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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 2:56amSanction this postReply
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Andrew, you write very well. You hit the bullseye repeatedly with well-reasoned and concise arguments.

And...

I hate Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is all the things you say. You can't beat the prices/selection there. It's a brilliant business model and I applaud them for creating so much success for themselves and their investors. The point is similar to the point regarding the dog nuts from George Cordero's article, Wal-Mart should be free to hire/fire who they want on their terms and to trample ma-and-pa underfoot if that's what it comes to.

As I make more money and get older, quality of life is everything for me. Wal-Mart will definitely save me a few bucks but I always leave that place pissed off at a customer or Wal-Mart employee. My IQ/education is reasonably high but by no means is it off the charts...Wal-Mart customers/employees make me feel as if I belong to a race of mental giants. As a result I've pretty well disowned the joint. In case I'm not stating it clearly enough: the Wal-Mart's I have known are home to a cacophony of chattering, insolent children who smell bad while comfortably maintaining their position as the crown jewels of their family. Environmentally speaking, Wal-Mart is an abyss.

If you need a 9-volt battery in the middle of the night then sure, Wal-Mart is a good call. If you're drunk it might even be fun. But if it's a life-affirming, eudaimoniac environment that you're looking for...Wal-Mart ain't it.




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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 3:48amSanction this postReply
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Oh my - sounds like an elitist snob in our midst.



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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 4:28amSanction this postReply
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Thanks for the compliments Lance. I'm afraid I'm about to leave town until Friday, but I'll write a much longer reply as soon as I return to the warm cocoon that is my Internet connection.



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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 5:22amSanction this postReply
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Andrew, thanks for the essay.  While I appreciate a listing of Wal-Mart's accomplishments, I was wondering what you'd say in response to this criticism:

Wal-Mart Shopping for Subsidies?  Watchdog Group's Report Says $1B in Government Subsidies Have Aided the Retailer's Expansion

The article sounds fairly typical of "doing business" in a mixed economy and paints a more "mixed" picture, by consequence.




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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 5:57amSanction this postReply
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Andrew says: Their grievances against Wal-Mart, though, sound more like praise for its competitive success than indictments for wrongdoing ...

Excellent article Andrew, the above quote perfectly captured the essence of it.

George





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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 7:22amSanction this postReply
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I think you could also note that Walmart is the largest employer in the world, that is, they created more jobs than anyone else has ever. 
 
http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0219/p01s04-usec.html

Michael




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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 8:07amSanction this postReply
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Hello Dr. Sciabarra,

The issue you point out is interesting. I hate to see a business using the government to advance itself, and I hate that the government does it. This does, however, remind me of the discussion in the "working for public universities" thread. Michael Marotta noted that he found taking anything from the government as wrong, especially if your against goverment taxation and what not. I noted that one could morally take as much as was forcibly extorted from you in the form of taxes. I'm curious to see how much Wal-Mart paid in taxes.

In the end, though, you are correct in noting that this is one of the common problems of the mixed-economy. Defenders of the mixed economy always like to try and show how you're a hypocrite if your speak out against the mixed economy because you benefit from all those government programs like roads and schools while ignoring the evil at the root of the whole thing.

It reminds me of a story from a few years back: A guy left a large software company with a few friends and started a rival company. His products caught on and the company grew and became popular with users. It was then revealed by the former employer that the guy and his friends had stolen the base code for their first product from the company that they had left. With that code, they had been able to get up and running faster and become a serious competitor of their former employer. The kicker is, in their defense they noted, even though the original code was stolen, their company no longer used it and that they made great products that people liked. The moral that they wish you to beleive is: stealings ok if you use the money to make things people like. Kind of like the government.

Regards,

Ethan




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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 7:52amSanction this postReply
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Chris raises a really important point.. Walmart has an entire department devoted to doing nothing but getting every goverment subsidy that they possibly can, including free land. WalMart is, like fast food restaurants, really in the real estate business. They don't have an entire department trying to get a free market economy.

Additionally, they notoriously rely on cheap labor manufactuers, with mixed-slave-labor economies like China.

Please don't make the mistake of blaming a mixed ecomony, though, as a way of making an excuse for WalMart agressively going for goverment benefits. WalMart isn't run by Hank and Dagny - they LIKE goverment handouts. Most businesses do; that's why we have a mixed economy. They don't want it to go away, they just want to use it.




