Intelligence Squared

Wednesday, April 19 at 2:00 pm

Has Walmart been good for America?  Long Live Walmart

Walmart has long been a target for critics of corporate expansion, but does the company really deserve the scrutiny?  Some say that the big-box retailer devastates small communities by pushing out locally-owned businesses, mistreats its workers through low pay and restrictive work hours, and forces American companies to use cheap foreign labor to produce goods at low cost.  Others point to the fact that Walmart provides countless jobs to low-skilled American workers, sells affordable goods, has increasingly become a leader in sustainability, and attracts new consumers and businesses to its neighborhoods.  Has Walmart been good for America?

John Tierney is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute's quarterly publication, City Journal, a contributing science columnist to the New York Times, and a contributor to  Tierney has written about urban politics, economics, and culture in his column, “The Big City,” which appeared in the New York Times Magazine and in the paper’s Metro section.  He has also written columns in the Times about national politics.  His work has been published in The Atlantic, Esquire, New York, Reason, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. Tierney’s latest book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, was a New York Times best-seller and has been translated into 20 languages.  His website is

Richard Vedder is director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus at Ohio University, and an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He has had visiting appointments at a number of other universities, including the University of Colorado, Claremont McKenna College, and Washington University in St. Louis, as well as the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. He has authored Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much and The Wal-Mart Revolution: How Big-Box Stores Benefit Consumers, Workers, and the Economy. His hundreds of articles and reviews have appeared in numerous scholarly journals as well as such publications as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, National Review, Washington Post, and Investor’s Business Daily.

Nelson Lichtenstein is a distinguished professor in the Department of History at UC Santa Barbara, where he directs the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy. He is the author or editor of 16 books, including Achieving Workers’ Rights in the Global Economy (2016); The Right and Labor in America: Politics, Ideology, and Imagination (2013); and The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business (2009, 2010). Lichtenstein has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundations, the University of California, and from the Fulbright Commission and the Oregon Center for the Humanities. His reviews and opinion pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Dissent, New Labor Forum, American Prospect, and academic journals.

Amy Traub serves as associate director of policy and research at Demos. She has a broad research focus on consumer debt, job quality and job creation, and policies to build the American middle class. She has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on issues relating to job quality and the middle class. Prior to Demos, Traub worked at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy. She has contributed essays and opinion articles to a variety of publications, including The Nation, The New York Times, The Hill, The American Prospect, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The San Jose Mercury News. Her book chapter, "A Strengthened Middle Class," appeared in Thinking Big: Progressive Ideas for a New Era.

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