"It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men." ~ H.L. Mencken
The Absurdity of Hating Walmart...and Not Government
Column by Alex R. Knight III
Exclusive to STR
It seems to invoke the ire of the dogmatic leftists to no end, the largest corporation on earth; this homegrown business, now global in scope, second in size only to the U.S. federal government. They inveigh against it as if this department store chain were the summary of all total malfeasance – a horrible capitalist-pig monster determined to rule, control, and enslave the human race at every chance the CEO gets – all the while trashing the environment, snapping up real estate with their seemingly endless supply of cash, and exploiting the undereducated proletariat.
Let’s get down to specifics and see if we can’t achieve some clarity beyond all the shouting and screaming. To begin, I might add a personal element: I worked full-time in a Walmart distribution center for almost seven years. I can tell you in all honesty that, as an employer and a company, they’re a mixed bag – in some ways, the pay and benefits -- for a long term “associate” (as they refer to their employees) are not at all bad. Especially since most actual hands-on positions require no special skills, not even a high school diploma. On the other hand, I saw several long-time, hard-working folks fired on a whim, merely for uttering the wrong four-letter word at the wrong time, or some other such entirely innocuous mistake. In one instance, a young woman who took a co-worker’s house plants home to water them while the latter was on vacation and brought them right back the next day was terminated for “stealing.” Yes, my fellow lefties, those things were disgraceful and never should’ve happened. I’m not going to paint all Walmart policies as a rose garden of tolerance.
That said, there are some very important segments of reality that Walmart’s most vociferous critics tend to ignore. Let’s see if we can’t address at least most of them.
To begin, Walmart can’t do what they do as they do it without government there to tip the scales. In a government-infested world such as our current one, no business gets to ride as high as Walmart without having to engage the people who control the biggest guns. In other words, the executives of Walmart are no crusaders. They go along to get along. They lobby politicians with gobs of cash – both Republocrat and Demopublican – in order to get trade policies, tax breaks and loopholes, tariff rates, etc., most favorable to the continuation and expansion of their company. No one – certainly not I – is going to accuse them of being ideologically egalitarian libertarian angels. They’re pragmatic businessmen in a government-choked world. That’s all. Consider that, in a zero-government environment, these circumstances could not exist. Walmart – along with everyone else – would have to compete in a true unregulated, laissez-faire marketplace. Not the crony-capitalist one currently distorted by government interventions ten-thousand ways to Sunday. Yet the same assailants of Walmart generally are part of the Government is Good crowd (and there is, believe it or not, now a website called just that, created by a professor from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, and not at all far from where I now sit...leave it to Marxachusetts). This attitude, in the light of all total reason, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
In this same light, much has been made – even in libertarian circles – about the use of RFID chip technology in Walmart stores and the recent proliferation of surveillance cameras on Walmart property. Here again, in my estimation, we’re dealing with the same problem as illustrated above: In one regard, these are effective means of theft-prevention. Any business with as much on-hand merchandise as Walmart must protect itself from the unscrupulous. In another, they have openly stated their desire to aid Homeland Security in “combating terrorism” by spying on everyone at large. They are simply keeping Big Brother happy. They’re interested in continuing to expand and turn a handsome profit, as any successful business (or anyone who wants to be successful) will do. They are no longer a single five-and-dime in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas, circa 1953. They are forced to play ball with the heavies for as long as government continues to exist.
There may well be a few of you out there who are still not convinced; those who I’ve heard time and again espouse the view that without government (the same one that enables Walmart’s worst excesses), Walmart – and other “big corporations” like it – will conspire to rule the world.
While that might make a great plot for a Superman comic book, it can never become reality. Why? Well, for one: K-Mart – and scads of other department store chains. If, in the total absence of political government, Walmart’s CEO was ever so foolish as to decide to raise a paramilitary-style army, let’s say, with the purpose of enforcing their will on the populace, such buffoons would instantly run into several very daunting problems.
For one, the cost of establishing and maintaining such a force would be astronomical, and never-ending. Even with Walmart’s current vast trove of capital, this alone would make a serious dent in any war chest. Sales at Walmart stores around the globe would have to be brisk and plentiful indeed in order to support such an endeavor. But given that Walmart’s intentions would by now likely be known to one and all, how many people would continue shopping at Walmart stores? Nearly everyone would begin conducting business with Walmart’s far less violent and aggressive competitors. Well then suppose the Walmart soldiers began marching on those competitors to close them down. Any remaining customer base Walmart had would have evaporated, and doubtless, any number of private security forces and resistance cells would rise to repel and crush the Walmart onslaught. After which, Walmart, not unlike the Nazis, would be no more, and K-mart, et al would flourish and likely with the public’s blessings for generations to come.
Which leads me to my final point: After all is said and done, Walmart has only accomplished what it has because millions of willing customers have found what they were looking for at reasonable prices by doing business with them. If you don’t like Walmart, don’t shop there or work there. Unlike government, no one from Walmart is forcing you to pay with a gun to your head. Which should show you where your resentment should truly be directed, and just who the real enemy is.