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Post 8

Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 1:32pmSanction this postReply
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China and other countries that rely on cheap labor do so because that is their competitive advantage.  Without cheap labor, there would be no reason to invest there.  This is a good thing for both China and the USA - we get cheaper products, they get investment.  This is a crucial element of capitalism, globalism, and eventually a means of liberating individuals from tyranny.



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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 2:05pmSanction this postReply
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I looked up WalMarts balance sheet to see how much it paid in taxes:

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/is?s=WMT

Over 5 Billion last year if I read this right.

Ethan




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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 2:08pmSanction this postReply
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Umm - are you really defending the way China keeps it's labor cheap?

Cheap products aren't good if the come at the expense of human rights. Slavery is bad.




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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 2:47pmSanction this postReply
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Actually Lee,

I heard somewhere that workers in China were starting to get higher wages and more perks, because so many factories are competing for the laborers. I'll see if I can find the info online. Of course getting rid of the Communist government would be a good thing for the Chinese people.

Ethan




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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 3:28pmSanction this postReply
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I want to say something about China's cheap labor.

They are cheaper because most Chinese workers do not request a 3000+ sq. feet suburban houses, or two SUVs, or Caribbean or European vacations, or the need to support five children and a stay-at-home wife, plus many other things that US workers take as granted that should come with a job.

Both my brothers in China work for US companies and they earn about 1/8 of my salary, which is probably 2 or 3 times more than average Chinese workers. Though they are not rich but they are certainly among the well-do-to. 

I think the main reason that Chinese workers are cheaper is because US workers ask so much more for the same productivity.




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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 3:56pmSanction this postReply
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I think folks have a mis-apprehension regarding some aspects of economics.  For instance, a country does not "keep" its labor cheap, this is instead an economic reality based upon the level of capital investment in the country and therefore the productivity of its workers.  It is also not correct to say that Americans are paid highly because they have SUVs or such, but the reason is that the American worker has the highest level of productivity.  Now, depending on the task, labor may be better off in one place or another.  So, in choosing where to build a car, for example, one has to determine how much work is needed to build it.  So, in a highly robotic plant in the USA, the cost of labor may be much higher, but 1 worker can build a better product than 10 could in China, because they don't have the necessary infrastructure.  In contrast, perhaps a piece of clothing can be made by 50% less workers in the USA, but the labor is 20% of the cost in China, making China the better choice.  Then of course there are all the other costs involved - labor is just one component.  It really is as simple as that, what makes capitalism is capital investment, which can be used to build infrastructure, that makes workers more productive.  With less capital, labor is cheaper. 

Now of course slaves are not acceptable, but I do not think it is justified to say that this is the case for the vast majority of Chinese labor.  They aren simply being paid according to what can be produced.  This is all very basic stuff, read up on Mises and others.  Mises is very good as a basic primer for how capitalism works.




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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 3:40pmSanction this postReply
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You know, it's sad but true... I hate Wal-Mart. They built a store right behind my Grandmother's home (she used to have a quiet home, but they had to have another Wal-Mart within 10 miles of the first), and right down the street from my home (leaving two other buildings empty elsewhere in my area!), and on both sides of my college town, after leaving a giant, (and very ugly) empty building in the middle of my town that no one else is able to fill. Don't get me wrong, I am the biggest Capitalist pig you've ever met, and I shop at Wal-Mart when I'm strapped for cash, but don't think I don't resent how incredibly awful their service is, how incredibly long it takes me to find anyone to help me when I'm lost in the damned place, or how incredibly inept their workers are (there are too many to train them for real customer service) or how insane the traffic has become near the stores. And don't think I don't hate how when a community votes against a Wal-Mart and the corp comes back in bed with the government so that they conveniently get around any sort of, you know, people that live there. (Darn those people who think they know what's best for their community!) They do all those great things though... like jobs for so many, cheap products for the poor... but I just cannot get by these other issues. They run the government in certain places. That's not the kind of freedom we're looking for here!

