaller as the companies become bigger. The most prevalent criticism is the increasing lack of competition as more businesses continue to be bought out. Going from six major wireless carriers to four is bound to have some repercussions for consumers. Simply put, fewer companies means less competition, and that inevitably means higher prices.

    In the fast food market, international giant, to put it lightly, McDonald’s started as a good ol’ “”American Dream”” and has now turned into one of the most recognizable chains in the world. McDonalds’ success, though remarkable and seemingly exemplary of the “”American Dream”” ideal, had a much rougher start. Two brothers named Dick and Mac McDonald, originally started McDonald’s in San Bernardino, Calif., but when Ray Kroc bought into the franchise and opened its ninth restaurant, it marked the beginning of the end for the brothers. He eventually bought them out for their equity in the company and then later ousted them from their own franchise. To do so, Kroc simply opened up his own McDonald’s restaurants near all of the brothers’ restaurants, which put them out of business.

    This is not to say that all limits on our choices are bad; some limits arise as a result of evolution and the expansion of knowledge. Most car air conditioning systems, for example, are now regulated to run on a new kind of Freon because the old kind was damaging to the atmosphere. Such a limitation doesn’t cost us much. But even with cases such as these, a question arises from the depths of our diminishing ability to choose: Is it all worthwhile to turn our whole world into a giant Monopoly board?


    – Isaac Mohr is a journalism freshman. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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