July 28, 2014
Christopher Snowdon on Derby Council and its proposed ‘Tesco Tax’:
A hundred years ago, they would have been in favour of taxing the electricity companies to subsidise the candlestick makers. Forty years ago, they would have been throwing money at British Leyland… And what is the justification for this looting? Essentially it boils down to a rose-tinted nostalgia for high street shopping by reactionaries, protectionists and the kind of people who insist that supermarkets are unpopular despite the fact that they are always full (due to our old friend ‘false consciousness’, no doubt). These are the people who hated Woolworths and HMV until the day they went bust, at which point they tearfully mourned the end of an era.
Simon Cooke on the same:
Seeking to rescue the traditional town centre by this [‘Tesco Tax’] route merely replaces trade with subsidy. The independent retailers and town centres become dependent on the money that flows from the levy. This doesn’t really make those businesses and those centres viable; it merely acts to ossify a failed model. The future for high streets… doesn’t lie with mere shopping but with being places of leisure and pleasure. This probably means fewer shops and smaller centres but it also means a different approach starting from what people want - not defined by opinion polling but rather by what people actually consume.
And Tim Worstall on telling certain politicians to take a running jump:
We’re going to have a law now where a willing purchaser cannot negotiate with a willing supplier to gain 600 calories in return for folding money instead of 400 calories for a smaller amount? What? Here’s how things work in a free and liberal society: you don’t get to decide what we would like to have. We get to decide what we would like to have.
The MP in question, Sarah Wallaston, “formerly a doctor and teacher,” is “now bringing a love of South Devon to Westminster.” And hoping to dictate your default portion size. The state, says Ms Wallaston, has “a duty to intervene” by telling you what it is you “don’t need” when buying drinks and snacks at the local cinema. Because you simply can’t be trusted near those sweet and shiny objects. At which point, I’m reminded of the Guardian’s Jill Filipovic, who also struggles with the concept of personal liberty and, specifically, with why “every socially conscious person” doesn’t agree with her. Being “socially conscious,” so defined, and therefore better than us, doesn’t seem to entail any reservation about spending, or indeed wasting, other people’s earnings on imposing state-dictated portion sizes. Or any reservation about embracing a condescending relationship with those of whom one is supposedly being conscious. Quite the opposite, in fact.
It is, I think, easier to imagine you’re being righteous and heroic if you target the provider of a service rather than the people who choose to seek it out, and who to a very large extent dictate the range of products on offer. But even this manoeuvre implies things that are rarely said directly for fear of how it might seem. To attack consumers directly for in effect making proletarian choices – of which the campaigners disapprove – would jar somewhat with any egalitarian affectations. And so a common strategy is to sideline the customer, and their agency, and insinuate some variation of ‘false consciousness’. The customers, by implication - unlike the campaigners - can’t see through advertising. The customers, unlike the campaigners, don’t know their own minds. Of course saying this explicitly might make the campaigners sound presumptuous and conceited, which they quite often are. And saying it face to face with Those Who Need Saving From Their Own Shopping Lists™ might invite a suitably frank and colourful response.
As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments. It’s what these posts are for.