Your Charity or Your Business!

Los Angeles, arguably ground zero for anti-Wal-Mart nuttiness, just got a little bit nuttier:

A week before a new Wal-Mart opens in Harbor Gateway, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn on Wednesday urged residents to boycott the store if it doesn't start contributing a lot more money to the local community. [...]

"I'm calling on them to give $1 million to the community of Harbor Gateway," she said. "Until they do, I urge people to stay away from the store."

The new Wal-Mart is on the corner of Florence and 190th, 10 miles down the street from the epicenter of the L.A. riots. If you're a glass half-full type, I suppose you could be grateful that the City of Angels has gone in 13 short years from complaining about the shortage of supermarkets to boycotting their arrival. (Link via the Martini Republic.)

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  • ||

    I don't patronize businesses that aren't good neighbors, either. What's wrong with that?

  • ||

    I don't mind, as long as they stick to "urging" without the full force of the law.

  • ||

    joe,

    Do i need to give a million dollars to you to be a good neighbor? What if I just promise to keep the music down and promptly return borrowed yard tools?

  • ||

    phocion,

    Are you the guy who owns the house next to me, or the owner of an enormously profitable business whose customers live nearby?

  • ||

    And here I thought selling people good they want for a price they can afford and employing large numbers of them *was* being a good neighbor.

    Silly me.

  • Adam||

    Wal-Mart got to be "enormously profitable" by providing good prices and a mind-blowing selection, and 24 hour availability in a lot of places. Haven't they already done a helluva lot for the community, especially those on the lower end of the income scale?

  • ||

    It's the residents of South Central LA who aren't good neighbors. As evidenced by their behaviour during the riots, and their behaviour since. The Councilhoe's attitude is just one example.

  • ||

    joe

    Isn't selling quality goods at low prices enough to be a good commercial neighbor?

    If they fail to do that I suspect they won't be "neighbors" for long.

  • ||

    Good neighbors? Blech, joe. Blech.

  • ||

    I guess I need to learn to type faster if I want to be the first to ask the obvious question. :)

  • David Nieporent||

    Are you the guy who owns the house next to me, or the owner of an enormously profitable business whose customers live nearby?

    Joe:

    What possible difference could that make?

  • ||

    Does being a good neighbor include not swelling the rolls of Medicaid in my municipality in order to lower operating costs and forgoing government subsidies as well?

    Is there something wrong with leading a community organization that is trying to pressure one of the most profitable and successful retailers in the world to help out the same communities they are trying to profit from??

    Maybe $1M is a lot, but that is probably a first offer for future negotiations.

    And like phocion said, no one is passing any laws. This is organizing/activism pure and simple. I would think libertarians would be glad they they arent pushing for laws and instead trying to get some kind of mutual deal done.

    Good for them!

  • ||

    I guess, for all of the corporate foot worship 'round liberville, y'all don't know very much about how businesses actually interact with their communities.

    Most businesses contribute to little leagues, park projects, or other local charities. They don't just adopt Isaac's position, "Shut up and be grateful that I even deigned to grace you with my presence."

    Most businesses actually are good neighbors, and for a large, profitable chain to stiff the locals on good works is actually pretty rare, and bad for business.

  • ||

    Until Wal-Mart gives *me* $1M, I'm boycotting them, and urging others to do the same.

    After all, they can spare the cash, I'm poor, and it would only be neighborly of them.

    Extortion is still extortion no matter what the 'or else'.

    (and anyway, there's no wal-mart anywhere near me so it's easy for me to boycott them)

  • ||

    The only thing that makes this episode at all unusual is that Wal Mart has such a bad reputation that the locals felt it prudent to air a pre-emptive gripe.

  • ||

    You know this is whats puzzling about many libertarians. What is it that you don't like here? No one is lobbying for laws. Other than that, if the people that live in a community demand more that just mediocre quality for average prices dont they have a right to ask for it? Isn't a boycott the essense of no regulation and a free market? Isn't this exactly what libertarians want? The organizers of the boycott are trying to get consumers to send a message with their dollars and not with heavy handed government regulations. It is exactly the sentiment you ask for when you say "If you dont like....shop elsewhere". If Wal-Mart doesn't like it (the demands for donations to the community) they can move elsewhere!

    Isn't it up to the people in the community to decide for themselves what a good neighbor is, and not the people who say "well isnt the fact they are doing business there enough" ????

  • PintofStout||

    Funny thing is this particular store hasn't even opened yet! How are they supposed to contribute and be good neighbors when they aren't even in business yet? If I just moved in and was threatened by my neighbor, I wouldn't be too happy about that!

  • Matt Welch||

    ChicagoTom -- The organizer of this particular "boycott" is an L.A. City Councilmember (who makes more than $140,000 a year, BTW). The L.A. City Council has passed targeted anti-Wal-Mart legislation in the past, and has been pondering other anti-Big Box laws. If you think such laws are stupid, as I do, then this stunt by Hahn becomes somewhat alarming. Also the whole idea that of a powerful government official saying one specific business must cough up $1 million in charity or else face a boycott seems an awfully bad precedent, and one helluva way to attract investment in an area that's otherwise gasping for it.

  • Adam||

    Before Wal-Mart came in, Councilwoman Hahn had this to say:

    �I couldn�t stop them from coming in,� Hahn says. �Wal-Mart is extremely popular. As it stands now I think it�s a good balance. Grocery stores have good union jobs and pay a living wage, but people like Wal-Mart. They shop there because it�s cheaper.�

    She should have given notice to Wal-Mart that they'd be subject to regular million-dollar demands at the councilwoman's whim before agreeing to let them set up shop.

  • ||

    ..and let me add that there is plenty of room for compassion in the free market. Target is currently running a campaign touting their community investments in a thinly-veiled swipe at WalMart. I think it's brilliant. Plus I think Target is a much better store, anyway.

  • ||

    joe, I used to work at a walmart myself (until they dismissed me, heh heh heh) , and they DO donate a pretty sizable amount to local happy-causes.. school fundraisers, etc.

    Granted, there's a big flap in the next town over about a new walmart supercenter (the 100k-plus square-foot stores) going in. A lot of the complaints are of the nature that a new walmart will COST the municipality money, in that they'll have to put in a new stoplight on a four-lane state highway, widen roads, etc. and that walmart should pick up the bill for all this. What you think?

    In fact, I've always been a little curious about what you think of development in smaller municipalities... the whole smart-growth thing doesn't really play out here in the towns under 30,000 where the cheapest and quickest way to get a building up is to throw up a corrugated-steel pole barn...seriously, they make everything from churches to bars to houses out of these things, and they're stupid-looking besides.

  • Adam||

    If Wal-Mart was going to "swell the medicaid rolls" then why would she let them come in in the first place?

  • ||

    ChicagoTom-

    Personally, what I don't like is the attitude of Janice Hahn. If the town wishes to ask for Wal-Mart to participate in local charities, that's fine.

    If Wal-Mart wants to donate money to local charities, that's cool, too.

    What I don't like is an obvious and ham-handed attempt to demand money from someone when they are under no obligation to give it.

    In other words, Ms. Hahn is just another douchewit holding her hand out asking for charity who gets all indignant when she doesn't get it.

  • ||

    Steven,

    I've got no problem requiring developers to pay for infrastructure upgrades their projects necessitate.

