Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Walmartyrdom

Ken Masugi called my attention to this WaPo article, describing Walmart’s interesting circumvention of local zoning regulations in Dunkirk, Maryland, which happens to be where my parents live. Ken’s argument, which makes some sense, is that the more regulation, the more room there is for legal cleverness, such as that displayed by the lawyers representing those simple down-home capitalists from small-town Arkansas.

Here’s another example of lawyerly cleverness, relayed in an email from my father, who has been very active in resisting Walmart’s blandishments:

What happened at the latest meeting was an eye-opener! The people representing Wal Mart were elitist, overbearing, abusive, and dictatorial. At one time the Faison representative accused us, the folks with the signs, of being"anti-everything, and (were) probably anti-gay and anti-black". After the meeting I had a heated discussion with this individual, calling his remarks way out of order.

There you have it: if you’re anti-Walmart, you’re also anti-black and anti-gay, not to mention anti-everything else (anti-American?). I should tell my local anti-Walmart insurgents (actually, they must be terrorists) that they’re racist and homophobic, which in
Cynthia McKinney territory (note to FEC: I don’t support her, so please don’t count this as a campaign contribution) ought to be sufficient to drive virtually everyone straight into Walmart’s arms.

Update: Lest you think that my father is some sort of liberal anti-capitalist (well, he was born in the Netherlands!), I can’t recall a time when he didn’t vote for a Republican (a record that extends back to the 1950s, and includes a few significant votes in California gubernatorial elections in the 1960s).

Discussions - 34 Comments

I do not think being suspicious of large corporations makes you a liberal - I think your dad’s reservations are well founded. I harbor profound suspicions of multi- national corporations, and I am pretty conservative. One has to remember that these are profit-making entities, and often not moral ones. A few historical examples come to mind. Henry Ford and Ford Motor helped the Soviet regime build the first auto assembly line in Novgorod while Kulaks were being "liquidated." Western companies helped get Soviet steel works established as well. Even after Stalin, Armand Hammer continued to openly aid the Soviets in pursuit of profit. I hate to think what compromises Wal Mart may be making with the Chinese Communist government and military...

Wow - where to begin?

1. If Masugi’s argument is (from the linked blog-post) "the more regulation in society the easier it is for a national chain to work around it," then I disagree. While certainly a complex web of regulations might make for some legal cat-and-mouse that the local communities will typically be outgunned in, having few or no regulations to limit, restrict or prevent a Wal-Mart type store would definitely make it easier for Wal-Mart (or whatever corporation wishes to impose its "will"). I’m certain that Wal-Mart’s execs would much prefer to return to the good old days when they didn’t confront "uppity citizens brigades" in every whistle-stop town they wanted to build one of their architectural marvels, and didn’t have to hire the legal teams. I’m sure Wal-Mart would prefer few or no regulations to contend with, rather than any labyrinthine maze - even if they can navigate the mazes with some ease. The "more regulation, the better (for Wal-Mart)" argument doesn’t make sense.

2. While it may be true, as "wlm" noted, that "being suspicious of large corporations" doesn’t necessarily make you a liberal, I’d contend that it may be (or should be) an almost-necessary condition. With huge, transnational corporations dominating the capitalist landscape in increasingly monolithic ways, it’s becoming increasingly quaint to be a booster for capitalism only in its mom-and-pop small(er) business permutations, as those mom-and-pop (and NOT so mom-and-pop) businesses (the ones that used to give local flavor to towns and cities) are being crushed under the cinder-block foot of The Ultimate Capitalists, such as Wal-Mart. But hey, isn’t that a logical outcome of competition taken to the nth degree? If your local pharmacist can’t compete with Wal-Mart, well, screw him...

3. I wonder if your father has considered that it’s quite possible that the same Republicans he has so loyally helped vote into office are doing all they can to help Wal-Mart in their noble struggle? Wal-Mart knows who butters its bread, and that is largely Republicans - I’m sure there’s lots of mutual back-scratching going on! Consider that of the $1,752,750 Wal-Mart spent in the ’03-’04 election cycle, nearly 78.5% of those dollars went to Republicans & conservatives, including sizeable sums to Bush-Cheney ’04 (your dad voted for them , right?) and the it-must-be-good "COMMITTEE FOR THE PRESERVATION OF CAPITALISM." Seeing the righteous, all-American side that Wal-Mart is on, and supports, perhaps your father should reconsider his apparent NIMBYism here? Already, at least one self-identified conservative blogger has identified the opponents [Calvert Neighbors for Sensible Growth] as "socialist scum." Another blogger at a homeschooling site (!!) has asked "When are stringent government rules and community controls and exclusions defined as compatible (if not essential!) to ’the unique character of American life?’" (Yikes - have y’all created a monster!?!) Shouldn’t a thoughtful conservative consider these things?

