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Wal-Mart throws its weight around

Wal-Mart is using its tremendous influence in the marketplace to compel suppliers to adopt radio-tag technology.

Is this compatible with a "free market?" It depends on your conception of what a free market really is.

If "free" means "unregulated," then any private compulsive power, like Wal-Mart, is OK.

If "free" means that each participant in the market meets the other participants on a roughly equal footing for the purpose of negotiations, then maybe Wal-Mart is incompatible with a free market. Maybe they just have too much compulsive power.

But maybe not. Is anyone compelled to shop at Wal-Mart? Does Wal-Mart have power only to the extent that they seem to be the choice of a large number of shoppers?