Author: Timothy Sandefur
Often, when a business can’t compete fairly, it tries to use government to outlaw its competition instead. That’s particularly true of labor unions, who try to use government to force hardworking consumers to pay more for products and services they need in order to fatten the wallets of union bosses. In The Right to Earn A Living, I describe some of the ways government uses zoning rules to prevent fair economic competition, particularly here in California. Now, a new plan has surfaced, in the form of SB 469, a bill which would require Wal-Mart to prepare so-called “economic impact reports” whenever it applies for permits to open a new store. Such reports are thinly disguised protectionism—a means whereby Wal-Mart’s low prices and good customer service can be portrayed as somehow bad for society, because it out-competes higher-priced, less-trusted stores. In other words, because customers would—if left free to choose—prefer to shop at Wal-Mart, the government will portray this as “harming” businesses that customers would prefer not to shop at—and use this as an excuse to deny Wal-Mart permission to operate.
And who suffers the most from such things? Precisely the low-income consumers who depend most on Wal-Mart for affordable food and clothing—not to mention for job opportunities.