4. If your father and his fellow protesters REALLY want to prevent a Wal-Mart, perhaps they should talk to the people who might already be filling out job applications and start some rumblings about unionizing any future employees. The Atticus Finches (haha) working for Wal-Mart might try to kindly persuade them against it, but it might work in stopping it, you never know.

5. The accusations of the Wal-Mart lawyers that the protesters are racist or anti-gay are, of course, waaay beyond the pale. Sorta reminds me of how Republicans/conservatives tried this tactic when liberals had problems with Gonzales (the torture guy) as AG.

6. Finally, seeing that you’re "not a fan of holding up placards and chanting slogans ," I’m curious if you inquired of your father if he had "no more articulate and rational, i.e., ’deliberative,’ way to put (his) point across" than holding a sign and being part of a complaining group asking Wal-Mart to abide by the regulations ("Rules are Rules!"). Are you concerned that some might see his good intentions as "self-indulgent moralistic posing" ?? Maybe he could have restrained himself, and limited himself to writing letters to the newspaper, and writing to his legislators?

Oh, gee, hoist by my own petard. I guess I should just stop blogging and go away. Here’s what I said in the comment to which you linked:

In general, I would argue that demonstrations are valuable and/or "necessary" only when there is no more articulate and rational, i.e., "deliberative," way to put a point across.

And:

I’m not a fan of holding up placards and chanting slogans when there are other, more deliberative ways of engaging in politics.

My father doesn’t serve on the planning commission, but did what citizens have every right to do, which is attend meetings and speak out. He didn’t demonstrate outside the county government offices. He didn’t chant slogans to disrupt the meeting. Indeed, he waited until after the meeting was over to confront and conversewith the lawyer who uttered the stupidities. So he behaved as "deliberatively" as possible under the circumstances.

As for your larger point, that conservatives have essentially made their bed with their embrace of big business, I am somewhat conflicted, though not altogether anti-big business. I’m not, however, conflicted enough to be driven into the arms of the Democrats, with whose positions on national security, social security, science policy, and religion in public life I have even greater difficulties. Please don’t regard that list of objections as exhaustive. There are, I’m sure, many others.

Let’s stop romanticizing "mom and pop" stores. They’re expensive, have extremely limited selections, and tend not to be open at times when people want to shop. And anyone who thinks that such stores pay their employees well, and offer lavish benefits, is dreaming. The fact is that one of the reason why large corporations are successful is that they tend to treat their employees better. Sure, there’s a lot more red tape to wade through, and relations with management tent to be highly impersonal, but it’s a small price to pay.

It’s also a bit silly to place all the blame on the demise of "mom and pop" stores on Wal-Mart. Surely e-commerce, in which almost everything is available for sale at fairly low prices, has had at least as much of an effect. Of course, this hysteria over chain stores is nothing new--there have been efforts to fight them for years. And, Mr. Billens, many of those efforts have come from populist conservatives. During the 1930s the New Deal was one of the best things that large corporations had going for them.

I prefer Target and don’t like to shop at Wal-Mart (dirty and loud for starters). However, I am glad they are getting around stupid regulations like Dunkirk’s. Central planning is discredited (See USSR) but local governments here in the US practice it more and more. Wal-Mart has every right to locate in any commercially zoned area. Don’t want Wal-Mart, keep everything residential.

No offense to your father, but the elitists here are not from Wal-Mart.

Wal*Mart’s Mission Statement:

Lowering the cost of living for the world.

Can’t get any better than that.

I find it odd that a number of conservatives are opposing a capitalism by utilizing zoning methods.

I guess it shows that for some, their principles end at their wallet. Unfortunate.

John

Wal-Mart history lesson

Probably the easiest simplest way to prevent the building of a Wal-Mart is to convince the owner of the land Wal-Mart wants to build on not to sell.

