Progressives for Wal-Mart

|

Kevin Drum has the round-up and there's a running debate at TPMCafe.

NEXT: It Is Time for You to Stop All of Your Snitchin' Snatchin'

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. But WHERE am I going to get my yuppie garden tools?

  2. On a recent Wal-Mart thread, certain Wal-Mart opponents mentioned, among other things, the fact that Wal-Mart gets a lot of stuff from China; there was talk of “slave labor” and whatnot.

    Meanwhile, on a TOTALLY unrelated topic, take a look at what today’s “Daily Brickbat” says:

    Members of Falun Gong, a religious group, say Chinese authorities have arrested more than 100,000 members of the movement and sent at least 20,000 to labor camps. According to Chinese human rights activists, members of unregistered religious groups who are imprisoned are forced to make Christmas lights that are sold for export

    But I’m sure none of those lights are sold to Wal-Mart, right?

  3. And I can’t be sure they’re not being sold in any of the hundreds of other stores that sell Xmas lights made in China. I saw no mention of Wal-Mart in either the brickbat or the article.

    If one is concerned about this it would seem the best thing to do is avoid lights made in China, not just lights sold at WM.

    Considering the quality of Human Rights in China any questioning of that nation’s policies is valid. Thus far, however, noone has shown me that WM is any more complicit in abuses than anyone else.

  4. Isaac, I agree. I was referring more to the arguments that really, there is NOTHING WHATSOEVER wrong with buying stuff from China; if anything, it helps Promote Freedom.

    At no point have I said Wal-mart is the only guilty party.

  5. So, since you assume those lights will get into Wal-Mart stores, that makes Wal-Mart’s very existence culpable for Chinese human rights problems?
    Along the same lines, I guess, since there are millions of Americans who through the failures of history, culture, and education can’t find work that affords them my comfortable middle class lifestyle, they must work at jobs paying less than $10/hour. And, lookie here, Wal-Mart hires thousands of them at those low wages. Busted again, Wal-Mart. If Wal-Mart just went away, we could have our gosh-darn utopia back.

  6. Kebko, I”m going to be charitable and assume you posted your strawman without having read the post I made right before it.

  7. Well, ’tis the season, Jennifer.

    Anyway, you think those religious-minority prisoners are poor now, you should have seen what they were being paid before the Chistmas Lights supplier came to town.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go buy a car stereo from a guy who bought it from the guy who stole it from Kebko’s car. Hey, it’s not like HE stole it from the car.

  8. I’m going to go buy a car stereo from a guy who bought it from the guy who stole it from Kebko’s car. Hey, it’s not like HE stole it from the car.

    JENNIFER: Joe, it is wrong for you to purchase what you know damned well is stolen property.

    JOE: (yelling) Guess what, everybody? By criticizing me, Jennifer is implying that I’m the only person in the world who knowingly buys stolen goods! That’s dishonest of her and she has no right to do it!

  9. Jennifer, you obviously want to empower the government to arrest me for writing comments critical of Wal Mart.

    I mean, how else could your complaint possibly be read?

  10. v

    I’m not sayin’ the government should arrest anybody, Joe:; I’m simply saying that criticizing or disapproving of a successful capitalist institution is inherently immoral and invariably leads to the rise of Soviet-style super-states.

  11. However, Joe, you can redeem yourself by buying lots and lots of stuff made in China, and pushing for more trade with the Chinese. Not only will you be able to get more for your money, you will also Promote Freedom and Democracy in China.

    Just so long as you don’t buy Christmas lights. All other Chinese products are made by willing workers who are damned glad for the chance to do it; only Chinese Christmas lights have the taint of slavery clinging to them.

  12. For my part, I’m going to refuse to shop at any store whose workers benefit from their government’s violating the rights of free migration of six billion people.

    How can I sincerely smile back at the Wal-Mart greeter when I know there are hundreds of millions of disadvantaged workers who would get much more value from having his job than he does, but who are forbidden from applying for it by the government of the United States?

