The idea of ‘fairness’ in economic terms can be interpreted in several ways. For example: Is it fair that capitalism allows multinational company’s like Walmart into small economies and push out many local food shops? On the contrary, is it fair to the average consumer to ban price-minimizing company’s like Walmart in order to sustain a small business?
Is it fair that our demand for cheap food, clothes, electronics, etc, is forcing impoverished children around the world to produce these products for us? Or would it be unfair to these children to not demand these cheap products, because, without this demand, they would have no means of making money to sustain a living, and their parents can’t afford to provide enough food and clothes for them unless they work for a dollar a day.
Ethics in globalization are always being scrutinized, but it’s unlikely that child labor will halt anytime soon because there will always remain a demand for cheap products. Furthermore, it’s also unlikely that company’s like Walmart will stop expanding on a global scale, making small businesses suffer.
The concept of opportunity costs describes why it is so difficult to construct a ‘fair’ economic system. We can’t have everything, and if we want more of something, we must give up more of another thing.
Either we want a stronger local economy and stop shopping at Walmart, or we want more money in our own pockets and continue shopping at Walmart because it’s cheaper than everywhere else.
So, let me ask, Is our decision to shop at price-minimizers like Walmart not fair to local businesses?
Obviously not, if there’s a cheaper option available right beside your local grocery store, you’re more than likely to shop at Walmart unless you can afford to purchase quality over quantity. I don’t think this is unfair by any stretch, just a matter of being logical and conscious of our everyday purchases.
To conclude, when trying to make an economic system fair, it’s good to consider having a balance of foreign investment (Walmart) and local investment (your local grocery store). This way, the lower-income home populace benefits from having a large foodchain just down the street, and those with higher incomes can give back to the community by shopping locally.
The good thing is, at least where I live (Canada) there is a healthy amount of local and foreign investment in the economy anywhere I go. As a commerce student, it’s really nice to see local restaurants and businesses thriving and I always go out of my way to shop locally, and so should you!