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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4739/how-not-to-like-wal-mart/

How Not to Like Wal-Mart

February 27, 2006 by

In this piece, I suggest a way for those who loathe Wal-Mart to be activists who make a difference: don’t shop there. There are plenty of reasons not to shop there that have nothing to do with ideology. And if it makes them feel better, they don’t have to live in a town that has a Wal-Mart store. Just don’t expect everyone to do likewise. What they should not do is prevent others from making a different choice. Ultimately, in a market economy, it is the choices people make that determine what businesses succeed or fail. FULL ARTICLE

{ 137 comments }

Vince Daliessio February 27, 2006 at 9:26 pm

Antilib;

Sorry for joining in on the “Mike” thing.

If a truly libertarian society, particularly with regard to property, ever actually comes about, it will entail a LOT of work on every property owner’s part to mitigate the “harms” that you mention. I, for instance, will have to go to each of my neighbors and get them to agree to covenants regarding their use of their land, as will they and their neighbors, and so on. This will take a lot of time, money, agg, hurt feelings, and in many cases will still be unsuccessful. Rich property owners will pay people to do it, some of whom will act unethically and try to pressure people to agree to things they don’t want to agree to. Tell me how this scenario, despite all the drawbacks I have mentioned (and there are, I am sure, many more) is less desirable than the current situation where the government has any number of levers with which to pry you out of your home with little or no compensation at all?

With regard to your quarry example, there are certainly a number of tangible ways the quarry might actually cause harm (alter or deplete your wells, crack your foundation, trespass on your property with pollution)that in a libertarian world with full property rights would be both actionable and compensible. The current system runs these torts through government at the expense of the private individual because of the bogus presumed “public good”. The hookers in the brothel might trespass on your lawn, assault your guests, trash the place – these things would all be actionable.

Stephen Gordon;

With all due respect, none of the government evils you are fighting is unique to Wal-Mart. My current list of companies I try to have little or nothing to do with includes Costco, W-M, Home Depot, and Stop & Shop (the last one pains me greatly). All of these evils (eminent domain, zoning, taxpayer financing) are tools in the arsenal of greedy local governments and avaricious developers, and they do NOT only deploy them in favor of the reviled Wal*Mart, but seem eager to use them for ANY developer that comes along and suggests it. So either broaden your criticism a little bit to include other companies similarly situated, or continue to be painted with the broad brush of “anticapitalism”. Simple.

Larry Ruane February 27, 2006 at 10:32 pm

Mr. Vance’s number one reason against shopping at Wal-Mart is the crowds. But most people like crowds. I base this on a simple observation: Wherever I see a large crowd, there are always a lot of people around. Conversely, wherever I don’t see a crowd, hardly anyone is around. Q.E.D.

Roy W. Wright February 27, 2006 at 10:49 pm

Ruane’s Theorem, to be sure.

Vince Daliessio February 27, 2006 at 10:57 pm

“Nobody goes there anymore – it’s too crowded” – Yogi Berra

John Delano February 27, 2006 at 11:29 pm

Antilib has a lot to learn. In a society that lacks municipal zoning, cities would be laid out much better than they are now. They were a hundred years ago when it didn’t exist. Zoning is the cause of suburban sprawl and poorly laid out communities.

Here are some things for you to learn about, Antilib, “covenents”, “easments”, “homeowners associations”, “contracts”.

Would you also say that Wal-Mart has a say in who is allowed to live in a community to protect its investment? Wouldn’t they want to have only Wal-Mart type people living nearby?

Chicago has also been hostile to Wal-Mart wanting to locate there. Wal-Mart’s strategy is to surround the city with stores in the surrounding communities that are often glad to have them. Where I live in Hammond, Indiana (next to Chicago) there was a Wal-Mart built. It is very busy at times. I think There should be a second one built. I have heard that they may build another one here.

BTW: I also dislike many of the things mentioned in the article. Much of that comes from them not being allowed to build additional stores. I also have to add their support of eminent domain as a critisism.

Francisco Torres February 28, 2006 at 12:01 am

Antilib wrote:
If you invent a new car, my car will still get me from point A to point B.

Irrelevant: your basic argument states unequivocally that any, ANY, action done on an unrelated property that translates to a loss of value of your property, is akin to violence. We are not discussing usefulness, but VALUE.

didja get to the part about CETERIS PARIBUS,

This is what happens when you misapply a logic tool. Ceteris paribus, if you do nothing to change the value of your home, and the market stays the same, and then your dog barks and the value of your house goes immediately down, would you then say the mutt influenced buyers? Again, you cannot infer a consequence from an unrelated happenstance.

