Taking Back America!
The largest employer in the United States is Walmart. The second largest is the United States Postal Service (USPS).
One is a private sector, for-profit corporation; the other is a government non-profit entity. One is non-union, and the other is unionized. One returns profits to its owners, the other must be subsidized by its owners. One pays an average wage of $11.75/hr with limited benefits, and the other pays an average of $24/hr with generous benefits. One is younger than I am; the other is older than the nation.
There are 142,000 products in the average Walmart Superstore. Each day, 2.1 million people go to work in 9,749 Walmart stores in 14 countries. There is no government Czar telling them what to do, and none of them know me from Adam. So what I am about to tell you is really amazing – check this out.
I never told any one of those 2.1 million employees where I would be today, or what time I would arrive, or which of those 142,000 products I would buy; it is a little ninja test of the capitalist system I run every so often for Quality Control to make sure that markets still work. The odds against them guessing which products I will choose to buy and from which store are astronomical, and yet they nailed it.
Kingsford, Michigan; 5:45 PM; Colgate Cavity Protection toothpaste and M&M Peanuts. Scary, man - I’m still shaking. It’s like they put a chip in my head or something. And they do it every time; way better than Chriss Angel.
Now let’s give contestant #2 a try. The United States Postal Service has had over 200 years to perfect its craft. They have only 28 products. Each day 700,000 people go to work in only one country. They deliver my mail to one of only two possible locations once a day, six days a week and they get to pick the time.
It’s the government, so I had to dumb-down the test quite a bit to even give them a shot. I gave them my location months in advance, let them pick the service, pick the day, pick the time, and pick the parcels. There is only 1/3 as many of them to align their efforts and they make twice as much as the Walmart folks, and for the 30th day in a row, they forwarded my mail to the wrong address.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the difference between markets and government.
Behold the wonder that is the Walmart. Do any of those hundreds of millions of people from all over the world who designed, built, transported, and merchandised those 142,000 products to their 9,749 stores know or care what I want or why I want it? Why do they want me to have healthy gums and no chocolate mess more than they want to go fishing with their kids?
The answer, of course, is that they did not make anything for me; they made it for profit. Profit is the reason that I can buy generic medicine for $4, a wastebasket for $1.69, 2 dozen golf balls for $9.49, and get my tires rotated while I buy groceries. I have no idea if the person(s) who made the Garden Weasel is black, white, male, female, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, disabled, old, young, liberal or conservative. Nor do I care, and neither does he or she; profit makes us do what bumper stickers cannot – coexist.
He or she is working at the best opportunity available to them, and I am buying at the best opportunity available to me. We both decided what is best for us on our own without coercion. Two families have optimized our benefit in voluntary and peaceful exchange with each other. Profit does that every day without breaking a sweat; no government has ever pulled it off, not even at gunpoint.
It gets a lot better. A person of modest means can buy high quality goods beyond the reach of the richest people in the world just one generation ago. Moms who grew up wearing hand-me-downs can buy new clothes for all of their own children. People who never had to do that probably can’t appreciate the anxiety of that first day of school when you have on your brother’s stuff all patched and darned and rolled up; or the relief when you discover that most every other kid is in the same boat. And now kids worry if their smart phone battery will run out before the Justin Beiber download is finished.
Profit did that. Profit delivers luxury to the poor; government delivers promises to the poor. That is the difference. That is the thing that the haters of free market capitalism don’t grasp. There is nothing capable of replacing it - nothing.
Of all of our governmental agencies, our military is the most able, the most accomplished, and the most admired. With an almost unlimited budget, the most advanced logistics system of any government entity anywhere in the world, and the most advanced weapons to force compliance, they still run out of socks in the combat zone.
Do they ever run out of socks at the Walmart? There’s your moment of clarity.
The next time you walk into a Walmart, take a minute to look around; think about all the millions and millions of people from all over the world who made the miracle that is the Walmart come together just for you. All it would take is for one of them – just one – to not do their job, and the product you came in to buy will not be on the shelf. Now grab your cart and go see if any of them failed.
Not only did they pass my ninja QC test and deliver a decent return to their shareholders, but Walmart also gave $170 million of its profits to charities here in the United States alone last year. The USPS lost money and had nothing to give to charities; in fact, it asked for a subsidy from its owners and proposed cutting back service in exchange.
Lower quality, higher prices, unreliable, unsustainable, uncharitable. And with the benevolent government as the employer and a union workforce, surely the USPS would be a perfect socialist utopian workplace, right? No, the term “going postal” has become slang for violent workplace rage.
And they say capitalism doesn’t work?
And they also insist that we free marketers need the government to step in and fix us? What can government possibly teach markets? What could Walmart possibly learn from USPS about giving me what I want, when I want it, where I want it, and at a price I am willing to pay? Why should I expect people who go postal to protect me from the greeter?
Forget what rubbish you have been taught by your professors about failed capitalism; go teach yourself about its miracles. Walk in and trust what you see with your own eyes – and behold the wonder that is the Walmart.
“Moment Of Clarity” is a weekly commentary by Libertarian writer and speaker Tim Nerenz, Ph.D. Visit Tim’s website www.timnerenz.com to find your moment and order Tim’s new book, “BRING IT!”