Forget that Walmart employs 1.4 million people in the U.S. alone. Forget that it saves consumers billions of dollars each year on retail purchases. Forget that its employees, on average, earn about double the minimum wage. The raw-meat crowd is salivating. Bring out the class-warfare script.
The word from some disgruntled employees is that Walmart doesn’t treat its employees “fairly” — whatever that’s supposed to mean. But, definitions aside, this is your lucky day. Because if you think Walmart is “unfair,” guess what? You don’t have to shop there!
What a novel idea — shopping with your feet!
If you don’t like the fact that Walmart carries too many products made in third-world countries, shop with your feet. If you believe Walmart puts smaller retailers out of business and you’re unhappy with that, shop with your feet. Heck, you might even believe Walmart was the real cause of 9/11, which is okay. Just shop with your feet.
But let’s get back to Walmart’s employees. Just to make it easy on the witch hunters, let’s assume that there is such a thing as absolute fairness. (There isn’t, of course.) And let’s further assume that Walmart does, indeed, treat its employees unfairly. That, of course, raises the question: What in the world can be done to protect Walmart’s 1.4 million paid slaves?
More good news: In a truly free society, unfair treatment of employees would never be an issue, because workers would be free to sell their services for the highest possible wages on the open market. If someone chooses to work at Walmart, he does so because he believes, for any of an infinite number of reasons, that it affords him the best opportunity to be adequately compensated for his skills, experience, and efforts.
An employer doesn’t ask a job applicant to present a list of his job requirements when he submits his application. On the contrary, the employer lets the applicant know (or should let him know), in advance, what the company’s conditions of employment are.
If those conditions include fifteen-hour workdays, minimum-wage pay, no air-conditioning in the summer, and no paid sick leave, so be it. How can I say such a dastardly thing? Because an employee not only does not have to take such a job, he also has the right to quit that job at any time. He simply cannot escape the fact that he is free to choose!
Yep, it really is that simple. And since the unhappy employee is free, he can apply for another job anywhere he chooses. No permission needed. On the other hand, if he chooses to stay in his present job, he is making a clear statement that he believes it’s the best job he can hope to get at that particular time. If this were not true, he would have to be insane, or perhaps masochistic, to stay put.
Gee, it doesn’t take a Ludwig von Mises to explain it after all. In a truly free market, everything works smoothly because both employers and employees are free to make their own choices. It’s only when government bureaucrats or labor thugs — a.k.a. “labor unions” — enter the picture that freedoms are violated.
All government intervention between employers and employees results in infringements on the rights of one or the other — or both. The same goes with labor unions. The so-called “union shop” is a violation of the natural rights of every employee who is forced to join a union against his will. And, worse, it is a violation of the rights of an employer to hire whom he wants, when he wants, under whatever conditions he lays down.
But, unfortunately, that’s not reality in today’s America. After decades of artificially high wages and benefits, job-protection schemes, and government-mandated safety standards, spoiled American workers demand still more.
An excellent investment for Walmart would be to spend mega-millions to educate its employees about the morality and efficacy of liberty and laissez-faire economics. And a good place to start would be to put the following quote from communist-turned-libertarian Rose Wilder Lane in their pay envelopes:
Anyone who says that economic security is a human right has been too much babied. While he babbles, other men are risking and losing their lives to protect him. They are fighting the sea, fighting the land, fighting diseases and insects and weather and space and time, for him, while he chatters that all men have a right to security and that some pagan god — Society, The State, The Government, The Commune — must give it to them. Let the fighting men stop fighting this inhuman earth for one hour, and he will learn how much security there is.
Educating muddled minds, however, does not begin with the worker; it begins with big business. If corporate America does not truly believe in laissez-faire capitalism, all is lost. And if it does believe but is unwilling to suffer “mortification of the flesh” in presenting the truth to the public, the case for free enterprise is still all but hopeless.
Corporate leaders must be bold and unwavering when it comes to educating their own employees, as well as the public at large, about the mechanics of the marketplace. History has clearly taught us what to expect if good men do nothing.
In the meantime, don’t wait for the government to come to your rescue. Negotiate for yourself to land the best position possible, at the highest pay possible, in the marketplace. Then, once you land the job, your focus should be on demonstrating to your employer that you’re worth a whole lot more than he’s paying you.
And while you’re at it, take every opportunity to extol the virtues of freedom — including free enterprise. It’s true that you are but one person in a sea of millions, but it is completely within your power to be part of the solution to the world’s ills rather than part of the problem.