Besides, if the people of the community really believed the liquor store could bring the property values down, notwithstanding the truth, then the liquor store would find it difficult to gather clients. This is why liquor stores are placed in busy streets, where the most number of clients can drive by and find it.

mac February 28, 2006 at 12:13 am

My sister has a more personal reason to hate Wal-Mart. She lives on a narrow residential road that goes nowhere. Or it didn’t before it became an alternate route out of the Wal-Mart parking lot. Now there’s tons traffic zooming down the road, and she can no longer go for walks with her kids on their street.

The price of “progress”, eh? Of course, such externalities are not grounds for a lawsuit, but it certainly hasn’t helped their property value.

xteve February 28, 2006 at 5:37 am

antilib:

“(i.e. comparable houses NOT affected by the “bad property” in question are similarly priced as a group)”

They’re not really comparable houses then, are they?

Also, I had friends a few years back who had an empty lot next to their house. When the owner mademoves to sell it to a developer my friend bought the lot themselves. Now they preserved the value of their house AND the potential value of the lot. I don’t remember them even considering asking the government to push anyone around.

Stephen Gordon February 28, 2006 at 7:18 am

Vince Daliessio,

So either broaden your criticism a little bit to include other companies similarly situated, or continue to be painted with the broad brush of “anticapitalism”.

I’ve targeted other corporations before (hosts of them in the Alabaster case, Ruby Tuesday in the Roebuck case). In the three Birmingham area situations I mentioned, Wal-Mart is the common denominator — and there is no other non-governmental corporate entity involved in the only ongoing case.

I’m anti-corporate welfare and anti-eminent domain (but promote truly free markets) and take on targets as they encroach my life. If this makes me “anticapitalism”, perhaps those doing the painting should re-examine the size of their brush.

Stephen Gordon February 28, 2006 at 7:30 am

Dr. Long gave the example of Wal-Mart’s distribtion mechanism (using state roads). Perhaps a less contentious example might be the taxpayer funded bribes to bring Wal-Marts to town which are not shared Wal-Mart’s competitors.

Specifically, Wal-Mart was given a $10 million tax abatement in a recent Birmingham (Roebuck) deal. The ongoing Birmingham (Crestwood) has an $11 million payout — I’ve got the contract on my desk which the city council will like vote in favor of in a couple of hours.

Note this payout is not going to the competition (either mom and pop or major corporations — the new Wal-Mart will share parking lot space with a K-Mart which did not get any government payola).

Do libertarians support one-sided government welfare these days? If so, this is a truly scary development.

Vince Daliessio February 28, 2006 at 7:39 am

LOL Stephen. Perhaps MY brush was too broad.

An illustration of my point of view – I am in favor of eliminating medical welfare (Medicare and Medicaid), though I am aware that this will create hardship for poor people in the short run. I am equally well aware that this hardship is due, for the most part, to other government-aided screwups like tax-free employer-paid insurance, the AMA and state medical boards restriction of supply of medical providers, and the role of FDA regulations and drug patents in massively increasing the price of even simple medical care. The chance of eliminating all of these government usurpations at once is virtually nil, yet it redounds to the benefit of all if even one of them is rescinded. This parallels your fight against eminent domain abusers.

My point is that Wal*Mart is a high-profile target that is in no way unique in its malfeasance, yet also still performs some genuinely useful entrepreneurial functions in our very unfree economy, and to focus solely on its malfeasance while overlooking its benefits is to bolster the case of the anticapitalists.

Sorry if it sounded like I was calling you an anticapitalist. You, like I, are probably more of an anti-state-capitalist.

Vince Daliessio February 28, 2006 at 7:46 am

Stephen;

Right or wrong, Kmart and the established businesses are already there, so, in the town fathers’ eyes, need no inducements to do business there. The concept of tax abatements is generally looked upon by libertarians favorably, though the way it is being employed here certainly seems unfair.

But the real responsibility lies with the town government. Wal*Mart is simply exploiting the politicians greed for more tax money.

Stephen Gordon February 28, 2006 at 8:01 am

Kmart and the established businesses are already there

Unfortunately for the free market, this K-Mart (the last existing one in Birmingham proper) will now have to compete with a mega Wal-Mart which will share a common parking lot. The outcome of their future competition is almost predetermined. That $11 mil sure reduces the level playing field quite a bit.

True, the government is guilty. However, the contract proposal (from Wal-Mart) demands the $11 million. They are truly co-conspirators in this scheme.

Stephen Gordon February 28, 2006 at 8:10 am

Vince,

Your medical arguments strike home for this spouse of a free market physician. Toward this end, she is a member of the AAPS and not the AMA.

This said, it does us a PR disservice to pretend that Wal-Mart is not without fault.

The AAPS is not fighting all free market issues with respect to medicine, as their resources are very finite. But they are fighting the big ones (i.e. pain meds, Medicare rx plan) as they are in the forefront of the press right now.

