Rod Dreher

My British friend Tim Montgomerie sticks up for the UK supermarket chain Tesco. Excerpts:

If I was to draw up a list of ten people who had most helped the poor in the past few decades, near the top of my list would be Terry Leahy. The retiring Tesco boss has been the leader of the supermarket revolution. A grammar school boy he began his upwardly mobile life by leaving his native Liverpool, where he couldn’t get work, and travelling to London where he stacked Tesco’s shelves and cleaned its floors.
Today’s supermarket customers eat considerably better than the Queen ate 50 years ago. Supermarket shelves are laden with food that is fresh, varied and affordable.

I’m in no position to comment on the supermarket situation in the UK, as I know nothing about the topic. But I do want to say something about Tim. He is a deeply committed Evangelical Christian who has for years goaded the Conservative Party to do more to improve the lot of the poor. My point simply being that one may disagree with Tim’s argument in his short essay, but do not mistake him for a thoughtless big-business conservative. Anyway, if it’s true that Britons today who shop at the supermarket have a far better selection than even the rich did a few short decades ago, it’s worth asking why — and what the hidden costs of that fact might be in terms of the broader food economy. Is this another “why do poor and working-class people like Wal-Mart so much?” issue?
Again, not knowing the particulars of Britain’s situation, I am hesitant to comment. I recall, though, how crummy most of the supermarkets we had in New York were, compared to what was available at the farmer’s markets. I’m sure the New York supermarkets of 2001 were vastly better than the NY supermarkets of 1951. But is that the right comparison?

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