Paul Jacob

Some folks don't like Wal-Mart. Okay. Fine. It's a free country. No one should be forced at gunpoint to shop at Wal-Mart. Or to work there.

And no one is. That's what a free market is all about: the freedom to trade goods and services, to trade one's time and labor as an employee, one's dollars as a customer. Or not to.

Wal-Mart has found enormous success in the marketplace only because many people have voluntarily chosen to shop and work there. Wal-Mart employs more than 1.6 million people worldwide and, according to the company's published calculations, its lower prices saved the average American family $2,329 last year.

Now I know why, when my wife sends me to the store, she says, "Go to Wal-Mart."

Still, we witness a sustained and hysterical assault against the company. There's even a newly released documentary by Robert Greenwald, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Greenwald's previous credits include an anti-Fox News documentary and he clearly stands in the Michael Moore tradition of filming political rants and calling them documentaries.

How on earth is offering lower prices so evil?

We're told Wal-Mart doesn't pay its employees enough. It doesn't offer generous enough benefits. It puts small mom-and-pop stores out of business. Wal-Mart isn't environment-friendly. And the company uses government to help it expand.

As for employee pay and benefits, if Wal-Mart is so terrible, why didn't these employees choose to take the better jobs offered elsewhere? Or, were there no better jobs available? Is it remotely possible that Wal-Mart should actually be given credit for creating jobs? Could it be that the company has helped its employees escape unemployment and poverty?

However, this is all moot. The free market offers Wal-Mart haters an easy way to hit Wal-Mart right where it hurts. These wizards should start their own companies and pay entry-level retail workers as much as they think is "enough," and of course offer a generous package of health care and other benefits to both full and part-time employees. Problem solved!

Isn't the free market great?

Critics have every right to criticize, but no right whatsoever to interfere in the rights of Wal-Mart, its employees, or customers to make their lives better through trade.

But interfere they do. Unions and Wal-Mart's competitors are pushing a bill in Maryland that would require businesses with over 10,000 employees to provide health benefits to every employee. The only company affected? Wal-Mart.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.