Monday, September 18, 2006

Why a Liberal Should (Sometimes) Like Wal-Mart

Much has been said on the left about Wal-Mart. It does not pay its employees well. It does not treat them well. It destroys downtown stores. These are all true, but I say Wal-Mart benefits poor local communities tremendously.

First point. According to reliable, non-Wal-Mart sources, Wal-Mart pays wages averaging a bit over eight dollars per hour. To the economist, this is a horrible wage, a wage in poverty. No one ought to work for poverty wages. The wages are better than nothing.

Second point. There is no doubt Wal-Mart is one of the worst employers since the days of union-busting. The employees are forced to work overtime off the clock. They get few, if any, benefits. They must adhere closely to the rigid Wal-Mart behavioral prescription, or face certain dismissal. Women face certain discrimination. What are the alternatives in the rural, backwards South? Stay at home and clean the house which your drunk father and adulterous mother have wrecked? That would be a terrible life. Wal-Mart brings grub to a starving horse.

Third point. If anything is for certain, Wal-Mart strategizes to destroy all competition. As a monopoly, Wal-Mart has the power and capacity to do anything to undermine and decimate all foes. No matter. Who are the local competition? Mom and pop stores: overly priced, inexaustive selection of products, minimum wage, small employer, economically underdeveloped. Wal-Mart is better on all counts. It is not overly priced, does have a good selection of products, pays above minimum wage, large employer, comparatively economically progressive.

In rural, Southern communities Wal-Mart is clearly good for the populations. Liberals need to realize this. Otherwise, they risk undermining the liberation of backwards communities. This would perpetuate a needless cycle of economic dispossession. Wal-Mart breaks that cycle. It brings hope. Liberals are a hopeful bunch. They should not impugn that feeling.

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