My opinion is that we need to fight (short of blog postings, I’m fighting city hall for the most part, not Wal-Mart) the battles we can win. Eminent domain and one-sided tax abatements are examples of such battles.

antilib February 28, 2006 at 8:59 am

Curt: You can make a point and not be an ass, as evidenced by “Or do I have to explain the benefits of profit and loss as opposed to central planning in an Austrian economics forum”. Be more precise in what you said – as the post in question where you propound “community standard” was broad, vague and imprecise.

Entelechy: The distinction you’re making is one I completely understand – I live in one right now. Curt’s posting on this issue did NOT point to a private collection of homeowners, but rather to a “community standard”, and made no mention whatsoever of a pre-existant covenant. What you’re saying is absolutely correct, but Curt’s phrasing was missing several key components.

Vince: “Tell me how this scenario, despite all the drawbacks I have mentioned (and there are, I am sure, many more) is less desirable than the current situation where the government has any number of levers with which to pry you out of your home with little or no compensation at all?”

I agree – the current system is NOT desirable. I won’t argue otherwise. You’re right.

Mr. Delano: “Here are some things for you to learn about, Antilib, “covenents”, “easments”, “homeowners associations”, “contracts”.”

Back it up, bud. You don’t know how much you don’t know. Apparently, you can’t read either. Did I not just say that my covenants document was 2″ thick and even discussed how it makes community standards? Criticize if you like, but at least make the criticism valid.

Francisco: “Again, you cannot infer a consequence from an unrelated happenstance.” Your right, but you’re talking apples versus rubber bands. Again, go back and read what I said. On second thought, don’t. I’m overfull with your snide, nasty, condescending manner.

Steve: “I don’t remember them even considering asking the government to push anyone around.” I did the same thing at a home in Florida. But that’s never been in question, has it? You act as if though it’s possible for this to occur on a regular basis. Maybe in the nirvana you describe, but nowhere else.

Xteve: “They’re not really comparable houses then, are they?” You’ve never read a CMA have you?

I’m constantly amazed that in this forum – full of supposedly intelligent people – the rhetoric has to be filled with such nasty comments and petty ad hominens. It’s a big world, and none of the snottiness in here does much to advance Lib’ism. I fully admitted – many times – that I’m attempting to understand. Education isn’t what you want in here – it’s sycophany. Get over yourselves. I’ll leave you to your mental masturbation and spend my time elsewhere. Who knows, maybe I’ll made a donation to Hillary in the VMI name!

Terry February 28, 2006 at 9:28 am

I think Stephen has it right that we need to fight the politicians over eminent domain and one-sided tax abatements (thus my opposition to the Brandon bill), etc. but once we start trying to use the power of the government to force our will on Wal-Mart and others we are no better than the Wal-Marts doing the same thing using the power of eminent domain for their purposes. If you do not want a Wal-Mart in your community fight tooth and nail to keep them out but do not use the power of government to do so. Once you do you lose all credibility because you obviously can’t convince enough other people to be opposed to them and you end up being no better than the company you are trying to keep out if they are using the power of the gov’t to get into your community. You are using the easy way out just like Wal-Mart is doing.

What it all boils down to is where the power lies. Right now it lies with the government and the money they can hand out. The power should reside with individuals and the money that the politicians are doling out should have stayed in the individuals pockets, not the government coffers, which sometimes ends up in companies like Wal-Marts pockets. If the money stayed with the taxpayer instead of the government than each individual could decide what was best for them. Now it is left up to a few politicians who are easily bought off or crave power. If this power and money was more dispersed it would be much harder for Wal-Marts to enter a community if enough people didn’t want them there.

Stephen Gordon February 28, 2006 at 9:41 am

Terry,

FYI, I’ve never fought any Wal-Mart opening shop using fair and free market mechanisms. Unfortunately, that is happening less and less often in my neck of the woods.

The only political angles I try are those directed at the government for abusing the powers lawfully granted to it.

Yancey Ward February 28, 2006 at 10:06 am

antilib (and others),

Like you I find the nastiness to be detrimental to the debate, so I try as hard as possible not to engage in such heated rhetoric, even when I am the one targeted (I fail occasionally, but not often). In other words, you have to practice what you preach- retaliation is almost always self-defeating in such forums.

Philip February 28, 2006 at 10:50 am

Not one of us disagrees that the state has too much control, but when has there ever been a successful down sizing of the state. The more I read about the problems with our state the more I feel that we have a leviathan that is beyond repair. Inevitably I feel that our state is destined to go the way of the Dinosaur. We may some day have a libertarian society but it will not be apart of the US.

Stephen Gordon February 28, 2006 at 11:36 am

The Birmingham City Council just (a few minutes ago) gave Wal-Mart $11 million to compete with other businesses.

This should truly be a proud day for Wal-Mart loving libertarians.

Yancey Ward February 28, 2006 at 12:35 pm

Stephen,

I would be careful with the language you use when talking about tax abatements. Technically, if I understood your earlier comment, the city council wasn’t giving WalMart $11 million, but, rather, was contracting not to take $11 million if WalMart opened the store.

