Sunday, April 30, 2006

Wal-Mart Debate in Ventura

On Thursday I participated in another public debate about Wal-Mart, this time in Ventura, where Wal-Mart hopes to open a new store in the near future. (I should have blogged the event beforehand, just in case any Agoraphilia readers felt like showing up, but it just slipped my mind.) Since my partner in the debate was Kevin McCall, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, I made a point of emphasizing my free-agent, not-a-hired-gun status. That's not intended as a criticism of Kevin, who I found to be smart, friendly, and articulate. I just wanted to run off the predictable "how much did Wal-Mart pay you to defend them" accusations at the pass.

The Ventura County Star reports on the event. I don't think the quotes attributed to me are exactly right (specifically, I don't recall using the phrase "eroding the free market system"), but the gist is accurate enough.

The debate is supposed to air on public access cable sometime soon, but I haven't heard a specific date and time.


notme said...


Ben said...

"When you argue that Wal-Mart is obliged to provide more, then you are eroding the free market system," Whitman said. "If Wal-Mart is able to do a better job serving the community, then so be it. They should not get any special privileges, nor should they be held to any unfair barriers."

I don't think that's true as any company that would become that big and dominant would have to confront an apprehensive public. In a way, I think when you become the king of your market people fill the void of competition. IMO they have the right to keep checks to protect themselves from unrestrained growth of power. Sometimes the hypothetical competitors are simply too distant and and not enough to result in fair prices and practices.

Glen Whitman said...

"Sometimes the hypothetical competitors are simply too distant and and not enough to result in fair prices and practices."

With regard to prices, there's simply no dispute: every credible observer admits that Wal-Mart's prices are lower than its competitors -- even after the competitors are gone. The predatory pricing story is simply a myth. Practices? Well, that's pretty broad, and there's lots more dispute in that regard.

In any case, the kind of anti-Wal-Mart regulations we're seeing are not generally being imposed in low-population rural areas where competition might really be scarce. They're being imposed in metropolitan areas, where competition is plentiful.