Sobering Thoughts for a Monday Morning Muse

Paul Krugman’s latest column focuses on food. Wander on over and check out his thoughts…

Grains Gone Wild – New York Times

These days you hear a lot about the world financial crisis. But there’s another world crisis under way — and it’s hurting a lot more people.

I’m talking about the food crisis. Over the past few years the prices of wheat, corn, rice and other basic foodstuffs have doubled or tripled, with much of the increase taking place just in the last few months. High food prices dismay even relatively well-off Americans — but they’re truly devastating in poor countries, where food often accounts for more than half a family’s spending.

There have already been food riots around the world. Food-supplying countries, from Ukraine to Argentina, have been limiting exports in an attempt to protect domestic consumers, leading to angry protests from farmers — and making things even worse in countries that need to import food.

As this world moves forward in this century we seem to be moving backwards in our real security. Not military security, not police security, but wholesome food and clean water.

Maybe it’s time for a real conversation about the results of our actions in turning over so much of our real security to the corporations that are taking over more and more of our food sources. That last Farm Bill didn’t seem to get the real job done…It just added to the bottom line of those very same corporations.

2 thoughts on “Sobering Thoughts for a Monday Morning Muse”

  1. I think you would need to look at long-term supply and demand effects, rather than what the shallow NYT editorial provided. That editorial mainly just wanted to take a swipe at Bush – oh how maverick…

    It was technology that allowed the earth’s population to grow by 4 Billion since the Green Revolution began after WWII. Now this increased population wants to eat more than ever. Well, this only continues to increase the population, which increases demand and therefore increases food and oil prices.

    Naturally, countries that lack wealth are the most vulnerable to price instability of any kind. Do we save them and either knowingly or not enhance the problem of over-population?

    And what drives price instability? Iraq? Hardly significant when compared to other factors. Oil prices are just now flirting with prices achieved from the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s. That kind of behavior from OPEC could happen again at any time. Social unrest in Venezuela and Africa are what have really hurt oil supply. Growth of developing countries have pushed up prices from the demand side of the equation. These pressures led to misguided renewable energy policy substituting crops for fuel, in turn increasing grain prices.

    I believe that it’s so much more complicated than naively laying blame at either Bush’s or corporation’s feet. Maybe peak population should replace discussions of peak oil production?

  2. Jim, your conviction that everything I write or that the NY Times writes is Bush bashing is beginning to seem a bit contrived. In rereading Paul’s opinion piece (his and mine if not yours) I couldn’t find a single reference to Bush or his Administration.

    The last I looked the President had little to do with the Farm Bill and other than a little rhetoric about weaning ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil, not much effect on our energy policy.

    My complaints over the Farm Bill are with Congress and the corporate lobbiests that paid to have that relict of the “Green Revolution” re-upped for another round.

    The biggest problem that I see coming to the fore is the lack of testing of the technology being used to drive this growth. As more and more of the magic pills we have been peddled for the past half century turn out to have price tags that stretch into the next generation and the one after that, we need to reassess whether the cost were too high. The real question is who gets stuck with paying the cost for the mistakes, because it usually isn’t the ones who reaped the profits.

    “Naturally, countries that lack wealth are the most vulnerable to price instability of any kind. Do we save them and either knowingly or not enhance the problem of over-population?”

    It seems like we had better come up with a better way of dealing with this problem than just writing off whole populations or we will be fighting a never ending war on terror. No matter how high a wall we build around this country, someone will find a way over, under or through it.

    Your point about social unrest hurting oil prices and driving up price instability is interesting. It appears to be in agreement with one of the points Paul made in the piece. It is also just a preview of what we have to look forward to in the coming decades. Social unrest is the way disenfranchised populations react as they slowly go hungry…

    While I may be many things, don’t consider me naive. I am continually amazed by the market based naivety of thinking that the answer to every problem is tax cuts and deregulation in the face of all evidence to the contrary. The only thing I lay at the feet of Bush is his lack of intellectual curiosity. As to what I think of corporations, you can go through my archives.

    < ...Till next time, have a great day.

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