Archive | March 31, 2009

Advocatus Diaboli

Fazil Mihlar has an article in the Vancouver Sun titled Saint Wal-Mart?. (Conical hat tip to LRC.) The question mark is superfluous – it’s the usual right-libertarian hagiography of Wal-Mart.

He includes his e-mail at the end of the article, so I wrote him the following note:

I read your article on Wal-Mart with interest. But I think you’ve left out one important source of Wal-Mart’s low prices – government intervention.

WaltchmartWal-Mart stores frequently acquire their land by eminent domain; in other words, they get to acquire land at lower prices than those at which the owners would be willing to sell voluntarily.

Once in business, such stores further benefit from various sorts of corporate welfare, both the direct kind and such indirect forms as the mass of regulations that have the indirect effect of making it harder for small companies to compete with big ones. As companies grow, diseconomies of scale eventually surpass economies of scale, placing a natural curb on their growth; but government regulation, by stalling competition, allows companies to continue growing past this point by externalising their costs.

Moreover, Wal-Mart’s entire business model depends heavily on federal transportation subsidies; so its competition with local businesses doesn’t exactly occur on a level playing field.

Both Wal-Mart’s critics and its defenders usually see it as an embodiment of the free market. But to me Wal-Mart looks like just one more special interest feeding at the taxpayers’ trough.

I’m opposed to Wal-Mart because I like the free market.

If others want to mail him, he’s at

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