Friday, July 22, 2005

You Don't Want Wal-Mart in Vancouver

After spending two years designing a green building that would use one-third of the energy it takes to run a regular store, Wal-Mart's project has been vetoed by Vancouver City Hall.

Why? Because the city councillors, in their wisdom, have decided that you don't want a Wal-Mart in Vancouver. The fact that the majority of Vancouver residents already shop at Wal-Mart didn't sway the councillors' stolid determination to keep Wal-Mart out of Vancouver, along with gypsy moths and nuclear weapons.

This wouldn't have been your typical department store. Windmills would have generated power. Underground wells would have heated and cooled the building. Skylights would have replaced lamps.

Nonetheless, city councillor Anne Roberts still doesn't want a Wal-Mart in Vancouver. "A Wal-Mart flies smack in the face of what we've been trying to do." She said. Just what is Anne Roberts trying to do? Perhaps she is trying to nurture small, inefficient stores that offer a poor selection of goods at high prices?

I'm not for Wal-Mart or against it. I don't have a right to tell you where to shop and neither does Vancouver City Hall. When Adam Smith described the "invisible hand" over 200 years ago, he pointed out a very simple but important fact that our luddite councillors don't understand. A market-based economy forces people to think about what other people want. These people then go to a lot of effort to please their fellow humans. This can result in efficiency and productivity rivaled only by Mother Nature herself.

If Vancouver councillors really must censor stores – and I don’t think they should - why not start with pawn shops that fence stolen property, or perhaps stores that sell cigarettes to kids? If Vancouver residents don’t want a Wal-Mart, they won’t shop there.