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Voice: Don't punish Wal-Mart for doing its job well

March 01, 2002

Businesses are not "crushed" in a free market. They either commit economic suicide by not adjusting to new market conditions or competitors who, through innovation and creativity, are able to offer customers a new or improved product, a lower price for the same product or a combination of both, supersede them.

Wal-Mart has become the "giant" it is because its founder, starting with one store, pioneered new processes and procedures for selling general merchandise that reduced costs and increased efficiency, which allowed him to sell common products at lower prices.

Lower prices generated more sales, more profit and more stores. With more stores, Wal-Mart was able to leverage its buying power with manufacturers and suppliers, making them compete for its business with lower wholesale prices.

This enabled Wal-Mart to continue lowering its prices to stay ahead of the competition and to keep growing. Today it's the largest company in the world in terms of revenue.

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It achieved its status by selling people the things they want and need at what is generally the lowest price. Wal-Mart exemplifies the virtue of capitalism — providing an abundance of goods that everyone can afford.

When Wal-Mart indicated that sometime in the future it might want to build a bigger store in Calexico and expand its grocery section, the Calexico City Council chose to promote cronyism instead of capitalism. They passed an ordinance restricting the amount of floor space "big box" stores like Wal-Mart can use for groceries. The noble purpose of this repulsive act of political favoritism was to insulate a few local grocers from the rigors of free-market competition.

Wal-Mart believed it was being punished for its virtue — low prices — and petitioned the people to right that injustice. This is why Measure B is on the ballot.

Measure B is a proxy for the original ordinance the City Council passed, which compels individuals to be customers of local independent grocery stores, if they buy food in Calexico, by shutting out "big box" stores like Wal-Mart.

This is why voting on Measure B is "confusingly backward." A yes vote means you don't want Wal-Mart selling you or anyone else in Calexico groceries. You approve that the Calexico City Council is forcing everyone in the community to make welfare payments, in the form of higher food prices, to their friends who own grocery stores.

On the other hand, a no vote restores to Wal-Mart the opportunity to compete for your food dollar sometime in the future if it so desires. But more importantly, a no vote protects capitalism's basic principle — free trade — and preserves the individual's freedom to shop for the best product at the lowest price.

It appears a majority of Calexico's voters are prepared to do the right thing and vote no on Measure B. But Measure B represents such a treacherous betrayal of individual freedom and capitalistic virtue by Calexico's elected officials that it deserves to be kicked some more even if it's down.

WALT TYLENDA

Calexico

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