Saturday, November 20, 2004

Is Wal-Mart good for the World?

I was watching the Frontline show Is Wal-Mart good for America and it dawned on me that I don't really care about that question. What I care about is whether Wal-Mart is good for the entire world.

Ethically and morally, I see the case for doing the most amount of good to the most amount of people. It also seems the worth of a human life is the same, whether that person was born in China or in the US. I can see the ethical argument of trying to help those that are less well off, to try and help the poor rather than the rich. But doesn't that mean if is more important to try and help those Chinese that are living on $1/day then Americans living on $15/hour? If 2 Americans lose their jobs but 4 Chinese gain jobs, isn't this a net benefit for the world? If capitalism and by extension Wal-Mart bring 300 million people out of poverty in China, isn't it worth it even if the US unemployment rate goes up by 1%? If Wal-Mart is good for the world but bad for the US, isn't that still a good thing?

I couldn't come up with a good moral or ethical reason why I should be concerned about just America. Yes, I am an American. But I am also a blue state American which means that I have more in common with blue state Europeans then I do with red state Americans. I work in technology which means I have more in common with Chinese and Indian tech workers then I do with American non-tech workers. Yes humans are tribal, and we want to belong to a tribe. But why should the nation state be that dominant tribe? If a Seattle worker loses a job because the company is moving to Iowa, how is that any different than the job going to Mexico or China?

Looking at it this way, is Wal-Mart good for the world? I don't know. But I would sure like to see a Frontline show dedicated to.

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