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Teen protestors need refresher on economics
Generally speaking, its probably a positive thing when young people take an interest in politics and the world around them even if the conclusions they reach are dead wrong. Its all part of the maturation process and you assume their point of view will evolve as they grow up and continue to learn.
Consequently, it would be a mistake to take too seriously the views espoused by a handful of South Kitsap High School students profiled in the Feb. 7 Independent (A crash course in Protest 101).
That doesnt mean the students criticisms of Wal-Mart in general and the local store in particular arent as wrong as wrong can be, though, because they certainly are. What concerns us most, however, is that the students apparently launched their misguided crusade against the mega-retailer after learning about the companys business practices in their SKHS economics class.
If thats the case, one of two things must be true: Either the students deserve an Fin the class for learning absolutely nothing about the workings of capitalism, or their economics teacher is advancing some very curious theories to his or her students.
The specific aspect of Wal-Marts business practices that seems to trouble the students most is the companys annoying habit of pricing its merchandise lower than that of its competitors. The overwhelming majority of consumers, of course, think this is a pretty good arrangement, which explains Wal-Marts unprecedended success. But the SKHS students seem to think Wal-Mart is doing it just to be mean.
Competition, they will eventually discover, is the lifeblood of capitalism and its why our economic system works so much better than anything else thats ever been tried. If Wal-Mart enjoys economies of scale that allow it to sell its product for less than Safeway or K-Mart, so much the better for all of us. If other retailers cant compete on price, perhaps they can find a market niche by providing superior quality or customer service.
If not, theyll fail. But it isnt Wal-Marts responsibility to set its own prices needlessly high in order to subsidize its competitors weaknesses. All that does is sustain mediocrity.
In the long run, the competitive struggle benefits everyone, while corporate pity on an unsuccessful rival would benefit no one. But who needs to worry about the long run when youre a 17-year-old who knows everything?