35 comments on “Definitely first world problem

  1. Being a true progressive just gets harder and harder!

    I think my head is gonna explode

  2. It’s her anguish which makes her superior. The ones who need to ‘grow up’ are those (like me) who hesitate only between the local Waitrose and the local Sainsburys.

  3. Writing for The Observer must pay enough for Felicity to but overpriced FairTrade and organic products

  4. Funny, I just got back from one of those revered, celebrated French marchés, with dozens of independent stall holders flogging their wares fresh for the farm. And indeed, it is pretty good: the quality and variety of meat is superb, and the fish, and the cheese. And there is some artisan stuff unique to France and neighboring regions. Otherwise, everything else – including the vegetables – was no better than what you’d find in your normal British supermarket. And forget about getting anything unusual (for French): if it’s not part of the staple French diet, they don’t sell it. Danish bacon, for example, which is impossible to find in France. Say what you like about the British supermarkets, they sell all sorts of foreign and unusual stuff which allows the Brits to push the boundaries of their meals a bit.

    Also…at these stalls, the guy handling the meat also handles the money, and is handling all sorts of different meats, all with no gloves on, and wearing an apron covered in blood. And the cheese doesn’t come from pasteurized milk, which I think is illegal in most countries. Not that I give a shit about this, it’s all fine by me, but you can imagine the squawking in middle England if the British supermarkets became more French (which seems to be the standard held up by trendy lefties) if they lowered their hygiene standards (no hairnets, either) and started flogging homemade cheese of unclear origin.

  5. There’s a good article by Booker on belief systems, in the Torygraph. This bit of waffle’s a good example of what goes wrong. It’s an article of faith, Fair Trade, environmentalism, all this schtik is the goods. But the evidence doesn’t tend to support it. So the poor babes get conflicted. ignoring the evidence doesn’t always prove as reassuring as it should. Done this with the supermarket waste “truth”. “OK. There’s the supermarket loading dock. Now show me the skip full of waste food waiting to be trucked off. If there’s as much waste as you’re saying then where is it?”

  6. S.A.S.K. :- Shopping At Supermarkets Kills

    This is a lefty mantra I was offered at a public meeting about three months ago.

    A couple of weeks ago I saw that particular speaker, in Tesco.

  7. Not forgetting Fair Trade is a club – become a member and get set prices, don’t become a member and you are left at the mercy of the markets. Wanna be in my gang? Though wrapped up in a bit more legalese.

    Personally I prefer the taste and price of other stuff. Won’t avoid fairtrade but if its a choice between spending £3 on one item thats fairtrade and £1 on another similar item with exactly the same taste….. then its simply down to price. Haven’t got sufficient spare money to spend some on a feelgood factor to boost company profits who buy cheap from particular gang members.

  8. MB:

    “It’s her anguish which makes her superior.”

    Quite. And it’s all very competitive, too. Guardianistas love to display their liberal guilt, and they compete for PC/right-on status with their increasingly ostentatious displays of hand wringing. See the mastertly David Thompson, regularly:
    http://davidthompson.typepad.com/

    BwaB: Indeed. The only fair trade is free trade.

  9. Ah, Ironman, but your speaker is a victim of “supermarkets deny choice”. He had no choice but to shop there because Tesco had what he wanted, when he wanted, at lower prices. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you!

  10. When you abolish quality and price as criteria of choice, what do you get?

    Well, shit is produced organically. Let them eat that.

  11. Bloke in Spain

    Spot on!

    Towards the end of the meeting, as we debated the subject of that evil ploy the supermarkets use, ‘the low price’, one women described low price -v- walking around with a Fair Trade halo as a ‘dilemma’. “It’s not a dilemma; it’s a choice”. She asked for me to be thrown out!

  12. “It’s not a dilemma; it’s a choice”. She asked for me to be thrown out!

    Well, obviously? She could tell you were an evil neoliberal bastard (and therefore not entitled to hold an opinion never mind consideration of your right to free speech) because you insisted on bringing reality into a discussion intended purely for the purpose of allowing participants to signal how bien pensant they are.

  13. Theophrastus – “The only fair trade is free trade.”

    Yarp. There’s always been a passive-aggressive undercurrent to the fairtrade campaign by implying the alternative to fairtrade is unfair trade. As if treating brown people in poor countries as we would any other supplier – rather than patronising them by turning them into the farming sector’s equivalent of Big Issue vendors – is immoral.

    Can’t see the fairness in paying more than the going rate for coffee or chocolate myself. Not to mention that prices are information, and if the profit margins in farming a particular product are so thin that some producers can’t make a go of it, they’d probably be better off doing something else. Like finding ways to boost productivity, plant more profitable crops, or maybe quit the farming business entirely as so many of our ancestors did in search of better lives.

    Does fairtrade not just encourage stagnation in the Third World agricultural sector, and by extension, Third World countries themselves? Seems rather perverse.

  14. Steve-

    Yes, it does. The first step in economic development is getting people off the land. The reason that mass farming nations are poor is that it’s an inefficient production method. Still, I’m preaching to the converted here at Worstall’s I’m sure.

    But most of these middle class agrarianists just cannot grasp that if 90% of the population are growing food, the other 10% of other goods and services isn’t much to go around.

  15. “The only fair trade is free trade.” … and that’s manifestly unfair also, poor peasant earns 5 quid a day doing brute toil so we can eat exotic stuff ….

