Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Eye of the Beholder

Wal-Mart is a company that fires whistle-blowers, fights unions, discriminates against women and black truck drivers, violates child labor laws, locks its workers in their stores overnight, pays poverty level wages, and so on and so forth. But, apparently, all that is a small price to pay for the chance for small town America to get cheap products, according to an editorial at the New York Times.

See if the owners of Wal-Mart weren't such ruthless bastards, they wouldn't be able to offer the same kind of cheap prices, and people in rural communities (mainly the ones who don't happen to work at Wal-Mart) wouldn't be able to get by as easily.
According to one recent academic study, when Wal-Mart enters a market, prices decrease by 8 percent in rural areas and 5 percent in urban areas. With two-thirds of Wal-Mart stores in rural areas, this means that Wal-Mart saves its consumers something like $16 billion a year. And because Wal-Mart's presence forces the store's competitors to charge lower prices as well, this $16 billion figure understates the company's real impact by at least half.

These kinds of savings to customers far exceed the costs that Wal-Mart supposedly imposes on society by securing subsidies, destroying jobs in competing stores, driving employees toward public welfare systems and creating urban sprawl.
Yep there it is. Wal-Mart has been successful so should be allowed to whatever the hell it wants! You'll forgive me if I don't entirely buy into this line of thinking.

Salon also has an article about Wal-Mart, dealing with the growing anti Wal-Mart movement. It's a good article, although it could have been more tightly edited.

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