Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Book Review

This is for the conservative among you. Excerpts of a review of Charles Fishman's book "The Wal-Mart Effect" in the American Conservative magazine.

This book demonstrates that the Wal-Mart effect is the most powerful market force expelling jobs and technology from our own country. Not only does Wal-Mart create low-wage jobs that lure further illegal immigrants here to do jobs that Americans could not afford to do even if they wanted to, but it provides a place those illegals can afford to shop.

In January 2001, after Wal-Mart was done making its “statement,” Vlasic filed for bankruptcy. Fishman discerns the same “devastating success” among other suppliers, from Huffy bikes to Lovable lingerie: bankruptcy and closed factories here, a diaspora of jobs and entire industries to the Third World.

“Do Americans need clothing to be so inexpensive that the people making it cannot afford a toothbrush?” The answer is no, of course we don’t, but Wal-Mart’s cost-cutting dynamic not only demands it but forces all who resist it out of business. The ultimate goal is not really “low prices for the consumer” but the obliteration of all competitors. Once this goal has been achieved through reverse predatory pricing (AKA dumping), once Wal-Mart has become one-stop shopping for every product and every service in every land, the pressure to keep prices low will abate, to say the least.

Wal-Mart’s pricing monomania has rooted out wasteful practices like the packaging of bottles, jars, and canisters of product in cardboard boxes but has itself created another gigantic category of waste: the bargain TV or DVD player or lawn mower that, purchased without the benefit of a knowledgeable service person and manufactured with cheaper and cheaper materials, soon breaks down, is not worth repairing, and winds up dumped in the trash—the Pickle Caper writ large. Fishman notes, “In the Wal-Mart economy, we as consumers often buy too much just because it’s cheap.”

(my emphasis)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent book! Go down to Fact and Fiction Bookshop in town and get your copy. They are presently carrying it.