Wednesday, December 28, 2011

decline and fall

Reading the daily headlines any more is kind of like getting updates to the American version of "The Decline and Fall of the ("empire name here") Empire.

Sears/KMart is closing over 100 stores in the wake of their bringing up the rear in the Christmas season retail sweepstakes. Most informed watchers are anticipating the 125-year-old company will fold by spring, following other dinosaurs like Woolworth's and the Oldsmobile into the boneyard of extinct behemoths.

Some people might think this is relatively unimportant, but they're wrong. Sears and Roebuck was at one time a major pillar of American civilization, and its ubiquitous mail-order catalog the game-changing retail sales innovation of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, similar in significance to on-line retailing today.

Gone is the free-enterprise capitalism of my childhood, when we had a garage door named Stanley and a refrigerator named Leonard, and the neighbor's car (not his dog) was named Kaiser. We used to have a country here, but now we're an empire, and the decision to go that way is what triggered our precipitous decline.

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