What is Wal-Mart, really?

  • Wal-Mart is way liberal. Charles Fishman at Fastcompany.com: “In the next 12 months, starting with a major push this month, Wal-Mart wants to sell every one of its regular customers–100 million in all–one swirl bulb [compact fluorescent light, or CFL]. In the process, Wal-Mart wants to change energy consumption in the United States, and energy consciousness, too. . . . It’s a bold goal, a remarkable declaration of Wal-Mart’s intention to modernize and green up a whole line of business using market oomph. Teaming up with General Electric, which owns about 60 percent of the residential lightbulb market in the United States, Wal-Mart wants to single-handedly double U.S. sales for CFLs in a year, and it wants demand to surge forward after that.”
  • I said, Wal-Mart is way liberal. Mya Frazier in Advertising Age, August 24: “In an unprecedented push, Wal-Mart Stores has hired a gay-marketing shop, joined the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and begun discussions with activist groups about extending domestic-partnership benefits to its employees.”

  • Wal-Mart is way conservative. The company is well-known for its fanatical anti-union stance. Michael Barbaro and Stephanie Strom in the New York Times: “As Wal-Mart Stores struggles to rebut criticism from unions and Democratic leaders, the company has discovered a reliable ally: prominent conservative research groups like the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute,” to which it’s given $2.5 million over six years.

  • Wal-Mart is way powerful. Ezra Klein at Tapped: “Wal-Mart has the size, power, and will to dictate the behavior of their sellers [suppliers, such as GE], meaning their decisions can essentially set norms, prices, and wages throughout the entire economy. They may use that power [known as monopsony] for good, they may use it for bad. But they are using it.” (More from Barry Lynn.) It is actually a form of central planning.

  • Maybe Wal-Mart is the nation’s Mayor Daley. People on both sides of the aisle may do what Chicago environmentalists did in March 2003, when Daley consulted no one and used his power to wipe Meigs Field off the map: swallow hard and say nothing about huge power being wielded arbitrarily, because the power was used to further their cause.