Wal-Mart's critics act as if economic competition were a "zero-sum game" -- if one person gets richer, someone else must be getting poorer. If Wal-Mart's owners profit, we lose. But the reality is exactly what our ordinary language tells us: We make money. We produce wealth.
Wal-Mart created wealth. It started with just one discount store. Then, its owner, Sam Walton, invented new ways to streamline the supply chain, so he was able to sell things for less and still make a profit. By keeping prices low, Wal-Mart effectively gives everyone who shops there a raise, its own employees included.
Not all Wal-Mart workers support families. Some are retired. Others are part-timers, students or people looking for a second income.
"None of them was drafted. None of them was forced to work at Wal-Mart," said Brink Lindsey, a senior scholar at the Cato Institute. "That means that if they're working there, presumably, that was the best job they could get."
Before Sha-ron Reese was hired at Wal-Mart she was on welfare. She'd lost custody of her kids and was homeless, living in her car. California store manager W.C. Morrison took a risk and hired her. "She had no references," he told us. "She had no work experience."
In her own words, she was "raw." But Morrison took a chance on her. That changed her life.
Today, Reese has two people working for her. She's got her own apartment. She's regained custody of two of her kids.
And she's a Wal-Mart customer. "Everything, just about, that's in my house," she said, "Wal-Mart sells."