Monday, December 12, 2005

The Anti-Wal-Mart Religion

From Reason Online, a review of leftist filmmaker Robert Greenwald’s “documentary” “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.”

The reviewer, Julian Sanchez, doesn’t share the leftist biases of the film-maker, and he interprets some things in a way the film-maker wouldn’t.
The movie’s opening segment visits the small town of Middlefield, Ohio, where small-business owners are kvetching about the looming opening of a new Wal-Mart superstore. (“If Wal-Mart isn’t a monopoly, then I don’t know what is,” one complains — establishing fairly clearly that he doesn’t know what is.) The implicit message is that since these are such nice folk, their fellow townspeople ought to be paying significantly higher prices to keep their shops afloat.

Yet the shopkeepers themselves, recognizing that most of them can’t compete with Wal-Mart on price, aren’t exactly going gentle into retail’s good night. “We’ve been trying to get ready for them for maybe 10 years,” one says. “Explain what Wal-Mart does and what we could do different[ly].” In other words, other retailers respond to the threat of Wal-Mart by adapting: trying to bring prices down, offering more specialized or higher quality merchandise or more expert employees to assist shoppers.
These sorts of things are what we would expect when people have to respond to competition. But apparently, they are a bad idea in the view of the Wal-Mart haters.

But the opposition doesn’t seem to be rooted in economic arguments:
Plenty of folk who share that sentiment [that Wal-Mart is bad for the nation] are on display in the closing montage . . . which focuses on the efforts of community activists who are fighting to keep Wal-Mart out of their neighborhoods. Watching the cheers of these retail resisters as they learn they’ve blocked one more big box, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that there’s something more at work here than disagreement with the company’s wage or health-care policy. The activists seem motivated by an almost religious fervor—and, indeed, often seem to be led by clerics of one denomination or another. . . . One union-backed anti-Wal-Mart group has even launched a where would Jesus shop ad, encouraging people of faith to take their retail dollars elsewhere this holiday season.
The clerics who are active on issues like this are, of course, those from declining “Mainstream Protestant” denominations for whom Jesus, rather than being the Son of God, was merely a left-wing political activist. And then there are the Catholics who don’t believe much that the Church teaches about sexual morality.

But they sure know how to sound moralistic about acts of Free Enterprise among consenting adults.

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