published Monday, February 14th, 2011

A big scare fizzles

Not long ago, there was lots of panicky talk about Wal-Mart gaining "too big" a share of the retail market and destroying practically all of its competitors. That led, in some cases, to efforts to block construction of the stores. But nowadays you don't hear so much about the "dangers" of Wal-Mart. Why? Because fears of near-total dominance by Wal-Mart just didn't pan out.

The Associated Press pointed out as much in a recent article: "Three years ago, Wal-Mart ruled for convenience, selection and price. But today it is losing customers and revenue, and smarting from decisions that backfired."

Though Wal-Mart is certainly not on its deathbed, other retailers — from dollar stores to larger facilities — have pulled away many customers with convenience or competitive prices. In other words, consumers — through their free-market decisions about where to spend their money — are deciding for themselves how "big" Wal-Mart should be.

Author and scholar Thomas Sowell noted a similar scare decades ago about the huge A&P grocery chain. But, he wrote, A&P shrank over time to "a shadow of its former self" — again because of consumers' choices.

The free market is amazingly self-regulating and productive, if only government resists the temptation to substitute its judgment for the decisions of the American people.

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charivara said...

I’m not sure what the last sentence of this piece has to do with the rest of the editorial. Walmart’s declining fortunes in the market place is somehow connected to the government substituting its judgement for the decisions of the American people? Huh?

The government doesn't tell people they must shop at Walmart. It does try to make sure that what they buy there is safe to eat or use. The "free market" this writer is so enamored of at one time led to food processors adding formaldehyde to their meat to keep it from spoiling, to make false claims about their products' safety, and to force workers to labor in dangerous factories and mines for poverty level wages. People had no choice in the matter, unless you consider that deciding between eating and not eating or having a job and not having a job is a choice. It was government, not the “free market” that stopped these abuses.

This writer's "free market" is one in which the very rich use their money get laws enacted to further enrich themselves or shield themselves from responsibility for the results of their greed at the expense of the workers who produce their wealth. Only government can level the playing field. As long as Americans allow that government to be controlled by corporate interests they will continue to see their jobs disappear, their living standards decline and their children's future dimmed. Working people are not served by conservative practices and philosophy.

February 14, 2011 at 5:27 p.m.
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