Small-town drug stores

Yesterday, I drove around peddling my book to area drug stores, as well as other places.

Times have changed for small-town drugs stores as a direct result of last year's state budget crisis. Insurance payments from the state were reduced to the point where the drug stores were being reimbursed less than their cost for some prescriptions. They had to fill the prescriptions to fulfill their contract with the state, but if they kept filling those prescriptions at that rate they would lose money.

As a result, many small-town drug stores have sold out to chains. In this area, Thrifty White has taken over at least half-a-dozen stores. The chain has enough buying power to reduce their costs to the point where they make a profit.

The chain sometimes hires the former pharmacy owner as their pharmacist. Thus, a small business owner is turned into an employee. The one I have talked to is relieved that he no longer has to deal with the billing. It is good for him. However, when I brought books in to the drugstores, there was a new complication. Before they could buy them, they had to call the regional sales manager.

Although the logic of the change is irrefutable, always I hate to see autonomy moving away from the small town. There is a difference between making one's own business decisions and having to consult a regional sales manager beforehand.

I automatically balk at centralized control. It might be fine as long as somebody sensible is in charge, but when somebody inept takes over, which inevitably happens, the misery he or she creates trickles down a long ways.

For instance, I think centralized control over education creates stupidity. It subjects classroom instruction to the whims of whatever governor happens to be in charge. A constant flow of mandates comes down to local schools from above, most of them impossible to interpret, and some of them contradictory.

I see nothing wrong with each school deciding its own standards and how it plans to meet them. They do that anyway, until interrupted by another irritating mandate from above. In all likelihood, the Minnesota State Department of Education could disappear tomorrow and nobody would notice, just as one seldom notices the day one no longer has a cold.