by Max Brantley
For Wal-Mart watchers: A couple of new books examine the discount chain's rise and its impact. Reviews today in the New York Times.
It’s no surprise, then, that Walton and his successors at Wal-Mart have been among the nation’s most uncritically enthusiastic boosters of the invisible hand. Thus, as the University of Georgia historian Bethany Moreton notes in “To Serve God and Wal-Mart,” the company and the Walton Family Foundation have given tens of millions of dollars to conservative research groups like the Heritage Foundation to support educational outreach programs that tout the virtues of unfettered free markets.
But lower prices and more efficient distribution methods have not been the only consequences of Wal-Mart’s explosive growth. Indeed, much of what we learn from Moreton’s book, as well as from Nelson Lichtenstein’s “Retail Revolution,” raises serious doubts about whether the corporation’s influence has been positive on balance.