TCS Daily


Google the Destroyer

By James V. DeLong - January 7, 2008 12:00 AM

From its beginning, Google has been charged with grandiloquence for its corporate mission statement: "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." More recently, the infosphere has gotten concerned that the grandiloquence is deserved, and is treating Google as a giant Pacman, with the only question being whose lunch (and breakfast and dinner) it is about to chomp.

In The Google Enigma, tech guru Nicholas Carr notes: "The many businesses that see Google as an actual or potential competitor include software houses, advertising agencies, telephone companies, newspapers, TV networks, book publishers, movie studios, credit card processors, and Internet firms of all stripes. Even financial advisors, doctors, and librarians eye the company warily." Since Carr wrote this, even fellow openness community member Wikipedia has been subject to Google ranging shots.

One can make a case that these reactions are overdone. Google is not really all that big a company; its annual revenue of $15 billion represents only 5% of total annual U.S. expenditures on advertising ($285B), and contrasts modestly with the revenues of other information industry companies, such as AT&T ($104B), and Microsoft ($54B), and Disney ($35B). Its eye-catching $700 stock price is largely a PR gimmick, achieved by limiting the number of shares, and of course by Mr. Stock Market's assessment of its scalability and potential to take over more of the ad biz.

To further buttress the skeptics' side, Google's corporate mission statement can be regarded as rather limited, actually. It makes no claim to produce information, relying on others for that function. The "make it . . . accessible" is also passive, implying that Google has done its job when the information resides in its data centers. Someone else must build an infrastructure linking users with those centers, and with each other, so as to make the information retrievable in fact as well as theory.

Furthermore, the search business is not really the organization business. The average Google search produces thousands of hits, mostly duplicative or irrelevant. If you know pretty much what you are looking for, it is great, but "organizing" is not the right concept. Google's basic nature is a giant business/personal phone list, corporate directory, index of publications, music, movies, and so on.

What it does is awesome, but it is awesome because of the scale of its searches, not because of their sophistication, which is pretty much primitive Boolean. The information system has four components - generation of content; creation of the infrastructure for distribution; search; and organization/filtering. Google performs only one of them.

Nonetheless, the concern about Google is justified, not because of potential to take over the whole information business, but because of its potential and incentives to destroy the ability of the providers of the other components of the info system to perform their functions of creation, distribution, and organization. These components were already under severe stress as the forces of digitization, interconnectedness, and P2P wrecked their familiar business models, and Google is both profiting from these forces, and thus happily encouraging them, and making it difficult to develop new business models.

Carr's Google Enigma made a familiar business strategy point: companies that provide one component of a system love to commoditize the other components, the complements to their own products, because that leaves more of the value of the total stack available for the commoditizer. Microsoft famously commoditized the PC and captured money for the software stack, and IBM is now avenging itself by using open source to turn software into a commodity and capture value for hardware and services.

Carr noted that Google is unusual because of the large number of products and services that can be complements to the search function, including basic production of content and its distribution, along with anything else that can be used to gather eyeballs for advertising. Google's incentives to reduce the costs of complements so as to harvest more eyeballs to view advertising are immense. Hence his list of concerned sectors.

This point is indeed true, and so is an additional point. In most circumstances, the commoditizer's goal is restrained by knowledge that enough money must be left in the system to support the creation of the complements. The point is amusingly made in Steve Ballmer's famous "Developers! Developers! Developers!" video.

Google is in a different position. Its major complements already exist, and it need not worry in the short term about continuing the flow. For content, we have decades of music and movies that can be digitized and then distributed, with advertising attached. A wealth of other works await digitizing - books, maps, visual arts, and so on. If these run out, Google and other Internet companies have hit on the concept of user-generated content and social networks, in which the users are sold to each other, with yet more advertising attached.

Much of the necessary distribution structure also predates Google. The Internet was built initially on the excess capacity of the telephone network, and, later, on the excess capacity of the dot com bankruptcies. A mobile phone network is in place, paid for by the voracious human appetite for interaction, and now available for add-ons.

So, on the whole, Google can continue to do well even if leaves providers of is complements gasping like fish on a beach.

To some extent, the problem has been recognized by all, including Google, and in fact the company is sharing ad revenues with the providers of complements, though the terms are not public, which leaves it unclear whether the partnerships are serious or cosmetic. Most accounts peg the returns to partners as small.

