When will we have enough Supermarkets?

On the day after it was announced that unemployment has reached a 17-year high in the UK, I hesitate to complain about the fact that Morrisons has promised to open 25 new supermarkets in the UK next year and create 7000 new jobs. However, when, if ever, is someone going to decide that we have got enough? Or is this yet another example of Garrett Hardin’s ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ (cunningly disguised – in this instance – as aggressive competition for increased market share)? Will it only be accepted that there are enough when everybody works in a shop; and we all spend all our time buying and selling each other stuff we don’t need? It is not quite a year ago that the BBC broadcast a Panorama programme entitled ‘What Price Cheap Food‘ containing the startling revelation that, in the two years between 1 November 2008 and 1 November 2010, town planners approved applications for at least 577 new supermarkets across the UK. Can it really be necessary, or sustainable, for 5 new supermarkets to open every week? According to government statistics, there are approximately 90 thousand grocery stores in the UK. Given a current UK population of say 63 million people living in approximately 27 million households, this equates to 1 store for every 700 people and/or 1 store for every 300 households. So I ask again, when will we have enough? May be too much choice is one of the reasons more and more people are becoming obese? Seriously though, if we are all eating and or consuming roughly the same amount of stuff, what is driving the demand for all these new stores? Is it justified by the rate of population growth? Well, let’s see: Net migration to the UK in 2010 was 252 thousand. Based on the above statistics, this would have justified the opening of 360 stores but only if all existing stores were operating at full capacity. I know no-one likes to wait in line to pay for their shopping but, be reasonable, this does not justify the perpetual opening of new stores does it? No, I’m sorry to say it but, I think this is just one example of what Herman Daly called growthmania; and the success of Capitalism appears to depend upon it. Capitalism demands perpetual growth to pay dividends to shareholders; and guarantee that we all get a reasonable pension when we retire. Therefore, whether we like it or not, we are all slaves to the machine and the machine (although not working very well at present) is economic growth. Where and when will it all end? Will shareholders and pensioners still be happy when, as people like Tim Worstall would have us believe, quantitative growth has been replaced by qualitative development? As Daly once said, “The Earth may be developing, but it is not growing!“. Remember that next time you go into a new shop looking for a bargain, won’t you…?

"Oxford Street" by Ben Altman

"Oxford Street" by Ben Altman


About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Capitalism, Consumerism, Ecological Modernisation, Economics, Environment, Growthmania, Modernity, Money Fetishism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to When will we have enough Supermarkets?

  1. Donald says:

    I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant with my son and youngest daughter, they are both great cooks and I am great at handling a cash register; people have to eat and I’d be happy to charge them $20 for a cheese sandwich and a glass of water 🙂


    • Rick_Altman says:

      That’s clever, even I cannot upload videos! I think I am right you have to pay WordPress to be able to do this? As I like Pink Floyd, I will allow this one (although I can’t make out the relevance of the lyrics – but I can guess…) 🙂


      • pendantry says:

        Odd… my previous post seemed to get swallowed. Blasted technology… oh well, maybe it will reappear. As for relevance of the lyrics to your post, I was responding to your ‘we’re slaves to the machine’ comment. We seem to be rapidly approaching Douglas Adams’ shoe event horizon. To qoute the top commenter on that clip:

        Younger people may not recognize it, but the machine being manipulated in the opening scenes of this video is a voting machine. Pulling the lever one way closed the curtain, allowing a secret vote. One then indicated one’s voting preference by manipulating individual levers (also seen in the video), then pulled back the curtain by pulling the (large) lever in the opposite direction. Ironic that a voting machine, which allows people to influence their gov’t., should be used for such a song.

        (I don’t think it’s ironic at all: in theory we can vote to change the machine. The real question is why we never do… but then I have my own peculiar ideas about that, too.)


  2. Pingback: When in hole keep digging? « Anthropocene Reality

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