Sam Walton was not an evil person. He wanted to provide Americans with decent products at low prices and get very rich in the process. The Walmart story is a parable teaching why capitalism is a bad, and I would say an evil, organizing principle for human groups.

Here is Webster’s definition of capitalism:

“An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”

However good that definition sounds, it also means the most important decisions are immune to democratic processes. Free markets and democracy are contradictory terms. In a purely capitalist system a city council cannot come together to demand that a corporation not poison their water supply with pollution. Any such democratic effort would fall under the term “government regulations” and would be seen as an assault upon free enterprise.

I mention Walmart because last year one of the many unsafe factories Walmart used in Bangladesh collapsed killing more than 1, 100 workers. Journalists then “discovered” the horrific factory conditions in Bangladesh that allow for such low prices. But how are we so surprised by what we already know about the true cost of our standard of living? It is more cost effective to get one’s garments from substandard working conditions in a poor country where the workers cannot ask for fair pay or safe working conditions.  Bangladesh has some of the lowest wages in the world. Issues like worker safety barely even register. Therefore it is a perfect place for Walmart to procure inexpensive garments.

After the tragedy, to its credit, Walmart did an audit of 75 of its factories. I have no doubt improvements will be made, but when are people going to realize that we can never be vigilant enough to make free markets humane? Workers in Bangladesh will receive large raises and better conditions, but when the spotlight moves somewhere else, the pursuit of profit will necessitate deregulation. It will always be a matter of time until such tragedies are duplicated. The system will return to cannibalizing human beings because that is what it is designed to do. Capitalism has only has one value and that is profit by private entities.

Free markets and democracy are contradictory terms, which is why rich businesses like Walmart seek out dictators to do business with, and why they draw an organizational flow chart with multiple sub-contractors that will make it very hard to trace the line between their own private profit, and the misery of the factory workers who make their cheap goods.