Always looking out for the little guy

by Russ Roberts on March 26, 2008

in Politics, Wal-Mart, Work

You know how politicians are–always looking out for the little guy. Always ready to protect the little guy from the evil corporation. So why does Chicago only have one Wal-Mart? To protect workers from being exploited. You get two Wal-Marts and they’re sure to drive down wages. So the government has to protect the workers. Doubt me? Read this story from the Chicago Tribune. The picture and headline at the top says most of it. But read the whole thing. It’s a beautiful example of how politicians only care about the general good:


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shawn March 26, 2008 at 3:56 pm

…*customers* lined up for the 8 a.m. opening? not applicants? why would you line up 3 hours before the store opens? Either they're a lot more excited about this that I would realize (kinda like disney world…when it's right here in town, you don't really understand the draw; we've got wal-marts every 50', right next to the mcdonalds), or that caption's a bit mistaken.

Nick March 26, 2008 at 3:59 pm

You clearly don't get it. That picture on the right is "greenspace" and we need to preserve it.

Russ Roberts March 26, 2008 at 4:10 pm


It's not greenspace. It's wetlands.

REW March 26, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Politicians make a living out of playing both sides of every issue.
In my county, the commission has been hostile to new development in a bid to win the hearts and votes of homeowners. Of course, this interference with an individual propery owner's right to sell to whomever they choose has a direct negative effect on property values. As a result, more properties go vacant or are allowed to fall into disrepair. So the commission turns around and grants Tax Subsidies for developers to come in and build in the depressed areas, and the homeowners pay higher taxes as a result.

The politicians who proclaim to protect the little guy in the Wal-Mart story will not doubt find ways to reward big business at the expense of the little guy.
Politicians are the only winners.

Kevin Brancato March 26, 2008 at 5:39 pm

People really do line up for the grand opening of a local Wal-Mart store.

Russ blogged about this a year and a half ago when the Chicago store opened.

John Dewey March 26, 2008 at 6:13 pm

shawn: "…*customers* lined up for the 8 a.m. opening? not applicants?"

The applicants lined up several weeks earlier. Walmart processed over 15,000 applications for the 400 jobs at the store. 98% of the workers hired were from the local shopping area.

Walmart builds excitement on opening day through food samples, giveaways and entertainment. They advertise heavily and are rewarded with great media exposure.

Ranjit Mathoda March 26, 2008 at 6:48 pm

You may find my essay "Is Walmart really more evil than Google?" of interest:

John V March 26, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Great Story.

BLOGGED. Thanks for the tip.

I love to share these stories of cruel irony.

BTW, we're a little Left-Liberal-heavy at our blog. Some more classical liberal types are always welcome!

David Johnson March 27, 2008 at 1:53 am

The Chicago politicians aren't blocking Wal-Mart because they're looking out for the working stiff. They're blockign Wal-Mart because it's not the kind of store they want to shop at. They are simply passing their personal decisions onto the rest of Chicago. After all, isn't that what they were elected for?

FreedomLover March 27, 2008 at 12:39 pm

The thing here is that it doesn't hurt Wal Mart because they'll just open up more stores elsewhere. It's just Chicago shooting themselves in the foot.

FreedomLover March 27, 2008 at 12:40 pm

David Johnson:

But those holy working stiffs elected those politicians? Why don't they throw the bums out?

John Dewey March 27, 2008 at 3:40 pm

"It's just Chicago shooting themselves in the foot."

I thought it was Local 1546 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union shooting the feet of lower income Chicago consumers.

FreedomLover March 27, 2008 at 9:45 pm

John Dewey:

It's the people of Chicago electing the most corrupt politicians that are at fault. The Local 1546 are just a subset of the corrupt voters. They're all shit.

sethstorm March 28, 2008 at 8:45 pm

Re: Dewey
Unionbusters in Walmart's control are just as bad in thuggery(if not worse due to Walmart's undue influence). No thanks, but there are plenty of people who will not fund companies(e.g. Walmart, not unions) that purposely antagonize customers.

No thanks, but there is a point where Walmart needs to learn "no means no" and not "no means not enough".

People will line up around anything new in terms of the lines around those places. What they dont know about this company will hurt them. They'll find out that too late, when junk is all that they can afford to buy and rebuy. They'll also find out that not getting a job elsewhere is a blessing for defending oneself there means you get fired.
I guess the company town has come back through Walmart, except there's only junk to be had.

As an aside:
I wonder if they asked the applicants questions that were legal, but were intended to find out if they were pro/anti-union. I wouldn't put it past them to try measures before sending out the shock troops.

Joe C. March 29, 2008 at 9:26 am

They're not blocking Wal-Mart for the working stiff; they're blocking Wal-Mart because of unions!

John Dewey March 30, 2008 at 8:46 am

sethstorm: "there are plenty of people who will not fund companies(e.g. Walmart, not unions) that purposely antagonize customers"

Walmart's global revenues in 2007 were $374 billion. Apparently Walmart has millions of customers who are not feeling "antagonized" by the goods and services they offer.

Union membership in the U.S. totalled 15.7 million in the 2007. My guess is that Walmart had 10 to 15 times that many customers in the U.S. last year.

Union members can continue to rant about Walmart's alleged "union busting" activities. Few Americans care.

Eric March 30, 2008 at 12:27 pm

I've usually found unionized employees (flight attendants on certain airlines, government employees, teachers) to be much better at antagonizing customers than Wal-mart is!

Also, why are the things Wal-mart sells derided as junk? Because they're cheap? I can buy the same hammer at Wal-mart as I can at my local "mom and pop" store, but it's cheaper at Wal-mart.

So riddle me this: how is the stuff at Wal-mart 'junkier' than the stuff at other stores? Or 'junkier' than the junk your parents bought? (Note: no cheating by citing only the remaining goods; the stuff your parents bought that broke has to be in the sample too.)

John Dewey March 30, 2008 at 8:46 pm

eric: "I've usually found unionized employees (flight attendants on certain airlines"

Eric, I agree with all of your comment.

I'm sure you weren't implying that it is unionization that is to blame for antagonistic behavior of flight attendants. But some lesser informed readers might assume that.

Just to clarify this comment from Eric, the unionized flight attendants at Southwest Airlines are generally regarded as the most friendly of those in the U.S. What separates them from their counterparts at some of the legacy U.S. airlines is the culture at Southwest Airlines.

The Golden Rule – "Treat others as you would have others treat you" – is the most important policy at Southwest Airlines. Southwest employees – CEO Gary Kelly as well as all the flight attendants – try their best to live up to the Golden Rule every day.

Eric March 31, 2008 at 12:00 am

I agree with John's clarification of my comment. Certainly there are many unionized employees who do care about customers and Southwest Airlines' FAs are a prime example.

Corporate culture is certainly important.

John, I've never had a bad flight on Southwest. It's a wonderful airline.

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