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Opposing Walmart for its virtues

By offering a cornucopia of affordable goods in stores nationwide, Walmart has possibly done more to raise standard of living than any other company in the 20th and 21st centuries. It has driven down prices on consumer goods, appliances, groceries, toys, clothing, electronics, home entertainment, and outdoor equipment, allowing individuals to spend less on basics and have more savings for luxuries. Even the poorest of Americans now have access to a king’s ransom of products thanks to their local Walmart — allowing them to enjoy a standard of living that some of the wealthiest Americans could not obtain over a hundred years ago.

And yet, there are local activists — city politicians, union locals, alliances of local retailers, “Occupy Wall Street” type groups — who oppose the construction of new Walmarts. New York City officials have fought to block Walmart, and there is now recent indication that the company is backing off its efforts to introduce stores in the Big Apple. Walmart has faced similar albeit less successful opposition in many other cities over the past few years, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and Washington, D.C.

One of the main reasons such people give for opposing Walmart is that, when the retailer comes to town, many competing mom-and-pop shops will be driven out of business. And so, they argue, Walmart should be prevented from constructing locations within city limits so as to protect all of the local businesses that have been operating for decades.

But this attitude amounts to objecting to Walmart because it is too good at offering people what they want. It amounts to condemning Walmart for the “crime” of being so beloved by consumers that they will all want to shop at Walmart, instead of the local mom-and-pops they used to patronize. That Walmart is so effective at attracting customers that many of these small businesses — even ones that have been local favorites for decades — may have to close down because most of their customers would much rather shop at Walmart. And so, as a solution, city officials should ban Walmart from purchasing land that developers are willing to sell to it, prevent the construction of the store that tens of thousands of residents would eagerly patronize, and force shoppers to continue to pay more for goods at stores that they no longer prefer to go to.

We should never oppose something for being too good.