Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Wal-Mart Defense League

Love it or hate it, Wal-Mart is a lightening rod of debate in this country. There are organizations too numerous to count that work night and day to bring the giant retailer to its knees. Some are simply marxists and since Wal-Mart represents to them the epitomy of the capitalist pig it is natually a prime target (pardon the pun). Others are tied to the labor union movement which try as the might they can't really make a dent in Wal-Mart's "right to work" employment model. There are those groups that oppose Wal-Mart for the preservation of their small town way of life. These people are neither marxists or disgruntled workers but rather nostalgics whose resistance can be understood on many levels.

Me, well, I have been sour on Wal-Mart for a couple of reasons - not necessarily logical or even profound - but no less valid in this land of opinion and free enterprise. Briefly: I find their stores messy, cluttered and disorganized. Second, some of their strong-arm tactics with American manufacturers and distributors are just plain despicable. "It's not personal, it's just business" is a worn out idiom - nothing is more personal than a one-horse town losing its factory to a Chinese sweatshop and seeing hundreds of regular Americans treking down to the local food shelf.

Recently I have come across numerous articles and essays in defense of Wal-Mart. In particular Christopher Chantrill's brilliant piece "Stand Up for Wal-Mart" on his web site He clearly defines what Wal-Mart has done for the efficiency of America with it's distrbution and retail practices which have forced its competitors to match if they want to stay in the game. It is a different world out there than when Sears and Montgomery Wards were dominating this segment. America is as competitve as it is in part due to Wal-Mart and its embrace of technology and maximum efficiency at all levels of its business. I find much of what Chantrill says in this piece hard to argue with.

Over at American Thinker Mr. Lifson eludes to Zogby's polling (one should be skeptical of any Zogby poll) as a tool of the aforementioned union war against the giant retailer. I admit too that it was a PBS: Frontline special that got my ire up over Wal-Marts China centric supply chain. Frontline is not a neutral observer and obviously their program pushed all the right emotional buttons while trying to come off as a "balanced" piece.

I may still never be a regular shopper at Wal-Mart, but I do understand that in this changing world as one who is committed to free enterprise and capitalism I must learn to squelch emotion and look at the facts from both sides. Wal-Mart is good for America in many respects - but it can also be bad for "Americans" at a personal level when by its direct actions good people lose their jobs over a few pennies per unit.

In summation: Wal-Mart - Always Controversial. ALWAYS