Wednesday, June 23, 2004


In the minds of the zero-sum set, if I am rich, it is because you are poor, or vice-versa. So a successful Wal-Mart must be getting away with murder.

Whether it is their labor practices or their land use ("big-box") practices, or whatever, something must be amiss. Never mind that they are among retailing's most auspicious innovators.

One of the world's most successful enterprises chooses to discriminate against half of the planet's talent pool. In a better world, the assertion would be seen as laughable.

Yet, labor markets are now politicized. Bi-variate associations that show males and females of similar classification averaging different compensation packages are taken seriously. Lawyers, consultants, politicians, media representatives and the like pile on.

Add the normal control variables and the gender wage gap inevitably shrinks. Does it go to zero? Or, who to listen to? Those who specify the models or competing owners and managers who are daily judged by bottom-line performance?

Americans' material wealth is, in great part, due to the state of our economic freedoms. The ease with which markets are politicized these days and the fact that economic growth persists, nevertheless, attest to the amazing power of free enterprise.