up against the Wal

December 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

In noting growing opposition to Walmart-ization in India, Lila Rajiva over at Mindbodypolitic says:

Any corporation that large only got that way because of regulation, cheap money, federal courts etc….

My reply:

I hate Wall[Of China]Mart and prefer American.

But all being equal, today I’m on the free trade side of the fence. Thing is, to my knowledge we never have had free trade internationally. If we did — starting with freeing *domestic* trade from dumb taxation and regulation — I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t matter what China did with its currency, labor policies, etc. Americans would be able to start making things again and would prefer to invest and buy American manufactured goods. Wall Mart would lose its artificial lustre.

More so than price, I worry about safety with Chinese goods. I really prefer drywall, toothpaste, toys, etc without the cancer-causing chemicals. I’m not sure whether current trade deals or “statuses” hinder safety enforcement.

Getting back to corporate gigantism, the whole tax structure, federal to local, favors it. Big guys like most taxes and many regs since they fall comparatively harder on small biz. For the biggies it’s just a nuisance they pay people to handle. For mom and pop (or hipster guy + girl, or insert preferred archetype) it can be the end.

The real estate tax in most localities taxes the wrong thing, therefore penalizes what most people want and subsidizes what most don’t want: sprawl, big-boxism, uglification.Henry George, referenced in that link, was best known for one really big idea, which as it happens, would spell the end of premature sprawl, and Sprall Mart dominance, by un-slanting the playing field of location and taxation that these outfits depend on.

And, incidentally, if you want a really fair and really simple revenue system, and you want one that can operate from the bottom up rather than top down, then George’s idea also makes sense. Milton Friedman, for instance, said if we must have any tax it should be George’s “single tax” (or class of tax) on land minus improvements. Wish he’d repeated that more loudly, and more often. Most people don’t realize land was the original public revenue base when the republic was formed. The nature of a land *value* tax is more of a use fee (pay to use) than a typical tax (pay to produce; or pay an arbitrary amount for an uncertain benefit). Americans rebelled more than once, OTOH, against excises, since back then they understood which type of tax hurt the common man and which helped him.

Of course tax reforms have to be combined with complete transparency and legislation ending all special breaks.

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