This highlights the fundamental issue. Several ways of financing the creation and distribution of content exist. Consumers can pay directly, either per ticket (a movie) or for a subscription (XM Radio). Ads can be sold, either combined with a payment (magazines) or stand-alone (broadcast TV). Or a distribution company can sell raw access to the network, and let the users worry about the content (telephone). And of course there are hybrids, where basic service is sold cheaply, and premium offerings bundled on top of it (cell phones, plus ringtones)..

Of all of these, advertising is the least satisfactory. In a system based on advertising, the consumer is a product, not a customer. His eyeballs and ears are sold to an advertiser. The link between the value a customer places on a piece of content and the money available to fund its creation becomes slender indeed. I might be willing to pay $100 for a particular performance, while the value of my eyeballs to advertiser is a mere dime. In an advertising-based system, only the latter counts.

There is nothing wrong with advertising-based systems, but they should not be allowed to crowd out other forms of financing, in which the consumers of content are actually the customers (and thus the kings).

And this is where things get sticky, because for any other system to exist, defensible property rights must be restored to the system. ISPs must be able to make deals with content companies to filter the P2P traffic, user-generated content must indeed be user generated and not user-lifted, and the complex economics of distribution, which require heavy doses of tiered pricing, must be respected.

The concern about Google is based on a fear that it does not share this concern with restoring the viability of business models other than those based on advertising. Indeed, the concern goes further - that Google understands perfectly that the lack of property-rights based business models enhances its market power as the alpha dog of the ad biz, and that it will exercise its political and PR clout to prevent the development of alternatives. Hence its support for the academic communitarians, its hostility to proprietary software, its endorsement of net neutrality, its foot-dragging on YouTube filtering, its development of Android.

If the only viable business model for creation and distribution of content is advertising, then Google's algorithms reign supreme. This would be a pretty impoverished world contentwise, but Google would not be the first aristocrats who chose to maintain control of economic stasis rather than ease the grip and allow progress. A better image than Pacman might be the young Arnold Schwarzenegger, laying waste with his sword, all in the name of virtue of course.

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20 Comments

Wal Mart of the Internet
I guess were going to have a 2 player system. Wal Mart and Google.

Maybe eventually Google and Wal Mart can merge and rule the world?

Wally-World
I like Wal-Mart. I like its business plan (large volume over high prices); I like the fact that it's union-free; I like its selection and prices; I like that I can buy my groceries at the same time I buy my underwear; I like the fact that there's one in practically every town in the country. And the fact that merely mentioning it drives Lefties and their unionist, collectivizing, anti-business, anti-capitalist constituency into paroxysms of hysteria is icing on the cake.

I miss...
when Northernlight.com was still free. Those guys understand how to build a search engine that is right on.

Funny
Yeah, I still miss the Mom and Pop outfits.

I was making lite of the situation. It is interesting to ponder.

That is funny

"I like Wal-Mart. I like its business plan (large volume over high prices); I like the fact that it's union-free; I like its selection and prices; I like that I can buy my groceries at the same time I buy my underwear; I like the fact that there's one in practically every town in the country."

Thats the American-way baby. It is your right to enjoy buying cheap crap made by the Chinese, and thump your chest in pride telling others about it.

And how ironic that its ushering the end of American dominance. That its enabled the loss of millions of American manufacturing jobs and turned America into an importer rather than an exporter. Global economy baby. We're sending our wealth to China and they're poisoning our children in return. But you can buy underwear cheaper by-garn, and thats worth it! American way baby.


No, no, your pride in driving "Lefties and their unionist, collectivizing, anti-business, anti-capitalist constituency into paroxysms of hysteria" is more than icing on the cake. I'd say its the cake, the icing and the glass of milk to go with it. Thats the road you go down when you stop thinking. When cheap crap and a poke at Lefties is what's important to you. You know, because whats the use of small, local business owners when its going to cost you another dollar for undies?


The good news is that Americans in general don't share your view Stinkhammer. America is going in the opposite direction- a higher value is being placed on locally grown food, a higher value is being placed on small, locally owned retailers, a higher value is being placed on quality and safety of products, indeed on American-made products. And thats tough today, everything on our store shelves, except electronics, is made in China.

As usual it isn't Google as previously it wasn't Microsoft nor was it IBM.
These companies are not evil in their existence nor have they ever been. These companies have no ability to use force and therefore are under constant attack by other companies and individuals.