  13. You’re right, I hadn’t read it. But, I think my point still stands, and is two-fold.
    (1) It is unrealistic to expect a single entity to go around the world policing your ideals. This is a political problem, and there is no way any entity in Wal-Mart’s position could really deal with it. It’s not like this is a black & white issue where there are Christmas light manufacturers with white hats & those with black hats. There are an uncountable number of economic contexts out there, with all sorts of problems, from areas where labor is simply cheap because of economic status to areas where blatant human rights violations are being committed. I think it’s unreaslistic to think that Wal-Mart can trace the background to the n-th degree of every product that an importer may bring to Bentonville. And I think that it’s unrealistic to think that if they could, there would be an obvious easy answer as to what is acceptable & what’s not. There certainly isn’t an answer that any majority of the consuming or voting public would agree on.
    It seems like a problem that has to be solved government to government.
    (I’m talking about principles here. Obviously, if Wal-Mart is sending spies in trenchcoats into China searching for slaves they can oppress, it’s hardly defensible.)

    2) Your original post has the quality that I see in a lot of anti-Wal-Mart posts, in that without having any specific evidence, it assumes that they are involved in some activity & then blames them for it. I think that’s a circular argument because I think it goes to my point 1. I think you are implying my point #1 by assuming the behavior, then you are forgetting my point #1 by judging Wal-Mart for it. So, I think your original post is intellectually uneven.

    Kebko

    PS. Sorry if I come off as a little sharp. I generally like reading your posts, and you certainly have a right to your opinion & to dislike Wal-Mart. Merry Christmas!

  14. Jennifer and joe: you deserve each other.

  15. Is it bizzaro day or something? It’s like I took crazy pills.

  16. That’s not a very nice thing to say to Jennifer, Phil.

  17. And let’s face it: Who would really rather go back to the age of small mom-and-pop stores? How did women live before the advent of the superstore? Actually, we know the answer. They generally didn’t work, which was just as well because they had to spend a couple of days a week meandering from butcher shop to green-grocer to baker, not to speak of all those trips to the drugstore, the shoe store and so on.

    At my first party of the season one of the four Democrats that lives in the county was holding forth on the evils of chain stores gobbling up small family-owned businesses.

    Meanwhile she was also gobbling the Alaskan crab, New England lobster, and Gulf shrimp on the deli tray our middle-class hostess had picked up at the local chain grocery supermart.

  18. Kebko, in all seriousness, I wonder if my ancestress, back in the 1840s, opposed buying British cloth because the cotton was raised by slaves in the American South. Really, my comment is only tangenitally related to the topic of the thread at hand, but it really steams me when I read these arguments from supposed lovers of freedom–Christ, people, if you’re going to buy slave-labor goods then just come right out and say you can’t afford to pay more, or you choose not to pay more; don’t spin all these bullshit yarns about how buying more stuff from China is a good thing to do because enriching the users of slave labor somehow spreads freedom.

    Or, as my great-great-great-great-great-grandma Jennie Mae would have explained to some strangers over her telegraph machine: “Dit-dit-dit-dot-dit!” (Translation: If you’re going to buy slave cotton just admit it’s cheaper; don’t give me all this bullshit about how otherwise the slaves would all starve because their masters couldn’t afford to feed them!”)

  19. Ah, Falun Gong. What a challenge they are! The libertarian in me despises the Chinese gov’t for beating them up. Yet the sane part of me can’t blame the Chinese gov’t for wanting to beat them up.

    I had a similar feeling when the Branch Davidians got barbequed.

    What to do…what to do…

  20. I didn’t read through the 100+ posts at Washington Monthly, but the commentor who said Wal-Mart “isn’t something to be analyzed in strictly economic terms” illustrates pretty much all that’s wrong — “I can afford to do all my shopping at boutiques, therefore, other stores are unnecessary”

  21. I didn’t read through the 100+ posts at Washington Monthly, but the commentor who said Wal-Mart “isn’t something to be analyzed in strictly economic terms” illustrates pretty much all that’s wrong — “I can afford to do all my shopping at boutiques, therefore, other stores are unnecessary”

    Fine, dagny, at least you’re being honest: “Slave labor goods help those who can’t afford goods made by free laborers” is still better than “Slave labor goods make the slaves better off.”

