When a frothy American congressman wanted to make a case against chain stores, he reached for the greatest comparison of evil he could think of: “Let’s keep Hitler’s methods of government and business in Europe,” he said. And that pretty well sums up the attitude towards chain stores in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today, we have a complex but largely peaceful relationship with these stores. We may blame them for closing down local mom-and-pop shops, but we largely use them without complaint, and sometimes even love them. But when chain stores were new, the reaction against them was fierce. Chain stores were accused of destroying democracy and freedom, of corrupting young people, and of being evil, evil, evil. (Just wait: The word gets used a lot.) States even tried to ban them. In this episode of Pessimists Archive, we investigate why chain stores were so steeply resisted—a fight that may just change the way you think about business.
• The Curse of Bigness by Tim Wu
• The Land of Enterprise: A Business History of the United States by Benjamin C. Waterhouse
• Cornering the Market: Independent Grocers and Innovation in American Small Business by Susan V. Spellman
• Store Wars: The Enactment and Repeal of Anti-Chain-Store Legislation in American Grocery Stores in the Twentieth Century by Paul Ingram and Hayagreeva Rao
• The Anti-Chain Store Movement and the Politics of Consumption by Daniel Scroop
• Flash Forward, a great podcast about the future!
• Thanks to our sponsor, Element AI, and its podcast AI Element
• And finally, check out listener Danny Neilsen’s song, “Bringin’ This World Down” which we played at the end of the credits.
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