Category Archive 'Walmart'

16 Mar 2018

The Randian Moral of the Forbes Richest List

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Kevin Williamson looks at the Forbes 2018 list of the richest people and concludes that the best way to get very, very rich in America is by doing good things for ordinary people and the least well-off.

[W]hat kind of companies did the wealthiest Americans start? Overwhelmingly, America’s billionaire entrepreneurs grew wealthy by providing goods and services to middle-class families and people of modest means. The wealthiest European on the list is Bernard Arnault, the guy behind Louis Vuitton, while the wealthiest Americans on the list brought you Amazon, Microsoft, Dairy Queen (one of Berkshire Hathaway’s many holdings), Facebook, Dixie Cups (a product of Koch Industries), Google, and everyday low prices at Walmart.

And consider those Walmart heirs. Yes, the subsequent generations of Waltons have undertaken a great deal of philanthropy with their fortunes, much of it admirable, but none of that philanthropy has done as much good for ordinary people — and for poor people — as Walmart itself. Progressives hate Walmart for its Arkansas roots and déclassé clientele, but in its 50-odd years of leaning on consumer-product giants such as Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola to accept lower margins in exchange for access to its vast customer base, Walmart has done more to transfer wealth from the shareholder class to the poor than every tweedy Piketty-quoting intellectual in the Western world combined. By one estimate, Walmart alone knocked a full percentage point off the U.S. inflation rate, and its data-driven approach to business, combined with its 800-pound-gorilla position in the retail marketplace, has empowered it to force less forward-looking companies into adopting state-of-the-art inventory-management practices and logistics systems. In doing so, it has, penny by penny, shaved billions and billions of dollars off the grocery bills and other household expenditures of the people it serves….

“There is a great deal that is wrong with the American economy. There is crony capitalism, subsidies, and favoritism, and advocates of free-market policies should be open about those abuses and rigorous in opposing them. But where our progressive friends are most mistaken is in this: If you want to see what’s wrong with American society, you won’t find the answers on the list of who is rich — you’ll find it in the account of who is poor, how they got that way, and why they stay that way. It isn’t Amazon keeping them down.”


Auntie Ayn would like this one.

25 Jun 2015

My Personal Boycott: Amazon, Ebay, KMart, Walmart

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I sent this email this morning to Amazon PR:

If you look at my account, you will see that I am a very active Amazon customer. Additionally, I had been linking Amazon books via my blog and am an Amazon Associate.

In response to Amazon’s absurd removal of Confederate flag-related merchandise in contemptible obedience to the whims of the radical left, I will be removing my blog links to Amazon and purchasing absolutely nothing from Amazon for one month.

Deo Vindice,
David Zincavage

I’m sending a similar email to Ebay, where I am also a very active customer. I don’t actually shop at KMart or Walmart, and I mean to make a point of continuing not to do so.

08 Mar 2011

Crocodile: It’s What’s For Dinner

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Matt Stopera offers photos of sixteen items you’ll only find at a Walmart in China. What on earth is number 6?

From Vanderleun.

14 Jul 2010

Food For Thought

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ChinaSmack, a blogsite translating Chinese news and comments, publishes a Chinese comment thread on gun ownership in America. They are even sold in Walmart!

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

09 Jan 2006

Brittle Software, Antigorai, and Culture

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Jaron Lanier

Jarod Lanier (above) writes about Technology the way certain of my college friends used to talk about these kinds of things after a couple of hash brownies. This specific (brilliant, crossing the barriers of a variety of separate and distinct topics, wildly original and speculative, and a trifle daft) form of discourse was referred to in our circles as space-ranging. Criticized by his interlocutors for his prolixity, for the profusion of his ideas, for their chaotic disorganization, and for indulging in the characteristic intellectual overreach of the seriously stoned, one Early Concentration Philosophy classmate of mine, had on a particular occasion declared memorably in his own defense: “I am a Space Ranger!”

As the rings of Saturn fade distantly in the view-finder, Lanier remarks:

As it happens, I dislike UNIX and its kin because it is based on the premise that people should interact with computers through a “command line.” First the person does something, usually either by typing or clicking with a pointing device. And then, after an unspecified period of time, the computer does something, and then the cycle is repeated. That is how the Web works, and how everything works these days, because everything is based on those damned Linux servers. Even video games, which have a gloss of continuous movement, are based on an underlying logic that reflects the command line.

Human cognition has been finely tuned in the deep time of evolution for continuous interaction with the world. Demoting the importance of timing is therefore a way of demoting all of human cognition and physicality except for the most abstract and least ambiguous aspects of language, the one thing we can do which is partially tolerant of timing uncertainty. It is only barely possible, but endlessly glitchy and compromising, to build Virtual Reality or other intimate conceptions of digital instrumentation (meaning those connected with the human sensory motor loop rather than abstractions mediated by language) using architectures like UNIX or Linux. But the horrible, limiting ideas of command line systems are now locked-in. We may never know what might have been. Software is like the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which each day is the same. The passage of time is trivialized.


But, as is often the case in space ranges, there is some very good stuff in here. The concept of the Antigora, i.e., a privately owned marketplace whose owner benefits both from its use by, and from the volunteer labor of, entrants is potentially quite useful.

I have a strong suspicion that Lanier’s use of Agora, and variations thereon, as his preferred term for one kind of marketplace and another, stems from the influence of the late Samuel Edward Konkin III (1947-2004), founder of a unique strain of California counter-cultural Libertarianism which he called Agorism, whose theories were promulgated via Sam’s own Agorist Institute. Potlatch metaphors were also a characterististic trope of Konkinian Libertarianism. One can hear the echo of Sam Konkin’s sunny optimism in the following analysis:

Perhaps it will turn out that India and China are vulnerable. Google and other Antigoras will increasingly lower the billing rates of help desks. Robots will probably start to work well just as China’s population is aging dramatically, in about twenty years. China and India might suddenly be out of work! Now we enter the endgame feared by the Luddites, in which technology becomes so efficient that there aren’t any more jobs for people.

But in this particular scenario, let’s say it also turns out to be true that even a person making a marginal income at the periphery of one of the Antigoras can survive, because the efficiencies make survival cheap. It’s 2025 in Cambodia, for instance, and you only make the equivalent of a buck a day, without health insurance, but the local Wal-Mart is cheaper every day and you can get a robot-designed robot to cut out your cancer for a quarter, so who cares? This is nothing but an extrapolation of the principle Wal-Mart is already demonstrating, according to some observers. Efficiencies concentrate wealth, and make the poor poorer by some relative measures, but their expenses are also brought down by the efficiencies.


An amusing read and a fine provocation. John Perry Barlow, Eric S. Raymond, David Gelernter, and Glenn Reynolds will all be replying.


Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.

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