I have believed for years that competition was a good thing.
After all, I've been a good little consumer my whole life and I was taught at an early age that competition amongst businesses was one of the key components to a successful and robust capitalistic society.
Monopolies were bad, I was told. That's why the federal government broke up Ma Bell in the early 1980s, to foster competition. That's also why many consumers like me were happy whenever Wal-Mart decided to open a store near our homes. They were and are strong competitors and prices all over the area would drop when Sam Walton's discount chain goose-stepped into town.
I realize a lot of mom-and-pop stores and lesser-aggressive national retailers closed after Wal-Mart marched into a market. They either couldn't or wouldn't compete and closing was the price they paid. That's the sometimes seedier side of capitalism. And while the competition was bad for some of the existing retailers, it was good for the local consumers.
That's why I was amazed when I read an article in the Tuesday Southeast Missourian discussing the latest developments from the Cape Girardeau area community college coalition.
As you probably know, Southeast Missouri State University and Three Rivers Community College are attempting to work out an arrangement so those two institutions can jointly-run a community college here in Cape.
It is slightly amazing that they're trying to bury the proverbial hatchet and not in each other. There's been a lot of bad blood between those two institutions. But that wasn't the part of the story that really blew me away.
What amazed me most was the fact that the president of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce reportedly "encouraged the group to support the arrangement between Southeast and Three Rivers, saying it will keep other competitors out of the area."
Talk about changing my consumeristic world-view! Black is no longer black! White is no longer white! Chartreuse is no longer... whatever color chartreuse was to begin with!
Here, I've believed my whole life that competition was good, but now the well-respected president of our local Chamber of Commerce is essentially saying that competition is bad, that choice is a not a good thing.
How can that be?
But then, after I found a paper bag to stick over my head and finally quit hyper-ventilating -- drastic changes in my world-view tends to do that to me -- I gave the matter some thought.
This declaration by the president of our local Chamber of Commerce actually made sense. His job is to be the advocate of local businesses, not businesses that might want to come into the area.
Businesses like Southeast Missouri State University that are already here -- and are dues paying members to the local Chamber of Commerce -- should be protected against any unwanted outsiders.
So I applaud the President of the Chamber for taking the stand against any higher education interlopers who might want to even consider weaseling their way into our market.
You stay away, you University of Phoenixes and you ITTs and you other educational options! We don't need you here in Cape Girardeau and we don't want you here, cherry-picking the higher educational-variation of our low-hanging fruit.
If anybody is going to teach our college freshmen English and math skills they should have mastered by the time they were in the eighth grade, it should be somebody local, not some outsider trying to shoe-horn their way into our market!
However, if one of our existing local businesses wants to expand their "product-line" and get into the lucrative business of higher-education, I suppose that's a whole other matter. That kind of competition is OK. It's "friendly" local competition. We like local.
So I suppose then it would be OK if a business such as the Wal-Mart on Seimers Drive decided to start issuing degrees.
Wal-Mart College -- Wal-lege they could call it, since that sounds more folksy and a lot less pretentious than Wal-Mart University -- even has a ready-made mascot in the form of the smiley-face logo that they used for years.
It doesn't matter that Wal-Mart quit using the smiley-face in 2006. It would make a great school mascot for Wal-lege. I bet the Fightin' Smileys football team will kick butt both on and off the field. You want a beer while tailgating? Forget about $7 for a draft. It's only $6.93 at the Wal-lege concession stand.
Oh sure, the world's largest retailer may not be qualified to churn out Physics or Music majors, but how about Agribusiness (lawn and garden department) or Applied Mathematics & Statistics (any cashier position) or Behavior Disorders (You ever been to Wal-Mart on a Friday or Saturday night? It's literally a Petri dish of people with behavior disorders).
Wal-lege can also guarantee that every class has 100% hands-on experiential learning. I've heard that's a plus. And if you play your cards right, and come to class everyday, Wal-Mart just might offer you a honest-to-goodness job after you have earned your degree.
And best of all, Wal-Mart is already a member of the local Chamber of Commerce.
I wonder when Three Rivers is going to join?
Thanks to J. for the suggestion.