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Is it Wal-Mart …? It is certaintly not these guys, or these guys, or these guys, or these guys, or certainly NOT these guys. From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Here is one excerpt

In Mexico, Wal-Mart has been a counterweight to the powers that control commerce. One of the most closed economies in the world until the late 1980s, Mexico was dominated for decades by a handful of big grocers and retailers. All were members of a national retailing association called ANTAD, and cutthroat competition was taboo. At the local level, towns are still hostage to local bosses, known here as caciques, the Indian word for local strongmen who control politics and commerce.

Wal-Mart’s jobs pay well by Mexican standards and serve as a gateway to the state health and pension systems. Full-time jobs with regular salaries are scarce. About half Mexico’s labor force — 20 million people — work in a so-called informal economy of day laborers, unregistered taxi drivers and street vendors. Their salaries are in cash and they pay no taxes. Because they aren’t in the tax system, they are also not eligible for the state-run health-care system and government mortgage subsidies, and they have no pensions.

In a country where family connections often matter more than skill, Wal-Mart trains floor workers to rise to management. Plus, Wal-Mart lowered prices on thousands of staples from tomatoes to diapers, helping stretch low wages here for millions of middle-class and poor consumers.

The retailer entered Mexico in 1991, teaming up with local retailer Cifra SA. When Wal-Mart started to publish price comparisons showing how much cheaper its prices were, other retailers were outraged. In 2002, Wal-Mex was forced to resign from ANTAD. Then rivals were forced to improve service and keep up with price cuts to stay in business. In January alone, Wal-Mart cut prices on 7,500 items.

Some in Mexico aren’t happy with the fact that Wal-Mart now accounts for half of the country’s entire supermarket sales. Mexico’s beloved open-air food markets, where hawkers buff up the fruit and offer tasty sample slices, have been hit hard. Over the past few years, local shopkeepers have teamed up with leftist intellectuals to try to block the construction of new Wal-Marts in several places.

It is so successful that the intellectual elites need to stop it!

And here’s another:

“It’s a very different place to work, because you can succeed by your own effort,” says Ms. López, whose $12,000-a-year salary now puts her in Mexico’s middle class.

Ms. López’s story of economic mobility is a rare one. Most of her childhood friends don’t have steady jobs, she said. The success stories are friends who inherited jobs from their parents at the state oil company’s big refinery in Salina Cruz, about an hour away.

Read the whole thing. I have no patience for intellectual moralists trying to prevent greedy businesses from doing what they do best. And in this case, it is serving lower- and middle-income consumers and workers – and is doing a better job than anything the Mexican government or intellectuals have done in centuries. And if Wal-Mart makes a profit from doing so, the better it will be for more of Mexico’s poor – because other businesses will have to follow Wal-Mart’s lead and find a way to serve customers and workers better.

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