    Smart Growth plays well in municipalities of all sizes. Some tiny towns are built like little villages with a few houses around a few stores on Main Street. Some metropolises don't have a single urban-scale block. It isn't size that's the important variable here.

    Personally and professionally, I believe there's a place for big box stores in our communities, and in our economy. They bring some undeniable benefits. But their sheer size is a challenge that needs to be thought out carefully.

  • ||

    joe:

    The way I view a private entity of "behaving decently" is to conduct their business without interferring with my life, liberty, or property.

    If they decide to invest in the community in order to foster goodwill (i.e. increase their visibility, boost up their P.R., and bring in more customers), then I personally think it's a wise business move. But that decision is theirs to make in a free society.

  • ||

    joe:

    "Are you the guy who owns the house next to me, or the owner of an enormously profitable business whose customers live nearby?"

    Enormously profitable? I believe Mr. Welch has mentioned before that WM's profit margin is around 5%. He was comparing that to a permanent fixture on the public teat-Pro football, which makes about 20%.

    Mr. Welch, if you are reading this, you got that link to the Wal Mart numbers?

  • ||

    MNG,

    "But that decision is theirs to make in a free society."

    As is the decision of people in neighborhood to shop there or not. Again, what are you complaining about? That some people might not choose to shop where you want them to shop?

  • ||

    You know, I'm cool with the idea that there's more to being a good corporate neighbor than just running a good business. There's a local restaurant that donates a meal to the homeless shelter where I volunteer now and then. When they do that I make a point of returning the favor by dining there.

    If the demand for donations to good causes came from anybody other than a politician I wouldn't be too bothered by somebody suggesting that consumers use their market power to reward charitable behavior. But when that demand comes from somebody with regulatory power, well, it takes on a different aspect. "Chilling effect" and whatnot.

  • ||

    sage,

    A 5% profit margin is a pretty good chunk of coin for the world's largest retailer. No one's asking for 4.5% of Walmart's sales.

  • ||

    See, joe, it's not the tiny towns I live in and around... it's the places too big to be a tiny town but too small to be a major city. A lot of these places have an old, turn-of-the-century downtown with the two-and-three story brick buildings and no parking.. but those buildings wind up either full of antique stores or empty (unless it's a college town, then they're a little more occupied). I mean, maintaining a neat old building is kinda high-overhead, trying to keep it heated in the winter, and there's not a lot of money to go around for that sort of thing.

    Also, everyone drives in towns this size, because they're too big to easily walk from one side of town to the other but there's not enough density to support any kind of public transport ('scept for the college town where there's a captive audience of about 20k people).

  • ||

    "But when that demand comes from somebody with regulatory power, well, it takes on a different aspect. "Chilling effect" and whatnot."

    I can see that, but on the other hand, she's the councillor elected by the people in that district. She's not the head of a regulatory agency with oversight of that type of business - she's the person chosen by the people in that community to be their voice.

  • ||

    They don't just adopt Isaac's position, "Shut up and be grateful that I even deigned to grace you with my presence."

    joe

    I didn't say anything about being opposed to corporate charity.

    Those of us who read the article saw this:

    "...Hahn demanded that the store raise its charitable contributions from $40,000 a year to $1 million, an amount she said represented 1 percent of the store's projected yearly sales." (emphasis added)

    40K is not a token even considering WM's sales. Given the retail trade 1 percent of sales would represent a third to a half of profits. I'll bet you're not even that generous.

  • Matt Welch||

    sage -- That's "Matt" to you (or "hey boy") ... um, just go to Yahoo Finance, click on the Wal-Mart ticker, and start surfing around the financials. The comparison I made was actually to newspaper companies, which, for an industry that's supposedly totally dead & all, sure make buckets and buckets of money.

  • Matt Welch||

    joe -- She has the power to shape laws affecting regulation, and in fact has voted on laws specifically targeting Wal-Mart in the past.

  • ||

    Steven,

    I'd advise your town to give up on the downtown ever being the regional retail center again, and follow a vision where downtown is where people go to live the good life - restaurants, shopping for fun, libraries, concerts - as well as a place to find some different housing choices.

    There's also nothing wrong with having a few neighborhood scale centers around town.

  • ||

    joe-

    OK, I phrased it poorly. She's not the head of a regulatory agency, so nothing can happen to Walmart solely on her direct say-so. But are we really to believe that city councillors are devoid of power to make things happen? She can exert influence over regulatory agencies. And as a member of a (more or less) legislative body she has some say in local ordinances. Certainly more power than, say, the pastor of a local church.

  • R C Dean||

    A 5% profit margin is a pretty good chunk of coin for the world's largest retailer.

    That's one razor-thin margin in the big bad world of business. Let's not forget that the state California and the municipalities probably skim more than that much off the top in sales taxes already. Can Walmart count that toward Ms. Hahn's demand? How about the millions they will shell out in payroll?

    How much, one wonders, of her salary does Ms. Hahn donate to community causes?

  • PintofStout||

    joe:
    Wal-Mart may be a huge corporation, but at this point they've taken nothing out of the community. Did this woman go to another town (where her community's folks probably shopped at that Wal-Mart) and demand money for her community?

    I agree with all the sentiments of contributions being a good business practice, and people having the ability and right to boycott; I just thought she could at least give the store a chance to operate first. It was a bit preemptive, as you said previously, but I guess preemption is all the rage these days.

  • ||

    Well at 5% WalMart's margins are high. If it's true then as sage says 1 mill is 20% which is still pretty high for corporate generosity. And 40K is only 0.8% of profits, which is probably close to standard.

    Got to learn to think and type faster. :)

  • ||

    joe:

    What I'm complaining about is the collectivist expectation that private businesses "owe" them something. Companies "owe" nothing except to operate within the law.

    Again, if they decide to help out a community, then the collective should reward them with increased business.

  • ||

    mediageek said "What I don't like is an obvious and ham-handed attempt to demand money from someone when they are under no obligation to give it."

    Isn't that in essence what any type of boycott or picketing or organizing is intended for? In essence whenever someone pickets or boycotts or whatnot, what they are doing is demanding something from an entity that has no obligation to do give it.

    So are you against boycotts/strikes/picketing in general?
    Or just ones that are lead by elected officials in the community? Isn't that the collective market? If enough people join the boycott and Wal-Mart caves then they market worked. And if not enough people join/care and Wal-Mart doesn't cave the market has still worked. Why does it bother you that other people are asking for things in their own communites? Who are you (or anyone) here to be upset because someone is organizing INSTEAD of legislating? Again...ISNT THAT THE POINT OF LIBERTARIANISM?? Whether you think its pandering or ham handed or what not, the bottom line is Hahn is trying other avenues than legislation and for that she should be commended. And if she isn't in fact representing her people properly this boycott will fail (as others have) or she will be voted out. Pretty simple.

    Matt Welch :
    I pose the same question to you. Does the organization of a boycott bother you in general or only if its a a politician or someone who is well off ( I dont see the relevance of posting Hahn's salary to the discussion) So if she were to get legislation passed it would be troubling to you would it not? And when she uses boycotts (which are free market means) to get something done for her community you are again alarmed? So let me ask this. Is the only way you wouldn't get alarmed would be to stop harassing poor Wal-Mart (or any retailer) altogether?
    And furthermore your charecterization is wrong. She is not in fact saying Wal-Mart MUST do anything. She is organizing her supporters to try and send a message that says if you choose not to support the community you will be profiting from, that community will not support you. That is the point of a boycott!
    Why is this troubling ?? No one is forcing anyone to do anything.

