A big scare fizzles

A big scare fizzles

February 14th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

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.