Now, it is certainly true that the council has voted to give WalMart an advantage over its local competitors, but their competitors are free to bargain with the council as well. I would argue that the competitors could bring a suit alleging unequal treatment under the law of Birmingham. Any lawyers out there?

Gintas February 28, 2006 at 12:42 pm

I like Wal-Mart, I can always go there when I want to feel thin again.

George Gaskell February 28, 2006 at 12:57 pm

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an equal protection claim when it comes to taxation. There should be, of course. But then again, to expect a State to restrain itself and abide by its own rules is naive.

Stephen, the whole “Wal-Mart loving libertarians” thing is a bit excessive. I believe we all get your point — that Wal-Mart engages in the same kind of rent-seeking special government privileges that most other large companies do.

I don’t want to exaggerate the size of my brush, but I believe I speak for many libertarians, or Austrians at least, when I say that our comments about Wal-Mart is more in the nature of a rebuttal to a recent flurry of typical Leftist complaints about Wal-Mart’s prices, employment practices, health coverage, etc.

In other words, we are responding to the usual Left-wing claptrap, demanding that government force some business to incur costs in favor of a particular voting block, and demonizing it to garner irrational public sympathy. Leftists generally don’t complain about land seizures because Leftists like broad governmental powers.

In other words, our comments have nothing to do with loving Wal-Mart per se, other than the fact that Wal-Mart happens to be the battleground du jour for debating the problems with these recycled socialist economic proposals.

In any event, I am sure that you will find no more ardent critics of subsidies and land seizures than you will among Austrians.

Stephen Gordon February 28, 2006 at 1:27 pm

Yancey,

Sorry for the confusion. I’ll clarify:

Those are two seperate measures. A couple of years ago, Birmingham provided a $10 million tax abatement for the Roebuck Wal-Mart.

This morning they simply gave away $11 million for the future Crestwood Wal-Mart. This money comes initially from the general fund, but ultimately will be paid back from a bond — if the measure passed the way it reads in the paperwork on my desk. I haven’t yet read what actually passed.

If any lawyer wishes to tackle this one, I’d recommend hooking up with the PAC Birmingham First, which has some limited resources and a lot of institutional knowledge to take them on.

Christine Bradford February 28, 2006 at 2:04 pm

I worked at WalMart in the early 1990′s. The only reason I took the job was because we had just moved to this particular small Southern town and there were no other jobs available that provided medical insurance. They refused to start medical coverage, so I quit. My last check had deductions for medical insurance for two months, which they applied retroactively without informing me. I will never shop at WalMart due to their unfair labor practices.

Jon Doe February 28, 2006 at 3:34 pm

Christine, I have a similar story regarding a retirement account I was enrolled in without my permission. Come to find out, there is no guarantee that I will ever receive any sort of payout; but the real kicker is that now they won’t even let me opt out of the program. Stupid Social Security.

Curt Howland February 28, 2006 at 4:58 pm

I was listening to NPR here in North Carolina recently. They were interviewing “activists” who were declaring loudly that, in order to provide services to people unemployed because of the manufacturing companies closing their doors, taxes had to be raised.

Less than 10 minutes later there was a story about Dell Computers, building a manufacturing facility near Raleigh specifically because they were given tax breaks and, ah, assistance in acquiring the property.

What astounds me is that there are people who cannot notice how these two stories are related.

Antilib, I was very specific. Just because you disagree doesn’t mean I was being vague. It is also obvious that you do not understand the benefits of entrepreneurial management verses bureaucratic management since you continuously state that you believe your best interests lie in leveraging government power in your favor.

Lisa Casanova February 28, 2006 at 5:08 pm

Curt,
I heard about the Dell deal. I believe there is a lawsuit going on arguing that the incentives given Dell were unconstitutional, the state had no right to do it, and the deal should be revoked. If that kind of thing is successful, it should happen a lot more often.

noddy February 28, 2006 at 7:34 pm

Antilib “If I don’t want a Wally World to be built in my neighborhood I have every right to convince my elected officials to decline the permits. It’s called “Freedom”

That’s quite a statement. Lets see, freedom is a mob using government coercsion to prevent Walmart from buying land in their neighbourhood and building a store on it. Freedom is not the right to purchase land and set up a business on it. Interesting. Would you object then if I physically prevented you from shopping at a store you do business with or is it only freedom when a majority persuades government to do the same thing?
In todays society you may have a legal right to prevent Walmart from locating in your neighbourhood but I would hardly call that freedom. As to the fact that it may lower property values, does this priciple apply to everything we own as well.If I buy a painting worth 5 thousand dollars and then a well known art critic states publicly that the artist is over rated and subsequently the value of my painting drops can I sue the critic.
If a business locates in your neighbourhood that you approve of and furthermore the value of your house increases significantly as a result should you be required to compensate the business owner for the increase in value to your property. Does this right you proclaim to have apply to people as well. Can you and your neighbours prevent certain ethnic groups from moving in to the neighbourhood on the basis that you do not approve of them, and that it may in your opinion, right or wrong,have a detrimental effect on property values. I can’t see why you would object since it fits in nicely with your definition of freedom.

