Monday 17 September 2012

Quote of the week...

...comes from this commenter on a Guardian article about how corporations are, like, evil and how the government should implement protectionist policies to, like, stop evil capitalists putting other capitalists out of business.

The article itself ('Costa Coffee should keep out of book prizes – and town centres') epitomises the bigotry and bossiness of a certain sort of Guardianista. The writer objects to Whitbread sponsoring a literary prize (Whitbread is a brewer—boo, hiss!), but objects even more to Costa Coffee sponsoring the same prize because, er, Costa Coffee competes with the kind of coffee shop the author prefers. She makes the unlikely claim that there are 40 independent coffee shops in Totnes (population: 7,440) and complains that Costa keeps on creating new outlets "even though local people in overwhelming numbers – from Southwold in East Anglia to Cottingham in Yorkshire to Totnes in Devon – make it clear they aren't wanted."

If what the author says is true—and who am I to call her a snobbish liar?—Costa has adopted the insane business model of investing in places where everybody hates them. This is the same business model that has led Tesco and Asda to bankruptcy. If only those corporations had listened to wooly-headed, anti-capitalist nimbys like our author they could have avoided wasting all that money and would never have had to see their stores—many of which are open 24 hours a day—stand empty.

I lived in Totnes for 30 years, and Totnes outdid itself. Three quarters of its population protested against Costa: Totnes already has more than 40 independent coffee shops. That many people agreeing on anything approaches a miracle, a landslide of public opinion. Costa isn't bothered. It hasn't bothered with the populations of other protesting towns either. But isn't this supposed to be a democracy? Here's a corporate giant flouting the fully expressed will of local people. And for what? To boost a profit margin that'll go to build more coffee shops in Russia and Egypt – Costa's largest is in Dubai – at the expense of UK shopkeepers.

Say a prayer for the poor coffee shop owners of Dubai! Dear Lord, are there really people who still think like this in 2012? As it happens, I have never stepped foot in a Costa Coffee or a Starbucks. They serve Starbucks' coffee on the train so I know that it is nice but pricey. If everyone was like me and this Guardian writer there would be no Costa Coffee, but everyone is not like us and that is just fine. If 'democracy' would stop a Costa Coffee opening in Totnes, that only shows how much democracy sucks compared to the free market.

Anyway, the prize comment is the following:

If your idea of 'democracy' is 'a system where me and my condescending arsehole chums get to dictate to other people what kind of coffee they're going to be allowed to drink', then I hope you never develop any kind of inclination towards fascism.

Right on. Democracy does not exist to serve the special interests of incumbent industries, faddists, anti-capitalists, snobs and reactionaries. The fact that it frequently does serve such interests only goes to show that democracy has limited uses in a free society. It does not exist so that a temporary mob can limit the choices of others. If you don't like Costa's coffee, don't buy it. It really is that simple. South Park nailed this one in the nineties with their classic 'Gnomes' episode. Apparently, this episode is now used to to teach students about capitalism. Lucky students.

UPDATE: Just seen that the Devil's Kitchen has written a very similar post on the same subject. Great minds!


Unknown said...

Costa are of course owned by that well known evil corporation... Whitbread (who flogged the brewery arm of their business back in 2001)

Anonymous said...

It rather beggars belief that she seems oblivious to the paradox of there being "a landslide of public opinion" against Costa opening a coffee shop and there now being a perceived threat to the 40 independent coffee shops already there.

It's rather like there being "a landslide of public opinion" clamouring for non-smoking pubs before 2007, but hardly any of those pubs doing the obviously commercially sensible thing and becoming a non-smoking venue. The only pubco who preempted the ban (Wetherspoons) did a pretty sharp U-turn when they saw profits going south. So much for "a landslide of public opinion".