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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Small-Town Socialism: Clark Opens Community Store

Back in January, we learned of bowling-alley socialism in Delmont (which has its 40th Annual Sausage Supper today! $8 at the door for all the sausage you can eat!). The red tide continues to sweep across the state, as economic challenge makes the good people of Clark acknowledge their inner socialist. According to KELO, about 120 of Clark's (rhymes with Marx) residents and supporters have helped open the community-owned Clark Hometown Variety Store. The Chamber of Commerce is able to cloak the venture in capitalist language—community members bought shares—but according to the April 25, 2008, Clark Chamber of Commerce minutes, community ownership is enforced by a prohibition on any one person owning more than 3% of the available shares in the store.

The store appears to have opened its doors in December, with its grand opening on February 7. No sign of red banners yet, though I wonder if that sign (see photo) might be in Russian: PHCC—Радикальный Новый Советский Союз—Radical New Soviet Union?

Once again, when times get tough, we are all socialists.


  1. Socialism?? I think this is capitalism at its best. Many people working together with a small contribution by each to operate a store that will benefit their community. This is not big gov't telling them they have to do this, the gov't doesn't own it, the gov't isn't taking any profit off it (other than taxes of course).

    Just because a group of people get together to do something does not make it socialist.

    Same thing with the Rutland store. Privately owned by a number of people, privately funded, any profits private, not to gov't.

    Go capitalism!

  2. Wasn't the Rutland store started as a cooperative effort with the public school and staffed in part with student (publicly-provided) labor?

    Clark: The store isn't handing out bologna and toilet paper according to each person's needs, but common ownership, democratic control (each shareholder gets one vote)... sounds pretty social to me! The free market wouldn't bring a store to Clark, so the community had to act in concert to make the store happen.

    Pure capitalism would see the small towns of South Dakota erased or eaten by Sioux Falls.

  3. There is no socialism in Clark. A group of community members buying shares in a local store to keep it open is no different than the shareholders who own Dakota Ethanol plant near Wentworth. If you want to see socialism, watch No-Bama take over ownership of our rockiest banks in the coming weeks. I'd say Whoa-Bama!

  4. I've been giving some thought about how small south dakota towns can compete with the major cities and have come to a couple of conclusions.

    1. One of the major reasons people come back to SD is to raise a family.
    2. These families need jobs, but also desire safety for their families.
    3. Accordingly, I believe that many are willing to trade off the higher costs of commuting to and from SF/Rap to enhance their family's safety.
    4. Small towns need to encourage this demographic if they wish to survive.
    5. Small towns must also invest in catering to this group. I.E. one goal of the LAIC should be to enhance the local conveniences as opposed to just trying to bring in employers.
    6. I believe another major draw for small towns would be enhanced food quality. Local food cooperatives that contract with local farmers to grow specific food/meats would also dramatically enhance the competitiveness of towns. (honestly, the food in grocery stores in Madison is pathetic)

  5. Anon@11:33. You can have your opinion - but not your own facts. Bank nationalization began under Bush. So far 14 were nationalized - averaging 2 per week. It's referred to as FDIC Friday. The FDIC seizes the bank, re-works it, and it opens on Monday under new management. The FDIC is frantically hiring new employees since the recently had only 500, that's down from 2000 at the height of the last right wing banksters quasi-criminal banking - the savings & loan thefts. Nationalizing the big banks will take more than a mere weekend. If you so much faith in them, then are you buying their stock?

  6. Tony: a few thoughts.
    1. It's a myth that small towns are "safer". Anecdotally, small town SD had several spectacular murders over the past couple of years. Also check out the graphic depictions at the National Center for Health Statisitcs, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/other/atlas/atlas.htm'.
    2. The point on having higher quality food is on target.
    3. Commuting costs will be tolerated within reason. Four dollar gas in dinosaurs getting 20 mph won't cut it.
    4. School offerings in small towns may be improved with web-based augmentation - but so far that's the exception.

  7. These stores are an example of capitalism for another reason. The profits go only to those who took a risk and invested capital in the business. They don't get spread to each according to his need but only to the investors. Electric cooperatives, F&M and other gas coops, etc all operate the same way; the investors get the profits or losses. It doesn't get spread evenly to everyone in the community. And that's the way it should be.

  8. The source of intended humor is that people helping people gets called socialism by lots of folks (who don't have any better answers these days). Socialism is supposed to automatically be understood to equal some kind of never-defined evil. Tactic is getting a little dated since most of us don't remember the red scare, we just remember old guys like R. Reagan seeming to worry more about the Russians than the unemployed. Same tactic used as decribing the threat of weopons of mass destruction, Al-Quaida, the liberal media, and other subterfuge. Trust me, it'll all be better when we join North and South Dakota into a quasi-populist union we call Little Siberia.

  9. It seems to me that socialism works well on a small scale, but not so well on a large scale.

  10. Communism (like communal living) works well on a small scale, but people want to differentiate themselves. Too many people think of the USSR (a totalitarian state) as being communist, which it never was, and throw socialist ideas in that direction. Mistake.

  11. Stan, maybe I've asked you this before, but have you ever read Kirkpatrick Sale's book Human Scale? There might be a Sale-ian argument that meshes with your hypothesis. Socialism depends on members of the society having a clear personal awareness of and commitment to the other members of the society. Or phrase it this way: communism assumes community, and community doesn't scale up. You can really know only a relatively small circle of friends and neighbors. You can meaningfully interact with or even recognize on sight maybe a few thousand people. Beyond that, people become abstractions. And when people become abstractions (like here, when Anonymi come debate), that social glue disappears from the equation.

    "Global community"? Sale would say the term is meaningless. He places the optimum (or was it maximum?) size for a healthy community around 5000 to 10,000.

    Maybe that socialism works in places like Clark and Delmont because everyone involved can look everyone else involved in the eye and know that their work is serving a common good among people they know and care about. Agape is a noble concept, but maybe mankind isn't socially/morally evolved enough for agape to grease the national/global sociopolitical wheels. Sale would argue that's one more reason to focus on local self-sufficiency, where we can govern our affairs more humanely and—dare I say?—Christianly.

  12. No, Cory, I've never read that book, but I reckon it'd be a good idea.

    "Socialism depends on members of the society having a clear personal awareness of and commitment to the other members of the society."

    I've thought a lot about how I would function in a purely socialist society. I think that the above statement is true, but oversimplified. I think individual people also want a certain amount of security, of protection against calamities not of their own making, such as disease, injury, fire, crime, and such. A socialist system would, in the ideal, offer that security in a more efficient way than a capitalist system could.

    If I could draw a salary commensurate with my experience and skill level, and continue to do exactly what I am doing, with my income no longer dependent on sales, I might risk more creative ventures even if they did not sell so well. As things are, "the market" figures in as a factor when I decide what to write. That's good to some extent, because it helps to ensure that people get what they want to read -- but it can also be harmful in the sense that people may not always get what they might really enjoy and benefit from if only it were available.

    I could rant forever here, but I think overall, socialism has not worked out very well in most of the countries where it has been tried. Too many people "suck off the system," and if they are aware of the others in the society, it is only to the extent that their taxes pay their bills whether they work or not. People who are motivated by the prospect of wealth tend to emigrate from such countries. Whatever the moral arguments might be, many of those "materialists" are brilliant and dedicated, and socialist societies are hurt by the loss. Otherwise, why would any of the countries of Eastern Europe, when they were socialistic, have had to put up walls and fences to keep their people in?

  13. Wonder if Obama has included in his stimulus bill money for fences to keep us in when his programs all come to fruition?!


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