The only evil I see is from the visible hand of government crushing competitors and enacting regulations under the use of force that allow these companies to grow in size and power. The best part for them is the price of this activity is extremely low.

Optimism nice, but is it really warranted?
"America is going in the opposite direction- a higher value is being placed on locally grown food, a higher value is being placed on small, locally owned retailers, a higher value is being placed on quality and safety of products, indeed on American-made products. And thats tough today, everything on our store shelves, except electronics, is made in China."

I wish that were true, but I don't see it. When it comes down to it, I don't think people really care. They don't care about American jobs, they don't care about the way in which thier helping a potential advesary. All we want is cheap underwear, cheap furniture, cheap electronics, better get yours while the gettings good.

Thinking?
"Thats the American-way baby. It is your right to enjoy buying cheap crap made by the Chinese, and thump your chest in pride telling others about it."

Yes it IS my right to enjoy whatever products are manufactured by whomever -- what the hell business is it of yours what kind of products I purchase, who made them, or how "cheap" they are? You certainly don't have to buy them and have them in your home. Chest thumping? When it comes to the right to spend my disposable income the way I see fit, on whatever products I see fit, then hell yes, I'll thump. Freedom of purchasing choice IS the "American Way," baby -- it's the sign of a healthy economy.

"And how ironic that its ushering the end of American dominance. That its enabled the loss of millions of American manufacturing jobs and turned America into an importer rather than an exporter."

Overwrought, generic, protectionist hyperbole. The job market is always fungible. We're becoming a society that depends less and less on unskilled workers, like it or not, and I'm not going to wring my hands about it -- it's the very nature of a dynamic economy. It's the responsibility of the citizenry to adapt to that change. (And they will -- else we'd still have protectionist-types distraught over the impending demise of the buggy whip manufacturers and ice delivery men of a century ago.)For those who are directly affected by a changing economy and happen to lose their jobs in that evolution, yes it can indeed be a personal calamity -- but on the whole, society will adjust. That's the big picture -- a rational, unemotional one -- as dictated by a dynamic economy. I'm not going to engage in Buchananite protectionism to save the current crop of whatever manufacturing may happen to be phasing out any more than I would've the buggy whip makers or ice delivery men. Besides, in the (typical) rant about "lost manufacturing jobs" you obscure the amount of jobs that are IMPORTED as a result of th dreaded global economy, baby.

"We're sending our wealth to China and they're poisoning our children in return."

That's nothing but a blatant appeal to emotion, and it doesn't fly with me. And invoking "the children" is the cheapest way to do it, baby.

"But you can buy underwear cheaper by-garn, and thats worth it!"

Cheaper goods are very much worth an expanding economy, and the surplus of such goods for the poorest among us to afford is the bottom line your ilk tends to (deliberately) overlook. (Odd to me how the Lefties stake a claim for being "for the poor" and the "little guy," yet when a company such as Wal-Mart -- which provides more jobs than Mom & Pop could ever do for those poor, and provides the opportunity for those poor to afford goods they may not otherwise be able to -- is viewed as the black-hearted villain.) Wal-Mart is thus a valuable asset to the poor. (And taking notice of your condescending sarcasm via employing "by-garn" as a pejorative phraseology to mock those who support Wal-Mart-type industries, I'm willing to bet you'd rather those "durn hicks" who shop at Wal-Mart shouldn't be afforded the chance to shop where they please or where they can 'fford, because goll-LEEE, them there hayseeds dunno whut's good fer 'em, dagnubit.)

"Thats the road you go down when you stop thinking. When cheap crap and a poke at Lefties is what's important to you."

You're emoting, I'm thinking. Alluding to the value or worth of anything I may choose, such as calling it "cheap crap," is nothing but reactionary emotionalism. Again, whatever kind of merchandise I may choose to buy isn't any of your business. If I want "cheap crap," I'll buy it -- your taste in merchandise and assessment of its value doesn't have any bearing on my life whatsoever.

As for small business owners, again I'm looking at the overall economic picture, not some microeconomic pie slice -- when more people are able to afford to spend more of their disposable income, the ecomony flourishes; denying them that opportunity in order to preserve a small percentage of small business owners (yes, a small percentage -- the majority of small businesess are not in competition with Wal-mart) isn't a healthy overall economic picture.

"The good news is that Americans in general don't share your view Stinkhammer. America is going in the opposite direction- a higher value is being placed on locally grown food, a higher value is being placed on small, locally owned retailers, a higher value is being placed on quality and safety of products, indeed on American-made products."