Dee March 1, 2006 at 12:01 am

Well, Laurence, China thanks you and Wal-Mart thanks you and thousands of small mom and pops and former mom and pops, small and mid-sized chains and many, many vendors and distributors don’t thank you because you just gave Wal-Mart a great big advertisement under the guise of why not to shop there.

As someone who still holds a Wal-Mart vendor # but got out of general merchandise WHOLESALING two years ago, I can tell you you are full of it. I can give you a long list of distributors who are no longer existant because of the way Wal-Mart changed the marketplace by its direct importing techniques. Remember when its slogan used to be ‘Support America Made”??? (Suppressing laughter here) Well, while they were shoving their patriotism down our throats, they were building a huge network of manufacturers in China, Bengladesh, India, etc., that could cut out American distributors and manufacturers.

Why do so many work there? So many work there because Wal-Mart has put so many other employers out of business that they are the country’s largest or one of the largest employees, with over ONE MILLION of the poor, hardworking, ripped off minimum or close to minimum wage drones. Their employee turnover is unbelievable; I think (but haven’t checked lately), it’s almost half of their workforce every single year. If they’re so HAPPY….why do they quit??? The people who don’t work for the company are concerned about the lack of good health insurance for OVER ONE MILLION WAL-MART DRONES because they go on public health care assistance in many cases and we help pay Wal-Mart’s insurance bill.

John Delano March 1, 2006 at 1:05 am

“Back it up, bud. You don’t know how much you don’t know. Apparently, you can’t read either. Did I not just say that my covenants document was 2″ thick and even discussed how it makes community standards? Criticize if you like, but at least make the criticism valid.”antilib

Is the property being developed for retail use in your developement? If so, then you have a very valid claim to stop them if you are against WMT and it violates the 2 inch thick covenant. From the way you wrote it, It sounds like it isn’t in your developement.

I’m all for associations and developements with Architectural Review Boards. I just wish the ARBs knew what good design is. Most of the houses I see being built are very ugly. This includes those in the upper six figure range. They are often snout-houses with large blank walls and a hodgepodge of exterior materials that look awful togethor. Usually the front of the house has no stylistic relationship with the other sides of the house. But these are sold as “luxury”.

Stephen Gordon, you are correct that K-Mart is being treated unfairly with the tax abatements. That is the real problem, not the fact that WMT may get a tax break that all property owners should get. I also agree about the way these tax abatements are written. It is often a municipality paying for part of the developement costs with bonds that are to be paid for with the future taxes collected on the property. All property owners in the municipality ultimately garantee the payment of those bonds with their future property taxes. I saw a case of one of these types of deals here in Hammond, Indiana where a store bought the bonds itself, so it is not as bad.

John Delano March 1, 2006 at 1:18 am

Dee, without an income tax, employer provided health care would be a non issue, as it would likely be purchased by the individual rather than the employer in nearly all cases. Also, I don’t think WMT deserves much blame for the existence of state funded health care.

Rob March 1, 2006 at 8:20 am

This IS a heated exchange! From what I can see so far Wal Mart is guilty of the following:

Continually striving to provide its customers the most variety at the lowest prices. It arguably has been more successful at this than any retailer in history. All the complaints boil down to the methods used to achieve this end. Some methods involve purely private contracts (such as changing distribution networks) others involve unilateral state decrees (tax breaks and eminent domain, although no one has cited an actual Wal Mart ED case…given the press over New London v. Kelo I am skeptical that one actually exists). How is Wal Mart different from any other business or even individual in this regard? Antilib started this whole ball rolling with talking of his right to petition the state to unilaterally prevent Wal Mart from opening a store in his town. How can we then criticize Wal Mart for exercising the same “right”? Every Ma & Pa’s grocery routinely changes distributors to remain profitable, how is Wal Mart wrong to do the same? All of the criticisms leveled at Wal Mart are equally applicable to most businesses and citizens. What makes Wal Mart different is that they are successful and We hate that. If a business remains a single main street store front, we find that charming and honor the owners at Rotary club meetings. If that same business grows beyond this, at some point we think them evil profiteers and decry the owners at town hall meetings. That’s the

Dee March 1, 2006 at 10:47 am

Rob, everyone changes distributors, but Wal-Mart cuts them out and goes directly to China, Bengladesh, etc. I’m not going to educate you any further. If the Frontline stories, what you read in the papers and personal experiences of people like myself whose businesses have been hurt by Wal-Mart tactics in the marketplace aren’t enough, you’re hopeless. And don’t forget the old Wal-Mart motto: “Support America Made”!!! LOL Me, I’m enjoying the new American way. I’ll you try to figure out what that is. :)

