It seems George Will cannot argue for any of his libertarian-ish positions without counterposing it to the clueless, elitist, and dishonest “liberal” one. But, as we’ve noted before, the existence of the liberal straw man–not hard to find, but meaningless when you find it–does not justify the conclusions Will would like to draw. The disjunction, in other words, between dumb-ass liberal and smarty pants libertarian economist is not an exhaustive one. Between these a million possibilities. Many of them quite sensible and worthy of serious consideration. The straw man, a sign of a failed mind, is also often the sign of another fallacy–the false dichotomy. I invite the reader to the Will archive to examine the evidence for herself. So much by way of general observation. Let’s look at today’s iteration, a completely confused counter to the “liberal” arguments against Wal Mart.
>The median household income of Wal-Mart shoppers is under $40,000. Wal-Mart, the most prodigious job-creator in the history of the private sector in this galaxy, has almost as many employees (1.3 million) as the U.S. military has uniformed personnel. A McKinsey company study concluded that Wal-Mart accounted for 13 percent of the nation’s productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s, which probably made Wal-Mart about as important as the Federal Reserve in holding down inflation. By lowering consumer prices, Wal-Mart costs about 50 retail jobs among competitors for every 100 jobs Wal-Mart creates . Wal-Mart and its effects save shoppers more than $200 billion a year, dwarfing such government programs as food stamps ($28.6 billion) and the earned-income tax credit ($34.6 billion).
>People who buy their groceries from Wal-Mart — it has one-fifth of the nation’s grocery business — save at least 17 percent. But because unions are strong in many grocery stores trying to compete with Wal-Mart, unions are yanking on the Democratic Party’s leash, demanding laws to force Wal-Mart to pay wages and benefits higher than those that already are high enough to attract 77 times as many applicants than there were jobs at this store.
Everyone loves to save money at the big boxes. Even the sponsor of the failed Chicago “Big Box” ordinance. Gee, in addition to the big savings, people also like to work, especially when there are no other jobs available. But just because people are applying for jobs at Wal Mart does not make them good jobs. It does not make them jobs with reasonable benefits. It does not make them pay a living wage (where one can shop anywhere else but Wal Mart). It does not mean that Wal Mart doesn’t leach off the state welfare system (passing its big volume costs on to us!). (Sidebar–if Wal Mart can pass off its costs to the welfare system on account of its job creation and such, isn’t that an argument for state-assisted healthcare among other things? Just a thought).
As Will seems forever not to understand, the liberal argument is not: “Grrrrr. Corporations bad! Make money with blood of worker, get fat off work of little guy! Me know it all franken-democrat! Grrrrr.” There’s more inanity in today’s op-ed. Much more. Maybe tomorrow we’ll return to it.