  22. Slave labor = wrong
    blaming Wal-Mart based on nothing more than the fact that they are engaged in the world = pointless

    I’m on your page. I say let’s fight slave labor. I just don’t see the point in doing it by finding a big retailer who isn’t necessarily more culpable for it than anyone else. Let’s fight the problem directly. If you want to stop buying things made in China, fine. I’m not sure that shopping or no shopping at Wal-Mart is really related to that topic.

    On another tangential point, does anybody have tips on reading “Made in” labels. I’d love to buy things from Taiwan, but I think maybe they are labeled the same as things from mainland China. I’ve seen boxes from Taiwan labeled ROC, but I think the actual products all just say “Made in China”. I never see anything labeled “Made in Taiwan”. Any help?

    Kebko

  23. ROC= Republic of China

    I see “Made in Taiwan” all the time.

    One reason Wal-Mart gets a lot of attention in re: Chinese stuff is that they’re so big, of course, but I think another reason is that they used to make a big huge deal over the fact that all their stuff was “Made in USA” so “Buy American” by shopping at Wal-Mart!

    I actually remember those days.

  24. Pardon me while I re-direct re: Kelo:

    My only opposition to Wal-Mart (where I do shop) is a domestic one – at times, in various locations (California that I heard of), Wal-Mart has not been opposed to using/taking advantage of Eminent Domain takings as a way to get into a desired location.

    I still shop at my local store (no EM for that property to my knowledge) because, for the items I buy there, the price allows me to streach my budget, increase my savings, and over all improve my Quality-of-Life.

    I recognize, as a thinking, concerned individualist, and libertarian, this causes me to share Wal-Mart’s guilt in use of takings. I still have not determined how to act ethically in my economic situation.

  25. I don’t think there are many, if any, people here who seriously think the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of the Falun Gong and other religious minorities is just or legitimate. However, I am a little surprised to see nobody stand up for the theory that engaging economically with states that have poor human rights records can help to change those states by providing to ordinary citizens of those states access to more accurate information about the United States and more income, which shifts power from the state to the individual. People here make this case all the time about Cuba; if the Chinese case is different, how is it different? Would an embargo or boycott of Chinese goods help the Fulan Gong and others opressed in mainland China, or weaken the Chinese Communist Party?

  26. If you’re a Chinese slave forced to make Christmas lights to sell to other countries, is it ethical for you to deliberately miswire them so that they burst into flame after a few hours of use? Because I’m thinking, I’d probably do that if I could, if I were a slave.

    I know all the arguments why the people who buy those slave-labor lights aren’t really bad people. I’d do it anyway, especially if I’d just been subjected to a really bad beating or something.

  27. Just to clarify, I do not seriously think that the Chinese government’s treatment of those nut cases is just.

    But every time they block the sidewalk with their weirdness, I find it hard to resist sending a thank you note to the Chinese ambassador. Now I’m doubting whether I’ll buy Christmas lights this year, for fear they might be contaminated by weirdness germs.

    But no, beating the crap out of someone and using them for slave labor just because they’re stupid is not good.

  28. Oops! missed my last paragraph:

    My only excuse, an admittedly weak one, is that by staying employed and saving money, I am keeping myself from needing welfare money to survive, and plan my savings without expectation of using Social In-Security.

  29. I think the trouble, mitch, is that a number of the states you mention have realized that they can turn a tidy profit (or at least run at less of a loss) if they do the human rights abuse thing. They figure they can offset some of the enormous cost of arresting, imprisoning and guarding people by making them work. Lenin was the first dictator-asshole to realize that. Most dictators follow that example. So if anything, it can actually enrich the state, further concentrate power in the ruling administration, and further oppress people.