Dee March 1, 2006 at 11:00 am

Rob, I admire chains like In and Out Burgers, a privately owned company who pays their managers far above the industry norm, treats them well, and can give any national chain a run for their money in their region. It’s not the size that people despise about Wal-Mart, it is their business practices. You really sound like you have only a very superficial understanding of Wal-Mart. It’s much like people despising Halliburton not because they are a huge, profitable company, but because the reasons they are war profiteering and how they got their contracts is questionable. We don’t have to admire every company that is hugely successful. I undertand some are in awe of the biggest but a much better model for awe would be the best because of standards, morals and good business practices. It seems some people always feel that defending a successful beast allows them to ride it and share somehow in that success, or makes them seem ‘smart’ for ‘going with the winner’. Instead, it takes them on a ride they find later they might not have wanted to take.

Roy W. Wright March 1, 2006 at 11:00 am

I, for one, am glad Wal-Mart abandoned its nationalist rhetoric.

Dee March 1, 2006 at 11:04 am

Rob, I admire chains like In and Out Burgers, a privately owned company who pays their managers far above the industry norm, treats them well, and can give any national chain a run for their money in their region. It’s not the size that people despise about Wal-Mart, it is their business practices. You really sound like you have only a very superficial understanding of Wal-Mart. It’s much like people despising Halliburton not because they are a huge, profitable company, but because the reasons they are war profiteering and how they got their contracts are questionable. We don’t have to admire every company that is hugely successful. I understand some are in awe of the biggest but a much better model for awe would be the best because of standards, morals and good business practices. It seems some people always feel that defending a successful beast allows them to ride it and share somehow in that success, or makes them seem ‘smart’ for ‘going with the winner’. Instead, it takes them on a ride they find later they might not have wanted to take. Americans want fast and easy, short-term instead of long-term. I can get my jeans at Wal-Mart for $15 bucks (or whatever..I don’t shop there), but someone else is paying the price and that’s usually some little laborer in Bengladesh. Of course, those who ‘share in Wal-Mart’s success’ don’t mind knowing that. It’s all about them. Wal-Mart services them well, much like a prostitute sevices her johns.

Lisa Casanova March 1, 2006 at 11:45 am

Dee,
My fiance has worked for a number of small businesses for the past several years, none of which were in competition with Wal-Mart. And yet, some still managed to go out of business, leaving him without a job. Of five small business jobs, you know how many offered health insurance? Zero. His health insurance comes out of our pocket. It’s naive to act as though in the absence of Wal-Mart everyone would be working for mom-and-pop stores that are paradises of high wages and generous benefits. Small businesses are struggling and trying to make a buck just like everyone else. They pay their employees according to what makes sense for their business, not out of generosity. And like Wal-Mart, sometimes they treat you well and sometimes they screw you. If you don’t like Wal-Mart, fine. They’re hardly an angel of the free market and deserve a lot of the criticism they get. But don’t think that if the world consisted of small businesses, no one would ever be underpaid, uninsured, fired, or screwed by their employer. Those things are hardly the exclusive province of Wal-Mart.

Roy W. Wright March 1, 2006 at 12:22 pm

I can get my jeans at Wal-Mart for $15 bucks… but someone else is paying the price and that’s usually some little laborer in Bengladesh.

Wait, what? Your previous comments indicated that Wal-Mart is increasing job opportunities in Bangladesh. Please be consistent (or explain why having a job is a bad thing).

Entelechy March 1, 2006 at 12:27 pm

To antlib et. al. who seem to favor collective responses to WalMart:

To state it succintly, the reason libertarians object to the growing practice of public protests against development is that it constitutes an attempt to impose a covenant on a community retroactively. In other words, previously settled property arrangements (where one could NOT object to WalMart building a store on land it had freely purchased) are disrupted.

The practical effect of this is to render all property rights subordinate to majority will. Effectively, all property rights in that community are transfered from the title holders to whomever in their community gets a kick out of attending city council meetings. This politicization of daily life is disruptive of the social order to an extent that WalMart could never even hope to match.

Rob March 1, 2006 at 1:11 pm

Dee,

I am pretty up on Wal Mart business practices. I worked for M&M Mars briefly and nearly 60% of the factory production (Hackettstown NJ plant) goes to Wal Mart. If Wal Mart decides to stop selling M&Ms, that plant may well shutdown. While I don’t want to see anyone out of work, no one at Mars is entitled to their jobs. Like any other business, Wal Mart seeks reduction in operating cost to remain profitable. And like any other business, the driver for their profitability is consumer satisfaction…the one thing they may be better at than anyone else on earth. They got to the size they are now by selling what people want to buy at prices they want to pay, plain and simple. As long as they keep selling M&Ms at agreeable prices, the Hackettstown plant will keep running and many of my friends will keep their jobs.

