Monday, June 4, 2007

Wal-Mart, Analyzed

IMHO, for many its critics (whether or not they are customers), Wal-Mart represents the final demise of, in effect, everything that was good about business, and the things that linked businesses and the public. It is the triumph of the bottom line and the "almighty dollar" over community relationships, public welfare and an equitable relationship between owners and employees.

But perhaps the reason why Wal-Mart is so threatening is that we, as the overall buying public, are direct partners in the company's actions. When people buy stock in Wal-Mart, to critics they are proclaiming that vast, impersonal enterprises that have money to share are preferable to smaller, community-oriented businesses that can't generate the same margins. When Wal-Mart drives the local mom and pop stores out of business, it's because Mom and Pop's customers decided that they valued 10% off on dish soap more than they valued the community connection that Mom and Pop's store represented. For many people, Wal-Mart's success is predicated on the fact that we feel both inaffluent and unable to turn to others in case of emergency, and thus have to sacrifice these other things that we claim are important, in order to hoard as much money as we can.

Therefore, Wal-Mart comes to represent a sense of poverty and isolation on both an individual and community level. And who wants that specter looming over them?

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