Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Globalisation and Wal-Mart

Whoever ends up with the US Democrats guernsey (“sweater”?) to run against George Bush later this year, there is a good chance that his platform will include some anti-globalisation aspects. Robert Gottliebsen has already flagged as much, while pointing out the existence of a supposed “anti-Wal-Mart movement” in the same breath. I suspect the latter movement exists only in proportion to the intermittent but curiously large-in-total amount of praise that Gottliebsen heaped on the US retail chain, in the course of covering the recent WEF in Davos*.

I’m not now (nor probably ever) going to give a lecture about why I essentially agree with the anti-globalisation movement. I will note, though, that I am strongly pro-trade and immigration, as long is this trade/movement is done non-exploitatively.

Anyway, back to Wal-Mart – in the news today for being the 19th C workhouse face of globalisation. Robert Gottliebsen’s timing is exquisite – a chain of stores he praised last week as the pinnacle of capitalism, only threatened by a mysterious movement, turns out to be its own worst advertisement; and I’m not quoting ferals-at-a-demo, or any other apparent “movement” here; just the AP wire. This certainly looks bad for Wal-Mart (Gottliebsen has long since been just a hired parrot for the Right), and Wal-Mart’s lawyer, David Murray, seems to have the unfortunate knack of making unconscionable things sound even worse:

Murray acknowledged that doors [behind which the cleaning contractors were] were kept locked, but insisted that a manager with a key was always present. "This was simply an effort to keep the employees safe and keep the merchandise secure," Murray said.

Quite. It’s a nice parallel, though. Almost the entirety of Wal-Mart’s inventory (according to Gottliebsen) is sourced from China, that other workers’ paradise – where the slaves (sorry, employees) are also kept “safe” from Western eyes, and the craptacular merchandise is kept as secure as the crown jewels.

* A ten part series in The Australian, 21 January - 31 January 2004.

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