Pretend you are walking down an inner city street at 1 A.M. Less than a block ahead you spot four guys in baggy clothes loitering. Rather than take the chance of a hostile encounter, you turn down another street that is empty. Most people would regard this decision as rational and safe. But guess what? You just discriminated!
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a class action lawsuit against Walmart by 1.6 million females claiming the retail giant discriminated in pay on the basis of gender. The lawsuit boiled down to Walmart's alleged discriminatory practices of promoting men over women to management positions. The Supreme Court's rejection stemmed from the absurd notion that one and a half million people all have similar experiences and viable claims. Putting that issue aside, the real dilemma of the continuing three-ring circus of Walmart lawsuits stems from a matter close to the left's heart: government-imposed equality.
If you have ever had the displeasure of listening to Walmart opponents, mental pictures may flash in your head of bald-headed men in expensive suits smoking cigars and cracking whips over shackled up employees. And after slaving away all day, these workers go home to wallow in destitution because of the incredibly low wages they receive. Throw in some rhetoric about gender inequality and you have the perfect recipe for government intervention.
Rather than let people freely choose where to work, how much they are willing to work for, and what working conditions they are willing to put up with, those on the left strive to engineer society to what they see as just. What many of them seem unable to grasp is that human society is inherently unequal. Discrimination has always been used to vet the abilities of individuals to perform certain tasks. An overweight man is not hired as a server at Hooters and an eighteen-year-old girl is not hired to work in a coal mine.
Now Walmart has been accused of having a corporate culture of promoting and paying men more than woman. Even if they do, is it truly that big of a deal? If you disagree with Walmart's business practices, then don't shop there. If female employees think their male counterparts are being treated better, than Target or Walgreen's are just down the road. And if management at Walmart really does promote a male who may not be as competent as a female candidate, then it should suffer by productivity losses. Each of these solutions is more efficient than creating an agency filled with bureaucrats hell bent on imposing equality.
When it comes to decrying big business, no other has been in the left's target range more than Wally World. Labor proponents want nothing more to unionize the employees. Fair trade advocates are disgusted at the abundance of cheap, Chinese-produced goods available. Small business owners hate competing with a more efficient enterprise. And yet Walmart continues to thrive by providing consumers with an abundance of goods at affordable prices.
One would think that a company which provides cheap necessities to the public would be regarded as virtuous. Maybe even saintly. Instead, Walmart continues to be demonized by tenured college professors who have never worked a low-wage job or struggled to make ends meet on food stamps. They probably never even stepped into a Walmart before, let alone mingled among the great unwashed.
It may not be politically correct, but discrimination is a beneficial human function. Without it, people are unable to make rational decisions about whom they associate and do business with. The gang of street toughs waiting at the end of the block could be the kindest people in the world. Or they could rob you of all your belongings and leave you half-naked in the street. Whichever the case, judging on the basis of looks can save a person's life.
In the end, Walmart has every right to pay employees whatever they see fit. And if you disagree with their policies, then you can pay more than $150 for a 19'' high-definition television elsewhere. You will just be leaving more for me.
James E. Miller blogs at millergd.blogspot.com.