Isn’t Faison a developer? So it was the developer that made the quoted comments, not Wal*Mart, correct?

Luke,

Or, perhaps, those concerned could buy the land yourself? Isn’t this free markets? Capitalism? The stuff that made America great?

John

Here’s a provocative thought: conservatism and capitalism are not identical and occasionally at odds. Indeed, capitalism can be destructive of the traditions that conservatives cherish. (This is the most milquetoasty way I can think of putting it.)


And yes, Faison is the developer, so it’s apparently Faison’s lawyer who uttered the bigoted stupidity. But Faison and Walmart are hand-in-glove here.

Dr Knippenberg,

It is nice to hear someone say that. One of my frustrations with NR, to which I am a long term subscriber, is the idea of the free market as an unmitigated good. I am not sure I agree with that, nor am I entirely at peace with the idea of "creative destruction" so popular in the 90’s in particular. It seems to me that the "creative destruction" of the market might indeed be antagonistic to many conservative principles. Adam Smith asked that self interest be "enlightened," not naked and aggressive.

I understand that the free market brings about outcomes that are suboptimal from a conservative point of view--the music industry is a classic case in point. I’d be happy to denounce Wal-Mart if I really thought it was undermining anything that’s worth conserving. It’s just I haven’t seen a convincing case that it does.

By the way, like Bob I don’t enjoy shopping at Wal-Mart, either--one spends too much time dodging Pride scooters in the aisles. But it’s nice knowing that there’s a place close by, open at convenient hours, that probably has whatever I need at a reasonable price.

Some (but by no means all) of the issues between conservatives and libertarians are canvassed here, from the Instapundit’s libertarian point of view. My own view, with as much nuance as I can pack in a nutshell (and apologies to Winston Churchill), is that capitalism is the worst form of economic arrangement except for all the others. But I’m not averse to using various and sundry bully pulpits to raise questions about "free markets."

As for Walmart, the local store is incredibly scuzzy; we generally stay away. (I have fond memories of a summer in Grand Rapids, where Meijer’s--not quite mom and pop, but local in its orientation--totally outclassed an almost deserted Walmart.)

Mr. Knippenberg - Your post just reminded me of the earlier exchange about demonstrators/demonstrations. Even though I side with your father against Wal-Mart (and Dunkirk, Maryland is certainly NOT in my backyard, although I did live in Maryland for a few years way back when), I suspect that he & the group of which he’s a part have a much greater chance of stopping that Wal-Mart than Iraq war protesters have of ceasing the U.S.-led military action there. I think the anti-Wal-Mart group is much further from exhausting all of their procedural and deliberative options than the war opponents are. Your father said that he was among the sign-holders; I’m wondering if, by your apparent demonstrate-as-an-absolute-last-resort approach, even this was necessary. But, obviously, your father need not adhere to your standards on the matter. Maybe he will eventually even see President Bush as a "walking corporation," as Ralph Nader (nope, didn’t vote for him...or Kerry) puts it. Anyway, I wish your father success in that campaign - I hope his efforts are not entirely futile. You wrote just now that your father did "what citizens have every right to do, which is attend meetings and speak out." and that "He didn’t chant slogans to disrupt the meeting." Well, 1) If you’ve read anything about President Bush’s recent social security "meetings" (pep rallies of cherry-picked supporters to create tv-friendly P.R.), you’d have heard that there is ZERO toleration of dissent (even polite questioners) at those meetings - only supporters/boosters get in (or stay in), and 2) any mass of demonstrators who have opposed Bush in anything have hardly been able to get even within shouting distance of anywhere he’s at, as demonstrations have been kept absurdly far away, and often walled/fenced off. Anyway...my goal - other than responding to something that raised my eyebrows - was not to get you to "stop blogging and go away." (Fat chance of ME doing that anyway, I know...) Nor was it to drive you "into the arms of the Democrats." I think too many of them (a majority) are also prostituted to corporate, not citizen, interests. Hey, it’s your (and the other NLT guys) blog; you can say whatever you want. But, as long as you allow comments, don’t expect them all to be "dittos."

