Tim Lang: cretin

Professors should be able to manage logic, yes?

Professor Tim Lang, the Government’s top food tsar, said prices are likely to rise even further, up to ten per cent, as oil prices go up and demand for basic commodities like wheat increases.

In the last 20 years the amount of food imported into the UK has grown to 40 per cent.

He said the UK Government has failed to protect the country against these price shocks by encouraging farmers to grow our own fruit and vegetables or produce meat.

So, err, why is it that imports have been rising, domestic production falling?

Because Johnny Foreigner is able to grow food more cheaply than we can do it domestically.

So, encouraging, insisting, that more food be grown domestically will mean higher food prices than if we were importing it all.

Certainly, this was true in the past.

Despite efforts to turn the situation around, Prof Lang said the Coalition Government has abandoned any policy on sustainable food.

Whether it will continue to be true in the future is another matter of course. Nobody actually knows. But we do have a mechanism that will deal with this for us. If, as and when, foreign food becomes more expensive than local then people will naturally seek out that local food, supply of local food will rise in response and everything will be just hunky dory.

We even have a name for this system: \”market\”.

When relative prices change we see the behaviour of both consumers and producers changing. No government policy needed, you see?

Thankfully, the sustainable Development Commission has been closed down and this will be Tim Lang\’s last report as \”food commissar\”. We\’ll not miss him, no.

18 comments on “Tim Lang: cretin

  1. I haven’t even read the post yet but I spat my tea out when I read the heading. +1 like for the post on Google Reader!

  2. @MW
    Rather off the point here:which is that imported food prices are going up because of worldwide natural disasters.
    Britain rather gave up relying on imported food when it led to actual starvation during the First World War and rationing in the Second.
    Agriculture, because of the relatively long lead times ,cannot rely on the vagaries of the market:some element of guaranteed price seems inescapable.
    Since you now claim to be an expert in Economic History (with scant evidence of any formal education in the subject ),you are doubtless aware of the Populist Insurgency in the US which was dominated by small farmers: they found that grain ripened earlier in the West so by the time their Mid Western crops ripened ,the markets were swamped and the prices reduced below a living level.You are aware that the demise of the Milk Marketing Board in the UK has killed off dairy farming,literally in some cases as there were suicides .Allowing the big super markets (a cartel) to set milk prices works in nobody’s interest except their own (The Populists were alway going on about The Middlemen remember?). However you probably hold to that good old maxim: private monopoly good ; state monopoly bad .

  3. I can’t see how he csn complain about higher prices on the one hand yet press for ‘sustainable’ (i.e. protected in some way, or organic) on the other.

  4. @DBC Reed
    “they found that grain ripened earlier in the West so by the time their Mid Western crops ripened ,the markets were swamped and the prices reduced below a living level.”….Hence the creation of the futures market: problem solved by markets and without state intervention.

    “Agriculture, because of the relatively long lead times ,cannot rely on the vagaries of the market:some element of guaranteed price seems inescapable”…. it is an axiom of markets that if you guranatee prices you get over-supply and if you limit prices you get a shortage, this was tested to destruction by the CAP, eventually they realised this folly and changed the system to the single farm payment scheme. Short-term supply fluctuations cannot be evened out by state intervention; such interventions always lead to perverse outcomes.

    BTW. I am farmer.

  5. @DBC Reeds Agriculture, because of the relatively long lead times ,cannot rely on the vagaries of the market:some element of guaranteed price seems inescapable.

    The problem with this logic is that government policy cycles are even more vagrant.

    You are aware that the demise of the Milk Marketing Board in the UK has killed off dairy farming,literally in some cases as there were suicides

    So let me see. A democratically elected government introduced the Milk Marketing Board, as was its right. A later democratically elected government eliminated it, as was its right. This killed people.

    If this is meant to be bad, then what you are effectively arguing for is a dictatorship, after all, if we can’t expose farmers to the vagrancies of a market, we also can’t expose them to the vagrancies of voters and democratic politicians.
    The Road to Serfdom becomes manifest.

  6. Another farmer here so vested interest alert!

    I have no beef with the ‘no subsidies, buy it all cheap from abroad’ concept, as long and people realise what the consequences may be, and then don’t all complain, or worse start meddling with the market when/if it goes wrong.

    The main consequence of relying on cheap imports is that a) your domestic production is destroyed (fine – like miners and shipbuilders etc we farmers have to go off and do something else). b) If global prices rise suddenly due to crop failures, bad weather, political stupidity (ethanol production) you just have to pay the higher prices, as UK production is gone, and cannot be revived overnight. The lead time is years, if not decades. What little local production was left would be charging the higher prices anyway as that would be the going market rate.

    So prices will be much more cyclical than before (as we are seeing now, as EU subsidies are no longer linked to production). And the current public anger over rising food prices will be as nothing compared to what they’d saying if prices doubled inside a year say. It would matter not a jot that prices would fall back after that – at the time the cry would go up ‘Something must be done!’ and politicians being what they are would want to meddle in the market again.

    And the whole cycle would start again.

  7. ” b) If global prices rise suddenly due to crop failures, bad weather, political stupidity (ethanol production) you just have to pay the higher prices,”

    The same thing applies in the UK with the added bonus that if we rely on one country to provide our food, and crops fail, we don’t just pay higher prices- we starve.

