“Yes, Wal Mart bares enormous legal liability” I said in agreement with the caller. And, yes, I’m sure that lawyers representing the surviving family, and, if the case actually went to court, a judge and a jury, would determine that Wal Mart failed to protect its employee while he was on the job, and therefore surviving family is entitled to compensation.
But legal liability, and moral culpability, are often not the same thing. And most of the callers to the program were fairly sophisticated when it came to thinking of people and institutions that could be held legally liable for this man’s death. The owner of the building would likely be found liable for something. And the company that provided security to the store - - and maybe the local police department - - and maybe even the “manager on duty” could be found liable by the courts, as well.
“But who is ultimately responsible for this deadly behavior?” I asked. “A mob mentality is to blame” a caller insisted. “And when somebody is surrounded by a mob mentality, they just can’t control themselves.”
“So if an individual person is not responsible for their behavior while they’re in the midst of a mob, who is responsible for that individual’s behavior?” I asked. “The mob is responsible, and that’s it” the man insisted.
But wait - - there was another scapegoat. “Many lower income folks are manipulated by the media and by advertising to believe that they gotta have this or that, and they’ll do almost anything to get it” another caller stated.
“So, lower income Americans are victimized by advertising and media?” I asked for clarification.
“”Yeah. The media targets lower income people, and they get manipulated all the time. Wal Mart targets lower income folks with their advertising a lot, and they (Wal Mart) pretty much brought this on themselves.”
So Wal Mart, one of the world’s most successful retail distributors, has become too compelling. They have made their products and services so desirable that individuals are willing to kill in order to get those products and services. And Wal Mart is responsible for the deadly behavior of the customers who broke-down the door and trampled an employee to death.
Wal Mart’s holiday sales - - along with the rest of the American economy - - may be headed downward, or may be headed for recovery. Nobody really knows for sure. But one thing is certain: in America’s “moral economy,” personal responsibility is a commodity that is in short supply.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.