Mr. Moser - If I’ve really romanticized mom-and-pop stores with the single remark that they did/do add some unique, local "flavor" to the towns and cities in which they exist(ed), then I’d like to add that it’s somewhat relative. As for employment, given the choice between working for subsistence (maaaaybe) wages at Wal-Mart (or Target, or wherever), or a downtown retail store, I’d probably pick the latter. Actually, I HAVE worked for several mom-and-pop places, and you’re right, getting rich isn’t part of the picture (but typically mom-and-pop aren’t as wealthy as the Walton clan either, or any of the upper & mid-level mgmt., for that matter) Problem is, fewer working people have that choice of where to work these days - any honest assessment of Wooster, Ashland or Mansfield, Ohio would note this. The downtowns are skeletons of their former selves. I’m not as familiar with Mansfield, but Ashland and Wooster’s downtown decline went from marginal to marked after they got their Wal-Marts (and all the other lamprey stores), and this was a few years before e-commerce truly arrived (I’m thinking restaurants, book stores, shoe stores, pharmacies, department stores, photo & camera shops, appliance stores, car repair shops, etc.) As for the consumer perspective (and isn’t that important in a capitalist analysis?), when you travel beyond Ashland, do you seek out the Wal-Marts for your shopping, and the TGI Fridays for your dining experiences, or do you look for something more unique, less standardized? (ok, my point here could fall flat, in this case)

Libertarians worship the market, whereas conservatives understand that is can (and often does) create real problems. And sometimes you just have to let multiple parties with multiple claims fight it out. For instance, homeowners will generally fight big stores and apartment complexes in their general vacinities. Although I would side with the homeowners, the fact is that building has to occur somewhere. My point? Sometimes there are no optimal solutions...zero-sum games do exist (although it is best when we seek to minimize them).

John,

I share your concern over use of zoning to exclude industry, business, etc. This makes what should be economic question (best use of the land) into a political question. I do not think any other method than zoning can exist however. You appeal to buying the land yourself to exclude development, but the city or state can use powers of eminent domain and take the land for Walmart. So private ownership of the land would solve nothing, it is still a political question.

Example: Poletown case. Residents of Poletown, a neighboorhood in Detroit were forced to sell their land, and homes, to the city of Detroit, so Detroit could give the land to GM, so GM could build a production facility. The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard a case that involves a Ct. town that is attempting to take land by a river occupied by older, poorer homes, destroy those homes, and allow newer, more expensive homes to be built on the land. I would be surprised if the court does not allow this, since it stated that the taking of land need only relate to a public purpose (not a public use such as a school, police station, etc.) in the 1980s in Midkiff. Midkiff involved the state of Hawaii taking land and redistributing it to people who did not have land. The powers of eminent domain seem to short-circuit the market, so an appeal to the market concering use of land seems to fall short.

Problem is, fewer working people have that choice of where to work these days - any honest assessment of Wooster, Ashland or Mansfield, Ohio would note this.

So this is about giving workers more choices? What about those who might choose to work at Wal-Mart? And in any case, should we, for the sake of the tiny minority who work in retail, punish consumers in general?

Ashland and Wooster’s downtown decline went from marginal to marked after they got their Wal-Marts (and all the other lamprey stores)

Mr. Billens has just made my case, by admitting that the downtown areas of Ashland and Wooster were in decline before Wal-Mart got there. As I’ve said before, these stores were characterized by high prices, limited selections, and lack of convenient parking. Most folks around here were already traveling to Mansfield to do their shopping (where there’s a mall--of which Mr. Billens presumably also disapproves).

As for the consumer perspective (and isn’t that important in a capitalist analysis?), when you travel beyond Ashland, do you seek out the Wal-Marts for your shopping, and the TGI Fridays for your dining experiences, or do you look for something more unique, less standardized?

Sure, when I travel to, say, New Orleans, I seek out specialty shops. But the point is that I go to them because they offer products that Wal-Mart doesn’t. Properly speaking, Wal-Mart is not in competition with these places. However, if I want to buy something utilitarian, like paper towels or saline solution, who gives a damn whether my "experience" is "unique"? I’m looking for the lowest price, period.

The same is true of restaurants; the really good ones don’t have to worry about TGI Fridays. And I think Mr. Billens would have to admit that Ashland and Wooster still have plenty of small, family-owned restaurants, despite the presence of Applebee’s and other such execrable places.

Of course, Wal*Mart can pack up their bus, go to the next town down the highway, put up a store there, suck the funds out of the town that was against them, put all the mom and pop stores out of business, all while generating tax revenue for the new town...

