Every holiday season features a slew of laughable articles denouncing the destruction of American tradition. Meghan Cox Gurdon’s piece in The Washington Examiner today is more of the same. She attacks Target, Wal-Mart, and other retailers (“co-evils,” she calls them) for their decision to open stores on Thanksgiving. She says, “Something beautiful is being smashed.” It’s a “breach of civic decency,” a “horrible stain over the Thanksgiving table.”
Why? Retailers aren’t invading homes or dumping products and advertisements on the turkey. Nor are customers being forced out of their homes at gunpoint. The knowledge that some store somewhere is operating won’t ruin my potatoes or make me trample grandma on my way to the door. Cox Gurdon claims, “If getting big bargains means rushing through Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s, you know it’ll happen.” Actually retailers don’t know that. Many families, if not most, will stay home this Thanksgiving as they always have. Retailers are taking the risk that they won’t.
Articles like this aren’t just rhetorical excesses. They underpin arguments against free-enterprise by supporting the myth that companies control consumers. In reality, the opposite is true: businesses must respond to their customers’ wants or they disappear. If enough consumers stay home this Thanksgiving, expect retailers to open later next year. In fact, the reason retail stores have remained closed for so long on Thanksgiving is so few people want to shop on holidays. Maybe this year will be different, but I say, let the people decide.