Connecticut Law Review
The major success of Wal-Mart has brought forth an unprecedented amount of criticism of the firm and its business practices. In this Article I subject Wal-Mart's critics to the same scrutiny that they bring to the firm itself, and conclude that virtually all of their charges are overblown and misdirected. In emphasizing the supposed dislocations that Wal-Mart's has had on the settled expectations of certain communities, the critics fail to take into account the positive benefits that the firm supplies its customers in the form of quality goods at low prices and the positive spillovers they provide by revitalizing poor or marginal neighborhoods. In stressing the dislocation that Wal-Mart creates for its competitors, the critics misapply the antitrust laws to competitive situations where they should play no role, or they propose various forms of intervention in matters of wage, health or land use regulation that serve the exclusionary interests of rival unionized firms contrary to overall social welfare. In relying on empirical studies, the critics overlook innocuous explanations of the supposedly negative effects of Wal-Mart's practices. Without some evidence that the firm has used deception or monopoly power, the proposed remedies for its alleged misdeeds result in expending public funds to reduce social welfare. Wal-Mart is not, and should not be immune to competitive pressures, to which it has yielded ground in recent years. But under no circumstances should it, or other big-box retailers, be singled out for special treatment. As is so often the case, the best government response to rapid changes in the business environment is to do nothing at all.
Richard A. Epstein, "On Wal-Mart: Doing Good by Doing Nothing," 39 Connecticut Law Review 1287 (2007).