Walmart is still taking kicks, especially in New York City. But as local politicians, union activists, and business bigots (people who develop hatreds for other people’s wage and consumer choices) continue to harass the company, it’s worth taking a step back and appreciating what it does right.
Indeed, it is so successful that it’s worth exporting. Or so suggests economist Tyler Cowen in an interesting interview on the Arabic Knowledge@Wharton website, where he says that companies like Walmart are exactly what the “poor people of Africa” need. Why? These big corporations make food
more accessible and more reliable. It’s not just the pricing at any one point and time. It’s what happens in the very worst periods. Companies like Walmart are very, very good at keeping up supply and being regular.
Anti-Walmarters in first-world countries tend to forget how bad everyday life is in poor countries, except when they are trying to find ways to increase foreign aid or pitch a Live Aid concert. They take for granted not only our vast markets, but the Industrial Revolution and our several agricultural revolutions.
And there’s the rub, for the Third World. The “Green Revolution” that staved off mass starvation in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, has “somewhat slowed down,” says Cowen.
This is an unreported story. Crop yields are stagnant. It isn’t a problem we can solve overnight but it’s really one of the biggest problems in the world. It hardly gets any publicity. But for poor people in India, the Middle East and parts of Africa, it really matters.
So Walmart could really help.
But then, so would an end to Third World kleptocracy and its replacement by a rule of law.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.