Posts tagged with: Sam Walton

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, November 26, 2012

Every year Black Friday marks the official beginning of two modern American traditions: Christmas shopping and criticizing Walmart.

Critics on both the left and the right have found a common enemy in Walmart. Those on the left hate the company because it isn’t unionized while conservatives complain because it undercuts mom-and-pop retailers. Some researchers even claim that people are prone to gain weight after a Walmart Supercenter opens nearby.

I suspect if the researchers were to conduct a follow-up study they’d also find that there is about a 99 percent chance you will not be starving to death if you live near a Walmart store. But we live in a strange period in history when the idea of affordable food is considered a lamentable condition.

Walmart’s very business model—maintain a large and innovative supply chain that keeps prices low—offends the sensibility of those who think that prices should be raised in order to pay employees a higher wage. The idea that the higher cost should be passed on to consumers is typically made by those who would never actually shop at Walmart. A prime example is The American Prospect‘s Harold Meyerson:

Walmart replaced General Motors as America’s largest private-sector employer. Instead of paying its workers enough to buy new cars, Walmart paid its workers so little they had to shop at discount stores like Walmart.

The reason why Walmart employees—and others on the lower end of the income scale—shop at the stores is because they are, by necessity, price conscience shopper. Meyerson and other elites that spend only about 3.5 percent of their income on food at home can afford to shop at Whole Foods. But households in the bottom quintile, which spend 26 percent of their income on food, are eager to keep food prices as low as possible. (During this holiday season Walmart employees receive an additional 10 percent off most food items.) If Walmart didn’t exist they the company’s employees wouldn’t have higher paying jobs; they’d just be paying more for food and consumer goods.

Growing up in a family that lived below the poverty line,  I can appreciate the value of inexpensive food. That is one of the primary reasons I appreciate the company—and the reason I think other conservatives should appreciate it too. There is admittedly a lot to dislike about the company, but as former low-income rural resident I think there are a number of reasons why conservatives should be more supportive of Walmart (and similar poverty-alleviating corporations).
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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A new study has produced an inflation-adjusted list of the richest people of all time. To give you an idea of just how rich the rich people on the list are consider that Sam Walton and Warren Buffett are the poorest guys to make the cut.

The richest person in history, according to the study, was Mansa Musa I of Mali—an obscure 14th century African king. Musa, who made his fortune on salt and gold, would have an inflation-adjusted fortune of $400 billion. Mali likely benefited from cronyism and a feudalistic command economy, but many of the others on the list made their wealth through free enterprise. Indeed, entrepreneurs crowd out emperors; out of the top 25 men (and they are all men), 14 are American businessmen.

What is most interesting about the list, though, is how much we benefit from the products and services created by these wealthy men. From cars and computers (Henry Ford and Bill Gates) to cheap consumer goods and toilet paper (Sam Walton and Friedrich Weyerhaeuser), we are better off because of the innovations and inventions that made these men wealthy. They got rich by improving the lives of millions (or billions) and contributing to the economic growth of the world.

The fruits of this economic growth are often worth more than their weight in gold—or in Musa’s case, salt and gold. The price to replace the American middle class living standard most of have now is almost incalculable. Who would trade their 21st century comforts in order to be the ruler of the Malian empire? Not me. Even to convince me to move back to the 1970s—an era before iPhones, Amazon.com, and central air conditioning—you’d have to promise me a minimum income of $10 million dollars.

Such is the magic of free enterprise. Not only does it make some people extraordinarily wealthy, it makes the rest of us extraordinarily better off too.