The New Left as an Enemy of the People: The Assault on Wal-Mart

By Edwin A. Locke

Hartford, CT, one of America’s poorest cities, was looking forward to the arrival of Wal-Mart which would bring lower prices for consumers, more jobs, new stores that wanted to locate near Wal-Mart, and the reinvigoration of the city. City leaders were stunned when a leftist coalition of outsiders (unions, a radical community group, environmentalists and others) suddenly tried to block the Wal-Mart project by filing a series of frivolous lawsuits. One of the lawsuits objected to the planned destruction of vegetation that had grown since the land had been cleared. Said a pro Wal-Mart community activist, Jackie Fongemie,” Where were the environmentalists when rats were running wild around this place?”

The left has always prided itself in being a lover, protector and benefactor of the “people” and especially the poor. The old left worshipped Communism which they claimed was a moral ideal, because it forced everyone to sacrifice himself to the needs of the state in return for equal benefits to all. The “ideal” of man as a slave of the collective was neither moral nor practical and left mass poverty and millions of dead in its wake.

The new left has given up on the ideal of Communism, but it has not given up on the moral premise behind it—that man should be an object of sacrifice and that working for one’s self interest is immoral. Instead of preaching Communism (or socialism), it has moved to the other side of the same coin and done everything in its power to cripple capitalism They have supported ecology crusades (which strive to stop all commercial development), anti-trust laws (designed to persecute the best companies), higher taxes, above market wages through government coercion, and thousands of costly and arbitrary business regulations

The left’s actions in these spheres have often seemed (superficially) consistent with their professed agenda of helping the “little guy” because they were mainly directed against the rich and successful. But this was only a veneer because harming successful business owners and developers, in fact, hurts everyone.

Even that veneer has now worn off and the naked essence of their real motive has now come out into the open. It is revealed by their increasingly vicious attacks on Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart provides jobs for more than 1.3 million people world-wide and serves 20 million shoppers per day. It is a bonanza for the poor, because in addition to providing jobs, it sells many thousands of items, including groceries, any very low prices. In short, Wal-Mart makes poor people wealthier.

This, one would think, would make the left a champion of Wal-Mart rather than its arch enemy. But the reality is that the left (whether new or old) is not and never was a champion of the poor. Consider a recent conference held at The University of California at Santa Barbara where 250, mostly left wing, intellectuals gathered recently for a conference on Wal-Mart. One history professor remarked, “And how do we move beyond the single-minded self-interest of price?” A sociology professor complained “Everything is based on the consumer first….Is this the way we want to live?”

The left has offered many rationalizations for its hatred of Wal-Mart. It claims the average wage of $10 an hour (almost twice the federal minimum wage level) is too low, but 1.3 million people) are quite happy to have these jobs and to work in a company where they have the opportunity to get stock options and to get promotions. The health benefits are too limited, they say, but Wal-Mart has focused on protection from the most serious, catastrophic illnesses and has no lifetime caps. It is claimed that Wal-Mart bullies its suppliers, but what it really does is force them to be as efficient as Wal-Mart itself, thus lowering costs. Others complain that Wal-Mart uses too many foreign suppliers, but outsourcing is done by hundreds of U. S. Corporations. The companies benefit by making greater profits which can then be invested in growing the business and consumers benefit by lower prices.

One study done in California estimates that Wal-Mart’s entry could save California shoppers $3.76 billion annually and create 36,000 new jobs. But the left wants none of this. They hate capitalism, the only method of sustained wealth creation, and they hate the idea that the poor might better themselves on their own. They oppose the idea of anyone working for their own self interest. They want everyone to be a ward of the state, sacrificing their interests to whatever causes the rulers choose (whether it be the spotted owl or poor people in Honduras).

It’s time to recognize that the left is the true enemy of the people. We must reject the corrupt moral ideal which it champions: the sacrifice of man to the state. Instead we need to stand up for the truly noble ideal that was the foundation of America: man’s right to his own life and the pursuit of his own happiness.

About Edwin A. Locke

Edwin A. Locke, a Professor Emeritus of management at the University of Maryland at College Park, is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute ( in Irvine, Calif.