Tag Archive: food

Prices of food, and most specifically necessary foods like rice and grains (generally) have been skyrocketing http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSL2464117420080424?sp=true.  More broadly, food prices have risen over the last few years, this last one in particular, to the point where riots are occurring internationally http://www.reuters.com/news/globalcoverage/agflation.  “World food prices rose by 39 percent in the last year. Rice alone rose to a 19-year high in March — an increase of 50 per cent in two weeks alone — while the real price of wheat has hit a 28-year high” (http://www.alternet.org/workplace/83457/).   Some countries in Latin America have responded with a recent pact to increase food production http://uk.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idUKN2344733220080423.  This food price crisis has affected most if not all of the global South, including most of Africa, Latin America, much of Asia, etc.  Consequently, global poverty has increased and, in many places, riots either have occurred, are occurring, or are a constant threat.

Moscow News Weekly summarizes: “Large-scale poverty is fraught with social explosions. A wave of massive unrest caused by the growth of food prices has swept Egypt, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Madagas­car, and Ethiopia in Africa alone. There are hunger riots on Haiti in the Caribbean, and in the Philippines in South-East Asia. Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Jacques Diouf, predicts new hunger riots in many Asian countries as well, including food producers. ”

If riots continue and governments are overthrown, the emerging governments would likely be geared towards the satisfaction of needs an some egalitarian principles of distribution.  Oftentimes this is the response to a crisis of the people such as this current food crisis.  Additionally, this tends to promote a swing of Leftist movements (and strengthening of existing ones).  But in light of history, Leftist and populist movements need to be cautious and look out for (1) U.S. intervention, and (2) IMF penalties. 

The United States has a history of interfering with and opposing any Leftist or populist movements, foreign or domestic, either democratically elected or emergent from a revolution.  A few notable examples of CIA-backed coups and coup attempts (from a rather large list) see http://theinsurgent.net/index.php?volnum=13.2&article=usterror.  Chomsky also writes heavily on this topic, and Naomi Klein’s recent The Shock Doctrine goes into detail over at least a few notable examples.  Historically famous examples are the attempt to overthrow Casto in the Bay of Pigs Invasion (1963), the socialist Indonesian president Sukarno (1965), the assasination of democratically elected Marxist president Salvadore Allende in Chile (1973), CIA training of the Contras to oppose the Leftist Sandanista government in Nicaragua (throughout Reagan’s presidency), etc.  Domestically, suppression of populist, Leftist, and labor movements has been widely documented throughout US history (look at the early history of the American labor movement, the period of McCarthyism throughout the late ’40’s and 50’s, or the Reaganite war on labor (http://www.dickmeister.com/id89.html).  America has a strong history of destroying Leftist, populist, and labor movements internationally and domestically, and consequently, whatever governmental situations these revolting countries end with, they need to be ever watchful.

On food prices, starvation, subsidies

A Reuters analysis (“Soaring food prices raise investment risk,” http://www.reuters.com/article/ousiv/idUSL1466733420080414) begins that:

“Soaring global food prices are sparking riots and political discontent, raising investment risk in a string of emerging markets and taking the shine off otherwise successful economies that escaped the credit crunch.Soaring global food prices are sparking riots and political discontent, raising investment risk in a string of emerging markets and taking the shine off otherwise successful economies that escaped the credit crunch.”

The costs of the rise in food prices are immediately mentioned:

“Higher food prices have been fuelled by dry weather in key growing areas, competition from biofuels, rising oil prices boosting production and delivery costs and growing demand from emerging Asia.”

The countries mentioned as victims of such prices are Haiti, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Madagascar, the Philippines, and Indonesia.  Finally, here’s the punchline–the article mentions that many governments are instituting food subsidies.  Instead of pointing out the obvious effects of food subsidization, that it assists the Third World poor in acquiring food outside of the market system, it says:

“Many countries are raising food subsidies, putting them at risk of unbalancing their budgets and pushing themselves into the red. That might be affordable although for those reaping the benefits of high commodity prices, but it raises the risk of debt defaults and higher taxes hitting growth.”

To even mention that food subsidies “raise the risk of debt defaults” and will produce “higher taxes” and hurt “growth” in light of people being unable to afford food is ridiculous.  Growth matters only insofar as it is fairly distributed and goes to something important–like feeding your citizens when necessary. 

Capitalism and efficiency I

People say that capitalism is more efficient than socialism, that it has been ‘proven’ . . . but ‘efficient’ means that something achieves an end better than something else.  But it requires an answer to the question ‘efficient. . . as to what?’ before you can weigh two options.  Capitalism is ‘efficient’ according to the distributive standard that you ought to distribute according to those who can pay, i.e. efficient demand.  If the standard is something like, “you ought to distribute goods according to satisfaction of need” capitalism is woefully inadequate.  People in Africa are starving, for example (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/africa/2002/famine_in_africa/default.stm) (not to mention everyone else who is starving), people go without basic medicinal and health care, people go without their basic needs being satisfied, but it is not for want of production.  Surpluses of food exist, farmers get paid to not farm, medicinal goods exist, etc., but those who need cannot pay, and those who can pay don’t need (at least anymore).  Capitalist laws prevent goods from meeting the needs they are meant for.  To say that that is ‘efficient’ is to presuppose your own laws of distribution, which is circular and vacuous.  It means (roughly), in short, “capitalism does well what capitalism does.”  Trying to save the system by establishing a ‘welfare capitalist’ state does not save its respectability in this regard either, because while ‘welfare capitalist’ states have their successes (say, the Nordic states and Canada), their successes are due entirely to distributing according to a need based, external-to-capitalism standard.  In short, the goodness of this system exists where it is not capitalism, outside of capitalism.  The reason why this system does not produce rampant suffering and allow needless death is because sectors of it are not completely capitalist.  I hardly call that a defense of capitalism; I call it quite an example to the contrary.  The ‘efficiency’ argument, quite frankly, fails to hold water.