The fact that they petition the state for favorable treatment disgusts me. But such behavior disgusts me just as much when it is done by folks who want to shut Wal Mart out of their town. I don’t boycott the businesses of these folks and I won’t boycott Wal Mart either. The reality is every consumer product in the world has some one somewhere in its production chain who brokered with the state to smile on their business, so I would quickly starve or freeze if I were to consistently boycott on this principle.

And I absolutely do not buy into the idea that Americans are more deserving of employment than Chinese or Bangladeshis. If the businesses in these countries can give me what I want for the price I want, than they will have my patronage. Some bloke in Portland, Oregon is as much a stranger to me as some dude in Guangzhou, China, so how does common political geography by accident of birth give him a higher moral claim on my money than his Asian counterpart? This one really galls me.

I state again, Wal Mart is fundamentally no different than any other business. It is their unrivaled success alone that makes them a target. That is why questions as to their business practices arose in the first place. No one questions Ma & Pa’s hardware, and I am sure no one questioned Sam Walton’s five & dime. It is only after Ma & Pa figure out how to be more efficient, open up a few new stores and change their name to the Home Depot that the questions arise.

Vince Daliessio March 1, 2006 at 1:43 pm

The problem with some of what some of you are saying isn’t that the people here are “Wal*Mart Lovers” – it is that many of the proposed solutions to the alleged problems are unlibertarian and increase government control and decrease property rights.

Francisco Torres March 1, 2006 at 2:05 pm

[quote]If Wal Mart decides to stop selling M&Ms, that plant may well shutdown. [/quote]

Boo hoo.

Yancey Ward March 1, 2006 at 2:06 pm

Vince,

It isn’t the case that many of the proposed solutions are unlibertarian, but that all of the proposals are.

Rob March 1, 2006 at 2:12 pm

Entelechy,

Very well said.

John Delano March 1, 2006 at 2:26 pm

Dee, Wal-Mart has been good to many in the Third World. Many of these people would be starving dirt poor without their manufacturing jobs. They wouldn’t go back to an $80k a year + benefits job if the factories left.

Rob, many of the candy manufacturing is moving to Canada because of the cane sugar tariffs.

“I, for one, am glad Wal-Mart abandoned its nationalist rhetoric.”Roy W. Wright
I agree. Some of their commercials now brag of their more efficient supply chain that Dee complains of. Remember the 2 liter bottle of ginger ale commercial they have?

Rob March 1, 2006 at 2:42 pm

John,

Mars has a bunch of plants in Canada, but nearly all the candy making (and all of the chocolate production) is in the US. The capital expense of relocating chocolate production is currently prohibitive. The machines involved are hideously expensive and the ability to co-generate power on site is limited by law in Canada.

joseph wait March 1, 2006 at 4:26 pm

i am doing an informative speech about wal mart in speech class. i came here expecting something completely different. i actually would rather not go to wal mart because of the crowds and the bad customer service, but they always seem to have what i need, so i go there anyway. but seriously, the people that work there look like they really hate their job and the customers.

Rob March 1, 2006 at 5:00 pm

Joseph,

Not sure what you were expecting but you definetly got a lot of something here!

The crowds and the distance from home are what keep me from going to Wal Mart every trip, but the prices are a powerful draw. If we need basically more than one item, I make the trip and brave the lines.

My view is that no one likes their job. If jobs were fun we’d be standing in line waiting to buy tickets. I have a high tolerance for pissy employees because I don’t really interact with any of them (flirting with attractive female employee’s excepted). A smile is nice but in no way a requirement.

Sione Vatu March 1, 2006 at 5:25 pm

Gentlemen

Some time ago I asked “antilib” whether or not he supported the initiation of force against other people. At the time no answer was forthcoming. From his writings on this thread it would appear the answer is that he would initiate force. He certainly does support the initiation of force by a third party so long as it is initiated on his behalf, to secure his goals. In other words antilib is a collectivist when it suits his purposes and pretends to be an individualist when that suits his purposes. Consistency, therefore, is out. Don’t expect it from him. You are not dealing with a man of principle.

What antilib needs to be taught is the world as is, and the world as it would be with a libertarian economic system, is not all about protecting him from unwelcome occurrences (such as negative evaluation of his home by other people). There is no right to protect himself from things going “wrong” by initiating force against others. There is no right to compel them to provide tribute to insure or prevent his potential “loss”, nor to force them to behave according to a particular prescription that suits his particular vested interest. He has no right to force others to underwrite the price he lusts for by forgoing their liberty or property. But that’s a topic that’s already been well covered on this site by others.