Call me crazy, but I am sort of in love with Downtown Athens, Georgia, where I live. Tiny art stores, bookstores, record stores, clothing stores, restaurants, jewelry stores, and great make up one of the most fun and interesting places in the Southeastern United States. I would hate it if they were all gone; they are so unique and so much better to work in than any Wal-Mart. I love the fact that Wal-Mart saves people money, and that they have been so successful, but I also think that they are irresponsible with their power (they force community governments to let them develop wherever they please, even if they are not wanted, taking away the rights of citizens to chose what they want on their land, they leave empty buildings to build 1 mile away instead of renovating... among discrimination violations that have been in the news...). And they have only grown so big with the government interference I hate so much... would they have been this big and been able to "trample ma and pa" if it weren't for this help? These subsidies? I doubt it seriously. It's not true capitalism. Besides that, I have money to spend, and I get a much better quality product at a smaller store, especially for expensive items, like furniture and jewelry. But even they feel the knife that is Wal-Mart.  In the name of Objectivism and Rationality, should I give up my attachments to my beloved Downtown and let Wal-Mart be my new hang out? Are they getting into the bar business anytime soon? 25 cent shots instead of $1? Cause hell, I'd go!

(Wait, Wal-Mart is also the new moral compass in our society... censorship of movies and CDs, not selling birth control, giving you mean looks when you buy condoms... I guess I'll be waiting awhile for my Sam's *Drinking* Club then...)

Seriously, how can I have a real sense of life if the only place I can shop is the most maddening place on the face of this earth? Wal-Mart sucks. And I'm poor. Sorry Andrew. If you can do it, I'm not stopping you.




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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 5:36pmSanction this postReply
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I've only been to Wal-mart a couple of times and it was awful. Like I have an hour to wait in line. The place was a total dump and I don't know which was worse, the customers or the staff. Maybe I'm just getting old, but it seems that many stores are cutting service... self-check outs, bag your own groceries and generally ignorant staff when you can find someone. Sometimes its worth going out of your way to avoid places like Wal-mart. If they are such a wonderful corporation catering to the poor, etc. why don't they build stores where they are needed, namely the inner cities. There are no Wal-marts in the city of Chicago. If their goal is to service low income people, they need to put their money where their mouth is. I'd rather go to Target, which does have stores in the city. They have cooler ads too.



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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 6:19pmSanction this postReply
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Target is much better. Cleaner, friendlier, better.



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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 6:46pmSanction this postReply
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Nicole Theberge writes:
And don't think I don't hate how when a community votes against a Wal-Mart and the corp comes back in bed with the government so that they conveniently get around any sort of, you know, people that live there. (Darn those people who think they know what's best for their community!)
This is an example of the confusion that happens in a mixed economy. If this is the sort of thing that people are referring to when they talk about WalMart supposedly using government to their advantage then I have to doubt their analytical ability.

The original vote was illegitimate.

I find nothing at all wrong with WalMart's using whatever means they can to get around, to exempt themselves from government interference. To call such actions "getting in bed with government" is completely wrong-headed.



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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 6:51pmSanction this postReply
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I was in a WalMart today. I noticed that the boxes the employee was refilling the selves from had this written on them:

Return this box for refund. Each box costs 95 cents,

That is one of the reasons why WalMart is able to offer ever lower prices while still increasing their profits.



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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 9:12pmSanction this postReply
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Rick,

    What sort of control do you think that people should have over their communities? If they don't want something in their area, do they or do they not have the right to refuse it? And if they do refuse it, and the people they elected to work in their interest go behind their backs and do what they said they didn't want, that isn't wrong? And if it's the law that the people have the right to decide what they do or don't want, should that law or shouldn't it be followed by those in power?  The votes are in no way illegitimate. 

If it is okay for elected officials to ignore the law, then the fabric of our system breaks down. Even if Wal-Mart should be able to do what they do, they should obey the law in the mean time. And if having a mixed economy is what is causing all these problems, we should change that. Laws should be followed... until they are changed. There is always opportunity for change.

I do not believe in government being in bed with business... period. The problem is that too many businesses "get ahead" by breaking the law (by coming in despite a lawful vote against them), and government officials love it because they get kickbacks for giving a nod to the illegal activity under the table. No one has the incentive to change the law, because everyone's profiting in some way. Why are we okay with that? Why don't we fight to get the law changed? Or we can just give it a pass, like Rick seems to prefer. Nothing changes.

No one but Wal-Mart (being the biggest retailer in the world) has the power to get into government in such a major way. I believe that if government and business were separated like church and state, Wal-Mart wouldn't be this big, and I wouldn't dislike them so much. They would be able to do more to satisfy the customers, and the communities. Right now, even a large group of people being dissatisfied with Wal-Mart will do nothing to hurt them... how can competition work if businesses get so big and immune that they stifle out anywhere else for us to go if we are dissatisfied? (Government protection, that's how!) I don't count a business as being a good one just because they are cheap. They need other redeeming qualities, and Wal-Mart has none.

My analytical abilities lack nothing, sir.




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