Sam Walton or Bono?

by Don Boudreaux on February 16, 2007

in Foreign Aid, The Profit Motive, Wal-Mart

Michael Strong argues that Wal-Mart is one of the world’s great forces for alleviating poverty.  He’s correct.

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The Edge February 17, 2007 at 3:03 am

Don Boudreaux or Bono? Who has been the greater force for alleviating poverty?

This question, alas, is no more ridiculous than the title to your post. To my knowledge Bono has never said a word about Wal-Mart one way or the other. Whatever minimal impact he has had compared to Wal-Mart, it's not really fair to use his name this way. It serves only to detract from the arguments made in the video, which are valid ones. Or do you have a link to Bono badmouthing Walton/Wal-Mart? I'd love to see it!

python February 17, 2007 at 4:00 am

The Edge,

I'm a big fan, but you are a little confused. Professor Don is noting the distinction between the media's attention to your Lead Vocalist Bono, with the media's attention to Wal-Mart.

The media loves your buddy, and constantly report on all his works to alleviate poverty. At the same time, the media loves to bash WalMart.

The point is that the media is wrong about who should be getting credit for helping the poverty issue.

If the title was "Honda or Ford?" would you assume the thread is only valid if Ford had said bad things about Honda? What does one "badmouthing" the other have to do with it?

P.S. Bullet the Blue Sky is a track where your style really shines.

Don Boudreaux February 17, 2007 at 8:20 am

The point of the title of this post was to compare enterprise as a means of alleviating poverty to foreign aid as such a means. Sam Walton is an avatar of the first means, while Bono is a noted champion of the second.

CapitalistPig February 18, 2007 at 11:24 am


brilliant… :)

As Bono is one of the few celebrity mouthpieces out there contributing measurable of his money and time to the causes he champions, I tend to give him due credit. Would that more hollywood-types followed his example. Nonetheless, it's no substitute for free market prosperity.

Mesa EconoGuy February 18, 2007 at 6:44 pm

Last week, Barron’s ran a favorable cover story on Costco, widely seen as WalMart’s chief competitor in the volume discount space (at least Sam’s Club). In it, they point to the contrast between WalMart’s reputation as a “cheap” employer and Costco’s generous salaries and benefits. During last year’s election, Costco was often cited as a “favorable employer” by various groups, no doubt enhanced by their sizable contributions to the Democratic Party.

This is a form of competition as well (for labor), and should be recognized as such, not forcefully mandated across industries, as the anti-WalMart (pro-union) crowd would do. If Costco can achieve roughly the same things as WalMart and maintain its margins and boost its stock price, more power to them. The consumer is the end winner, and in Costco’s case, more than WalMart’s recently, so is the shareholder.

As for The Edge, he’s not much of a guitarist once you take away his digital delay and fancy $20,000 effects rack.

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