  • ||

    Isaac,

    No, you didn't object to corporate charity. But you did state that it is not a necessary part of being a good neighbor. And I just don't buy that - nor do most businesses.

    I don't have profits at this point. ;-)

    $40,000? .04% of their sales? 1/2500 of their sales? 1.33% of their profits? Color me impressed.

  • ||

    It's not clear to me here if the councilwoman's comments are as councilwoman (with implicit threat of some kind of government action or pay-to-play situation) or otherwise. From Adam's quote above, it sounds like she's already shot her wad at the government level, and is now playing off Walmart simply to boost her reputation among her base. Good luck to her with her boycott.

  • ||

    joe

    You do have an income. Do you give a third to one-half to charity? Or taking sage's lower 20% (based on higher income estimates)?

    I'll bet it's closer to one percent.

  • ||

    Isaac,

    sage's numbers are wrong, mine are correct. $40,000 for a store that does $100 million in sales and makes a 3% profit is 0.04% of their income, and 1 1/3% of their profits.

    I give more than that, despite my, ah, temporary structural deficit. Plus the time I give.

  • ||

    keith said "Good luck to her with her boycott"

    That is exactly the right sentiment. If her boycott works, then it will send the message that regulating is not the proper avenue and using consumer choices is more effective. If it fails then the message is people dont care what Wal-Mart does as long as they can get 700 sheets of paper towel for a buck!

    Are you people really that bothered because members of a community are trying to organize and get the ones who profit from the community to kick back without government intervention??

    And PintOfStout,
    Wal-Mart has a track record. Is it wrong to protest because you are anticipating something that someone has a track record of doing? They are organizing early to get a head start because they know what to expect. Why is that so offensive? Its not like Wal-Mart has a reputation of being a good neighbor. Why would one location be better than another when they are owned by the same corp ?

  • ||

    joe, I was speaking of the 1mill demanded, not the 40K given. Not that I estimated the 40K at 0.08% which I suspect is close to the norm for corporate generosity though probably on the low side of the norm. And sales have nothing to do with it. I would consider a firm with no profits making charitable gifts irresponsible.

    And I apologize for the uncalled for snark. It's just that many people are nowhere near as generous as they expect others to be.

  • ||

    Correction: Not[e] that I estimated...

  • ||

    Isaac,

    Oh oh oh, I see. $5 million profit, $1 million donation, 20%. duh.

    Let's see, a family makes $70k per year, their expenses come to $65k per year, they donate $1000 to charity. That doesn't sound outrageous to me.

    Anyway, it seems that generosity should be measured on a progessive scale, too. 2% of a middle class family's income hurts a lot more than 2% of a Wal Mart's income.

  • Phil||

    $40,000 for a store that does $100 million in sales and makes a 3% profit is 0.04% of their income, and 1 1/3% of their profits.

    And? How much of their profits are they "supposed" to give away?

    I give more than that, despite my, ah, temporary structural deficit.

    You do not have shareholders to repay.

    Companies "owe" nothing except to operate within the law." I guess that's where we part. I believ people have an affirmative duty to do good.

    Corporations are not people, as I'm sure you've probably reminded us all from time to time. However, when you own a company, feel free to give it all away if that's what floats your boat. Meanwhile, calling on a company to increase its charitable giving by a factor of 25 or you'll organize a mass boycott is simple extortion.

  • ||

    Actually, just this week, I reminded somebody that a corporation is a legal person.

    Extortion? Extortion requires you to have power over someone, the power to do them a harm. For a boycott to be extortion, you would have to accept that people engaged in voluntary economic transactions have power over each other. Is that what you believe?

    And to gain the pejorative "extortion," the harm you might do them has to be somehow unjust - otherwise, it's just a plain old incentive. I guess it's unjust to take your business elsewhere because you don't like how the store treats people. If someone wants your business, your post implies, it is wrong for you to deny it to them.

    Are you sure you're a libertarian, Phil?

  • ||

    Well stated, ChicagoTom.

    Now, I should point out that all my statements are all given as reasons why I would not join the boycott, and indeed that Hahn is full of it. It is not intended to mean I don't think she is perfectly entitled to believe whatever she wants, and to call for whatever activism she desires. And yes I would oppose (in the sense of disagree with, would not participate in and would try to dissuade others from participating in) if it were done by Rainbow/PUSH or any other non-elected entity. But I would not attach exactly the same weight to their influence as I would to a councilpersons.

    And joe, corporate profits are more like a person's gross income than personal income after expenses. After all corporation thn have to pay taxes, pay dividendends to shareholders and reinvest in the business out of profits. But I really don't want to get in some pissing contest over whether walmart is sufficiently generous. After all note that I said I suspected that they looked like they might be on the low side.

  • ||

    "How much of their profits are they "supposed" to give away?"

    More than $0.04% of the profits on a business with profits greater than many countries.

    "You do not have shareholders to repay." Wal Mart is one of the most profitable businesses in the history of the world. Don't go pleading poverty for them, it makes you look dishonest.

  • ||

    Just a mere 10 miles away? Only in LA.

    Speaking of which, any current residents know where the leading edge of gentrification's at right now? I'm making the classic young man's westward trip in two weeks and we're looking for an affordable 3 bedroom rental.

  • ||

    we're looking for an affordable 3 bedroom rental

    Supposedly there are affordable units in Bakersfield. Maybe Fresno.

    Definitely not anywhere else in CA :(

  • ||

    "But I really don't want to get in some pissing contest over whether walmart is sufficiently generous. After all note that I said I suspected that they looked like they might be on the low side."

    In the same spirit, I'm not going to firebomb the store if they come back with $500,000. 1% of sales has a nice ring to it, but is probably best thought of as an openning offer.

  • ||

    get the ones who profit from the community to kick back

    ChicagoTom, doesn't the community also profit from Wal-Mart? Unless you believe Wal-Mart is so adept at pricing as to extract the entire surplus in every transaction then the community must be profiting from Wal-Mart. In fact, since one of the criticisms of Wal-Mart is that they undercut the local retailers who would otherwise still sell the same products at higher prices, we can be pretty sure that the consumer is getting a big chunk of that surplus - perhaps even more than half - in which case the community is profiting more from Wal-Mart than Wal-Mart is from the community. Should Wal-Mart demand that the community "kick back" some of that profit to the retail industry?

  • Phil||

    Actually, just this week, I reminded somebody that a corporation is a legal person.

    I stand corrected. Nevertheless, the legal fictions that exist to allow investors to be shielded from individual liability, therefore treating the corporation as an individual with rights and responsibilities under the law, does not actually turn corporations into people.

    Extortion? Extortion requires you to have power over someone, the power to do them a harm.

    And the City Council of Los Angeles has no power over businesses operating in its jurisdiction. None.

    And to gain the pejorative "extortion," the harm you might do them has to be somehow unjust

    It is unjust to demand from someone money to which you are not entitled on pain of organizing an effort to deprive them of further income.

    [Businesses should give away more] than $0.04% of the profits on a business with profits greater than many countries.

    Why? I'm not saying it wouldn't be nice, but why should they do it. Because you want them to?

    Wal Mart is one of the most profitable businesses in the history of the world. Don't go pleading poverty for them, it makes you look dishonest.