  30. Maybe I am a Fulan Gong softie; I have never found their protest sites here in midtown Manhattan, which I must admit have a large footprint, to be an obstruction to traffic. Also, the protestors themselves are sort of humble and friendly, not loud and obnoxious like lefty protestors.

    If I am a Fulan Gong softie, it is probably a reaction to what I hear the left-wing grad students I know say about them (“Well, if the Chinese government is so upset about the Fulan Ging, the Fulan Gong must be up to something!”) as well as what I saw when I went with one of these lefties to the Chinese embassy so she could get a visa to vacation in China (Every wall covered with clunky “Fulan Gong is an evil cult” propaganda posters.)

  31. Falun Gong must be up to something because the Chinese government doesn’t trust them?

    Are you hanging out with caricatures?

    When are those lefties gonna jump on the Free Tibet train like righties do?

  32. Mitch the difference (in my opinion) between Cuba and China is really a difference between “communist” enterprise labor and trade in Cuba and prison slave labor in China. The prison labor in China should be, by all means boycotted, however buying goods (which Wal-Mart sells) from legitimate wage paying factories in China does improve the workers and factory owners standard of living, and is expected to increase their interest in a more open society, et cetera. At least these seem to be the arguments used by those here who favor opening trade to Cuba.

    The problem comes, for us ordinary buyers, in determining whether that set of discounted Xmas lights came from imprisoned/enslaved labor, or a legitimate factory worker.

  33. I know all the arguments why the people who buy those slave-labor lights aren’t really bad people. I’d do it anyway, especially if I’d just been subjected to a really bad beating or something.

    Jennifer’s right. …and we should be ashamed of ourselves if we knowingly buy the products of this kind of slavery.

    …I read a story, and I’ve heard about the documentary, regarding labor practices in the chocolate industry. Apparently, some half of the world’s chocolate is ultimately dervied from slavery. …Like old school, big bad driver with a whip, plantation slavery.

    http://www.msnbc.com/news/717348.asp?cp1=1

    There’s a movement afoot to label slave free chocolate.

  34. I shopped Wal*Mart yesterday. I needed a new battery for my car and Wal*Mart is only nine miles away. Because Wal*Mart has been the subject of some discussions here recently, I walked around the store and really looked at their products. They sell the same name brands as many other stores. Compare Wal*Mart to Target. Why isn’t Target the target? The antiWal*Mart campaign is not about the store, it’s about the customers. AntiWal*Marters are too cool to mingle with Wal*Marters.

  35. I like shopping at Wal-Mart because it boosts my self esteem and make me feel skinny. My life may suck at times, but when I go to Wal-Mart I cab be sure to see at least 30-40 people whose lives suck much, much worse than mine.

  36. But they probably don’t make as many typos. So they got that on me.

  37. Honestly, the only way to ensure that products are in no way related to slave labor is through protectionism. And, of course, many would apply very broad standards as to what constitutes slave labor, such as anyone in the world not making x amount per hour.

    It’s nearly impossible, from an individual perspective, to truly determine what type of labor (at every level in the production process) went into a given product. Therefore, the only solution is for the government to cut off trade relations with any country that has anything to do with slave labor. Does that help or hurt the individuals in that country?

    I think it’s a noble goal to attempt to avoid the purchase of slave products, especially if you can afford it. However, I don’t think you can accurately trace every step in the production process every time you want to buy a lightbulb. Some problems are complex enough to lead you into a morally repugnant soultion whichever way you go. Given that we can’t end slavery with our wishes, I would say that we should choose the path that offers the most efficient method, even though it may violate certain principles. I’m just not sure what that path is.

