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Open Thread: Libertarians Vs. Wal-Mart Haters




There was some good discussion about our “Seven Reasons Wal-Mart Sucks” in the comments section.  It essentially turned into a small number of self-described libertarians taking on a smaller number of Wal-Mart haters.

Some of the better responses:

Nick:

Walmart is the largest ‘private’ employer in my state. Probably at least in the top 10 in most states. They employ probably thousands of drivers to get their stuff from their huge warehouses to their stores. They employ hundreds of people at their warehouses. They employ hundreds more people who have to deal with the logistics of moving their stuff from factories (overseas or not) to their warehouses. Brand representatives have jobs because they go in and merchandise their goods (kraft, nabisco, pepsi, coke, bread guys, etc..) You make it sound as if the only people being employed and ‘benefiting’ at all from Walmart are corporate executives. Not true….

Say what you will about Walmart, but they pay more taxes to my local government than the rest of the ’small business base’ around here, whereas, if they hadn’t built here, my taxes would be much higher.

I am a small business owner who has benefited from Walmart. If you are a retailer, and you are a mom/pop type store, you need to continue to change how you do things.. That’s why most mom/pop shops are closed. They stayed the same for 40+ years. You have to constantly change the way you operate your store, and merchandise, etc.. Service should stay the same always, excellent service keeps customers coming back.. but you need to have something for your customers to buy or at least to pique their interest if you expect to be able to give them your excellent service.

luke:

If you want to blame manufacturing of goods going overseas-blame unions. When some jagoff won’t get off the couch for less than 17 bucks an hour, damned right they are going to go somewhere else. And Wal-Mart doesn’t MAKE THE GOODS. The suppliers do. So it’s probably Mattel, Sony, Black and Decker, etc. that eat cock. I have worked there for 7 years, and I make just about a dollar less per hour on average (I’m salaried now) than my father who has worked at the same manufactoring company for more than 40 years. Simple fact is, just like every other job in the world…if you work hard you’ll get rewarded…if you aren’t worth a fuck you aren’t going to get rewarded. I’m sick of these whining malcontent’s bitching about low wages when they spend half their time with their cell phones out texting and talking to their friends. Not just something I’m making up…I’ve fired people for it. Wal-Mart pays more taxes, contributes more in donations, employs more people than any business in your community…bet on it. And I’m all for freedom of choice…if you want to pay 11.00 for your chips and soda at a grocery store…go for it, I’m going to Wal-Mart and pay 8.00. Not because I don’t like small business, but because I like money. If you don’t like Wal-Mart, don’t shop there…but stop the hate. Everybody guns for #1 and until the next guy comes along with a better way to get shitty to mediocre goods on store shelves for low price while making a profit…people will hate them. I do have to comment on the supplier thing….Wal-Mart doesn’t charge huge fines for anyone being late with anything but even small business have a right to get their shit in a timely manner. Doesn’t matter if your store does 40,000 a year or 400,000,000,000. Suppliers are in business to supply. They should shut up and do their goddamn job. Save Money, Live Better. Giggitty.

Our condensed case against the libertarian view of Wal-Mart:

In our opinion, libertarianism is theoretically superior to most other political ideals. In the 18th and 19th century, it was ideal. But the founding fathers did not have to deal with the type of technology that corporations have at their disposal today. The government could stay out of the way because it was impossible for any individual/corporation to become big enough to become oppressive.

Say you want to buy kitchen equipment. The year is 1780. You’re a farmer. You grow your own food and sell it at the local market. You make a decent living. Anyway, you go to the blacksmith for your pans. The blacksmith owns his own house and business, does most of his own work, and makes a decent living.

In 2009, you go to Wal-Mart. The kitchen equipment is made by virtual slave labor in china, supplied by an intermediary barely squeaking out a profit, and sold by an “associate” making minimum wage. Where does the excess profit go? Straight to the ownership. In the meantime, small-time farmers have been driven bankrupt by big agri-business. Economies of scale and advances in technology make it next to impossible for small farms to compete.

Transactions that once provided a decent living for everyone involved have been hijacked by ruthless, technologically superior corporations. No one is more successful than Wal-Mart.

So I understand your arguments. I don’t think that Wal-Mart has done anything wrong. They’ve played the game better than anyone else. My problem isn’t fundamentally with Wal-Mart, it’s with the system that allows them to squeeze the profits out of “little people’s” transactions and into their massive corporate pockets.  Rather than ending up with a large number of moderately successful citizens, as we had in the early days of our nation, we end up with a handful of massively wealthy fat cats and millions barely squeaking out a living.

As Rod Dreher put it in his “Crunchy Con Manifesto”, “Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.”

Who’s right, and why?

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6 comments to Open Thread: Libertarians Vs. Wal-Mart Haters

  • andrew

    i don’t like wal-mart. sometimes i shop there because lets face it it’s cheaper, but i agree and don’t think its right for a corporation to dominate employees, suppliers, and competitors the way wal mart does. Their size gives them an unfair advantage. compare wal-mart employees to starbucks. starbucks employees actually benefit. granted the company is in trouble, but not because of how they treat their employees. they just overexpanded big itme.

  • evan h.

    I say tough shit. If you want to be filthy rich, come up with an idea as good as wal-mart. if you can’t, suck it up.

  • Rob

    There is a lot of discussion about how Walmart has an “unfair advantage”. What’s a “fair advantage”? Who gets to determine what a “fair advantage” is? How different is this from you determining what a “fair profit” is?

    Let’s have a simple thought experiment. Gasoline, the fuel of our economy, is nothing more than an extremely cheap and convenient battery that is recharged very quickly relative to how long it runs. Let’s assume that some very bright person finds a way to have a battery that is lighter than the equivalent weight in gasoline, has no environment impact, recharges even quicker, and a car-sized one costs $1 to make out of household goods. If that person was me, I’d charge $500 per battery for as long as I could. AND EVERYONE WOULD BE HAPPY ABOUT IT. Me, the seller, is happy. My employees are very happy because I’m able to pay them a good wage. My suppliers are happy because I’m buying every piece of goods they can sell me. My customers are thrilled because they’re getting something they used to get cheaper.

    In fact, the only people unhappy are the oil companies (cause they’re not selling oil) and the socialists (because I’m “gouging the people”). Yet, if I charge less, I pay my people less. So, who wins?

  • Lord Tantrum

    Rob, what you’re suggesting is exactly what I’d do. Under your scenario, everyone wins. You win, your employees win, your suppliers win, the public wins.

    Wal-Mart does the opposite. They sell things cheaply BECAUSE they squeeze all the profit out of their suppliers and their employees. The only winners at Wal-Mart are the owners. The consumers are technically winners because they pay a good price, but they don’t realize that the hidden cost of the cheap price hurts everyone around them.

    Evan, I don’t think that’s the American way. Especially not as envisioned by the Founding Fathers. I think they’d look at dominant corporations with the same distrust they had for meddlesome governments.

  • Grey

    Walmart is no more evil then Costco, who many revere as the antithesis of Walmart. While Walmart pays less per hour they demand less from their employees then Costco whose employees are responsible for twice the amount of stock then Walmart workers are required to maintain, meaning Walmart employs twice the amount of people for the same work. Costco also makes three time the revenue from their workers then Walmart does. Costco locates their stores in affluent areas while Walmart serves the low income people. Costco profits much more on each employee then Walmart does while Walmart profits from more employees. Walmart offers jobs to the inexperience and even the mentally or physically challenged, Costco hires the experienced worker. How does this make either of them evil ?

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