Costco – The Product of the American Golden Goose

I did something today that probably every person reading this article has done – I spent about an hour shopping at Costco. But instead of my normal Costco routine – running from aisle to aisle crossing things off my shopping list in order to get out as quickly as possible, I spent my time looking, thinking and talking to folks.

I only had a couple of items to buy, but I went down each aisle, examining the variety of products available for me at prices I can afford. Clothing, food, household items, appliances, books, alcohol beverages, jewelry, eye glasses, and many more. I noticed something else. People at Costco were people of all ethnicity, economic backgrounds and races. I chatted with a Filipino man trying to figure out what kind of wine to buy, I talked with a Korean lady as we taste-tested some Korean dumplings and I conversed with an African-American while in the check out line, talking about the pork I was planning to barbecue. In the parking lot I noticed old beaters and brand-new BMWs. There was even a Bentley.

That was my experience at Costco, but I expect that same experience could be had at Target, Walmart, Kmart, and hundreds of other retailers across this country. Everyday Americans of all ethnicity, economic backgrounds and races, go about their business, buying those things they need to feed, cloth and make their families comfortable.

Why I am I telling you this story? Because as I was strolling through Costco, appreciating the wonder of the choices I have, and the choices hundreds of other Costco shoppers were having that morning, I never once thought about the fact the Jim Sinegal, the founder of Costco, is worth about $2.3 billion. I never once thought that Jim should drop his prices and give that $2.3 billion back to me and other Costco customers. I never once thought my decision to buy pork, rather than filet mignon for my barbecue was the fault of Jim, because right now that filet mignon is a stretch to my budget. And now that I am thinking about Jim, I can say this. Thank you, Jim, and enjoy your billions. Because of you I have a Costco to shop at, where the prices are good, the selection is great and the quality is superior. Without you Jim, there might not be a Costco in my neighborhood. By the way, if you took Jim’s $2.3 billion and split it equally amongst all Americans, we would all get about $6.36. I save more than that each time I shop at Costco.

Of course, the reason Jim was able to create Costco was because of our political economic system. A system historically based on free enterprise and individuals using their own initiative and creativity in their own self-interests. Of course, in his own self-interest, Jim also created something that was in my self-interest – a place to shop with prices I can afford and a selection of merchandise that I am interested in purchasing.

I do not normally like to quote others in my articles but here I must stop and quote the (somewhat forgotten) economist Milton Friedman:

“The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. The only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re (referring to the person interviewing him) talking about, the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worse off it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear, that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by the free-enterprise system.”

As we look around us, at the society in which we live, we see examples of the power of capitalism in almost every aspect of our lives. All of the modern conveniences and now even necessities that allow us to live life the way we do comes largely from the efforts of capitalists, whether that be the car we drive, the phone in our hand or the food we eat. None of it was invented by, created by, ordained by, demanded by or initiated by any government agency our bureaucracy.

Why is that important? It is important because that very system of capitalism which has made American the economic engine of the planet, and afforded us the lifestyles in which we live, evolved in a political/economic system based on freedom, liberty and individual responsibility. And today, that political/economic system is at risk from a movement that is limiting freedom of speech, increasing the call for ever more government control and interference in our lives (and our livelihood) and somehow painting the picture of the Jim Sinegal’s of the world as some sort of bandits and evil doers.

In Aesop’s Fables there is the story of the goose that lays the golden eggs. We in the United States are very luck to have a goose that lays golden eggs. It is the American political/economic system. There are forces at work in this country trying to kill the goose. If they succeed, there will be no more golden eggs.

Author: Michael Manahan

Copyright 2020

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