    I'm not pleading poverty for them, so don't put words in my mouth. It makes you look like an ass. I was pointing out a nontrivial difference between you and Wal-Mart. You do not have the same fiduciary responsibilities that a publicly-listed company does.

    (I'll let you in on a little secret, too: Businesses don't give to charity because they're good neighbors. They do it because it's good PR, keeps their share price up, and raises profit. It's good ol' self-interest, not altruism. Many businesses, given the opportunity to get involved with charity, will skip it if they think it won't get them good ink.)

  • PintofStout||

    Is the reputation for being a bad neighbor true? I don't think I've heard any of it except for the "they're doing business better than and driving out little guys" or the Emminent Domain abuses. I guess Wal-Mart does have a bad connotation in some circles, but I just don't know much validity that has.

    Frankly, I don't really care; I'm not a stockholder (that I know of). If Wal-Mart gives away their money and gains business or keeps it and loses business makes no difference to me.

    The idea behind the different location was that the people in her community were already frequenting a Wal-Mart (likely), but she didn't demand "contributions" from that Wal-Mart (that I know of), which mars her status of civic leader in a differnt role as organizer of a boycott.

  • Matt Welch||

    affordable 3 bedroom rental.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

    I'd try Atwater Village, Highland Park, Glendale, Eagle Rock, maybe Mt. Washington; then after that fails start asking yourself hard questions.

  • ||

    "And the City Council of Los Angeles has no power over businesses operating in its jurisdiction. None." I'll take this opportunity to remind you that the "extortion" in question is an individual, acting without official sanction or authority, asking people to voluntarily shop at one store rather than another. No City Council action has any relation to this proposed boycott.

    "It is unjust to demand from someone money to which you are not entitled on pain of organizing an effort to deprive them of further income." No, sir, it is not unjust for me to shop at Target instead of Wal Mart for whatever reason I damn well please, or to ask others to do the same. There is no requirement, obligation, or even rule of thumb, that puts any onus whatsoever on me to shop at one store and not another.

    "Why?" Because decent people act like decent people. You either get this, or you don't.

    "I'm not pleading poverty for them, so don't put words in my mouth." You stated that increasing their charity work would prevent Wal Mart from being able to pay its investors. That is not a true statement; Wal Mart could increase its giving substantially.

    (I'll let you in on a little secret that has the advantage of actually being true - some corporations actually do choose to do the right thing because they want to do the right thing. Not everybody is as machiavellian as you assume them to be, and your insistence that they are tells us more about you than about them.)

  • ||

    Yes, that's right, I believe we all have a responsibility to help the needy, and at the same time, I don't believe we have a responsibility to help the wealthy. I wrote "it is not unjust for me to shop at Target instead of Wal Mart for whatever reason I damn well please" AND I wrote "I believ people have an affirmative duty to do good. "Don't cheat, steal, lie, or hurt people" is not the whole ballgame to me; you're supposed to do more. If you don't, you're selfish and irresponsible."

    If you don't understand how these beliefs can coexist, I don't have anything to say to you.

  • CassandraM||

    Janice Hahn on Wednesday urged residents to boycott the store if it doesn't start contributing a lot more money to the local community.



    Good idea, Janice. How are they going to pay $1mil (in shakedown money) if they can't turn a profit because people have been instructed not to shop there?

  • ||

    Matt, thoreau - keep in mind that I just spent four years living among a bunch of future lawyers and investment bankers from Long Island, so my sense of "affordable" is normed against Manhattan rents. I'm thinking somewhere in the region of $1800-$2400/mo, split four ways.

  • ||

    Scenescent,
    If you're looking to rent a 3 br for that price range, you actually have some decent options. I live in Mar Vista and split a nice 3 br house for $2600 (3 ways), with a nice backyard, electricity and gas included. What area are you going to be working in? Are you more interested in proximity to water or hip stuff?

  • ||

    "Matt,"

    Sorry about that. I stand corrected.

    joe,

    Yes 5% is a lot of money for a retailer like Wal-Mart, but a couple of thoughts. 1)When Jesse Jackson threatens to call for a boycott because a company doesn't hire enough of "the right people" do you root for him or just roll your eyes? 2)If Wal-Mart rolled over and paid up every time someone tried to shame them into doing it, do you think they'd still be around?

  • ||

    doesn't the community also profit from Wal-Mart?

    The only benefit I see is that a $10 hair dryer costs maybe $8 now. People save a lot of money that way, but at the cost of well-paying jobs that are lost, further erosion of manufacturing (which is bad if you believe, as I do, that losing our entire ability to make stuff doesn't bode well in a future of uncertain energy supplies), a loss of responsibility to one's community which was present when there were local businessowners, and further ghettoization of the discarded city and town centers. Most Americans have decided that the price savings are worth this trade off. Of course, Wal-Mart isn't solely responsible for these effects, but as the 800-pound gorilla and currently the most aggressive participant in the process of exaggerating these effects, they get to take the blame right now.

  • ||

    So let me get this straight: She hates WalMart, couldn't stop them from building a store, and is now trying to profit from their future success.

    Although I don't think 100mil is an unreasonable projection, she apparently just made that number up. Also, WalMart (which hasn't opened yet) recently donated $10k to a neighboring school district, so I doubt the 40k is their total yearly contribution. Since Walmart draws from a fairly large radius, maybe they spread the money around to neighboring communities (which makes sense).

    Really, though, this boycott seems a bit premature. They haven't even opened and they're already donating money. Sure, you can cry that they're not giving enough, but until they're actually open for business and involved in the community, I don't think that's really fair. Of course, we'll never get to see the amount of money that has already lined the local regulators pockets.

    I would certainly be more accepting if the ringleader wans't an anti-Walmart bureaucrat, but c'est la vie. This boycott is doomed to fail, so I guess it doesn't matter too much.

    Boy, WalMart sure fires up the troops, doesn't it?

  • Matt Welch||

    Agreed that $1800-2400 can get you something decent, especially if you *know* the people you're living with ... West Hollywood has some rentable houses, and you can find interesting stuff north of Wilshire between Highland and Robertson that are all pretty close to interesting culture & commerce. I'd live in Silver Lake or Los Feliz, personally, but then again I do.

  • ||

    Now that Gary is gone, joe seems to have become the loyal opposition (besides The Captain yesterday).

  • ||

    joe-

    Because decent people act like decent people. You either get this, or you don't.

    Right - anyone that disagrees with you is not "decent". I've seen people that give to charity that then turn around and commit crimes and steal from other people. Their charity is for nought because they're just criminal, dishonest shitheels.

    And "organizing" isn't fundamental to libertarianism. People can "organize" for bad, selfish, totalitarian, or criminal reasons. For lynching. To boycott those damn immigrants to kick them out of town.

    Here's a hypo, joe. Suppose you had sex with one of the head townies' adult daughter and then stopped seeing her. He decided that he wanted to magically classify consensual sex between adults as a crime and organized the townies to "boycott" you. Until you gave money to him and some to charity he was going to organize everyone in town to ostracize you. Is that "decent" or is that just being a criminal?

  • ||

    Mo -

    We're all going into the screen business - one of us is a set designer, one's a computer animator, one's postproduction, and I'm going to be a general issue assistant bitch, trying to write my way onto TV writing staff, or failing that, development (where I hear they're always looking for people who can demonstrate a complete lack of aptitude for crafting stories). As a result, we've mostly been thinking northern basin or southern valley. I can't speak for anyone else, but the human elements of the geography are more important to me than the natural.


