Saturday, October 12, 2013

Wisdom Of The Week

A confession: I love shopping at Walmart. In fact, I love just wandering around Walmart, admiring the cornucopia of stuff for sale and the miraculously low prices. I can hardly wait for six new Walmarts in the Washington area. (Right now there are none except in distant suburbs.)

However, I don’t want to exploit my fellow Americans by underpaying them. I would happily pay a bit more for the knowledge that nobody involved in the making and selling of whatever I purchase has been paid less than $12.50 an hour. How much is “a bit”? According to a study two years ago by scholars at the University of California at Berkley and City University of New York, the average Walmart customer spends about $1,200 a year there. (Good news for me: I am below average—but I can rectify that!) Even if the entire cost of a wage increase (to $12, not $12.50) were passed on to customers, the cost to an average customer would be just more than 1 percent, or $12.50 a year.

Who wouldn’t pay 12 bucks and change for the right to roam the Walmart aisles without guilt? Well poor people might not be able to. But, depending on how it’s done, they may not have to.

There’s no need to force Walmart into raising its wages and prices. Let the market work! These days almost everything you buy carries a label making the claim that in some way it is morally superior. It is “organic.” It is “gluten free.” It is “cruelty free”—cruelty to animals, that is. Everything from dishwasher detergent to entire office buildings gets certified by how “green” it is.Why not create a label symbol indicating that the product you are about to buy is “poverty-free”—i.e., no American involved in making it or getting it to you makes less than $12.50 an hour?

- Walmart Can Solve the Inequality Problem

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