Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Wingnut Nobel Peace Prize

Goes to.....Sam Walton's ghost! For building the Wal-Mart empire. So says John Tierney in his latest column in that liberal rag, the New York Times:

I don't want to begrudge the Nobel Peace Prize won last week by the Grameen Bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus. They deserve it. The Grameen Bank has done more than the World Bank to help the poor, and Yunus has done more than Jimmy Carter or Bono or any philanthropist.

But has he done more good than someone who never got the prize: Sam Walton? Has any organization in the world lifted more people out of poverty than Wal-Mart?

My tummy hurts so much from laughing at it. Steve Gilliard took it all much more seriously and gave a proper response:

Wal-Mart doesn't alleviate poverty, it spreads it like a virus.

How? In China and the developing world, it demands greater and greater price savings on factory owners, who have to use repressive methods to keep their employees. It's so bad, the Chinese government has allowed Wal Mart workers to unionize.

In the US, Wal Mart' s predatory pricing forced Rubbermaid to close, and forces other suppliers to ship work overseas to meet Wal Mart's pricing demands.

Every contract, Wal Mart demands greater savings from producers, demanding cost cutting. Most of the brand names sold in Wal Mart are substandard products with the same brand name. Snapper refused to sell to Wal Mart because of that practice.

Wal Mart's low wage policy is the worst in the retail industy, they spend more on commercials than actual health care for their workers. Certainly people in Chicago and Maryland didn't feel that Wal Mart was lifting people out of poverty, having passed bills concerning health care and wages.

Yesss. Add to all this the fact that microlending schemes encourage independence and self-determination and put power into the hands of very ordinary village people, most of them women, by the way, who were earlier quite powerless and often even scorned. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, prefers its workers meek and without other options.

Wal-Mart makes its owners very rich, true. But it doesn't encourage the type of moral and spiritual growth in them as the microlending schemes do to their participants. Think about the way the poor have no collateral to offer for these loans, so the need for it is replaced by personal reputation and honor. And almost all loans are paid back! This is because the loans are evaluated in a group of locals who already have had microloans themselves, and the social knowledge, support and perhaps pressure, too, are used in place of money as a collateral. I can see problems in this system but compared to the traditional banking system those problems are nothing. It's important to remember that microlending schemes have largely helped women who have no access to traditional credit in most developing countries.

Funny Tierney. Here is someone who can really be called a capitalist getting a Nobel and Tierney doesn't like it, because he can think of worse capitalists.