    Matt -

    Silver Lake and Los Feliz are definitely on our list, but while we may be budding yuppies we're still in the larval, not-paid-for-shit stage, so we'd really like an area like these were six or seven years ago.

  • ||

    And about "giving back" to a community (in general, not in this context):

    If a community did nothing but ridicule, badmouth, undermine, suppress, steal from, swindle, harass, etc. you would you have an obligation to give back to them?

    I can understand some of these athletes and whatnot that had good experiences with their particular neighborhood situation, but what if you lived among a bunch or arrogant, greedy, controlling, jealous, vicious busybodies?

    In my mind that just looks like a repetition in a cycle of abuse. For a community to be worth giving back to, it has to have earned it.

  • ||

    Some observations:

    1. I can never remember a time in my life when there was significant retail in any downtowns of the towns I've lived. Boutiques? Sure, but I don't have that kind of money. At least in urban areas, downtown retail has been dead for at least a quarter of a century.

    2. The people who are most worried about Walmart seem to be the local "hometown" grocery stores. Where are the grocery stores located? Strip malls. What's Walmart? Just a big strip mall in one building. Every strip mall in my area has, or had a grocery store, paving the way for Walmartization. These things, like Walmart, are nationally owned, so the hometown business argument doesn't work very well.

    3. Now that I'm living in a primarily rural area, I've noticed that the prices in the grocery stores are much higher than grocery stores in big cities. I guess the competition just isn't there. But Walmart sells everything for the same low prices they sell everywhere else. Rural folks, who make significantly less money, can either choose highway robbery or low-low prices.

    4. The unions are behind much of the anti-Walmart activities. How many local retailers hire any union workers? The unions like the low-competition, high prices model of grocery stores better.

  • ||

    Some people are jumping on Hahn because of her position as an elected official. Others are defending her because she is a community leader. Let's turn the scenario around. What would be people's positions if she organized a patronage club, and constantly urged everyone to shop at a competitor? Would anyone feel different if every news conference she wore a button that said "Shop at K-Mart" instead of "Boycott Wal-Mart"?

    When an elected official acts as a spokesman for a boycott, is it any different when an elected official acts as a spokesman for a company? I can't see the difference, and the people who would be horrified of the idea of the "Senator from IBM" should be horrified at the idea of the "Councilman against Wal-Mart". Similarly, the people who are dismissive of the "Councilman against Wal-Mart" should be equally dismissive when the "Senator from IBM" pulls strings to get Halliburton "Most Favored Contractor" status. Fortunately, most libertarians (and Reason readers) are against both behaviors, although we may not produce our anti-corporate-welfare credentials often enough to remind some people.

    For the record: if a new Wal-Mart requires rebuilding an intersection and widening the roads for a mile in each direction, then it should pony up. Rebuilding roads and extending sewers is corporate welfare if the new development doesn't pay.

  • ||

    The only benefit I see is that a $10 hair dryer costs maybe $8 now.

    Rhywun, that's a pretty big benefit to sneer at when multiplied thousands of times over and extended to thousands of products. That is a massive savings to consumers resulting in millions of dollars which are now available to be spent on other goods and services - provided by other workers - that wouldn't have existed. You commit a common mistake when you only look at jobs lost and not at all the opportunities created when people have more resources left over to pursue other wants and needs besides hairdryers. Of course it's easy to do because the lost jobs are plain to see for everyone. Not so plain to see are the jobs created when millions of people can now afford, say, high-speed internet or a higher car payment.

    Besides, that whole idea that we should pay more for something to support someone's well paying job makes no sense. If somebody is charging me $10 for a hairdryer someone else will provide to me for $8 then the other guy is ripping me off. I don't feel any obligation to pay him more so that he as a "good job." The producer exists to serve the consumer, not the other way around. If you go shopping for a car and some guy wants $10,000 for the exact same car that another guy is willing to sell you for $8,000 something tells me you don't shell out the extra $2000 so the first guy can better support his family. The principle is no different when applied to employees through the businesses they work for.

  • R C Dean||

    Everybody seems to be forgetting that its not really Walmart's money, its the shareholders' money. Taking money from shareholders who live in, say, Queens, to give to some Los Angeleno's pet charities strikes me as grossly unfair.

    Back in the day, corporations weren't allowed to give to charities at all. The thinking then was, that if their shareholders wanted any of their assets to go to charities, they could damn will do the giving themselves, and neither management nor a majority of the shareholders as a group had the right or the power to take money out of any shareholders pocket by donating corporate funds to charity.

    Sounds about right to me.

  • ||

    Hmm, hypothetical situation:
    Wal-Mart digs in its heels and decides to donate whatever it feels like donating. People boycott store. Store doesn't make profit, goes out of business. Great victory for people. Workers are unemployed, locals don't have access to Wal-Mart goods, local tax base suffers, other businesses get the message and open their new stores in a more "business-friendly" community. Exactly who wins?

  • ||

    Senescent,

    Risley Hall, hm? Good for you; me too. Good luck in the film industry!

  • ||

    One day these people are going to get the Communism they want.... and I will be their to pull them out of the worker line and gas them to death.

  • ||

    Wal-Mart certainly can't give into this if they did there would be a million dollar Wal-Mart fee in every town they wanted to open in.

    In my younger days I worked in a medium sized golf equipment store. It was common for this store to recieve at least two phone calls a day asking us to donate either equipment or money to a charity. Almost all except a few annual high profile charity golf tournaments were turned down. Most of the people were polite about not getting anything from us but a few were very upset and expected us to give them the world. My point is that people have the perception that private industry has a lot more to give away than it actually does.

    I guess the only way to be a "good neighbor" is to let someone stay at your house, eat your food, spend your money, swim in your pool, play with your pets, fuck your spouse, and then allow them to complain when they want more cause you are "greedy company".

  • ||

    Gotta agree with RC Dean on this. Walmart shouldn't be giving ANYTHING to charity as it's not their money! It's the stockholders money! My money!

    Could a CEO and board who REALLY liked panads disband the company and give all the money to FONZ?

    Why not just have the bank take money out of my account and give it to people they like better?

  • ||

    God, L.A. is such a shithole...they don't deserve a Wal-Mart!

  • ||

    Joe,
    That was me you were telling that a corporation is a legal person. Though that is true, it is stupid. A corporation is not a person, it should not and cannot pay taxes, it should not and cannot give money to charity. I also should not protect the CEO of the company from any wrong doing, or whatever the hell the legal reason is for a corporation to be considered a person.

    Karl
    "Sure you do joe; lots of other people do to - that's why some of us work so hard to make sure we keep our guns; just in case you get enough political power to enforce your idea of good."

    Amen brother,
    Joe and Chicago dude, did you read the above statement by Karl? Does that answer all your questions?

    Battle Ax,
    Very amusing, I always enjoy your statements. Though not sure I understand this one. Who are you gassing and why? (not that it's wrong to gas anyone)

  • ||

    Swell the Medicaid rolls? That's funny, because WalMart jobs are the kinds of jobs (skills and time flexibility) that would likely reduce the welfare rolls. A decade ago, when Clinton fixed welfare, it was these kinds of jobs in the private sector that were mandatory for realizing any savings in the system and make people work for their earnings. Seems like WalMart ought to be touted as a symptom of the success of welfare reform. No?