  38. Amazing that this song is 14 years old (and posted without further comment):

    Rogers Waters
    “It’s A Miracle”

    Miraculous you call it babe
    You ain’t seen nothing yet
    They’ve got Pepsi in the Andes
    McDonalds in Tibet
    Yosemite’s been turned into
    A golf course for the Japs
    The Dead Sea is alive with rap
    Between the Tigris and Euphrates
    There’s a leisure centre now
    They’ve got all kinds of sports
    They’ve got Bermuda shorts
    They had sex in Pennsylvania
    A Brazilian grew a tree
    A doctor in Manhattan
    Saved a dying man for free
    It’s a miracle
    Another miracle
    By the grace of God Almighty
    And pressures of the marketplace
    The human race has civilized itself
    It’s a miracle
    We’ve got warehouses of butter
    We’ve got oceans of wine
    We’ve got famine when we need it
    Got designer crime
    We’ve got mercedes
    We’ve got Porsche
    Ferrari and Rolls Royce
    We’ve got choice
    She said meet me
    In the Garden of Gethsemane my dear
    The Lord said Peter I can see
    Your house from here
    An honest mna
    Finally reaped what he had sown
    And a farmer in Ohio has just repaid a loan
    It’s a miracle
    Another miracle
    By the grace of God Almighty
    And pressures of the marketplace
    The human race has civilized itself
    It’s a miracle
    We cover in our shelters
    With our hands over our ears
    Lloyd-Webber’s awful stuff
    Runs for years and years and years
    An earthquake hits the theatre
    But the operetta lingers
    Then the piano lid comes down
    And breaks his fucking fingers
    It’s a miracle

  39. I guess I should have fixed all the typos (damn you cut-and-paste!).

  40. Is it bizzaro day or something? It’s like I took crazy pills.

    Some people are using extended sarcasm, man. It’s like making strawmen, but you also get to be smug.

  41. Why, Eric the Halfabee! Are you accusing me of having been sarcastic when I urged people to buy Chinese because Not only will you be able to get more for your money, you will also Promote Freedom and Democracy in China?

    But I thought that was exactly why so many Hit and Runners promoted trade with China.

  42. buying goods (which Wal-Mart sells) from legitimate wage paying factories in China does improve the workers and factory owners standard of living, and is expected to increase their interest in a more open society, et cetera.

    You would think so. Except that freedom of thought is just as rigorously suppressed as ever, and corruption is rampant. China has found a way to grow a tiny middle class and keep them from questioning their lack of freedom. All of this leads me to believe that buying Chinese goods isn’t doing the average worker a damn bit of good.

  43. Jennifer;

    “(Translation: If you’re going to buy slave cotton just admit it’s cheaper; don’t give me all this bullshit about how otherwise the slaves would all starve because their masters couldn’t afford to feed them!”)”

    That made me wonder, if there were parade having, police barracade crashing, bottle / rock throwing types of mobs that we see in favor of the cause du joir (animal rights, green issues, racial, etc.) It seems to me that the people back then really felt strongly about an issue but had to work harder to make a living so they were too tired to really protest about stuff like now days. The protesters of today seem to be professional protesters. The faces seem to be the same at every rally I see in the media. Is is just me or, “Like it’s their job, man.”

  44. Cliff, a lot of modern protestors are indeed idiotic, but that doesn’t mean what they’re protesting is actually something good. Particularly not in the case of something like slave labor.

  45. The protesters of today seem to be professional protesters. The faces seem to be the same at every rally I see in the media. Is is just me or, “Like it’s their job, man.”

    I don’t know what you’re referring to in terms of time frame, but I suspect protests were much less noticeable before television put the images in everybody’s living rooms. Surely the ability to be seen by more people has had an influence on the desirability of protesting.

    Still, the protest precursors to the Haymarket Riots and the protests in Detroit got plenty of attention regardless. Suffragette and temperance movements also got plenty of press, but I doubt that’s what you were referring to.

    I’d also add that 1) when society was more agricultural, rural and, therefore more dispersed, protests had logistical challenges and 2) if federal and state governments were less intrusive, more people would have had less reason to protest what the government was doing.

  46. I’m going to wal-mart tonight. They have paper CD/DVD sleeves for $5 for 100. Try beating that at Best Buy, Frys, CompUSA, or Target. Oh, and Salmon steaks for under $5 per pound. I’m there.