Provide some statistical evidence for that broadbrush claim about Americans. Otherwise you're simply talking out your ass in an attempt to claim status in the ranks of "Americans in general," as though such status gives you a sheen of argumentative authority. It doesn't.

Maybe you should try the WSJ?
One reason that Wal Mart has made a huge market is labor costs. You can kiss most of those jobs goodbye.

The Niche market will always exist and can be quit profitable but I don't see Wal Mart getting any smaller. The only Union growth is in public sector jobs and the government produces nothing.

Really want to see more American Manufacturing, then lets talk tax cuts. Even Spain announced tax cuts today and we have amongst the highest corporate tax rates in the West.




I'll Give You Thinking
>"Thats the road you go down when you stop thinking."

As a citizen of the US society I'm most interested in its economy on the MACRO scale -- my thoughts and opinions derive from that. Lower income consumers have benefitted greatly from Wal-Mart's low prices. Big box stores are very good for a community's economy, which in turn is good for the country's economy. Nobody is forced to shop at Wal-Mart -- consumers (like me)choose it of their own accord, believe it or not. And they benefit from the low prices and surfeit of goods -- and when consumers benefit the community's economy benefits (and the country's overall economy benefits in turn). Those local consumers obviously prefer Wal-Mart to the Mom & Pop establishments that fail to provide a competitive shopping atmosphere: consumers vote with their wallets (more power to 'em) and they've voted overwhelmingly for Wal-Mart -- otherwise the company wouldn't be as successful as it has been. And if people decide they don't want your so-called "cheap crap," then a niche market will develope for "non-cheap crap" as a result of those people's demands, and that market will flourish to serve those "non-cheap crap"-preferring consumers.

As to the complaint that Wal-Mart causes all the Mom & Pop stores to go out of business as a result of their corporate, expansion, I contend that it's not true -- there certainly may be SOME small, less efficient shops who suffer from the competition and ultimately perish, but I'd need to see statistical evidence (which as far as I know doesn't exist) that Wal-Mart is driving ALL the small stores out of business. Besides, there's nothing new about the idea of chain stores creating competitive plight to small, independent merchants (it goes all the way back to the 1930's when grocery chains affected small produce dealers; where's your indignation over K-Mart or Target? Or Safeway or Albertson's? Or any other large-scale shopping outlet?) -- singling out Wal-Mart for condemnation over a fact of standard economic reality is intellectually facile. Schumpeter's explanation for the phenomenon was "the creative destruction of capital" -- and the result is an OVERALL improvement of the economy of a community, despite the detriment of specific individuals.

Also, when a Wal-Mart goes into a community, not only does an outlet for goods at low prices arrive, but also a larger opportunity for employment than any collection of small Mom & Pop stores, and with greater benefits. Wal-Mart has no problem attracting employees -- nobody is forced to work for them, they're not endentured servants. And apparently the working conditions are satisfactory to a large force of Wal-Mart workers who seem not to mind that there's no union infiltration. For unskilled workers with little experience, Wal-Mart employment provides average, competitive wages in the low-end retail industry -- there's no mass of protesting Wal-Mart employees demanding that the company change its employment practices and wages (that's what unions goons are for.) And for many, the employment alternatives are much worse. As well, Wal-Mart has a higher-than-average amount of employee stock holders, which not only builds a financial interest in the company for the workers, but a motivational aspect (via productivity) in seeing the company do well. They also provide standard 401k retirement options and health insurance -- something those romanticised Mom & Pop establishments don't usually offer.

To this oft-decried concept of outsourcing: it's actually good for American workers ON THE WHOLE. Restricting companies to the domestic supply of employees is bad for companies when the domestic supply is more expensive to employ than the global supply -- just as new technology is better for a company when it replaces physical workers and can reduce company payroll expenditures. The resultant ultimate boon is to the consumers of the product that a company makes, in the form of lower-priced goods -- and lower-priced goods means a greater flow of circulating money, a stronger economy. Now, of course it's not trivial that the loss of someone's job to outsourcing or technology is damaging to those people on a personal level, but the overall benefit -- in the form of cheaper goods -- will go to the American consumers in the aggregate; individuals may indeed suffer the struggle of having to switch jobs, but despite whatever job they may land as a result of being forced into re-employment their disposable dollars will go that much farther as a result of an increased spending power that cheaper goods provide; they're consumers benefitting from lower prices just like every other American consumer, after all. It can be an abstract concept and one contrary to emotional instinct to suggest that people losing specific jobs is actually good for the economy, but when viewed from a macro, long-term perspective, that's exactly the case. What's the alternative -- outlawing all innovation, since technological advancements can provide the impetus to displace workers in the same way as outsourcing can? Nonsense: jobs elmininated be it via outsourcing or machinery (or even changes in consumer preferences) -- while costly to those immediately affected for an indeterminable amount of time -- are ultimately dispensible. Otherwise, society would never advance.

