Vital Signs

Tracts Against Capitalism

Peaceful Valley is a bucolic residential neighborhood in Clemson, South Carolina.  The middle-class homeowners who live there are not land speculators hoping to turn a profit.  Many are like Kathleen Dickel, a 50-year-old high-school German teacher, who owns a two-story contemporary house with a deck surrounded on two sides by deep woods.  Kathleen stained the deck herself.  She eats her meals and does her schoolwork out there, and she watches the leaves change colors in the fall.  “There are fireflies here like I have never seen anywhere in my life,” she recently told a reporter for the Greenville News.  Unfortunately, this pleasant life—and Peaceful Valley itself—may soon be a thing of the past.

Despite the availability of three commercially zoned locations in Clemson, Wal-Mart is intent on setting up shop next to Peaceful Valley.  Instead of seeing a slope of woods and ravines in back of her house, Kathleen Dickel may soon see a 60-foot-high retaining wall.  Sitting on her deck, she will not see the sun after four o’clock.  Nor will she see the stars at night—only floodlights from the Wal-Mart parking lot.  And the quiet she has come to treasure will be drowned out by the sound of big trucks pulling in and out, not to mention the shoppers who will crowd the streets near her house.  Not surprisingly, Kathleen and many of her neighbors...

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