I once got into a discussion with a Communist after watching the film The Edukators. For those of you who haven't seen it, it's about a trio of left-wing revolutionaries who, equating money with evil, break into the houses of rich folk, rearrange everything (e.g. leaving family treasures in the toilet bowl), and leave a note reading die fetten Jahre sind vorbei – the fat years are over. The fact that these left-wing warriors have invaded private property and are tormenting people is inconsequential to the film: they're rich people, dummy!
With his passions stirred, my comrade began to decry the sins of capitalism. At one point, he claimed he would be lucky if he survived eating the sandwich he had bought earlier that afternoon, as the capitalists who made it were concerned only with profit. Whether the customer contracted a debilitating malady from said sandwich meant nothing as the company had pocketed their £1.59.
This mindset – common as it is – confuses me. If all the sandwich makers were making their sandwiches so haphazardly, who would be left to buy them? And how often do you hear of a fatal chicken and stuffing sandwich anyway? Thankfully rarely, and this is because of the beauty of choice. If the sandwich has a strychnine garnish, you simply don't buy it after the first unlucky eater has died, and the company goes out of business. Greed ensures safe products.
Naturally, all this talk of sandwiches leads to Tesco. The supermarket chain, after attempting to open their 18th store in Bristol have ran into violent opposition, with one protester being arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
Nobody contests the right for people to protest peacefully - it is a sign of a healthy democracy. But why bother protesting about the opening of the store at all? If the people of Bristol were so concerned about Tesco's continued expansion they wouldn't shop there. Hardly willing to subsidise an unprofitable branch, Tesco would soon close its doors: it is only through our patronage that the firm has expanded so far. This probably wouldn't happen, of course, as shops like Tesco provide food at decent prices, which enables those poorest in society to eat, and therefore live, better than formerly possible.
Furthermore, whilst Tesco appears all-powerful in Britain, it has received mixed luck overseas, with Warren Buffet raising doubts over the viability of its US operations. It will only succeed as a business venture if it can, as it has so successfully done in Britain, convince customers that it is providing the best service for them. And if British customers stop feeling like it gives them a good deal, they’ll stop going there.
The greatest power a consumer has is choice. Firms do not produce goods to maim, rob or swindle their customers, they do so because their consumers demand these goods. If you feel the need to change the world, do so with your wallet, not your Molotov cocktails.