(con't below)

Thinking, con't
Furthermore, some historical perspective: In Thomas Jefferson's day 95% of Americans worked on a farm; today it's about 2% of the country's workers. But farm output on a per capita basis is much higher than it was back in Jefferson's time due to technological advancements. Had we tried to insulate those workers from the dislocation that naturally occured as a result of technology, the prosperous nature of farm output would never have developed. As such we've naturally progressed from an agrarian society to a manufacturing society to a burgeoning service society -- and that change from manufacturing to service orientation is what protectionist types are (perhaps unwittingly) attempting to thwart in the name of "saving jobs." But as long as gov't doesn't interfere with a market economy, it will develop naturally along its most efficient lines -- it always has and always will. Labor will go to where it's most productive, total output will increase, and that raises the real wages people can earn overall. That means a healthier overall economy. Should that agrarian-to-manufacturing oriented evolution never have been allowed to take place? Should gov't have intervened in the cause of preserving all those farmer's jobs? Of course not -- if gov't mandated an attempt to guarantee anyone's specific job, all it would do would lock in the current state of production and society would stagnate.

Also: the economy anymore is extremely integrated, and benefits such from specialization and comparative advantage that it becomes impossible to specify who exactly is working to benefit what field -- therefore a 2% statistic of people working in agriculture is actually somewhat misleading in that, some auto manufacturer employees build tractors which are in turn used by farmers, so those tractor manufacturing individuals are indirectly working in agriculture; people working in fertilizer plants contribute to agricultural output, as do some even in the computer industry (since some farmers use computers to be more productive.) That's the advantage of an integrated economy free to operate within indigenously dynamic parameters. Job displacement often enhances the distribution of skills historically (and superficially) allocated to one specific area -- a new job can often augment traditional employment arenas in ways unforseen.

So: looked at from the perspective of the country as a whole, outsourcing and free trade of certain manufacturing industries means that it is more productive for the US economy to concentrate its work force on other areas. And the total output makes everyone better off because the domestic work force has embraced specialization.

Besides, INsourcing is a force conveniently not reckoned with by the Leftist/protectionist free trade/global economy naysayers. For example, we have Toyota plants in the US now, which means a Japanese company has outsourced labor to our country, which is demonstrably beneficial to our workers (and economy); in California alone, labor statistics show that over 500, 000 jobs in that state are provided subsidiaries owned by foreign companies -- that's quite a bit of insourced labor.

But the idea of the poor, hapless, unskilled worker losing his/her job to the big, powerful, evil mega-company's decision to outsource/mechanize is an emotionally volatile one, which is why it scores big with masses of unthinking, reactionary, protectionist types (a la John Edwards and his followers). It takes an actual intellectual assessment -- bolstered by a working knowledge of basic economics -- to counter the indignation that gloomy scenario fosters. Of course, it's easy to appear flippant about the loss of someone's job (any dislocation to the people directly involved is a serious upheaval to their lives) but again: I'm interested in the economy as a WHOLE, not specific job areas which will be affected as a result of naturally dynamic flux. That takes thinking, not emoting.

I suggest reading up on some Schumpeter, Hayek, Friedman, Hazlitt, Sowell, and economics in general before accusing others of not thinking about the subject.

funny re underwear
So let me get this straight, you would prefer your children to work at making underwear, than you would have them working for Google. Or do you want your own kids to have proper professions, but you want other peoples kids to make the underwear in the US?

crappy article
Here we go again, when people are always saying that Americans aren't innovatiave anymore, we see companies like Google(and walmart and microsoft,etc)come along, and they bad mouthed for being too innovative. And the contention that they're monopolistic is crap too since you could always; buy your clothes somewhere else, get a Apple computer, and all the stuff that Google does too. It sounds like the same old envy of success. It's also ironic that a lot of these complainers themselves work for monopolies like the various government agencies.