  16. “…and that’s manifestly unfair also, poor peasant earns 5 quid a day doing brute toil so we can eat exotic stuff ….”

    So how much does the peasant earn under a “fair trade” scheme? £5.01 a day? Does anyone really know?

  17. @Bloke in Central Illinois : “So how much does the peasant earn under a “fair trade” scheme? £5.01 a day? Does anyone really know?” – about the same, (according to that guardian article, even less !). In any event it will still be around the prevailing rate in that area for that kind of work. …. just pointing out that wages are much lower in much of the world and neither free trade nor fair trade nor any kind of trade is going to raise their wages while the only thing they have to offer is toil in the fields.

    They will remain much poorer than us until they diversify their economic activities, industrialise and move most of their workers out of peasant toil. That is in fact happening very quickly in most of the world, but there’s a few billion peasants to go yet, so they will be toiling for a pittance to grow us asparagus in the Andes and flowers in Kenya for some time to come.

    Then, once they have industrialised they will be toiling at their production lines assembling fan heaters and ipads for more than they get in the fields, but still much less than we earn for much nicer work.

    Fair trade can’t fix it, and now it seems from the report, doesn’t even give the lucky few in the fairtrade schemes a small wage boost.

  18. “but still much less than we earn for much nicer work.” Huh? If they were as productive as Westerners they’d be getting paid what Westerners do. Although if the price of Western levels of productivity is using surplus capital to subsidise unnütze Esser to write witless shit in the Grauniad we might all be better off slaving away on the farm.

  19. I would be very interested to know how fair trade distorts the labour market. A major problem being that it disincentivises people of higher intelligence doing something other than farming. Eg why bother going to school university until you are 25 if you can leave school at 13and have almost as good wage on a fairtrade farm?

    See also gap year kids going to poor countries and stealing school building jobs from local workers.

  20. Actually asparagus is grown on the coast, not in the Andes, on modern mechanised farms whose workers get paid several times the mean agricultural wage in Peru.

  21. @Peter S – “Actually asparagus is grown on the coast” – I assure you that in UK Waitrose/M&S (can’t recall which, perhaps both, she won’t shop anywhere but), there’s asparagus from Peru … i noticed it because Peru is so very far from here, and that really is a very long way to fly (par avion i guess, might have come on ship) our luxury out of season foods. AFAIK, asparagus grows well here in UK, but is in season about same time as strawberries.

  22. “workers get paid several times the mean agricultural ” – Why are the employers paying way over, here in UK (afaik) its paid about equivalent to other crop picking, good money if you are good at it and work long hard hours ( 200 GPB / day ?).

    Peter S, i think you have hit on something very interesting here, that asparagus workers are paid way over, that’s astonishing and I am sure I speak for many others here in that I would like to know more. I know Tim would like to know why they pay way over for asparagus pickers, he, like me, is into that sort of semi-aut stuff.

  23. ““but still much less than we earn for much nicer work.” Huh? If they were as productive as Westerners they’d be getting paid what Westerners do. ” ….. uh !!!!! – they’re in a peasant economy, we’re far advanced of that. We’re so far advanced of them that we pay them what’s a pittance to us to do our crap work, so we don’t have to.

    “witless shit in the Grauniad we might all be better off slaving away on the farm” … not disagreeing with you there.

  24. “I would be very interested to know how fair trade distorts the labour market. ” – very little impact whatsoever on prevailing wage rates etc.

    “See also gap year kids going to poor countries and stealing school building jobs from local workers.” … ditto

  25. “we pay them what’s a pittance to us to do our crap work, so we don’t have to.” No, no, no. The wages are not low because the work is unpalatable to us but because it is unproductive. If productivity in that economy could be raised, then the wages an agricultural labourer could attract would rise. Of course, the only way agricultural productivity is likely to rise is by substitution of capital for labour via mechanisation and improved husbandry, so total agricultural employment will fall. That is, of course, a good thing.

  26. @ fella on the rice coast. Not sure why you say “no no no” when i say “we pay them … we don’t have to”.

    “The wages are not low because the work is unpalatable to us but because it is unproductive.” i never said such a silly thing, what do you think i am – a guardian reader?

  27. @Peter S “Actually asparagus is grown on the coast” – my apologies, I said “grow us asparagus in the Andes”, should have been more careful, we import it from Peru, I’ll accept your assertion that it is a coastal crop, should have been more careful with my own words and more careful with yours too.

    Please accept my retraction of any subsequent snarks.

  28. And again I am being careless, apologies to all –

    ““The wages are not low because the work is unpalatable to us but because it is unproductive.”

    Please strike “i never said such a silly thing”, for Indeed.

    I never said that the wages are low because the work is shitty etc.

  29. No problem Johnny Bonk. Our asparagus farm is highly mechanised and our (few) workers are well paid because they are machinery operators – no grubbing in the earth here. The prices asparagus earns in US, UK and even Peru make it a profitable crop.

  30. Odd, I thought I knew something about asparagus, because I like the stuff.

    – the UK asparagus season is right now. And it seems to me, Guardian reader as I sometimes am, that UK asparagus tastes better than imported.
    – asparagus harvesting is done by hand. Which is one of the reasons why it’s so expensive.
    – asparagus in Peru is grown neither in the mountains nor on the coast, but along aquifers between the two – it needs a lot of water.

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