    Hey, mom n’pop weren’t paying shit anyway. And they only hire people who look like them. And they don’t give jobs to the disabled. And they don’t offer benefits. And they close right about the time I get home from work. OK, I do visit the local hardware store – a little competent help is nice once in a while.

  47. I try to avoid products from red China whenever I can. However, one time recently I needed a manual can opener. I went to a store around the corner from me and the only can openers there were made in red China. I considered looking elsewhere, but it occurred to me that by driving all over the place looking for a can opener, I would be burning a lot of Saudi oil, so I went ahead and bought the red Chinese can opener.

  48. Ken;

    “I’d also add that 1) when society was more agricultural, rural and, therefore more dispersed, protests had logistical challenges and 2) if federal and state governments were less intrusive, more people would have had less reason to protest what the government was doing.”

    Great response. Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

  49. Wow. You guys arguing about Wal-Mart buying stuff from China realize that 99% of the people protesting Wal-Mart don’t give a shit about China, right?

    I mean, I’ve read a lot of reasons why Wal-Mart is evil, and this is the first I’ve heard people actually acting as if China is the issue, or even part of the issue, except maybe in an “OMG it’s not the US!” way.

  50. Dagny, is it not possible for people who disapprove of Wal-Mart do so for more reason than one?

    And I’ll clarify: it’s not just Wal-mart; I’ve complained many times before about all the trading we’ve been doing with the Chinese, on the grounds of slavery.

  51. China must have cultural issues I can’t wrap my head around. 1.3 billion people. The military has to be composed of people (talking regular troops here, not officer) who hate the system. And yet the system persists.

    The information I’ve found states the the total army, reserve, and police forces number around 5 million people. What is there stopping the Chinese from overthrowing their government?

  52. I’m actually not attacking you, Jennifer. I was saying I’ve read a lot of similar threads about Wal-Mart and if the subject of China ever came up, it was only in an isolationist context.

    Previously, the arguments I heard against Wal-Mart were:

    1.) Poor people go there. Poor people are icky and do icky things like go to church and vote Republican.
    2.) They import from countries that aren’t the United States.
    3.) They pay their employees in the form of money rather than health insurance.
    4.) Some men who work as managers at Wal-Mart are sexist.

    … and that’s it. The quote I mentioned said we shouldn’t shop at Wal-Mart because it’s ugly and it’s owned by Christians from the South.

  53. Previously, the arguments I heard against Wal-Mart were:1.) Poor people go there. Poor people are icky and do icky things like go to church and vote Republican.

    Dagny, I see the “Icky tacky customers” argument a LOT here on Hit and Run, but it is never the anti-Wal-Mart people who say it; it’s the pro-Wal-Mart people accusing the anti-Wal-Marters of snobbery. Always. Methinks they doth protest too much.

  54. dagny:

    Call me sometime.

  55. What is there stopping the Chinese from overthrowing their government?

    Who can you trust to join you in a plot to overthrow the government? Seriously–they’re probably too scared. With good cause.

  56. Who can you trust to join you in a plot to overthrow the government? Seriously–they’re probably too scared. With good cause.

    Then we are all screwed. Unless…

    As long as we remember the overthrow of the governments of the former Soviet satellites, there is always hope. Perhaps someday, if things get bad enough, our own government will live to regret having the Declaration of Independence hanging in every elementary school in the country.

    Perhaps.

  57. As long as we remember the overthrow of the governments of the former Soviet satellites, there is always hope

    Maybe. I hope so. But then again, there are plausible sounding arguments to make why Soviet Communism would not have fallen if not for the existence of The West. If the Chinese were to become ready to overthrow their government, I don’t think ours would be in a position to help, or maybe not even INCLINED to help overthrow one of our Best Trading Buddies. (Damn you, Bill Clinton, for opening up so much trade with those slave-owning bastards who will likely be our open enemy someday before too much longer.)