antilib is concerned about the falling value of a not inconsiderable investment in his home. He frets that the non-IOF actions of other people may reduce the value of his investment. One wonders how he would react to the possibility that members of the Vatu might move in next door, certainly that would reduce the price he’d be likely to get for his home (a common enough occurrence which has played out many times previously). Here we have an antilib (and doesn’t the tag give away the game?) who appears to accept that people be allowed to treat THEIR property as they wish but remains adamant they be prevented from actions, or existence, on THEIR property that MAY result in him experiencing loss of value. He “solves” the contradiction by determining that other people should be forced to behave as he requires in order to protect his interests. Simple!

antilib explicitly accepts IOF as valid. He pretends this is reasonable and practical; a dishonesty. The next step, employing third parties (government) to force people to behave as he wants, is not difficult for him to make, although it is much harder to justify (actually it is unjustifiable but he does not wish his chain of logic to be examined so he skips quickly past the issue). His demand of all other people is that they not be free to do ANYTHING that affects his property value. What we have here is the neighbour as a collectivist totalitarian with his “I want the neighbourhood and everyone else’s property within it maintained according to MY taste”. Too bad about private property then. Nothing can be private unless it is his. This conceit leads to an embrace of collectivism, never liberty.

What is implicit within antilib’s requirement that his property value remains high is that other people be directed to value it highly by whatever means. He wants any buyer to value the property highly as that would make him happy. Since it is difficult to get away with open promotion of the idea of directly forcing potential buyers to value the property as highly as he wants or of forcing someone to buy the property when he decides to quit it, he demands the next available options. Control the neighbours. This leads to consideration of how he deals with the wider scene.

What would antilib think about a sharp rise in interest rates leading to a property market slump or even an inability on his part to maintain repayments on his mortgage? A forced sale and a considerable loss for him would be on the cards. It is likely he supports continued inflation of the money supply by the powers that be. Just so long as everyone gets to bear that burden a little and just so long as antilib doesn’t realise a loss on his investment. Another risk; in the event that the house was rendered valueless, by termite attack say, we can be assured that antilib would demand all others be forced to pay him out (for top dollar) of his rotted investment. “My loss. You pay.” Makes one wonder what other governmental and collectivist policies antilib is promoting and supporting to keep his interests protected. All of it expressions of force against other people.

I know it is easy to cast aspersions on brothels, bottleshops, pubs, factories, retailers and mines as neighbours. antilib certainly does this and states how he wants to keep them out. I’d like you all to consider for a minute how this also affects people like the Vatu. antilibs in real life want to keep such neighbours out as well. And not just Vatu. Think on where that is leading…

In the real world there is always the risk that an investment can go wrong. That can happen today and it certainly could happen in a libertarian economy. For instance, I imagine there were people who would have been concerned about the falling value of their investment in their aviation piston engine stocks (eg Wright Aeronautical). Would it be correct for the investors in the manufacturers of newer technology be forced to forgo some of their stock or dividend to recompense the piston engine investors? Why not prevent companies from selling product that reduce piston engine sales? That way the investment in piston engine manufacturing is protected. But who would enforce this? Of course the antilibs amongst us would vigorously lobby the government. There is that fundamental dishonesty again; the wish for profit but at the risk of everyone else (a typical part-time “individualist” who seeks insurance by full-time collectivism). Very dishonest indeed (the Matai always taught that socialists can never be honest- “They are all liars, all, every one”).

Now antilibs are always claiming that their situation, investment, activity, run of bad luck etc is different- special- exceptional- a market failure. They are most vocal when they perceive a situation is not going as they’d prefer. That’s when they want other people to be forced to bail them out and so they whine on like an unstoppable police siren. In this case antilib claims special difficulties in selling his home. He’ll offer that as the justification for an IOF against other people. “It’s too difficult to sell my home” or “It’s not fair that I have to sell at a loss” or “It’s too capital intensive an investment on my part that I should face such risk” and so on. If you examine the argument it comes down to this, “It’s too hard for me to assume my own risks. I want someone else to pay when things go against me.” He mortgages everyone’s freedom with his personal needs. He should be taught to understand that his wealth or lack of it are not a justification for the destruction of liberty. He should realise that his needs do not force an obligation against anyone else’s freedom or their property. His needs are exclusively his, not theirs. Their freedom, property (and needs) are exclusively theirs, not his.

How ironic that the value of antilib’s home relies on what remnant of the population observe the non-IOF principle and to what extent they do it.

Despite the rhetoric antilib is clearly not here to learn anything. He’s deliberately obtuse when it suits and designs his arguments for the purpose of petty point scoring and riling. The name tag gives him away. Gentlemen, think about it.

Consider. It is to be highly recommend that should a person wish to learn he hit the books. That’s how to learn (especially the basics), not by arguing for the hell of it. On the Von Mises site are the writings of Von Mises. Here we also find the works of Rothbard and others. All for free. No cost but the time to read them and think about them. It is to be recommended that people such as antilib (if they really are honest about learning) study them closely. You’ll find each and every one of his objections and arguments anticipated, analysed and answered. So will he. Go see.

Sione

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