Wal-Mart: Immoral Monster?


Some sheeple are up in arms again, this time over low retail prices on everyday goods. If one listens to their pleas, you will hear that Wal-Mart is an immoral monster and all of its stores should be run out of town on a rail yesterday, if not sooner. Lower prices, great selection, ready availability, pervasive presence, a state-of-the-art ordering, delivery, and payment system, and a no-questions-asked return policy are evil. They all have to go.

These are the same people who not only refuse to shop at Wal-Mart, they are proud to admit it and they advertise their ignorance every chance they get. There is nothing that pleases them more than shopping elsewhere, paying more for the privilege, and then lofting their noses into the air to adopt a holier-than-thou pose for the entire world to see.

Look at me! I'm a 'morally responsible citizen' who refuses to shop at Wal-Mart because (a) I am terminally ignorant, (b) I have no clue what a free market economy entails, (c) I am really just a closet fascist who can't wait for the State to jump in and 'solve' my perceived problem of 'unfair' competition by low-cost suppliers of labor like Taiwan, India, Mexico, Korea, and China.

If you listen to these people, we are all 'shopping ourselves out of jobs' by patronizing Wal-Mart. Woe is us, soon we will all be working for minimum wage ' another failed State 'solution' ' if it continues. Obviously, the solution is to boycott Wal-Mart!

Surely, by not taking advantage of what the free market has to offer we can somehow magically retain 'good local jobs' that are being eaten alive by foreign competition. Sure we can. And Britney Spears' New Year's resolution is to enter a convent and take a vow of chastity. What planet are these people from? Peggy Bundy said it best: 'Spend some time on Earth, lady!'

There is a very good reason why TV production ceased in the U.S. over 20 years ago: American companies could not make a profit producing them here. I have a good idea for these anti-Wal-Mart people: Why don't they all pool their money to restart TV production in the U.S. and see how far they get? By the time they comply with all of the State's inane rules, regulations, reporting requirements, and corporate taxes, an American-made TV will cost double the foreign-made one that you can purchase at Wal-Mart today, but who would buy it?

These people believe that they, as individuals in the extreme minority, can somehow slow the inevitable simply by spending more and saving less. What's wrong with this picture? Sounds just like the State to me. Instead of being rational ' like the vast majority of consumers ' they prefer to be irrational and they defend their decision out of ignorance.

Ludwig von Mises is rolling over in his grave. If these people had read his magnum opus, Human Action, they would understand how foolish they really are. They are taking action based on what they think to be in their best interest, even though it isn't, economically.

Mises would say that while these people are behaving irrationally, they have every right to make any decision that they choose, including paying double if it makes them feel any better. Mises went to great lengths to point out that humans are often irrational and emotional, making personal decisions that make no sense whatsoever to anyone else.

Of course, just because these people may prefer to pay double for consumer goods in no way obligates any store to sell them at that price. If a viable mass market existed for consumer goods at double the Wal-Mart price, stores would be falling all over themselves to deliver. How many of them have you seen lately?

What these people fail to appreciate is that the pool of consumers, as a whole, is comprised of economically rational people, quite unlike their irrational selves. The fact that they choose not to shop at Wal-Mart makes no measurable difference in the global market. Buying the same item elsewhere at a higher price merely constitutes a one-time personal subsidy to a retailer that cannot compete in the free market, for the same item, from the same manufacturer.

Since irrational buyers are in the extreme minority, other retailers are doomed unless they learn how to compete. The free market is brutal in that regard, as it should be. Compete or die. Profits and lower prices are Good Things, but in the mass market, both are direct results of good management, low costs of production, and sufficient quality, not from irrationally paying extra for the privilege of subsidizing an uncompetitive retailer.

While their decisions to boycott Wal-Mart are freely made, they are not cost-free, and the argument they use to defend them is economically unsound. The direct cost of making this choice is the higher prices that they pay, thereby saving less. That foregone savings could be used for paying debts, investing, starting a business, building a nest egg, buying gifts, or raising their standard of living.

What do these people gain from their foolish decisions? Peace of mind, based on deluded thinking. They may 'feel' better, but they are fooling themselves, paying extra for the privilege, and incurring a substantial opportunity cost to boot.

IBM is among the latest to announce its intention to ship thousands of American jobs overseas, seeking lower labor costs. Good business move and inevitable. Compete or die. I can already hear the anti-Wal-Mart shoppers wailing.

The good news is that the more of them there are, the shorter the lines will be the next time I'm at Wal-Mart taking advantage of what the free market has to offer ' in spite of the many roadblocks placed in front of it by the State and its lackeys: the closet fascists who boycott Wal-Mart out of ignorance.

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Joe Blow is a privacy advocate with proven subspecialties in strategic planning.  Note: Pirate Poop is now a free newsletter, available by email only. Send all subscription requests to joeblow073@yahoo.com