August 3, 2005

Wal-Mart: Independent Assessments Conference (Updated)

On November 4, 2005, Global Insight will be running a Wal-Mart sponsored conference on the economic impact of Wal-Mart on the US.. The deadline for submission of papers is 9/15/05. Oddly, (or maybe not so oddly), it doesn't mention where the conference will be held.

There will be a drastic difference between this conference and the earlier one, Wal-Mart: Template for 21st Century Capitalism?, which had some very interesting papers from sociologists, social work profs, anthropologists, etc., but it was missing one key element: economists. The edited volume of the Template papers will be out next year.

Economists tend to disagree with other academics on issues like Wal-Mart's impact, and we should expect a very different consensus view, and very different reporting from major media.


UPDATE: Although calling for Wal-Mart opponents to send in their papers, Liza Featherstone gets a head start on a smear campaign against any pro-Wal-Mart academic willing to participate in this conference:

The company's eagerness to buy the approval of the intellectual elite is surprising, since most intellectuals are far less powerful than Wal-Mart.
Buy them with what? The unparallelled glamour of an academic conference in an undisclosed location? An overnight stay at a Day's Inn? Free lunch? Oh, please. Wal-Mart is no more buying the approval of economists than Nelson Lichtenstein was buying the scorn of leftists. There is simply no reason to believe that academics are changing their views of Wal-Mart based on the desire to be seen and heard at a conference.

Still, even if all the economists presenting and attending aren't bought, Ms. Featherstone seems to think the entire conference is rigged:

"Independent oversight" will be provided by Global Insight, a financial forecasting firm, which claims on its website that the "positive or negative findings" of the papers "will not be used as selection criteria."

Kind of hard to believe!

Well, I understand that she's skeptical just because Wal-Mart is involved, but just why should I find this hard to believe? Why should I disbelieve Global Insight's clear and detailed statement of objective criteria? Ms. Featherstone presents no evidence that Global Insight's call for papers is a fraud, or that, in the past, they've been known to fake such things.

And why is it OK for a writer at The Nation to indirectly impugn the character of one Glenn MacDonnell (about whom we know nothing except that he is responsible for managing this conference)?

Posted by Kevin on August, 3 2005 at 04:30 PM