After lonely years criticising supermarkets, I'm bemused these days to swim with the tide. It is fashionable to knock stores for ripping off Britain. The middle classes, who years ago valued houses by proximity to Sainsbury, now grumble about clogged streets impeding the Volvo's progress. It is chic to proclaim you shop on the internet and wouldn't be seen dead in a store. Clore's retail dictum ­ "location, location, location" ­ has gone virtual. "Darling, Tesco/Waitrose have by far the best site" means World Wide Web, not land. This shift in mainstream culture is all very amusing but also illustrates new tensions. When it pays Northerners to drive to France and back to undercut even supermarket prices for fags and booze, something big is going on. Europe is supposed to have a single market yet government tax policies now vie to attract consumers. While giant corporations redefine geography by cross-border mergers and acquisitions worth billions, consumers hop borders to shave a few pounds. It is pathetic really. The problem with the Rip-off Britain argument is that it assumes prices ought to drop. In fact many should go up. Yes, up. We should not be eating foods grown the other side of the world (often where starvation is close). Prices don't include the full social or environmental cost of their production and transportation. Cheap goods imply cheap non-renewable energy. Which is why I believe the best thing happening in the UK scene today is the rebirth of markets. Real markets, as in street/farmers'. They take food to the people, not people to the food. They are local. They are human scaled. They allow eye contact. They sell fresh food not everlasting, bland globobrands. They are fun. They could be the future. Which do you want: monopolies or markets? That's the real question government ought to ask. {{NEWS }}