I think one of the things missing in this "comments arguement" is the demand side. If the people are against the store, they will not shop there, right? Why not let Wal*Mart build their store, have no buyers, and close?

I think it is because of exactly as Mr. Moser said: However, if I want to buy something utilitarian, like paper towels or saline solution, who gives a damn whether my ’experience’ is ’unique’? I’m looking for the lowest price, period."

To see a pretty balanced show about Wal*Mart, please watch "The Age of Wal*Mart" on CNBC, it seems to play a couple of times every other weekend.

John

Wal-Mart is criticised on several fronts. Firstly, Wal-Mart engages in agressive anti-union strong-arming and intimidation. Whether or not one likes or approves of unions, Wal-Mart’s actions have drawn flak from people merely concerned about free speech issues and rights of employees under existing law. Next, Wal-Mart pays its employees very poorly and makes health care nearly impossible to attain. Wal-Mart has gained infamy for placing the health burden for its employees on local communities -- providing workers with phone numbers and contacts with all the "Nanny state" agencies for health care, etc. which workers do not receive from Wal-Mart. Next, Wal-Mart engages in harsh, strong-arming of suppliers which result in tremendous pressures to move the production of goods offshore to Third World low labor cost nations. Wal-Mart, by itself, is responsible for a huge amount of the trade imbalance with China (the PRC). Overall, the size and market share of Wal-Mart increasingly define it as a "monopoly". Yet, Wal-Mart is the creation of the trade agreements (not treaties) and domestic enforcement of laws. Wal-Mart is evidence of the problems created or perpetuated by elected officials.

Paul Craig Roberts wrote an interesting column in which he slammed Robert Reich for a NYT op-ed defense of "Wally World" and Wal-Mart. Find "The Great American Job Sellout" at http://vdare.com/roberts/050214_jobs.htm(Dr. Roberts’ article was also published in the Washington Times as "Jobs Sellout".)

should we, for the sake of the tiny minority who work in retail, punish consumers in general?

I question just how many people would consider this (lack of a wal-mart) to be punishment. Punishment?? And if you are saying that wal-mart’s customer base (probably not college profs primarily) was increasingly struggling before they (wal-mart) came along to save the day, is that some acknowledgment that the real wages / buying power of the lower & middle classes has been in decline?

Mr. Billens has just made my case, by admitting that the downtown areas of Ashland and Wooster were in decline before Wal-Mart got there

The decline ACCELERATED, quite remarkably in Wooster actually, AFTER Wal-Mart appeared. I’ve also read of many cases where the downtown decline clearly BEGAN (not just accelerated) post-wal-mart opening.

For someone that seems so bothered by the hoi polloi in their Pride scooters at Wal-Mart (I guess the savings on the paper towels is worth it?), and the "execrable" restaurants, your defense of the places is somewhat perplexing. Interestingly, we both seem to hold some disdain for these places, but our reasons, I suspect, only overlap the slightest bit.

I question just how many people would consider this (lack of a wal-mart) to be punishment. Punishment??

If you eliminated Wal-Mart you’d be forcing people to shop at a place that wouldn’t be their first choice. If I prefer chocolate ice cream, and you were to make my preference unavailable in pursuit of some lofty social goal, I would consider myself punished.

And if you are saying that wal-mart’s customer base (probably not college profs primarily) was increasingly struggling before they (wal-mart) came along to save the day, is that some acknowledgment that the real wages / buying power of the lower & middle classes has been in decline?

I didn’t say that anyone was "struggling." I think that it’s natural for people to want to shop where the selection is best and the prices are lowest.

I’ve also read of many cases where the downtown decline clearly BEGAN (not just accelerated) post-wal-mart opening.I’m skeptical of this claim. Urban decline has been going on for the past sixty years at least. In the 1930s people were complaining about the department stores like Macy’s running the "mom & pop" stores out of business. In the 1950s it was supermarkets. In the 1960s and 1970s it was malls that people were griping about. Then came the early discount chains, like K-Mart (which really is an example of a Wal-Mart victim, but probably not one that Mr. Billens is likely to get misty about.) To assume that, because measurable decline began about the time that the Wal-Mart opened, the Wal-Mart brought about that decline, is a classic example of the fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

If you eliminated Wal-Mart you’d be forcing people to shop at a place that wouldn’t be their first choice. If I prefer chocolate ice cream, and you were to make my preference unavailable in pursuit of some lofty social goal, I would consider myself punished.

