The Free Market at Work

Laurence M. Vance – March 21, 2018

In 2013, in response to the increasing “open carry” debate, Howard Schultz, the chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Starbucks posted an open letter on the company’s website requesting that “customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas.” Until this time, various gun-control groups proposed boycotting Starbucks because of the company’s gun policy of following local laws that permitted open carry. After the Starbucks decision, pro-gun conservatives expressed their intention to refuse to patronize Starbucks because of its new gun policy.

Just recently, after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that they would no longer sell guns to anyone under twenty-one years of age. Walmart also said that “it would no longer sell items resembling assault-style rifles, including toys and air guns.” Dick’s also said that “it was immediately ending sales of all assault-style rifles in its stores” and that “”it would no longer sell high-capacity magazines.”

Both retailers said their decisions were a response to the shooting.

“In light of recent events, we’ve taken an opportunity to review our policy on firearm sales,” said someone from Walmart.

“When we saw what happened in Parkland, we were so disturbed and upset,” said Edward Stack, the CEO of Dick’s. “We love these kids and their rallying cry, ‘Enough is enough.’ It got to us.” Although he said that Dick’s remains “a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and would continue to sell a variety of sport and hunting firearms,” the CEO also said that “the company is calling on elected officials to pass what it called ‘common sense gun reform’: raising the minimum age to buy guns to 21, banning assault-type weapons and so-called bump stocks, and conducting broader background checks that include mental-health information and previous interactions with law enforcement.”

The actions of Walmart and Dick’s followed those of a number of major companies that moved to dissociate themselves from the NRA after the Parkland shooting. Several airlines and car rental companies announced that they would no longer offer discounts to NRA members.

However, some gun retailers — like Bass Pro Shops and Academy Sports + Outdoors — have not made any changes to their policies.

The merits and demerits of the decisions made by Walmart and Dick’s regarding gun sales and other companies regarding discounts are not the important issue here.

The actions of these companies are a perfect example of the free market at work. They are also a perfect example of how the free market should work in all cases all the time. I add this because in the United States — “the land of the free” — there does not exist an absolutely free market, just a relatively free market.

As I make clear in my book, any seller of merchandise or services — from large corporations to small businesses to sole proprietors — should be able to sell or not sell any product or service to anyone they choose. Whether they choose to sell or not sell beer, wine, hard liquor, Absinthe, guns, ammunition, pornography, condoms, cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, birth control pills, sex toys, junk food, marijuana, hard drugs, raw milk, sneakers made in sweatshops, horse meat, foie gras, or foods high in trans fat or cholesterol should not be the concern of government.

But that’s not all. With a real free market:

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