Mom & Pop stores?
I always love it when the anti-Walmart crowd trots out the image of quaint little mom & pop grocery stores. I feel like I should congratulate these people on their longevity, since they evidently remember the 1890s fondly.


In the real world, Walmart competes with Safeway, Food Lion, and all the other mega-chains. Walmart did, in fact, put my local Safeway out of business, but now an upscale grocery chain (Harris Teeter) is replacing Safeway.

Obviously this has been disruptive for the Safeway employees, but the new upscale store will probably employ as many people as Safeway; probably more, since the store is about twice the size of the old one. Not exactly the end of the world.

Unfair competition
I won't pretend to understand the actual issues involved. The author seems to feel passionately about them without exactly divulging them. So I assume it has to do with the money, and with some perceived unfairness.

Could it be that Google does so much for us for free that people who would like to do it for a fee feel they have been stiffed of a fine opportunity? Just wondering.

Thats a decent argument
I actually agree with much of what you say. You speak some truth. I think our difference is in our values. You, as you stated repeatedly, put a higher value on economy and consumerism and partisanship. I put a higher value on people, a macro view of society you could say. I don’t believe our purpose is to drive the economy. Consumerism is materialistic and shallow. Its a bad thing when our economy is dependent on wasteful spending.


"Yes it IS my right to enjoy whatever products are manufactured by whomever -- what the hell business is it of yours what kind of products I purchase, who made them, or how "cheap" they are? You certainly don't have to buy them and have them in your home. Chest thumping? When it comes to the right to spend my disposable income the way I see fit, on whatever products I see fit, then hell yes, I'll thump. Freedom of purchasing choice IS the "American Way," baby -- it's the sign of a healthy economy."

You made it my business by talking about it. You’re the one bragging about how you enjoy buying cheap crap and how saying so gives you pleasure because it roils Lefties. I don’t really care where or what you buy, but if you’re going to brag and joust people with it, I also don’t mind pointing out your decisions are short-sighted and selfish, and lack consideration for anything beyond your own temporary pleasure. I wasn’t totally being sarcastic, freedom of choice IS the American way. I protect your rights, even if I criticize your decisions, and the way you brag about them.


BJ: "We're sending our wealth to China and they're poisoning our children in return."

SH:”That's nothing but a blatant appeal to emotion, and it doesn't fly with me. And invoking "the children" is the cheapest way to do it, baby.”

Good argument there. The thing is, what I said is true. I wouldn’t try to appeal to your emotion, I know better than that. But it is a nice little statement, that would be a good talking point for the Left. And it’s true! That’s the point.


“You're emoting, I'm thinking. Alluding to the value or worth of anything I may choose, such as calling it "cheap crap," is nothing but reactionary emotionalism. Again, whatever kind of merchandise I may choose to buy isn't any of your business. If I want "cheap crap," I'll buy it -- your taste in merchandise and assessment of its value doesn't have any bearing on my life whatsoever.”

Now that’s funny. Come on, are you saying it’s not cheap crap the stuff you buy at Walmart? Of course it is. It’s not cheaper only because of volume pricing. It’s a cheaper price for cheaper quality. What you choose or whether you even shop at Walmart doesn’t matter a lick, it’s cheap crap regardless, it’s not that way BECAUSE you shop there. It’s got nothing to do with you. Sorry if that hurts your feelings. You might put a higher value on the ability to pay less for lower quality. That’s your choice, your choices say something about you, if you’re going brag up your choices and condescend to others you should expect pushback.


BJ: "The good news is that Americans in general don't share your view Stinkhammer. America is going in the opposite direction- a higher value is being placed on locally grown food, a higher value is being placed on small, locally owned retailers, a higher value is being placed on quality and safety of products, indeed on American-made products."

SH: “Provide some statistical evidence for that broadbrush claim about Americans. Otherwise you're simply talking out your ass in an attempt to claim status in the ranks of "Americans in general," as though such status gives you a sheen of argumentative authority. It doesn't.”