  58. Ya know, time was that if Iraq was building a nuclear reactor, we could count on good ol’ Israel to take it out. Perhaps, just maybe, if conditions were to allow the Chinese to start a good ol’ fashioned insurrection, maybe our good buddies Japan and Taiwan might be able to help out.

  59. “1.) Poor people go there. Poor people are icky and do icky things like go to church and vote Republican.
    2.) They import from countries that aren’t the United States.
    3.) They pay their employees in the form of money rather than health insurance.
    4.) Some men who work as managers at Wal-Mart are sexist.”

    Talk about a strawman.

    Actually there is also the charge that Wal-Mart depresses wages throughout it’s supply chain. It has been accused of putting a great deal of pressure on it’s suppliers to cut cost (getting more work out of fewer people basically and through outsourcing perhaps). It certainly has a great deal of power to do so being as big as it is. So the charge is that Wal-Mart might not be such a benefit to those “icky poor people” as it might initially seem. Sure walmart sells affordable goods to poor people but it also in this argument depresses a lot of wages.

    And then there IS China. Sure it might be impossible to find a product that you are absolutely certain isn’t made with slave labor but it doesn’t mean you can’t try (avoiding made in China etc.). And I’m sure if enough people did this …. they’d find ways to disguise that the product was made in China! It’s quite rightous to boycott made in China. The thing is though, I don’t think boycotts are very likely to bring down the Chinese govenment even if every single american participated (although that trade deficit with China might go down).

  60. As for mom and pops I don’t doubt that they often pay their workers poorly. It may not be better to work at a mom and pop than at walmart. But a full analysis should also point out that it’s damn better to own a mom and pop than work at a walmart (my bias is admitedly pro self-employment).

  61. “According to Chinese human rights activists, members of unregistered religious groups who are imprisoned are forced to make Christmas lights that are sold for export.”

    Then we all better stop buying U.S.-made products since U.S. citizens are imprisoned, many merely for having the wrong type of plant, and forced to make products (furniture, GIS info, etc, etc, etc) for UNICOR and various state-owned “Prison Industries.”
    http://www.prisonactivist.org/prison-labor/

    I’m going to boycott my local mom-and-pop botique shop immediately.

  62. Here’s some of the stuff produced by my own local prison slave labor outfit, Colorado Correctional [sic] Industries, AKA “Juniper Valley Products”:

    PRODUCTS
    Agriculture
    Air Filtration
    Apparel & Textile
    Dormitory Furniture
    Lounge Furniture
    Metal Products
    Modular Office Systems
    Office Furniture
    Plastic Bags
    Seating
    State Forms
    Specialty & Sales Items

    SERVICES
    CAD / GIS
    Canteen Services
    General Services
    Heavy Equipment
    K-9 Companion
    Print Services
    Sign Shop
    SWIFT
    Surplus Property
    Wild Horse Program
    WEB Services

    And don’t forget: “Order Flowers Now To Be Shipped Anywhere In The Continental USA, Click Here!”
    http://www.cijvp.com/

    And don’t forget: “Section 17-24-111(1)(a) CRS requires that state agencies purchase office furniture and office systems from the Division of Correctional Industries (dba Juniper Valley Products/JVP).”

    Picking on WalMart by picking on China is pretty damned silly when the U.S. does exactly the same thing as does China. You’d be better off boycotting the “state agencies” who are required to knowingly purchase items made by prison slave labor.

  63. I see the “Icky tacky customers” argument a LOT here on Hit and Run, but it is never the anti-Wal-Mart people who say it; it’s the pro-Wal-Mart people accusing the anti-Wal-Marters of snobbery.

    I leveled the accusation of snobbery not at Hit and Runners exclusively. I was addressing the comments in the threads that Julian linked to at the top of this page and the letters to the editor in the paper and the comments on so many other websites. WalMart reveals funny ideas in some people.

    I like downtowns and Wal Mart kills them. It makes the country uglier.

    Does WalMart kill downtowns? Who decides what is uglier?

