fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
From now I shall use a new word. The kind of people who argue against a minimum wage are neither conservative (how DARE they?) nor libertarian. They are starvationists. Remember the word: STARVATIONISTS.

More folly

Sep. 5th, 2010 07:13 am
fpb: (Default)
Once upon a time, when I was a lad and dinosaurs walked the earth, the countries of continental Europe used to have enormous stores of grain and other foodstuffs. Having seen starvation from very close up during and after World War Two, their leaders had decided n the early fifties that, whatever happened, they were no longer going to depend on food supplies that could be cut by war or catastrophe and whose violent variations in price were a threat to their citizens. A massive system of state subsidy for agriculture, state purchase of excess produce, and state storage, was put in place, and for decades food prices were controlled both on the production and on the distribution side.

Then a more enlightened political generation arose, to whom all this was corruption and waste. Grain mountains and wine lakes became terms of outrage, and we were all taught by a well-managed press to consider them corrupt impositions upon the consumer. All political sides in Europe became equally committed to the elimination of this expensive landscape of food hanging around doing nobody any good. And lo and behold, they were gone. It is not clear that this did much to correct the indubitable corruption of the European institution, but what the heck - it's always a first step, right?

After all, nothing much could go wrong. We will never have again another economic crisis, let alone one of the proportions of the Great Depression that starved democracy nearly out of existence so many decades ago. And you can't imagine that the two most populous countries in the world, China and India, should experience such an improbably swift economic growth as to remove hundreds of millions of people from near-starvation to near-prosperity, and multiply their demand on world food markets. And it was obvious that no natural catastrophe, even in combination with human malfeasance and unexpected weather, could possibly so batter the two immense breadbaskets, Russia and the Ukraine, as to force their governments to forbid export of grain just in order to keep their people fed. And it would be indeed absurd to propose that at the same time vast rural areas in Pakistan, inner China, and north India, should be threatened by floods to the point of being turned from massive food producers to dependents on the world's charity. The floods, after all, should be of unprecedented magnitude to cause such havoc. And even if any of that happened, it would surely be unimaginable that a faddish Brazilian government should reduce the supply of grain in order to convert some food production to make ethanol; nor, that, in the end, on top of all these combined disasters, a pitiful little squeak for help should be heard from the poorest country on Earth, Niger, where the produce of the last crop was not enough to feed the people till the next harvest. Only a fool would think such things possible at one and the same time - right?

Now the organ of the world's elites, the UN, is holding talks on how to meet the multiple food crisis that has gripped the whole planet, probably in the expectation that hot air may replace the long-term food stocks that no longer are there. And we have yet another demonstration of how far-sighted and well-thought-out the fad of Thatcherism was, and how brilliantly it worked to preserve precious and irreplaceable assets.


fpb: (Default)

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