If you don’t like economics, never go grocery shopping with me. I just got back from taking a friend to Woodman’s grocery store (who lack a website, unfortunately). Woodman’s is a massive store in Beloit and part of a chain of ten. Centered mostly in Wisconsin, the chain focuses on providing large volume very cheaply.
And it does this astonishingly well. Every time I go to Woodman’s, I marvel at the huge aisles of meat, cheeses, cereal and ice cream (yes, there is an aisle dedicated to ice cream and it’s a big aisle). There are fruits there I barely recognize let alone pronounce. They have several different types of tomatoes, fresh ginger, those things like bananas but aren’t quite bananas and on and on and on. And that’s just the fruit and vegetables aisle. There’s even a display for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, even though the closest Krispy Kreme is over twenty miles away.
Beloit, by the way, is the typical liberal arts college town; it’s small and in the middle of no where. It’s along no major trade routes; it’s only life lines are I-90 and the sparsely used Rock River. There are no major airports, seaports or train stations in the immediate vicinity. There’s Chicago, but it’s a good two hours away. The point is, Beloit is no center of civilization.
Yet we have access to all this variety. Imported foods (I found some Italian concoction made from three different oranges grown in volcanic soil), exotic fruits, ice cream, ice cream and more ice cream are at our fingertips. Even more fascinating, this is hardly the exception.
This is the norm.
When I hear stories about Soviet Russia—how hard it was to get just a single banana, how long people had to stand in line for bread, how little variety people had in their diets—and then go to Woodman’s, I can’t help but try to spark my companions’ enthusiasm for globalization. It creates incentives for people to invent better transportation infrastructure. It exposes the wonders of free trade. It opens the door for solutions for malnourishment. It rewards entrepreneurs that discover a way to offer people variety at low prices. If you ever believed in socialism, go to the grocery store; it’s a microcosm of everything good about capitalism.