  • ||

    Everyday, WalMart fights for its life. It demands higher quality products at lower prices from its suppliers. Individual consumers benefit by spending less for their weekly groceries and sundries. Small businesses benefit when those same consumers are able to spend money at boutiques or restaurants because WalMart lowered their prices. The presence of a WalMart strengthens a community. Little downtown shops live on the money saved at WalMart. WalMart is a good neighbor even if you think they don't sponsor enough Little League teams.

    WalMart reported net income of 2.5 billion on sales of 70.9 billion. That is a 3.5 percent margin.

    Microsoft reported net income of 2.5 billion on sales of 9.6 billion. That's a 26.6 percent margin.

    Joe said: Wal Mart is one of the most profitable businesses in the history of the world.

    WalMart's profit margin is not even close to the biggest in history.

  • ||

    joe, as usual, is shilling for a Dem politico who's in bed with BIG LABOR (the unions). Why? Well, because he's a HACK, that's why.

    Since he spends an awful lot of time pontificating at this board, you can bet he's paid for doing that. Nice job if you can get one.

  • ||

    Twba,
    As wrong as Joe is, he said it is one of the most profitable buisnesses, not that it has the highest margin. You can have a very profitable buisness with really low margins, you just move a lot of bulk (much like walmart does).

    Either way whether Walmart is making more profit than anyone else, or if by some magic Walmart were able to have keep low prices, good quality, and have amazingly high margins, your first point is still valid.

    Walmart by providing quality at a low price is providing the most valuable of services to a comunity.

    (I don't really shop at Walmart, but still, the theory is good)

  • ||

    Kwais, I was just demonstrating how much product WalMart has to move to earn the same profit as Microsoft. WM is making so little on each sale. That sounds like a good neighbor to me.

  • ||

    sage,

    Jesse Jackson is an eye-roller, no question.

    I don't expect Wal Mart to cough up $1 million every time somebody wants it. But I do expect them to do better than 1.33% of their profits. That's just pathetic.

  • ||

    Clarke Mas,

    Wal Mart is putting a store in that location because there is buying power in its catchment area. If Wal Mart goes out of business, it won't be because the people who live there spend three years not buying stuff, but because they went to other stores.

    If the Wal Mart folds, someone else will move in.

  • ||

    Walmart can offer low prices OR they can give x amount to charity and slightly raise prices to compensate for it.

    The only difference is that giving to charity puts a middleman into the equation and his associated adminstrative costs.

    So the end result of giving that money to charities instead of lowering prices is that some public adminstrators get a piece of the action.

  • ||

    Oh effing please, jc! Upping their charitable giving from 0.04% of their sales to, I dunno, maybe half of a percent of their sales, is not going to increase the prices of their hairdryers.

    It's an odd way of looking at the world, you people who assume that companies always have room to cut jobs, cancel health insurance, or raise prices, but the mountains of cash the company, the board, and the top executives bank is somehow untouchable.

    My god, if we pay the people who clean the fleet of Lear Jets a penny above minimum, we'll have to sell the shampoo for a $100 a bottle. Bullshit.

  • ||

    Ummm, wouldn't .5% of sales be 10% of their profits, if they have the 5% margin listed above? That seems extemely high. As a stockholder I would be kinda pissed to lose 10% off the top.

    And as I stated above (and Joe still has not addressed) it's not their money to give away! The Board and CEOs are CARETAKERS of public company, not the owners.

    Hell no matter how much they gave away it wouldn't be enough, or it would go the the "wrong" charities anyway.

  • ||

    "And as I stated above (and Joe still has not addressed) it's not their money to give away! The Board and CEOs are CARETAKERS of public company, not the owners."

    Funny, the Board and CEO of a company can buy a fleet of private jets and let them out to politicians; they can spend millions of dollars on art for their offices; they can put all the marble in all the buildings they want, and you won't hear a peep out of conservatives.

    But if they want cut a check to the Boys Club, hoo boy, they're robbing their stockholders!

  • ||

    Joe,
    you are talking about two different things, one is about how much you should pay a CEO, and the other is about giving stockholders money to a charity.

    You know how much money to pay CEO's? I really think that CEO's manytimes get paid too much money myself. But then, I don't know much about the market for CEO's. If the CEO that you really need demands 2 million a week, then thats what he gets. If one CEO wants 2 million, but you can get an illegal immigrant to do the same work for 4.75 and hour, then you use the immigrant.

    Either way the math turns out on that one, the math for giving money to a charity is the same.

    All other things equal, the money that you give to charity has to come from somewhere. If you can pay the CEO less, why not just pay him less and still not give to whatever charity? Instead you would have even lower prices.

    Where is the math that you can give money to charity and it doesn't come from anywhere?

  • ||

    Why does this issue rub me the wrong way? I don't have any problem with boycotts or activism urging a business to pay its employees more, or offer dolphin-safe tuna, or hire more minorities, or whatever. This is basically an extension of consumer demand -- consumers are saying they'd rather shop at a place that pays employees more, offers them products that don't offend their sensibilities, doesn't discriminate unfairly, etc.

    I think this particular instance feels different because charitable giving is in a different category. Charity is charity because it's given under an impulse from the giver, not in response to a demand. If you demand it upfront, you degrade it. It feels more like a shakedown.

    Like, suppose a dude picks up a woman for a dinner date, and after dinner she kisses him. Maybe that even leads to a make-out session. All well and good.

    But if they guy picks up his date and says at the outset, "You're going to be a 'good date,' right? We're going to make out after dinner, aren't we? Because if we're not, I'm not sure I want to go through with this," it's skeevy.

  • ||

    "Where is the math that you can give money to charity and it doesn't come from anywhere?"

    I didn't claim it came from nowhere. I gave several examples of where it could come from - profits, renumerances to top executives, corporate perks enjoyed by top executives...

    I just wanted to point out the utter bogus er - bogosity of the assertion that the only way Wal Mart could possibly find the money to make charitable donations is by raising prices on their customers.

    Steveo,

    I'm concerned with saving the souls of the Wal Mart management, or of the people who want to see them make charitable donations. I'm interested in seeing ballfields and counselling centers and lead paint abatement programs and whatnot in the beat up, beat down neighborhood that this Wal Mart is moving into.

  • ||

    Oops. "I'm NOT concerned with..." is how that sentence is supposed to read.

    You're right, if Wal Mart increases its donations because of this pressure, they won't improve their karma as much as if they did it because they suddenly woke up as actual human beings with a conscience.

    But then, I don't really care about their karma.

  • ||

    OK Joe,
    Lets do the math again.

    You want charities to come from the salaries of a CEO. But it doesn't. If a CEO gives charities from his salary then it is a CEO giving charity. If they reduce the CEO's salary for whatever reason, then they are merely paying the CEO less. I think that if they can pay the CEO less then they should regardless of charity. Logically I would say that if they could pay less to CEO's they would, but I don't know all that is behind that one.

    If you can take the money from the profits of the company, you are essentially taking money from the shareholders. Incidentally, if a profit margin is too small, any unexpected incident or shortfall can make the company go under. If the marigin is too big, another company can come and undersell them. Walmart has done pretty well for themselves by maintaining pretty low margins. I would say as low as they can go.

    However Joe knows better, he thinks that they can do a lower margin, and they can give money to charity.