A “sheen of argumentative authority”? I didn’t realize I was trying to create a sheen and claim status. Or is that just your strawman? It’s an observation, a conclusion derived from observation. For example, the growth of the organic foods industry, local food co-ops popping up or expanding, local garden co-ops popping up where you pay $x amount and get a basket of fruits and vegetables every week from a dedicated garden. I see interviews and media coverage of the subject. For years it’s been a buzz that some people push for the return of small retailers and the value of keeping the flow of money in the community. I’ve seen interesting stories on people who tried to not buy Chinese made products and discovered very quickly it’s basically impossible. Very recently the discovery of high levels of lead in kids’ toys made in China is driving people to ask more questions.

I’m not saying this trend is a majority of Americans – yet. It’s not a paradigm shift yet, it’s still small, but growing rapidly. What I don’t observe are people bragging about shopping at Walmart and elaborating on how much they enjoy shopping at Walmart. People should know by now what they’re getting when they shop at Walmart. Why would they brag about it?


One more thing you got right Stinkhammer is the fact Walmart is a benefit to people who don’t have much money, it’s good for getting cheap grooming products and the like, stuff we use everyday- HBA stuff. But it’s arguable for everything else in the store, because you get what you pay for, its logical the toys and clothes and other items wear out or break more easily. Thus you have to buy it again more often. It’s more than logical, it’s a fact of experience. And I should add, because I know you're thinking it, I'm not talking about 100% of all the products at Walmart. I have purchased items of the same quality as you can get anywhere else, but my experience is that most of it is cheap and low quality. Its the reputation of Walmart, so I think that experience is not mine alone.

and then some
1890's? More like the 1970's and 1980's that Walmart drove all those local, small retailers out of business across the country. Or at least across the Midwest and mid-South at that point. They weren't grocery stores. Walmart didn't even have groceries at that time. Walmart didn't start selling groceries until the late 80's. Thats when they started driving the Safeway's, etc. AND the mom & pop groceries out of business. There was a wave of local pharmacies and hardware stores that went under before Walmart changed the grocery industry.

"Walmart did, in fact, put my local Safeway out of business, but now an upscale grocery chain (Harris Teeter) is replacing Safeway."

Thats especially interesting because I don't believe Safeway is an upscale grocery store. So Walmart moved in and provides cheaper, low quality food stuff. The Safeway closes. In response an upscale grocer opens to satisfy people who don't want the low quality food at Walmart.

Definitely not the end of the world. The market responded to satisfy demand. One more small piece of evidence that indicates a likely trend away from the Walmarticization of our society. Cheaper is not always better.

It probably is fair to say I'm an anti-Walmart person, but I haven't always been. I turned this way because Walmart became too big, became China Jr., I don't appreciate the cheap products and questionable safety, sub-par employment practices, and a general perception of suburbanization and corporatization that Walmart represents.

At the same time, I appreciate and admire the gleaming example of how a guy can grow a single store into an empire. Walton's business strategy of bulk purchasing and lower prices to capture market share. Its a textbook example of business success, I appreciate the value of that.

The Power of 10
I'm not one for gameshows, but I do love The Power of 10, which is hosted by Drew Carey (which adds tremendous amounts of appeal to the show).

On the Power of 10, contestants are read a question by Carey. The question is one that was posed via telephone survey to thousands of Americans by the show's producers. The task of the contestant is to determine, within a certain margin of error which progressively shrinks as the contestant progresses toward the possibility of winning $1 million, what percentage of Americans responded in a certain way to the question. The audience also participates by voting and then having their collective vote displayed as a chart, giving a possible hint as to what the majority of Americans feel about the question.

Last night, the question that thwarted a contestant was, "What percentage of Americans would rather pay twice as much to buy an American flag that was made in America instead of an American flag that was made in China?"

The answer: a mere 22%. 78% of Americans would prefer to pay less money in order to buy an Amerian flag made in a foreign nation and probably to a lesser standard. I think that says something...

BRAVO, Hammer!
Now that's a rant for the archives!

Incidentally, I just want to point out that Target is better than Wal-Mart, but the principle is the same.

As D.H. Lawrence said,
in so many words, there's a natural hierarchy on the Earth.

Not everyone is equally gifted. Not everyone is equally driven. Not everyone is equally creative. Not every ice hockey player can be Sidney Crosby.

Education cannot make them so, either. Education can only enhance and direct what is already there (proper education, that is; not American public education or even most American university education, which are oxymorons these days).

So, the answer is, some people would benefit themselves best, at least temporarily, by making underwear (hey, I ain't got the time to make my own!). Others don't need to make underwear because, well, they have more of the Unmentionable mentioned elsewhere (by A. Kling, I believe).

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