Monday, September 17, 2007

Living in Firenze, Thinking of Lisbon

Well, sorry for my capitalcitycentrism, I mean "thinking of Portugal".

Yes, I am thinking of what is going on in Portugal and thinking that eventhough there is no grand-political debate going on, there is still lots of interesting things happening. Or at least things that are interesting because I am Portuguese: I understand them and I care about them.

For instance, I got really surprised with the anti-liberal and racist position of Maria José Nogueira Pinto. I hate those dispising anti-racists that see racism and xenophobia everywhere, anywhere that is not left-winger and not anti-liberal and not against US and...

But this time it kind of breaks my heart but I have to admit: MJNP put on the table a racist proposal: let's create a "Chinatown" in Lisbon because the traditional commerce is dying.

Distributing geographically people and commerce on an ethnic basis is racism. Period. It doesn't matter the intention behind that policy, the result is racist and that is enough to qualify the policy as racist.

But proposing a "Chinatown" as a way to solve the problem of traditional commerce also reveals the racist intention in other way: it doesn't matter the true determinants of the disappearance of traditional commerce, it only matters to emphasize one of those determinants independently of its true importance. And which determinant was choosen to be emphasized? Yes, the old good argument that foreigners are unloyal competitors and thus they should be sent away, forbidden or put in a ghetto.

For each problem there is usually a manifold of determinants, each of them with a different force. In the case of the disappearance of traditional commerce, I believe most people would say the main reason is this:

the second biggest shopping centre of Europe is within Lisbon and it closes at midnight. Many other extremely big shopping centres, most of them offering free or cheap closed parking, exist in Lisbon, in the city centre, around the city centre, just outside the city. Lots and lots of workers work till 7 p.m. and thousands and thousands of them need 1 hour, 1 and half hours, 2 hours to return home. So, not only big shopping centres within the city offer all products one can imagine but they also offer reasonable schedules for the typical inhabitant of the Great Lisbon: someone who works, someone who studies or both. And these tens and tens of thousands can buy everything in the same place. At the same time, traditional commerce closes at 7 p.m. and in many cases is closed during lunch time. And are closed too on Sunday. And closed on Saturday afternoon. One needs not to explain further...

It would be interesting to compare both the volume and the value of selling in one single shopping centre, say Colombo, during one afternoon, say Sunday afternoon, with the total value and volume of a whole week summed up across all Chinese shops in Lisbon.

It would then be clear that if the objective of a policy is to protect traditional commerce, reducing the freedom to sell of shopping centres is much more appropriate than to create a Chinese gheto.

But when policies are not suitable to claimed objectives, and those policies come from inteligent minds, it's because the true objectives are other...

Jewish shops were also very annoying in Austria and Germany by the turn of the XIXth to the XXth century...

Of course that whether you start a war against the poor Chinese shops or the rich shopping centres, the ones who will loose for sure are the consumers: less freedom of choice in relation to products, prices, diversity, schedules.

Protecting a specific group of shops or a specific industry has always the simple result of hurting consumers in their freedom.

What really surprises me (or maybe it doesn't surprise me at all) is that this anti-economic liberalism comes even from the supposed "right". Or perhaps they are economic liberal but the only way they have to propose racist policies is to tell people they are as anti economic freedom as everybody else.

That is why I am so damned right to say that a right-wing classical liberal party in Portugal can never, but never ever ever, be born from CDS-PP.


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