But if Wal-Mart eliminates downtown shops, isn’t that also forcing people to shop at a place that isn’t their first choice? (More on this below...) Regarding your chocolate ice cream preference - would you be willing to let it go if it could actually be tied to an extremely worthwhile "lofty social goal"?? I’m sure some people would prefer to buy their clothes, electronics, shoes, toys, etc. at HALF the prices that Wal-Mart offers, and this could be done if full-on chattel slavery were implemented by Wal-Mart’s suppliers; that preference goes unfulfilled because of the lofty social goal of eliminating such practices. I would consider the well-documented sweatshop labor involved in wal-mart’s "always lower prices" to be more punishing than denial of chocolate ice cream. Similar cases could be made with potential consumers of child pornography or whale meat that have been "punished" by the achievement of various lofty socal goals.

To assume that, because measurable decline began about the time that the Wal-Mart opened, the Wal-Mart brought about that decline, is a classic example of the fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

Well, I don’t think it’s a groundless assumption, devoid of any compelling evidence. Consider Wal-Mart’s known tactic in the pharmaceutical business. Typically, when they’d open a new store (w/ a pharmacy), they would sell prescription drugs BELOW COST, knowing that this would bring in a lot of customers, who then might buy a lot of other stuff in different areas of the store. Well, surprisingly enough, you’d see neighborhood, independent pharmacies drop like flies. (I don’t know if Wal-Mart still engages in this tactic; perhaps some sinister laws have put a stop to it) So, those who prefer to get their prescriptions filled at a pharmacy where they know the pharmacist, and get a few words-to-the-wise on the medication, they have been punished. Anyway, this situation, which I think has been played out in hundreds of towns where Wal-Mart’s located, is one of many that could provide some qualitative evidence to deflect the "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" charge. As far as that particular fallacy goes, I think I’ve likely seen/heard/read many instances of it from the Clinton-bashers: every conceivable type of moral decay, for instance, is blamed on his Oval Office adultery. I’m no Clinton fan, so I’m open to blaming him for plenty, but when beyond-partisan Bush supporters are pointing the finger at the Clinton administration for every problem that has materialized under the current prez, it all becomes a bit funny.

Perhaps Mr. Knippenberg’s father has access to some of the best cases against Wal-Mart, particularly what Wal-Mart can do to a town like Dunkirk, via this group he’s working with. Might have some information and arguments that conservatives would find persuasive, seeing that he’s a Republican...

I’m sure some people would prefer to buy their clothes, electronics, shoes, toys, etc. at HALF the prices that Wal-Mart offers, and this could be done if full-on chattel slavery were implemented by Wal-Mart’s suppliers; that preference goes unfulfilled because of the lofty social goal of eliminating such practices.

I see, so we’re following up post hoc, ergo propter hoc with reductio ad absurdum. If I don’t support closing Wal-Mart, I have no logical grounds for opposing slavery. Sure, we could give folks access to lower-priced goods by legalizing theft, too, but, like slavery, this would be a violation of people’s natural rights to their bodies and their property.

As far as that particular fallacy goes, I think I’ve likely seen/heard/read many instances of it from the Clinton-bashers: every conceivable type of moral decay, for instance, is blamed on his Oval Office adultery. I’m no Clinton fan, so I’m open to blaming him for plenty, but when beyond-partisan Bush supporters are pointing the finger at the Clinton administration for every problem that has materialized under the current prez, it all becomes a bit funny.

Now rounding out the trifecta of logical fallacies we have tu quoque--it’s fine for Mr. Billens to use post hoc, ergo propter hoc because he’s heard "the Clinton-bashers" use it. Well, they may or may not have done so (I don’t consider myself one, by the way), but it has no bearing on this discussion.

This will be my last contribution to a discussion that I am certain only Mr. Billens and I are following. I conclude by restating what I have said from the beginning--this sort of carping at larger retail stores has been going on since the 1930s. Wal-Mart is simply the latest in a long line of villains in the populist demonology.

I omitted a criticism of Wal-Mart which a recent news report underscores: Wal-Mart has a pattern of employing illegal aliens.

See "Wal-Mart Settles Illegal Immigrant Case" at http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=509&ncid=509&e=1&u=/ap/20050318/ap_on_bi_ge/wal_mart_immigrants for the lastest report on this situation. Google on some keywords to find more stories on the accusations leveled against Wal-Mart.

