Saturday, December 13, 2003

Discount Nation: Is Wal-Mart Good for America?

Probably. At least in the long run when we're all dead.

Walmart is capitalism at its ruthlessly efficient best. It pays its employees minimum wage, without benefits, and extracts unpaid overtime because it can. It drives labor off-shore and wipes out manufacturing jobs because it can. It discriminates against women and hires illegal aliens as janitors because it can. This is as close to laissez faire as we get. If it weren't for minimum wage, Walmart would pay even less.

So much for right-wing nostalgia and the fantasy of a nation of mom-and-pop shopkeepers. Cold War propaganda set that fantasy against the bugaboo of a Socialist mass society where faceless slaves toiled in monumental factories until they were used up and thrown away. In fact that is what we are going to get when other retailers and firms in other industries emulate Walmart.

Maybe at that point, when we're all dead, the American electorate will catch on