    Joe why don't you start a company like Walmart, you can undersell them, and give more money to charity. Cut your costs where you will.

    If you can undersell them and give more money to charity, logic holds that you will be more succesful, and you will run them out of buisness.

    I like that idea a lot more than you or the counsilwoman trying to shake them down for money.

  • Shawn Levasseur||

    The real question is how credible is the threat of a boycott?

    Could it be that those people who would "boycott" Wal-Mart, are the people least likely to shop there in the first place?

  • ||

    I believ people have an affirmative duty to do good. "Don't cheat, steal, lie, or hurt people" is not the whole ballgame to me; you're supposed to do more. If you don't, you're selfish and irresponsible.

    Considering how much harm gets caused by people asserting affirmative duties and trying to force others to meet these duties, calling minding one's own business "irresponsible" is just a laugh.

    Now, I like charity. I give to charity. I try to help other people. Not because I'm "supposed" to, not because I'm a liberal on a guilt trip, but because I think it will do good.

    But it's my business. Not that of some random self-righteous, score-keeping yahoo with an idea of the "right" percentage of income to give. Not that of some asshole politician hoping to take credit for what I choose to give. And to both people butting into my business, I would only say, "Fuck off."

  • ||

    "If you can take the money from the profits of the company, you are essentially taking money from the shareholders."

    Yup. If you "take" money from Trump Enterprises, you are taking from Donald Trump, the sole owner. If you "take" money from Wal Mart, you are taking it from the people who own Wal Mart. Yup.

    Eric the .5b,

    "but because I think it will do good" Nope, I don't buy it. If you thought it would do good, but didn't have any motivation to want to see that good done, you wouldn't bother.

  • ||

    "but because I think it will do good" Nope, I don't buy it. If you thought it would do good, but didn't have any motivation to want to see that good done, you wouldn't bother.

    Um, OK. I guess I missed the part where I claimed to be a mindless robot carrying out a program...No, wait, I didn't write that.

    I thought we were supposed to be the bizarre nitpickers in arguments...

  • ||

    Also, Eric, you're misusing the term "self-righteous." Self-righteous refers to the belief that you are righteous because of who you are. For example, I'm a Christian, or, I'm a profit-making businessman. That makes me righteous, regardless of what I actually do.

    The opposite of this concept is genuine righteousness, which is brought about either by grace, or by good works.

  • ||

    Eric,

    It's not nitpicking. Think harder.

  • ||

    Also, Eric, you're misusing the term "self-righteous." Self-righteous refers to the belief that you are righteous because of who you are. For example, I'm a Christian, or, I'm a profit-making businessman. That makes me righteous, regardless of what I actually do.

    No, to be blunt, I'm calling people like you smug liberals. I'm using pretty much exactly that meaning.

    It's not nitpicking. Think harder.

    You can't address the ideas, you can't even make a snide remark about the sentiment, so you go off on a weird tangent, claiming I denied I had motivation. It's technically just a lame-ass swipe when you have nothing to say, but still the sort of thing that falls under the umbrella of "nitpicking".

  • ||

    I was going to spell it out for you, but I think I'll just tell you to go suck the corn out of your whore mother's shit, Eric.

  • ||

    I guess I went over the line by calling you a "smug liberal", Joe. Because, as anyone here could testify, you're certainly never that

    You're a smug liberal asshole.

  • ||

    That's not very charitable, Joe.

  • ||

    Responses to a couple of joe's points:

    If the Wal Mart folds, someone else will move in.

    Not necessarily. I am not familiar with the exact location, zoning, etc. of this one, but in many cases inner cities have too little investment. Sometimes stores move out and no one moves in. In fact it is frequently listed as a complaint about why some economies are suffering.

    Funny, the Board and CEO of a company can buy a fleet of private jets and let them out to politicians; they can spend millions of dollars on art for their offices; they can put all the marble in all the buildings they want, and you won't hear a peep out of conservatives.

    BS - I'm a libertarian, but I think a lot of the extravagant spending and lavish compensation is obscene. But the thing is it is none of any non-shareholder's business - it is between shareholders, the board of directors, and management. The shareholders, through the board, are supposed to police those kinds of waste, abuse, and stupidity. That police function has been largely corrupted - through diffuse/detached ownership (mutual/index funds), uninvolved or uneducated shareholders, conflicts of interest, etc. It's a big problem, but it's also a large, complex, entrenched, highly inflamatory, highly political problem that will be very difficult to solve. You also have to be very careful solving it because business is the lifeblood of the economy. You don't want to make things worse by, for example, making things communist.

    I don't know if the software here has a limit on post length, so I'll continue in another post.
    (continued)

  • ||

    Responses to joe's points (continued):

    I'm [not] concerned with saving the souls of the Wal Mart management, or of the people who want to see them make charitable donations. I'm interested in seeing ballfields and counselling centers and lead paint abatement programs and whatnot in the beat up, beat down neighborhood that this Wal Mart is moving into.

    See the first point above, by trying to coerce charitable donations out of them you might force them to leave, which does more harm to the neighborhood and economy you claim to care about. If you care about those things, fine - make the million dollars yourself and donate it. (Note I said "make", as in earn - not steal, defraud, coerce, embezzle, swindle, etc.) Or convince businesses or individuals to donate the money - without force or coercion, of course.

    Nope, I don't buy it. If you thought it would do good, but didn't have any motivation to want to see that good done, you wouldn't bother.

    No joe, he wants to see it done, that's why he contributes to charity. He just doesn't want to arrogantly force his will on other people to see it done. He realizes that is coercion, which is unethical and in some cases a crime. Financial choices are best made by the individual, free from force or coercion. Again - if you want to see those things done fine - make the money yourself, don't take it from others.

    In some instances it sounds like you would actually steal or swindle money from other people to realize your charitable goals - is that the case? If you're such a good person, why don't you realize that is wrong? And criminal?

  • NickM||

    Right off the bat, the store will NOT be at the corner of 190th and Florence. The two streets are parallel, and about 10 miles from each other.

    Wherever the store is, L.A. Councilwoman Janice Hahn (sister of the recently defeated mayor, and daughter of the former County Supervisor) represents a long and narrow stip of land that the store is in (L.A. city is less than a mile wide through the Harbor Gateway area). Most of the customers for this store won't even be from her city. She's also a wholly owned tool of the unions.

    It doesn't take much to understand what sort of "boycott" this would be. It's not about refusing to patronize a store; it's about sending legions of union workers, backed by the self-appointed community leaders wanting money for their non-profits to harass Wal-Mart's customers until the store either pays protection money or closes. I'm sure Hahn has a list of recommended donation recipients all ready to go.

    This isn't really about the amount Wal-Mart donates; it's about shutting down a competitor to unionized stores whose unions provide a lot of Hahn's power. It was not that long ago that Hahn and her cohorts were standing with the grocery store union employees on strike, who attempted to make life difficult for people who wanted to continue shopping at the stores they were used to. [Personally, I had fun with those strikers. Pointing at them as I walked in and chanting "You're underworked. You're overpaid. It's a job for high school kids." tended to shut them up. So did lecturing their little kids, who they brought along for a couple weeks, about how Mommy made bad choices when she was younger and tried to be one of the popular girls instead of studying, and that's why Mommy doesn't have a good job. OTOH, I'm a 6 foot tall male in his early 30s. Elederly women tended to be much less willing to run the gauntlet of protesters.]

