Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wal-Mart and history

Engaged in the Wal-Mart debate are two sides: those who shop at Wal-Mart due to its selection and low price; and those who want to use the punitive arm of government to put Wal-Mart out of business.

Those of us who support Wal-Mart are a fickle lot. The minute a better option appears we will quickly cross the street to the new store without even a mournful glance at our previously favored best buy. You see, Wal-Mart's time will come. Someday it will be supplanted by a store that out performs it on price, selection, or both. The supporters represent the free market.

Those who fight Wal-Mart want to see the end of everyday low prices. Since the opponents recognize that the consumer desires Wal-Mart, they appeal to government to close the doors on all those packed supercenters. These folks represent statist interventionism.

The problem with having government intervene is that no better option exists once Wal-Mart is locked by decree. Sure the doors can be closed, but where does the consumer go to purchase goods at the price and quality desired? The followers of the free market have no qualms watching Wal-Mart's assured demise once a new competitor appears that can offer a more satisfactory option. When our choices close the doors on the Bentonville Behemoth, it will because the better option is available. The closing of Wal-Mart will simply be a signal that the consumer is now better off.

If government acts according to statist interventionism, it destroys consumer choice, investor capital, and jobs; leaving no better option, just waste, inefficiencies, and unmet wants. But isn't that the typical result of all government interventions?

1 comment:

Hard Return ¶ said...

There was a soccer mom at my kid's game last Sat. who went into an anti-Walmart spiel so early in the morning going on about how they "lock them in the factories with no bathroom breaks and a bowl of rice is all they get." I suggested if true, Chinese workers likely preferred that opportunity to their parents' and grandparents' option of being purged by Mao.
When I mentioned how fashionable it is to pick on Walmart, she got indignant that I used the word "fashionable." I asked where was the indignation 50 years ago, when Woolworth was putting small proprieter stores out of business? And today they're gone except in Mexico. And where was the indignation 100 years ago when Sears and Roebuck was putting regional tool and equipment manufacturers out of business?
She looked at me like I had lobsters coming out of my ears. I was trying to make the point that in the market there is no such thing as a perpetual juggernaut.