Even denizens of the People’s Republic of Santa Monica can appreciate the fruits of capitalism, even as they are denigrating or protesting it at the same time. This column by Frank Gruber in the Santa Monica Lookout probably illustrates this most of all. Mr Gruber is justifying his choice to live in one of the densest (and most expensive) areas of Southern California by celebrating the choices available to him because of density–what he calls “grocery store urbanism”. His shopping rerolves around about a dozen places to get what he needs, neighborhood stores as well as regional and chains–Von’s, Trader Joe’s, Costco. At the same time, Mr. Gruber takes a swipe at Wal-Mart because it tries to put everything under one roof and limit choice (and costs). Here are a couple of exerpts: My wife and I had been talking about this, about how we had been strangely living like the proverbial French housewife, buying everything for dinner at a different store. We mostly use our car, of course, rather than a string bag to carry our purchases, but the list of stores is long. I suspect that the following list is familiar to many other Santa Monicans. But a list like this is hardly unusual in Santa Monica. I have rarely been in any of these stores when they weren’t crowded. Let’s face it; the urbanites in Santa Monica obtain great pleasure from shopping, particularly for food. More Santa Monicans shop at Whole Foods than ever protested a development — probably more than go to the beach. They worship at the church of Trader Joe’s. Wal Mart is decidely less fashionable and down scale. My guess is Santa Monicans would fill the streets with protester against a Wal Mart even as they embrace competitors Costco and Trader Joe’s.
Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.