The Wal-Mart Paradox
THE OTHER DAY I asked aloud, “What is ethics, really?” I was asking because I don’t know the answer. For now, my ethical home base is, “Persevere. And try to do what seems right.” But this is real life, with tensions, so that can be difficult.
[Y]ou direct us onto a hard road. “Try not to kill anybody”, I have down, but “don’t exploit” is difficult, in my world. [drip, in comments.]
Because, yeah, exploitation is wrong in my estimation.
At the risk of speaking about it on the Spectacle’s terms, with alienated language, from the point of view of consumer… How does one avoid exploiting when affordable clothing, for example, so often comes from sweatshops? We all need the shelter afforded by a good pair of pants, but most lack the energy, time and money to first investigate a garment’s origins, and the money to afford it.
It’s the Wal-Mart Paradox.
Wal-Mart is horrible, right? They destroy local economies with predatory pricing, systematically prevent workers from forming unions, skimp on employee pay and benefits, force down the market for pay and benefits of their competitors, scoff at labor regulations, flood the market with cheap imported goods, blight the landscape with featureless box stores, poison waterways with the runoff from acres of hard-surface parking lots, and so on, and so on.
But they’re cheap! They sell groceries cheaper than the competition. They have $4 prescriptions. You could say that by their actions, Wal-Mart creates a class of people who struggle to afford life’s necessities and entertainments at full price. You know, their clientele.
I expect this is what commenter drip means by, “‘don’t exploit’ is difficult, in my world.” It’s true. And it’s a changing world. Calculations and compromises like these will become a factor for more and more people as the economy goes through it death spasms.
In post Cold War America… prices roll YOU back!