\”Town Faces Defeat To Tesco\”

This is an interesting little example of the different conceptions of freedom that are out there. On the one side we have democracy, the will of the majority as expressed through the political system (and for the moment we\’ll accept that the local council is indeed reflecting that). On the other we have the market conception of freedom, that people themselves should decide what they want to do. That is, that people should not be subject to the tyrrany of the majority:

An 11-year planning battle pitting Tesco against townspeople and featuring secret agreements, allegations of corruption and dramatic U-turns could end in victory today for the supermarket giant.

Twelve councillors will vote on whether to allow Tesco into the Norfolk town of Sheringham after the district council\’s planners urged them to accept Tesco\’s proposal for a 1,500sq metre store.

While anti-supermarket campaigners will make a final plea to councillors, the mood in the seaside town of 7,000 residents and more than 100 independent businesses – the only settlement of its size in Norfolk still without one of the big four supermarkets – was pessimistic yesterday.

On the democracy side we have people insisting that the choices of their fellow residents must be limited. In order to keep those 100 independent businesses, as they the vocal majority desire, others are not to be allowed to shop at a local Tesco\’s.

On the other side we have people moreorientated to an individual, or market, conception of freedom (like myself for example) who would look at it the other way around. Why should the desires of that majority stop the minority from expressing their own preferences? The only possible answer that I can see is that by expressing such desires, by shopping at Tesco\’s, they will be reducing th choices of the others by making those 100 independent businesses unviable.

Fine, so we have two groups each arguing for the thing that they desire and they are mutually conflicting. So a decision has to be made between the two, yes?

Well, not quite, and this is where the market vision of freedom comes into play. Instead of looking at what people say they want, or at the number of people willing to write to the council on the matter (about 8% or so of the population it seems) look at what people think that people will actually do in the future.

Will that democratic majority not shop at Tesco\’s? Tesco obviously doesn\’t think that will happen, otherwise why all this effort to build a store? But the thing is, nor do the opponents of the store. If they thought that people wouldn\’t shop there then they wouldn\’t give two figs whether Tesco wasted its money or not.

The very fact that they oppose the plan shows that they think people will shop there: they are thus using politics to deliberately limit the desires and freedoms of others. Which is why the store should be built, of course, so that individuals may make their own decisions, not be subject to such a tyranny of the majority.

One other matter: you know all these stories of the supermarket\’s land banks? If it takes 11 years just to get planning permission, don\’t you think it\’s actually entirely rational of them to have such?

10 comments on “\”Town Faces Defeat To Tesco\”

  1. Many of those 100 businesses in Sheringham will grow as a result of Tesco’s presence, as the supermarket’s presence will increase ‘footfall’ in the town. Others, like fishmongers and butchers, will find that they have to compete more keenly – if not on price then on service and quality. It is a myth that supermarkets kill town centre shops in market towns, as the experience of other Norfolk towns (eg Fakenham, Swaffham) shows.

  2. “tyrrany of the majority:”

    One of those tyrannies being the way the majority, over time, gets to set the way words are spelled.

  3. Others, like fishmongers and butchers, will find that they have to compete more keenly – if not on price then on service and quality.

    This is very true. The reason why those who self-righteously praise their local butcher’s quality over that of Tesco don’t realise that they are an elite shopping in an elite store feeding 1% of the needy, with Tesco providing food to the masses. Live in a town without a supermarket, and the local butcher has to provide tripe to the masses and is shite.

    I wrote a lengthy blog post on living in a town without a supermarket here, a subject of which I know a fair bit.

  4. Thanks, TN. That’s a great and inspiring read. I shall continue to shop in my local Tesco with even more enthusiasm and gratitude.

  5. “I shall continue to shop in my local Tesco with even more enthusiasm and gratitude.”

    Ditto. An excellent piece. Reminds me of my youth.

  6. One small and atypical factor in this particular case, however – Sheringham’s a holiday town. So it does seem reasonable that local people would prefer that visitors bought their 48-packs of lager and frozen burgers from locally-owned businesses.

  7. Soemone talking sense about supermarkets! Why can’t the papers print things like this?

    Like you say if supermarkets are so horrific why are billions upon billions spent there every year? It’s all so easy to see, yet so many of these people daren’t believe that their idea of ‘local produce’ ‘independent shops’ is not what the general shopper wants. Their habits show they want everything under a roof, at low prices, with decent variety and decent standard. Some will complain that since the other shops closed (due to inability to compete) they lose choice, but that is the consumer choice, not Tesco. They don’t close the store by doing anything more than bring customers through their doors.

    As Tim says the market-forces are a better indicator of public-demand than the political-lobbying of the angry locals demanding something that their locals will lap up when they get a chance to go to the supermarket.

  8. Yeah, these big chains just drive out all diversity and choice. For instance, in hackney, I can only specialist products for about 4 different cultures just by going to Tesco, whilst my mate who lives in Kensington has all the choice of asking me to bring him smalec when I come to visit. Plus, I can’t even wander down to the vicinity of my tesco and buy yams and giant african snails, unlike Kensington, which has a variety of low-quality, high-priced sushi outlets and sandwich shops. Damn supermarkets.

  9. the will of the majority as expressed through the political system (and for the moment we’ll accept that the local council is indeed reflecting that)

    A highly dubious assumption. Where I live the local council wants to force pubs to shut earlier. None of the parties in the May election stood on a manifesto saying they would do so (or at least, none said so in any literature than came through my door), ergo they do not have a democratic mandate.

  10. Pingback: Liberty Alone » Blog Archive » Lets go beyond localism

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