BTW, I’ve shopped at Wal-Mart before but much prefer their competitor, Meijer.

Steve I oppose the concept of Emminent Domain, and most zonning as anti-capitalist. The truth is that capitalism as it exists in the United States is a bane as often as a blessing because of the legistalition that was created to curb it.

While Wal-Mart has perhaps made it harder on mom and pop stores, I believe that the internet and in particular E-bay has made mom and pop stores more feasible than ever, just about anyone can now afford to run a small store front especially since they can pick up extra money by selling surplus online. I guess this might iritate some hard line bricks and motar folks who believe that the concept of the mom and pop store has now been perverted, but if so they should ballance this with the sensible considerations voiced by John Moser.

As an aside, I believe that Wall Mart could offer us even lower prices if it were not for all the political/legal battles it must fight daily. In fact one of my graduate proffesors of Economics at the University of Oklahoma, makes most of his money using economics and law to sue Wal-Mart. While he will admit to holding a somewhat favorable view of Wal-Mart, he none the less is not beyond capitalizing on the NIMBY folks. His average rake is $20,000 per case... and he laughs at how easy it is for him...

But who is really screwed when Wal-Mart has to pay so much money on constant legal battles? Certainly not the lawyers, certainly not the affluent in gated communities who wouldn’t shop at Wal-mart anyways... Less money for Wal-Mart means lower wages for workers, and higher prices for consumers... In other words: the middle and lower-middle class. The same group that republicans claim need government compassion...

You guys should know better, shame on you.

I see, so we’re following up post hoc, ergo propter hoc with reductio ad absurdum. If I don’t support closing Wal-Mart, I have no logical grounds for opposing slavery.

That’s simply not what I said, nor implied. I was simply pointing out that there must be limits to your point that if something isn’t available to consumers, they aren’t necessarily being "punished," and that the arguments communities have for denying Wal-Mart corporation’s construction of a store are a good deal more significant than denying someone ice cream. Child labor, sweatshop labor, sexual discrimination, forcing employees to work off the clock, employing/exploiting illegal immigrants - all of these, in addition to the downtown decay aspect, can be contributing factors to Wal-Mart giving their customers "always lower prices." If "forcing people to shop at a place that wouldn’t be their first choice" means forcing people to shop at stores that don’t engage in these practices, then you’d be open to hearing the cases, I presume.

Now rounding out the trifecta of logical fallacies we have tu quoque--it’s fine for Mr. Billens to use post hoc, ergo propter hoc because he’s heard "the Clinton-bashers" use it. Well, they may or may not have done so (I don’t consider myself one, by the way), but it has no bearing on this discussion

The fact that you can name logical fallacies doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve identified them properly in my comments. I responded in some detail to the post hoc, ergo propter hoc charge, and based on the evidence that I’ve seen, heard, and read about, I don’t think the charge was valid. Tracing Wal-Mart’s impact isn’t as simple or clear-cut as following a bullet from a gun to a head, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done in a serious way. No, it’s NOT "fine for me to use" post hoc etc., even if plenty of Clinton-bashers have (ok, maybe you’re not one of them) - that was merely an amused sidenote. Yes, it WAS off-subject; sorry for breaking the "rules." But again, I just don’t agree that I employed that fallacy.

This will be my last contribution to a discussion that I am certain only Mr. Billens and I are following.

I was happy to have the discussion regardless of the size or existence of any audience.

John,

I am not opposed to Walmart. I was responded to John Abrahamson’s post that a private individual could buy the land offered to Walmart and refuse to sell it to Walmart if he did not want Walmart in his town. I was pointing out that John’s strategy of private ownership would not prevent Walmart from coming if a town wanted it, because the town could use eminent domain. Because eminent domain is a political issue, as is zoing, Walmart decisions will tend to be solved politically, not economically.

I am not sure how I feel about eminent domain. It is in the constitution, but I think the public purpose test, instead of a public use test, allows private property to be taken without significant justification.

I suppose the only thing the eminent domain has going for it is that it limits government activity because governments have to pay for the land they take, and sometimes they have to pay for the land they render useless through regulations. Assuming government does not have infinite money, there is a point where they have to stop regulating.

