Monday, November 22, 2004

Unintended consequences

"Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's as we know it, is not mentioned in Not on the Label or Shopped, in spite of his interest in the mass production of standardised french fries. But without the car there would be no McDonald's - and there would be no supermarkets. It isn't a coincidence that the publication of the Beeching Report on The Reshaping of British Railways in 1963 came between the opening of Tesco's first big store, in Leicester in 1961 (16,500 square feet), and Asda's first, in Nottingham in 1965 (70,000 square feet). Beeching accepted that cars and lorries had finished off the stopping train and the slow goods train (except for those carrying coal) as economic entities." -- Hugh Pennington, half-defending supermarkets, London Review of Books November 18. If you've done the sensible thing and subscribed, the actual piece is here.

This is an strong enough passage in itself. But my attention stopped dead three-quarters of the way through and started shouting: "You live in the birthplace of the British supermarket!" It took me a while to get back on track after that.

Oh, and there is one other interesting thing about supermarkets, in the context of this issue of the LRB. Unlike US policy in Guatemala, Stanley Milgram's obedience experiments, the shortening of URLs or the lives of Anne Boleyn and Lord Cromer, they don't appear to have anything to do with the Iraq war. (Last two links subscriber again. Sorry.)

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