Trumpster Assault on the Free Market

I happen to like a free market economy.  I like the notion that any business enterprise should be able to do two things simultaneously.  It should make its own decisions, and those decisions should reflect common sense and civic responsibility.  And then there’s #45.

The president’s attack on Nordstrom’s decision to delete his daughter’s line from its inventory is absolutely wrong on absolutely every level.

First, thus much for actually divesting himself from family business.  Far from remaining removed from the use of the office for personal gain, he’s jumped right in and shoved his pitch into the public arena.

Secondly, Nordstrom has every right to pursue any inventory policy it believes is in its own best interest. Period. The corporation says it was following one of the oldest rules in the retailing manual — if it’s not selling don’t buy more of it.  The bottom line for any buyer is simplicity itself: Will it sell? If the answer is Yes, then by all means continue to stock the items. If No, then there is no rational reason for any further orders. There’s a decent margin in clothing lines, but no margin is so large that it can absorb losses for long. Without getting into the weeds involving gross retailer margins and net margins, suffice it to say that there’s little so unhealthy as bloated inventory.

Third, it’s certainly inappropriate for a sitting president to push a family business from within the Oval Office,  as noted above, but when set in the context of American retailing it’s even more so. Since when does our executive branch of government weigh in on the relative merits of Kohls? Sears? JCPenney? Walmart? Or any other retailers in the free market?  This doesn’t just say Conflict of Interest, it screams out the message, loudly and clearly.

It’s not that we haven’t seen this kind of behavior before, this public pressure on private enterprises to cater to the will (and personal profit) of a Dear Leader… however it’s something people usually associate with the antics of a third world pocket packing dictator.

The questions surrounding #45’s actions have gone far beyond nuanced discussions of the emoluments clause, we’re into basic business ethics and protecting retailing enterprises from presidential interference.

 

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