    I think that Wal Mart is dehumanizing and will bring the whole country down a notch.

    The collapse of the Soviet Union took down with it all but the faint fumes of a coherent alternative to capitalism. So now, among other things, we are essentially searching for a way to ?tame? capitalism-gone-wild.

    Oh, if only WalMart would just follow the example of Soviet department stores, poor Americans would be so much better off. We’d be a notch up.

    The WalMart model is dramatically swelling the ranks of the marginal workers, because the company does everything it can to destroy the institutions which took the less qualified out of the ranks of the lower class.

    WalMart destroys institutions in order to sell more big screen televisions?

    There is one anti-Wal-Mart argument I buy, and that is that such chains as this are making our country boring.

    Everyday low prices are so boring.

    The fact of the matter is, small town communities are in a conundrum. They really dislike the place, yet shop there because, for many lower class individuals (I’m talking hard working folks trying to put food on their families all across the redstates) their bottom line depends on it, AND the fact that Wal-Mart has forced all the local shops out of business.

    When I’m not busy putting food on the family, I think consumers put little shops out of business by freely choosing to spend their hard earned money elsewhere. WalMart is not an evil one-stop shopping juggernaut. It is usually an anchor for many other businesses that share its parking lot. People come for the low prices and stay for the little Mexican restaurant or the pizza parlor in the same strip mall. The downtown of the suburb or exurb is now a huge parking lot filled with minivans surrounded by little shops and a big WalMart.

  64. Picking on WalMart by picking on China is pretty damned silly when the U.S. does exactly the same thing as does China.

    I doubt that what the State of Colorado does with Juniper Valley Products is the same thing as what China, apparently, does, when it uses prisoners for forced labor. Among the differences, I suspect inmates in Colorado can choose not to work, and my understanding is that prison jobs are in high demand on the inside.

    I see a big difference between criticizing Wal-Mart’s practices in regards to its subcontractors and advocating some legislative remedy.

  65. “Actually there is also the charge that Wal-Mart depresses wages throughout it’s supply chain.”

    This and many other arguments against Wal-Mart are based on the misconception that wages are simply paid out of the goodness of a business’s heart & that they can lower the cost of doing business simply by lowering wages. This is simply not true. There is a market for labor & you generally are going to get what you pay for. Wal-Mart pays what its pool of required will demand in the market & likewise for its supply chain. If anything, Wal-Mart depresses profits as a percentage of total spending in its supply chain and reduces total employment as suppliers find ways to do things more efficiently. This is a positive for everybody.

    “But a full analysis should also point out that it’s damn better to own a mom and pop than work at a walmart.”

    I’m not sure about that. In towns where the main street is really suffering, you’re looking at a lot of stores with aging owners still working the hours & profit levels they had 30 years ago when they opened. Frequently, when the owners retire or die, they can’t find anybody to take the businesses off their hands for any price. Their kids don’t want it because it’s not worth the headache. I’ve personally seen this happen. I’ve also seen downtowns that thrive with a Wal-Mart in town. If anything, Wal-Mart might be the final stake in the heart of some pretty weak businesses.
    On another note. I’ve seen some interesting analysis showing that if a Wal-Mart replaces a local business, the total amount of money that leaves town in order to purchase the goods Wal-Mart sells goes down significantly, because the total cost the local store owner had in cost of goods & overhead was more than the consumer pays for the item at Wal-Mart.

  66. I believe that *American* prison laborers are actually paid for their work, but I could be wrong. This is not slavery. The Chinese use forced prison labor, and the prisoners are political to boot. I don’t think the vicious persecution of the Falun Gong would be at the level it is if the state wasn’t profiting from that persecution.

    Not that I want to defend the American prison system but it’s no China.

    nmg

  67. Are you accusing me of having been sarcastic when I urged people to buy Chinese because Not only will you be able to get more for your money, you will also Promote Freedom and Democracy in China?

    Yes.

    But I thought that was exactly why so many Hit and Runners promoted trade with China.

    You don’t.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.