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Forget that Wal-Mart employs 1.3 million people in the U.S. alone. Forget that it saves consumers hundreds of millions (billions?) of dollars each year on retail purchases. Forget that its employees, on average, earn about double the minimum wage. The red-meat crowd is salivating. Bring out the class-warfare script.
The word from some disgruntled employees is that Wal-Mart doesn’t treat its employees “fairly” – whatever that’s supposed to mean. But, definitions aside, this is your lucky day. Because if you think Wal-Mart is “unfair,” guess what? You don’t have to shop there!
Wow! What a novel idea – shopping with your feet. Likewise, if you don’t like the fact that Wal-Mart carries too many products made in diarrhea countries, shop with your feet. If you believe Wal-Mart puts smaller retailers out of business and you’re unhappy with that, shop with your feet. And, yes, if you think Wal-Mart, not George Bush, was the real cause of Hurricane Katrina, shop with your feet.
But let’s get back to Wal-Mart’s employees. Just to make it easy on the witch-hunt crowd, let’s assume that there is such a thing as absolute fairness. And let’s further assume that Wal-Mart does, indeed, treat its employees unfairly. That, of course, begs the question: What in the world can be done to protect Wal-Mart’s 1.3 million paid slaves?
More good news: In a truly free society, unfair treatment of employees would never be an issue, because workers would be free to sell their services for the highest possible wages in the open market. If someone chooses to work at Wal-Mart, he’s doing so because he believes, for any of an infinite number of reasons, that it affords him the best opportunity to be adequately compensated for his skills, experience and efforts.
An employer doesn’t ask a job applicant to present a list of his job requirements when he hands in his application. On the contrary, the employer lets the applicant know, in advance, what the company’s conditions of employment are.
If those conditions include 15-hour workdays, pay of $3 an hour, no air conditioning in the summer, no paid sick leave and an executive perk that allows higher-ups to browbeat underlings for sport, so be it. How can I say such a dastardly thing? Because an employee not only does not have to take such a job, he also has the right to quit that job at any time!
Yep, it really is that simple. And even better, the unhappy employee is free to apply for another job anywhere he chooses. No permission needed. On the other hand, if he chooses to stay in his present job, he is making a clear statement that he believes it’s the best job he can possibly hope to get. If not, he would be insane, or perhaps masochistic, to stay put.
Gee, it doesn’t really take a Ludwig von Mises to explain it after all. In a free market, everything works smoothly, because both employer and employees are free to make their own choices. It’s only when government bureaucrats or labor thugs – aka “labor unions” – enter the picture that freedoms are violated.
All government intervention between employers and employees results in infringements of the rights of one or the other – or both. The same goes with labor unions. The actions of most of today’s labor unions are fundamentally immoral and in violation of the constitutional rights of both employees and employers. The so-called “union shop” is a violation of the natural rights of every employee who is forced to join a union against his will. And, worse, the rights of an employer to hire whom he wants, when he wants, for whatever reasons are important to him.
Unfortunately, that’s not reality in today’s socialist America. After decades of artificially high wages and benefits, job protection schemes and government-mandated safety standards, spoiled American workers demand still more.
An excellent investment for Wal-Mart would be to spend mega-millions to educate its employees about the morality and efficacy of liberty and laissez-faire economics. And a good place to start would be to put the following quote from communist-turned-libertarian Rose Wilder Lane in their pay envelopes:
“Anyone who says that economic security is a human right has been too much babied. While he babbles, other men are risking and losing their lives to protect him. They are fighting the sea, fighting the land, fighting diseases and insects and weather and space and time, for him, while he chatters that all men have a right to security and that some pagan god – Society, The State, The Government, The Commune – must give it to them. Let the fighting men stop fighting this inhuman earth for one hour, and he will learn how much security there is.”
It does not begin, however, with the worker; it begins with business. If corporate America does not truly believe in laissez faire capitalism, all is lost. On the other hand, if it does believe but is unwilling to suffer “mortification of the flesh” in presenting the truth to the public, the case for “free enterprise” is still all but hopeless.
Corporate leaders must be bold and unwavering when it comes to educating their own employees, as well as the public at large, about the mechanics of the marketplace. History has clearly taught us what to expect if good men do nothing.
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