Supermarkets are one of those everyday things that we all take for granted but which occasionally I find myself marveling at. Apparently Boris Yeltsin knew the cold war was lost when he visited a supermarket in Texas. Even the elite of the USSR didn’t have the variety and quality of food that the average American took for granted. When Gorbachev came to the UK he reportedly asked how the food was distributed because it was virtually impossible for the Soviet mindset to conceive of something getting done without the government doing it. This was at a time when the average citizen of the USSR was queuing for hours to get bread and other very basic food stuffs. When Viktor Belenko defected to the west in his MiG-25 he spent days driving from supermarket to supermarket convinced that they were all for show or that he’d been placed in special towns for politically loyal Americans. Only slowly did it dawn on him that this state of apparent abject luxury was just how the average American lived.
Simply on a technical level it’s amazing that all that food can be produced, processed and transported, food for tens or hundreds of millions of people and we’re not talking about providing people with a bland, subsistence diet, we’re talking about providing ordinary people with a massive variety of food, fresh food. Food which is out of season here we fly in from abroad, food which can’t even be grown here we fly in from abroad. Never in history has a population had access to so much food or in such variety and then you have idiots on TV protesting against privatisation of parts of the NHS because “privatisation puts profits before people”. I want to grab these people and say “Have you not been to a supermarket? Or do you think that everyone on the planet has access to a supermarket?” go and have a look at this supposed putting of profits before people, go and have a look at it.
It’s only people who are brought up in a first world country who are so used to all the benefits of it, who are used to taking things like supermarkets and the whole food production and distribution system behind it for granted, people who can take what the free market has provided and which no one who grows up in a free market society has access to for granted can moan that their inefficient system needs preserving from the market. Only they have that kind of privilege. Everyone else, everyone who works in the private sector knows full well, as the supermarkets do, that you make profits by providing for people.