So, I get a free book from the publishers

By a David Rieff. Arguing that since food prices have spiraled since 2000 then the global food system is a disaster and must be reformed.

So, I have a quick gander at the introduction. And there’s already one problem. He seems not to realise that the poor are actually net producers of food, not net consumers. Because that real absolute poverty out there is the poverty of peasants.

And then I think to check food prices. And it looks like he filed his copy some time ago. Because grain prices aren’t hugely, notably, up since 2000. Wheats about flat, soy up a bit, riice has doubled but that’s hugely down from 2008.

Sounds like pretty thin evidence to base a whole demand for global change on, doesn’t it?

24 comments on “So, I get a free book from the publishers

  1. “Sounds like pretty thin evidence to base a whole demand for global change on, doesn’t it?”

    No. ANY excuse will do.

  2. As an arable farmer I can certainly confirm that the wheat price per tonne is currently the same (in nominal terms) as I was receiving in the early 90s (before the blessed Black Wednesday, when the pound fell out of the ERM and wheat prices shot up by about £30/tonne overnight).

    Perhaps the author of this book would like to sell it at 1990 prices too?

  3. Sounds like pretty thin evidence to base a whole demand for global change on, doesn’t it?
    Conclusion first, evidence second

  4. Rob – the answer is collectivisation, localisation, restricted trade?

    I would be shocked if it wasn’t.

    David Rieff is one of those pubic ineffectuals who bounces around academia and NGOs, making a comfortable living as a self-proclaimed expert without the burden of having to make or sell or fix anything other than their own tiresome books.

    Take a gander. That’s the face of a man who has never grown a potato or milked a cow in his puff.

    His mum was Susan Sontag, who famously said “the white race is the cancer of history”, before ironically dying of whiteness cancer.

    Food cranks always remind me of Kip’s Ma in Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand nailed these creeps more than 50 years ago.

  5. @ Steve
    I can remember when that sort of face was fashionable – I can’t remember who it was but it put me off growing a beard for life.

  6. I understood the food price rises were linked to deliberately inflated oil prices rather than underlying crop costs, as food production was reliant on machinery and a lot was shipped around the world due to globalisation.

    The food price rises that triggered the “Arab Spring” soon led to a massive about face by Saudi Arabia’s ministry of price gouging lest a popular demand for a change of government somehow wandered across their borders as well.

  7. @ Runcie
    You misunderstood: transport costs are trivial relative to the impact of disastrous (or even of massivew) harvests.
    You may not have noticed that (i) the population of the Middle East is less than that of China, (ii) that the arab Spring was triggered by a self-immolation in Tunisia

  8. I bet he loves organic farming, which does it’s fair share of uplifting prices.

    No evidence as to his beliefs, of course, but for that face and that affected pose NOT to like organic farming would be completely unprecedented.

  9. Isn’t the oil/agriculture issue mostly vis a vis fertiliser (in the sense that natural gas and coal are used for producing fertiliser and if the gas and coal is being used for fertiliser people are using oil for other stuff)?

  10. “Sounds like pretty thin evidence”/ Yes. And remember

    It only takes a spoonful of supposition to build a whole mountain of demonstrated fact out of.
    — Mark Twain

  11. Steve said:
    “Take a gander. That’s the face of a man who has never grown a potato or milked a cow in his puff.”

    I’m reminded of the comment on Hitler, that every morning he looked in the mirror, armed with a razor, and decided that his facial hair looked good and should be kept. Says a lot about a man.

  12. The food price rises that triggered the Arab Spring came about because the government removed (or reduced) the subsidies on either bread or flour (I don’t remember). It didn’t have much to do with production, transport, or market prices.

  13. Wheat prices weren’t forced up (significantly) by transportation or machinery costs. Some fucking numpty, under pressure from the Greens, mandated a legal minimum proportion of “biofuel” to be sold at the pump, thus forcing the global food industry to compete with the global fuel industry for grain supplies and (to some extent) linking wheat prices to oil prices. It has nothing whatsoever to do with our actual ability to create a food supply, merely with our lords & masters’ ability to fuck it up.

    I believe George Monbiot campaigned against boifuels at one point, because of the demonstrable effect of these policies on the world’s poor. You know, after he’d successfully campaigned for them.

  14. Richard,

    > I’m reminded of the comment on Hitler, that every morning he looked in the mirror, armed with a razor, and decided that his facial hair looked good and should be kept. Says a lot about a man.

    Hitler had quite a grand and dashing curly moustache. Then he cropped it for a completely practical reason: so that it would fit inside a gas mask.

  15. “he cropped it … so that it would fit inside a gas mask”

    Specifically the type of gas mask issued to the Sturmtruppen, I believe: so the moustache was a statement of politics rather than fashion.

  16. I would like to point out that farming is one of the industries that captures very little of the productivity gains that have occurred over the last X years (and those gains have been large, through better and larger machinery, more productive crops and animal breeds, and new techniques of production). And so all the benefit of those productivity gains accrues to some combination of the consumer, and all the other people in the food production system, such as food processors and retailers. For a while it seemed that the retailers were getting the largest benefit as the big 5 created a sort of cartel in the UK, whereby they all made big profits, but the introduction of Aldi and Lidl has punctured that balloon and the consumer probably is now the biggest gainer instead.

    For the author to argue that reform of the current system would aid the consumer is utter nonsense – as producers, farmers would love a bit less competition, as this would give them more pricing power. Reducing the current global trade in food would go a long way to make food prices in the shops (wherever that shop might be) considerably higher than they are today.

  17. Fen Tiger
    October 13, 2015 at 10:11 am

    “he cropped it … so that it would fit inside a gas mask”

    Specifically the type of gas mask issued to the Sturmtruppen, I believe: so the moustache was a statement of politics rather than fashion.

    =============

    Figures. Hitler was a dispatch runner, never a Sturmtruppen.

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