Mike Kueber's Blog

November 17, 2012

A downtown grocery store

Liberals tend to disparage the value of capital.  Remember how they jeered when Romney said, “Corporations are people, too.”  From the liberal perspective, labor is all that is important in the economic equation.  At least until liberals need capital for one of their pet projects.

I remember that shortly after I arrived in town, San Antonio’s liberals were railing and wailing against area bookstores for failing to locate a bookstore in south San Antonio.  When those with capital explained that the Southside would not support a bookstore, the liberals responded by accusing the capitalists of racism and bigotry. 

After years of pressure by Southside public officials, and with the support of San Antonio Express-News, Waldenbooks bravely opened a bookstore in South Park Mall, but it survived less than five years according to news reports.  As best I can determine, that part of town remains barren of bookstores.

As Yogi Berra once said, it’s Déjà vu all over again, except now the liberals want a downtown grocery store.  Despite years of pressure by local government officials, local grocery giant HEB has declined to put a store downtown.  In 2011 the San Antonio City Council even offered a $1 million reward to any grocer who located downtown, and still HEB and all other grocers declined. 

This morning, there is an article in the Express-News reporting that a consultant who was paid $50,000 by the city has concluded that the downtown can support a 20k-sq.-ft.-store.  You don’t have to be a cynic or a skeptic to question the validity of that report.  In fact, the newspaper article concedes that industry experts have previously advised that downtown won’t be ready for a grocery store until it has 8,000 apartments/condos and that it currently has fewer than 4,000.   

Aside from the folly of liberal noncapitalists advising capitalists on how to allocate their capital, the issue that most interests me here is the extent to which government should be providing financial incentives for capitalists to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do. 

As President Obama, quoting from A Lincoln, said in his State of the Union address – “Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.”  That makes perfect sense.

The $1 million reward suggests that the San Antonio City Council is better at development than private developers.  I’m not sure about that and will have to give it some more thought.

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