ethel’s words

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WAL-MART: CAN YOU BANK ON IT?

This furor about Wal-Mart posing a threat of “unfair competition” if given permission to have an Industrial Bank amuses me.

Competition, the religion of the profit system, the so-called free-enterprise system, is under attack by its adherents. They are whining about “unfair competition”.

The purpose of competition is not to be fair, it is to determine who is superior, dominant, more powerful. In our “Great America” fantasies, competing meant trying for a better product or service. In the world of commerce, industry, and finance, the question of “fairness” comes up only when a winner is winning too well. It is irritating when somebody is winning, apparently without breaking any laws.

I had thought, when I was young, that “civilization” had a “purpose”--to protect the weak from the strong. What a dream. I believed that somebody had “thought it up”--a design to improve human life. And I struggled, in my youth, to understand the economic system of my country. At last I realized, it is not a system. And so-called “free enterprise” is the “system” of the jungle, but when the USA placed a stamp of approval on it, it mainly de-throned the divine rights of monarchy.

Probably the king thought free enterprise was unfair, rather than seeing it as just another phase of the eternal power struggle--institutionalizing the practices of the jungle that still pervade “civilization”. What could seem less fair than the lion killing a baby gazelle?

Consider athletics: Two go into competition on a “leveled field”, but at the end, one comes out superior and one inferior. Is that fair? If you succeed in creating a truly “level playing field”, would you not end up with a lot of ties?

Even in the “regulated private enterprise” we think we have, my long-term observation is that, free or policed, economic enterprises need at least to cheat, if not actually break laws, to make it even to the top echelons. Nobody can find a sign that Wal-Mart is breaking laws, so the giant is accused of paying low wages--but few legislatures have filled in for the idle Congress by raising their state’s minimum wage. Be assured that right-to-work Utah is not a “minimum wage raiser”.

The most amusing scene in the rant against Wal-Mart getting an Industrial Bank, is reading financial-advice quotes from Jake Garn--co-author of the Garn-St.Germaine law that crumbled financial institutions in the US of A. But that is a subject for a different laugh.

Ethel C. Hale