War in Defense of Virginia

About 15 years ago, after purchasing 3,000 acres of land, the Disney company gave up plans to put a history-themed park five miles from the Manassas Battlefield. The battlefield is some 35 miles west of the District of Columbia. According to Making Economic Sense by Murray Rothbard (and as serialized on the Ludwig Von Mises Institute website)

Many conservatives and free-marketeers believe that an inherent conflict exists between profits, free-markets, and “soulless capitalism,” and money- making on the one hand, as against traditional values, devotion to older culture, and historical landmarks on the other. On the one hand, we have bumptious bourgeoisie devoted only to money; on the other, we have people who want to conserve a sense of the past.

The latest ideological and political clash between capitalist growth and development, and old-fogy preservation, is the bitter conflict over the Manassas battlefield, sacred ground to all who hold in memory the terrible War Between the States.

The theme park was opposed by two camps. Those that felt that building the park so close to the hallowed grounds of the battlefield as to desecrate the memory, and those that felt that the Walt Disney Company was trying to extract too many economic concessions from Virginia taxpayers (such as about $160 million in road and infrastructure improvements).

Now, 15 years later, we have a continuation of sorts. Only now it is Wal-Mart instead of Disney. And it is the Battle of the Wilderness instead of the Battle of Bull Run. This article in the Washington Post tells of plans that Wal-Mart has for building a new store in Orange, Virginia, near the battlefield of the Battle of the Wilderness. And it tells of the forces arrayed against this aggression. The foes are quick to point out that “it is not Wal-Mart”. They are only concerned about the growth that would be occasioned by the opening of the Wal-Mart. The article cites the efforts of preservation groups and trusts to purchase properties that are historically significant. This is something that I favor. The parcel contemplated by Wal-Mart is currently zoned for commercial development. It seems that the preservation efforts should have been waged to prevent this zoning in the first place. In the difficult economic times of today, the Orange County Board of Supervisors will find it difficult to dictate terms to Wal-Mart.

I am generally sympathetic to the goals of the preservationists, but I would like to see their tactics focused on the purchase of land. And I would like to see them make the case against commercial zoning to the planning and zoning office prior to the need to chase away successful corporations.


Wal-Mart in Orange

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