John Abramson - In comment 10 you suggested "those concerned could buy the land yourself" to prevent Wal-Mart from building a store. To me, this approach definitely says that only the wealthy should be able to have some control over their communities, not by any democratic process, but by simply being able to buy whatever they want - or in this case, DON’T want. This seems to be a real screw-the-poor approach. Or were you being sarcastic?

Dain - in comment 16 you said "the fact is that building has to occur somewhere." Does it REALLY? Does every community actually need or want a Wal-Mart, whether they know it or not? Are there towns in the U.S. today without any stores at all, currently [and I don’t mean tiny hamlets of 30 people in N. Dakota - places that W-Mart wouldn’t consider anyway...).

John Moser - In comment 13 you said "I’d be happy to denounce Wal-Mart if I really thought it was undermining anything that’s worth conserving" Well, how about the conservation of: outlying rural farmland, aesthetically pleasing architecture in downtown shopping areas, stores that actually offer CUSTOMER SERVICE and don’t feel like warehouses, the preservation of truly LOCAL businesses that do NOT send their profits to Bentonville, Arkansas?? I think you can begin the denouncing!

Since Wal-Mart stock has been flat or worse for 5 years now where are all these profits being sent back to Bentonville Arkansas going to anyway?

If the left is successful in crippling Wal-Mart, one of two things will happen:

1) Everybody will pay higher prices for a large chuck of their monthly shopping basket. Even those who righteously avoid Wal-Mart benefit from the competition Wal-Mart provides to wherever it is they do shop.

2) There will be a large loss of jobs for those on the lower rungs of the social ladder.

I believe the big left special interests are motivated to attack any successful enterprise because the more the economy is fouled up the more people are dependent on the government, which is where the left wants them. The local NIMBY people are merely useful dupes.

Nobody is compelled to work at Wal-Mart. Nobody is compelled to shop at Wal-Mart. Certain people who think they know better than everyone else have decided that Wal-Mart needs to employ fewer people and that everyone needs to pay higher prices. Somewhere down the line they’ll be in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs for the people who can’t handle rising inflation caused in part by regulation that won’t allow commerce to flow freely. These people are always in favor of spending other people’s money in one way or another.

Christ-like Wal-Mart is under fire again, this time from some Commies in a federal grand jury - story here.

" At the center of the investigation is an allegation that former vice chairman Tom Coughlin, who was the No. 2 figure in Wal-Mart’s hierarchy before his retirement last year, misspent up to $500,000, some of it allegedly for anti-union activity."

So I suppose that - if indeed Wal-Mart did break any laws - it’s time for legislators to change the laws, right?

Mr. Moser - I am definitely NOT requesting that you break your earlier pledge to not write anything further about this Wal-Martyrdom post, but I recently came across this most interesting ad from a Wal-Mart-funded group that I thought you might want to see. You commented above that:

"If you eliminated Wal-Mart you’d be forcing people to shop at a place that wouldn’t be their first choice. If I prefer chocolate ice cream, and you were to make my preference unavailable in pursuit of some lofty social goal, I would consider myself punished."

Well, Wal-Mart seems to be on a similar wavelength. Their ad, which shows an actual photograph of a 1933 Nazi book-burning, says:

"Should we let government tell us what we can read? Of course not. We can read whatever we choose because of the limits the Constitution places on government’s ability to restrict our freedoms." and somehow from that noble endorsement of being able to "read whatever we choose" (from a corporation notorious for refusing to sell music, books and magazines due to their political content, but I digress), we go to this:

"So why should we allow local government to limit where we shop? Or how much of a store’s floor space can be used to sell groceries?"

I won’t pretend to be the master of identifying logical fallacies that you are, but something seems fishy in equating a community’s attempts to keep out a Wal-Mart with Nazi book-burnings.

Mr. Moser, I don’t know if you’ll see this, but if you do, please check out this article about how a Florida Wal-Mart is now in the censorship business, banning a newspaper that published some facts that don’t match well with the public relations image that Wal-Mart is trying to maintain. As Mr. Billens has highlighted, you said you wouldn’t like it if your favorite ice cream were denied to you for some lofty goal, but what if a corporation decided what newspaper you could or couldn’t read, not for some lofty goal, but just to keep you from even considering some things that might not make them look so good? Yet another problem with this despicable Wal-Mart machine. I think they are completely, 100% anti-family values!!!

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