On CafeHayek.com, Professor Don Boudreaux, tells us (Link Here) that the reverend Mr. Al Sharpton is raising a stink (yes, I realize that has a potentially double meaning and is redundant – as in, what else does he do?) regarding Walgreens’ failure to adequately serve poor neighborhoods.
Why does he stipulate that Walgreens is obligated to serve any customers? They are free to put all of their stores on Park Avenue, if they like, yes? Are there any Tiffany’s in the poor neighborhoods Mr. Sharpton is worried about, or any check cashing, pay-day loan operations Rodeo Drive? What would Charlie Sheen do in a cash emergency and why isn’t someone looking out for him?
I frame it more seriously this way: Walgreens’ total market capitalization of approximately $35 billion did not materialize from thin air, reverend Mr. Sharpton. As the Professor Boudreaux points out via his list of things Walgreens chose to do to make pills and suppositories appear behind their counter (just next to $3.49 ethnic hair products, $1.59 paper towels and $1.29 candy bars, etc.) this kind of operation is the result of billions of independent, unique, untraceable decisions about the most effective uses of capital and labor. That unimaginably complex process has resulted in a situation where, for $1.29 you get a Milky Way AND, implicit therein, you get the benefit of the trillions of dollars it took to deliver it there between the M&Ms and the Snickers.
HUH? you say, trillions? Yes, trillions. Add Walgreens market cap to that of Mars Candy, Pfizer, Merck (and every other company who has a product on offer in that store) and it’s AT LEAST multi-trillions of dollars. The owners of Mars Candy, Inc can’t deploy only the miniscule fraction of their world-wide enterprise that made YOUR Milky Way, even though you are paying only for your tiny share of Mars Candy. And the same goes for the companies offering the products you didn’t even purchase, because it is the unique combination of products services, and multiple locations that is the essence of Walgreens, the magic that makes Walgreens exist. That’s the beauty of Walgreens (and 7-11, Kroger, Victoria’s Secret, Federal Express and . . .)
When will you learn, reverend Mr. Sharpton, that stuff doesn’t happen because you have a camera and a microphone; stuff happens because, to paraphrase Milton Friedman, millions and millions of men and women, almost all of whom don’t even know of the existence of the rest, and many of whom would hate each other if they ever met face-to-face, in their own way, free of coercion, contributed to that Milky Way’s being there. And it was there for you last Wednesday at 2:43 a.m., exactly when you wanted it there – for a mere $1.29. And the cold pint of milk tasted great with it, too, didn’t it!
And, now you want the government to fine tune and improve on that model for you without disturbing its intricate and delicate balance?! NO SIR! Step away from the counter and put your hands in the air.
To borrow from A Few Good Men – “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “Thank you,” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post.”
Freedom, Milky Ways . . . same thing. Mr. Sharpton, Walgreens doesn’t have time to explain how they put your Milky Way on that shelf. They’d rather you just pay the $1.29, say ‘Thank You’ and go back on TV. Otherwise, I suggest you go find a trillion dollars and make your own candy.
Freedom promises that you have the choice to buy your widgets or pharmaceuticals anywhere you like. Freedom does not promise you that Walgreens will make them available to you, 24/7, at a price you can afford.