  8. Particular cuisines exist, of course, thanks to various degrees of localism. Meditarranean cuisines use ingredients which grow most easily in the Mediterranean area. Japanese cuisine consists principally of ingredients which grow in Japan or nearby, and so on. So, no localism – no differing cuisines. Which may or may not be a good or bad thhing, depending on your point of view. Same with lots of other examples of diversity – e.g local dialects. If you are keen on one homogenous world culture, then localism is not for you.

  9. “Particular cuisines exist, of course, thanks to various degrees of localism.”

    That seems arse about face to me. Under localism the human race may get to enjoy differing cuisines, but individual humans will only get to eat what their locale provides (as was the case until recently). It is only since globalism that individuals have had the choice about what type of cuisine to eat.

    ” Meditarranean cuisines use ingredients which grow most easily in the Mediterranean area. Japanese cuisine consists principally of ingredients which grow in Japan or nearby, and so on.”

    Yes, and now that we do not rely on localism Greeks can eat Japanese and Japanese can eat Greek. And the problem is?

    ” So, no localism – no differing cuisines.”

    Nonsense. It just means people get to actually choose between differring cusines rather than having to settle for one determined by accident of birth.

    ” Which may or may not be a good or bad thhing, depending on your point of view. ”
    It would be a bad thing – if it were the case – but it isn’t so there is no problem.

    “Same with lots of other examples of diversity – e.g local dialects. If you are keen on one homogenous world culture, then localism is not for you.”

    Again, nonsense. It just means a bigger choice and people get to pick and choose aspect of cultures they like from around the world, rather than just picking and chosing aspects they like from the local culture.

  10. @DBC Reed,

    Britain rather gave up relying on imported food when it led to actual starvation during the First World War and rationing in the Second.
    Agriculture

    If we couldn’t feed ourselves during WW1, pop ~40m and WW2, pop ~47m what chance now with a pop of ~70m?

  11. @SF
    British shops were so reliant on cheap imported goods that agriculture was in a very parlous state. The war-time effort to get farm production up was prodigious and Winston Churchill had no qualms about turfing people out of their own farms if they did not meet quotas .
    @Lotus
    The futures market provides some kind of guaranteed price but it is very fine tuned to demand.Sudden drops in price are not much good to a farmer who has been building up a dairy herd ,as is said above, over decades.
    As for over-production a few grain mountains would not go amiss right now would they?One of Keynes’s lesser known enthusiasms was for buffer stocks- storing up stuff from a glut and releasing during a shortage. Good idea.

  12. So, chris m, olive oil is associated with mediterranean cuisines purely arbitrarily, and not because olive trees thrive around the mediterranean? Rye bread isn’t associated with Scandinavian cuisines because rye grows better in northern climates than does rice? Scotland’s national dish contains swede rather than yams purely by historical accident?

  13. Meditarranean cuisines use ingredients which grow most easily in the Mediterranean area.

    Like tomatoes, which actually originally come from the Americas?

    When I was doing a cooking course in Thailand, I asked the instructor what Thai cooking was like before chillies were introduced from South America. She didn’t know.

    I don’t think world culture is becoming more homogenised, I think it’s becoming more individualised. 200 years ago, a person in Bangkok may have been listening to totally different music to a person in London, but they were probably listening to similar music to their next-door neighbour in Bangkok. Nowadays, the person in Bangkok can be listening to the same music as is being played in London, and also be listening to totally different music to their next-door neighbour.
    The exception to this appears to be blue jeans, which are remarkably persistent, even in hot climates where I would have thought that they would have been totally unbearable even for the locals.

  14. Different cuisines simply require that different foodstuffs be available, they do NOT require that peoples be isolated from each other and only get to eat the same food all the time.

    If the Scandinavians had always had access to rye, but also always had access to rice, we would still have rye bread and rice based cuisine. True Rye bread may not then be exclusively associated with the Scandinavians, as those same Scandinavians would have been able to cook curry, sushi, chilli and whatever else their imagination could come up with.

    So we would not lose different cuisines. At most the huge variety of cusines may not be historically associated with any particular country. So what! A curry is a curry and tastes bloody marvellous no matter what nationality developed it, or even if no one knew what nationality developed it.

    Tim adds: At this mention of Rye…..of course the finest, most wonderful, is the Reuben.

    Don’t know what it is? Never tasted?

    Ah well…..

  15. The futures market provides some kind of guaranteed price but it is very fine tuned to demand.

    This is wrong, it’s actually fine-tuned to the balance of supply and demand.

    Sudden drops in price are not much good to a farmer who has been building up a dairy herd ,as is said above, over decades.

    Such as, for example, what happens when a new government is elected and decides to change policies around agriculture. Or taxes.

    As for over-production a few grain mountains would not go amiss right now would they? One of Keynes’s lesser known enthusiasms was for buffer stocks- storing up stuff from a glut and releasing during a shortage. Good idea.

    And this is exactly what speculators do, at least the profitable ones. As Adam Smith pointed out over a century before Keynes.

    Anyway, DBC Reeds, one thing you keep missing – government policy is unreliable as well as markets. Governments are made up of people. Sometimes these people change their minds or elections change the people. It’s not a choice between the vagrancies of market and the certainties of government support, you yourself gave the case of a change in government policy leading to dairy farmer suicides.

    If you want certainty for farmers, you’re not just opposed to markets, but also to democracy.

  16. “If you want certainty for farmers, you’re not just opposed to markets, but also to democracy.”

    Or to reality

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