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By mklein9
March 27, 2008

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I may live in "green" California, the Bay Area to be exact, and I may have yearnings for a better world for all (especially thru educational AND personal initiative - like me)

Me too, on all counts... and, as you read this, keep in mind I'm also a Blue State resident, by choice...

Let's go back in time. At one time there were thousands of car companies in the US. Was that the good old days? When cars were so expensive very few could afford them? Was it bad to have consolidation and mass production? A lot of companies died away and jobs were lost.

How about when there were local farms everywhere and half the jobs in the US were farming? Food was a big expense in everybody's lives (24% of disposable income in 1929 according to census data: http://www.census.gov/statab/hist/HS-19.pdf). Now there are mega farming corporations and food is a much smaller expense in most peoples' lives (10% according to the same Census data). Are we worse off because Mom & Pop farms were driven out of business? (Not addressing the quality issues here which I suspect are the tradeoff for lower cost, but as we see there is room in a market for higher-cost, higher-quality food too for those that want to make that tradeoff.)

At one time there were many local banks. The tellers knew you by name. Now we have giant nationwide and world-wide banks and can transfer money anywhere in almost zero time and visit ATMs all over the world whenever we feel like it. Fees are almost trivially small for almost all our banking services. Are we worse off? Do we miss the tellers and local banks enough to say that having big banks was a disaster?

I could go on and think up more examples but the point I'm making is simple and clear: The one constant thing about a healthy (market-based) economy is that it is constantly changing. Someone comes up with a better idea, judged by the *customers themselves* in almost all cases, and it replaces something that was there before. Standard evolution or "creative destruction" as is the current buzzword.

Then what you gotta do is find one of TMFMillerTime's responses to similar threads (TMF search function does not work and I can't find a link). He is a cardiologist in an area with significant poverty (Mississippi). A Wal-Mart moved in and all the same cries were heard, mostly from the small business owners. But the people he saw regularly as patients were thrilled. Finally they had choices, low prices, and could avoid being taken advantage of through outrageous credit costs buying expensive items from the local store owner. Even employment was more regular and hiring practices were fairer. He could see no downside, drawing from what these poor people told him, if I recall his posting correctly.

I'm not going to defend Wal-Mart without exception, or any more strongly than any other normal reasonably well-behaving but competitive corporation. Every corporation does dumb things at some point. I don't think, from what I've heard, that Wal-Mart is particularly bad. It's no shining angel either. It is a tough competitor in all dimensions, and its customers have voted with their dollars that that is what they like. But to point at the natural working of our market economy and say "But there are VICTIMS!" is, IMHO, simply not understanding market-based economics. There *have to be* losers for progress to be made, simply because there are also winners. The question is, where do we (US) want this balance to be defined and drawn? Every movement along this continuum involves tradeoffs.

-Mike