    This Wal-Mart will be closer to me than any that are in place. I intend to shop there when it's worth the extra drive from Sam's Club, Costco, K-Mart, Target, Kohl's, and mall stores.

    Nick

  • ||

    Cat Violator (heh),

    "But the thing is it (extravagent spending by corporations) is none of any non-shareholder's business - it is between shareholders, the board of directors, and management. The shareholders, through the board, are supposed to police those kinds of waste, abuse, and stupidity."

    Then the same is true of charitable donations. Yet we have numerous posters above recoiling in horror at the idea of a corporation giving "the shareholders'" money to charity, yet we never hear a peep about similar, but less responsible, levels of spending when the recipients are, not to put too fine a point on it, wealthy capitalists.

    "the shareholders": libertarianism :: "the children" : nanny statism

  • ||

    joe-

    Then the same is true of charitable donations. Yet we have numerous posters above recoiling in horror at the idea of a corporation giving "the shareholders'" money to charity, yet we never hear a peep about similar, but less responsible, levels of spending when the recipients are, not to put too fine a point on it, wealthy capitalists.

    "the shareholders": libertarianism :: "the children" : nanny statism

    No, they are different. It's about imposing your will on other people. The shareholders are agreeing to pay management extravagantly, let them make bonehead decisions, empire-build, etc. Those are foolish decisions, but they have a right to make those decisions. You are trying to force the shareholders to spend money on charities that you support.

    Here's a simplified example. Ms. Prissypants is a wealthy tanning salon owner. She pays her butler 4X what the going rate would be in a free, efficient market for butlers. He is disheveled, poorly dressed, insulting, often drunk, wastes money, has extravagant parties at household expense on Mediterranean islands, etc. etc., etc. - you get the picture. Now is that smart? Most would agree probably not. Is that her right because it is her money/property - absolutely.

    Now Nanny Statista, a local activist, wants to force Ms. Prissypants into donating money to the charity she works with. Is the cause good? Who knows, but let's assume it is. But is it ethnical? No, she is taking someone else's property by force or the threat of force. Is it legal? It depends on the force and how it is being used or threatened. Is it realistic? Probably not. Say she only wants 1% of Ms. Prissypants' money. It's only 1%, you say. But what about the other 99 good causes, both locally and elsewhere? Don't they have a right to have their cause funded? What happens when they bankrupt her and her business - loss of jobs, loss of tax revenue, public costs, etc.?

    The ideal solution, in my opinion: Shareholder and board of director oversight of management is improved. The market for management is made more efficient and management is cheaper and more effective. The money saved is spent to improve the business (which creates more jobs and better, cheaper products) and paid out as dividends. The shareholders contibute to whatever charities or causes they support.

    If joe makes a lot of money he contributes what he wants to charity. (provided he didn't take it from someone else) Or, he is a persuasive fund raiser and gets other people to contribute to his cause. (Notice persuasion - no force or threat of force.) Do you see why this is better, in my opinion? No one's property rights are violated. No one is forced to contribute to a cause they did not choose. Business is allowed to operate freely, creating jobs, innovating products, etc. Charity is a decision freely made on a personal level by each individual. No unethical force or coercion is used.

    What is wrong with that model?

  • ||

    "The shareholders are agreeing to pay management extravagantly, let them make bonehead decisions, empire-build, etc. Those are foolish decisions, but they have a right to make those decisions."

    And if the Wal Mart's management decides to provide donations to charity, and the shareholders don't fire those managers, then they have agreed to let them make that decision. Once again, you have completely failed to make any principled distinction between a corporation's management donating to charity, and a corporation's management spending the company's money on themselves.

    By the way, CAT, how exactly is threatening a boycott "forcing" Wal Mart to make donations to charity? You aren't suggesting that there can be an element of force, of coercion, in the decisions consumers make about where to spend their own money, are you? Or in the conversations people have about where they should spend their money? Show me the force.

  • ||

    Self-righteous refers to the belief that you are righteous because of who you are.

    The opposite of this concept is genuine righteousness, which is brought about either by grace, or by good works.


    I was going to spell it out for you, but I think I'll just tell you to go suck the corn out of your whore mother's shit...

    Time to just ignore joe's temper tantrums.

  • ||

    joe:

    Steveo,[sic]

    I'm [not] concerned with saving the souls of the Wal Mart management, or of the people who want to see them make charitable donations. I'm interested in seeing ballfields and counselling centers and lead paint abatement programs and whatnot in the beat up, beat down neighborhood that this Wal Mart is moving into.

    Comment by: joe at June 10, 2005 12:53 PM

    ---

    Oops. "I'm NOT concerned with..." is how that sentence is supposed to read.

    You're right, if Wal Mart increases its donations because of this pressure, they won't improve their karma as much as if they did it because they suddenly woke up as actual human beings with a conscience.

    But then, I don't really care about their karma.

    Comment by: joe at June 10, 2005 12:55 PM

    I'm not too concerned about WalMart management's karma either, but I am concerned about my own karma if I don't speak out in some way, and this kind of thing becomes de rigeur, and I find myself the beneficiary of some sleazy shakedown like this.

    Also, long-term, it could reduce the amount that corporations give to charity. What if WalMart freely chooses to give $1 million to a charity that the likes of Janice Hahn might not approve of (for example, the theocratic, homophobic Boy Scouts of America), and then the Hahnoids demand WalMart give additional money to causes the Hahnoids approve of. If my charitable giving is going to be ordered and directed by outsiders, I then have an incentive to focus my giving on those charities, and those charities only, that keep them off my back, with possibly less left over to give to the charities I would voluntarily support.

  • ||

    Steveo,

    Like the boycott itself, the check on the technique that worries you is the court of public opinion. If Wal Mart had a reputation for decent practices and community responsibility, Hahn's efforts would be doomed to failure. If she asked for too much money or was unreasonable in her negotiations, public opinion would turn against her.

    Jesse Jackson only gets awaw with his shtick because the companies he picks on really do have racial problems. If he didn't have any bloody shirts to wave around when the company tells him to piss off, his actions wouldn't get anywhere.

    So no, I don't believe the corporations are as helpless, and the solicitors as omnipotent, as you suggest.

  • ||

    And if the Wal Mart's management decides to provide donations to charity, and the shareholders don't fire those managers, then they have agreed to let them make that decision. Once again, you have completely failed to make any principled distinction between a corporation's management donating to charity, and a corporation's management spending the company's money on themselves.

    I made the distinction. If Walmart management decided to give to charity on their own, without coercion from outside groups, that would be fine. In fact, they do a significant amount of charity work. Go to the Walmart website and click on "good works". I think the "good works" tab is at the bottom of the front page.

    By the way, CAT, how exactly is threatening a boycott "forcing" Wal Mart to make donations to charity? You aren't suggesting that there can be an element of force, of coercion, in the decisions consumers make about where to spend their own money, are you? Or in the conversations people have about where they should spend their money? Show me the force.

    Boycotts can be considered force. You're getting together a group of people to try to impose your will on someone. I mentioned this earlier in the thread - what if a racist group wanted to drive a minority or immigrant owned business out of town? Would you consider that force? Like other kinds of force, it can be used for good or bad goals. My opinion is that forcing one's idea of the correct amount of charitable contributions to give, and to which causes, on other people is wrong. And if someone is indeed forced to give to charity it amounts to stealing.

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