Sunday, 17 February 2008

Non-doms and Tescos

There are a couple of interesting pieces in the Observer today. Will Hutton is on good form, taking to task critics of the Government's plans to end the non-dom tax loophole. I think the thrust of it is bang on and this line in particular hits the nail on the head:

Residency is a privilege that comes with attendant obligations. We rightly expect poor immigrants to learn to speak English as part of the contract of residency. Equally, we should expect the foreign rich to pay taxes as part of the same contract;


On a completely different subject, the Observer's foodie critic Jay Rayner talks a lot of sense about some of the self-righteous anti-supermarket blah that gets spouted. As he points out it is quite possible to be critical of the way Tescos etc squeeze producers without having a problem with the growth in the number of outlets. Here are a couple of good points:

Why, in the years before mass retailing, did one parent stay at home and the other go out to work? Because keeping the house supplied was a full-time job.

......

This is not to suggest that a trip to the supermarket is necessarily a pleasant experience. But nor is shopping locally, as you traipse from place to place, adding bag after bag, as if you were in some joyless and perverse round of It's a Knockout, attempting to reach the finish line. Likewise, the notion that the independent retailer is in some way a much friendlier alternative to the staff of the soulless supermarket is also little more than a myth. We love to imagine the rosy-cheeked, melon-bellied butcher who always has time for everyone and the greengrocer helpfully picking out the finest of produce for his customers. The truth is that they are just people. Which means some of them are very nice and some of them are miserable old buggers.


As I have said before, I would like a Tesco or Sainsbury's to open in our area because a) our local shops are pretty rubbish and b) I think it would act as a signal that the area is on the up.

5 comments:

Charlie Marks said...

I wouldn't mind Tescos opening up if it was designed to put the interests of producers, employees and consumers first. That ain't so... I don't know that anyone has a problem with the form, it's more the function.

"I would like a Tesco or Sainsbury's to open in our area because a) our local shops are pretty rubbish and b) I think it would act as a signal that the area is on the up."

And the second reason would do what for you? Fill you will pride?

Tom P said...

Hi Charlie

I don't think Tesco is a bad employer in the UK, and it's also seen by many as a bit of a leader in terms of corporate social responsibility. So I'm always a bit surprised to see them particularly take flak. Compare and contrast with Wal-Mart's attitude to unions for example.

I think that the introduction of a high-street brand can have an impact on the way that people view their own neighbourhood. It's like a statement of confidence. As I posted before I think it's a bit like the 'broken windows' effect in reverse.

Charlie Marks said...

My point was that Tescos is organised to produce profit, and is thus dependent upon the unpaid labour of each of its employees. (Tom, let's not forget - I am a Marxist. And yes, I can prove it: I own a beard and a copy of Das Kapital.) Despite all the propaganda about corporate social responsibility, its purpose is to make lots of money, and we'd be foolish to forget this.

Some people might be cheered at Tescos opening - but for small businesses it can mean a rather unequal competitor, and hence, going bust. Before you take me to task for being orverly concerned for the intermediate strata of petty bourgeoisie - supermarkets destroy more jobs than they create, a bad thing for many workers in small retailers.

"I think that the introduction of a high-street brand can have an impact on the way that people view their own neighbourhood. It's like a statement of confidence."

I wonder why there's no campaigns FOR Tescos to come to town, then? A case of the silent majority?

Tom P said...

I kind of agree that in many cases CSR is window dressing, but it still makes one employer better than another. And until The Glorious Day I reckon Tesco will have to do!

Do supermarkets really destroy jobs? I can see that if Tescos opened up the local minimarket might close down, but then the Tescos would be employing people that weren't employed before. I bet the prices would be lower too because they can get economies of scale not available to small outfits.

Funnily enough I went to a conference a couple of years back about the way union-controlled investment funds in Canada contribute to property developments. When they look at residential developments they ensurethat there are decent retails outlets because they think it's a vital bit of a community.

Charlie Marks said...

Yes, perhaps the prices would be lower and some people who were not employed get employed. On the other hand, small businesses close, their employees must find work elsewhere - if they can, and I fear that the effect of Tescos can be to damage the local economy.

I do think a good quality supermarket can be good for a community - what with the growing numbers of elderly people a nearby supermarket can save long journeys by bus or car.

Another vital part of a community is a community centre. I suspect that far more than tougher laws or stop and search powers, free and supervised youth clubs would help cut the ammount of anti-social behaviour and perhaps assist in tackling more serious, violent crime.