I’ve just heard George Monbiot on the Today programme, perhaps not surprisingly (BBC bias claimants might want to note that the other guest was ASI director Eamonn Butler), claiming that the closure of local shops was bad for consumers.
Has Mr Monbiot ever been to a corner shop? They’re uniformly rubbish, with a tiny range, enormous prices, and gone-off food. My local Tesco Express (opened on the site of a corner shop) has an excellent range, is much cheaper, and understands that you need to store yogurt in the fridge.
Indeed, the preponderance of superstores and their miniature relatives makes it easier to buy decent food in any small English suburb than in New York City. All the grocery stores in NYC are corner shops, and nearly all are also overpriced and rubbish (I’m not sure whether this is due to protectionist laws – if not, big chains would do well to set up there).
There are some arguments against the big supermarkets on the cost side – whether they use their power to avoid paying suppliers fairly, whether they exploit staff (the fact that big supermarkets tend to come near the top of the country’s best employers survey implies not, but doesn’t prove it). But anyone claiming the growth of Tesco and Wal-Mart is anything other than good for consumers is wrong.