An anonymous commenter on the immigration post below writes, "If you wish to make a moral argument against Wal-Mart, go for it."
I've never had much interest in making a moral case against Wal-Mart. My distaste for the world's largest retailer stems largely from other grounds:
1. Aesthetic. We create the world we live in by where we choose to shop. 24th and King is not my idea of a livable neighborhood.
2. Historical. I cut my journalistic teeth in East Texas when Wal-Mart was spreading rapidly to every city and burg, gobbling up mom and pops by the score. The experience left a bad taste in my mouth that has never quite gone away.
3. Practical. As a small business owner, I try to do business with people who do business with me. Wal-Mart never will.
4. Geopolitical. I just don't feel like propping up the Chinese government with my retail dollars.
5. Personal. I try to support businesses that offer jobs I might want to have someday. I don't want to work for Wal-Mart.
To the extent that I make a moral case against Wal-Mart, it has mostly to do with all of the lawsuits against it for unpaid overtime. Wal-Mart denies it has a policy of forcing people to work for free, but I worked for a company that operated in just the same manner, and it isn't right.
Two statistics in the new Harper's Index bolster my arguments. One is from a Civic Economics study that found that 68 cents of every dollar spent in a locally owned Chicago store is retained or recirculated in the community. Only 43 cents of every dollar spent in a chain store in Chicago stays there.
In practical terms, to cite another Civic Economics study, this one of San Francisco, if local merchants in San Francisco were able to increase their market share by 10 percent, 1,295 jobs would be created.
The other Harper's statistic came from Wal-Mart Watch, which says that Wal-Mart avoided more than $400 million in state taxes last year by renting stories from shell companies it created. That's not immoral, maybe, but close enough.