New York

Some dots to connect (2)


This election morning I heard a commentary on National Public Radio and yelped in annoyance at the way NPR thinks it has to put on radical free-market ideologues like this–probably a guy from the Cato Foundation–to prove its “balance”:

“Wal-Mart could do in short order what trade negotiators have been unable to do: change the way the Japanese system is played. Wal-Mart may well attack Japan’s economic structure at its point of greatest vulnerability, its retail sector. Japanese retailing is dominated by thousands of mom-and-pop stores. They’re notoriously inefficient, but many of them sit on small yet incredibly valuable parcels of urban land. Their livelihoods come from their real estate values as much as from the beautifully wrapped, individual pieces of fruit they sell. The mom-and-pop stores get away with this because they’re protected by something called the large store law. It prohibits big retailers from locating near any small operation. This law seems like a nice way to protect cute little stores, but it’s really the source of many of Japan’s economic problems.

“A competitive retail sector can do a great deal for an economy. If it sells things efficiently, it reduces costs and increases consumer purchasing power. Even more important, if retailers are strong and competitive, producers must become the same if they want to service them. And if firms are forced to operate efficiently in order to sell their products to Costco, Wal-Mart or Sears, they’ll have to improve their own productivity and focus on what they do best. That’s what makes Wal-Mart so threatening to the Japanese system. Wal-Mart’s everyday low prices could force many Japanese industries to shape up. It could drive smaller retailers out of business, free up land for better uses and, of course, it could give foreign production a direct route into the Japanese marketplace.

“Wal-Mart has chosen a tough road, but if Wal-Mart wins a few early regulatory and legal battles, it will overrun Japanese retailing and change the landscape of the Japanese economy forever. Competitive retailing could increase economic productivity as well as the purchasing power of Japanese consumers just as it has in this country. A generation of trade negotiators who have failed to change Japan should now put all their political and diplomatic support behind a company that can.”

Here’s the catch: turns out the guy was Clinton’s undersecretary of commerce.

If these are the dorks who are speaking for the party of the people the day of an election–damn, maybe the Democrats deserve to lose.

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