Ritchie wants a National Food Service

“The reasons are obvious. When there is a need for universal supply of a product or service, wherever the user is located and whatever their circumstance, then the state has unique powers to deliver with an efficiency no other structure has. “

Food, clothing and housing are all universal needs. Therefore, according to Ritchie, we should have a National Clothing Service, a National Housing Service and a National Food Service.

On the grounds, mark you, of greater efficiency of provision.

I’ve lived in a country with a National Food Service and that’s not quite what actually happens.

But from such faulty logic we end up with the NHS.

No one, but no one, is suggesting that we follow the US health care system. There are quite a lot howeer you say we might try elements of the French, German, Singaporean and so on. Markets, competition, innovation, within a state and tax financing system.

On the grounds that those systems seem to be *even* better than the NHS.

37 thoughts on “Ritchie wants a National Food Service”

  1. State and efficiency are two words that should never go together.
    Not forgetting of course that its the state that causes the need for foodbanks… what with delays to benefits.
    Hey, don’t we have a state run taxation service thats recently found its made a few million errors?

  2. To some extent, this is something that social services departments already do, albeit in dire emergencies. And it’s not something they’re able to do particularly well, nor efficiently. To be fair, it’s not something they should be expected to do (perhaps except for those whose physical abilities prevent them).

    The need for food and water is time-sensitive. When it takes the state several weeks to process an initial claim for various benefits, it’s a good indicator that it might not be the best mechanism for the supply and distribution of food to those most in need. The trail of bodies in its wake would be immense, but at least Richie would have his National Food Service.

  3. The NFS will take three months to produce your big mac and fries, it will be delivered by 6 unionized longshoremen in a 10 ton delivery van between 8 and 4 on a day in the third week of October and will cost $3,500.00.

    Which day of that week? Shut up, they explained.

  4. Martin,

    “State and efficiency are two words that should never go together.”

    I’ve just finished working on a system for the state that would have been cheaper to build as a paper system. Months and months spent on a system for a few thousand bits of low hit rate (about half a dozen updates a day for the whole system) data.

  5. The national food service exists already and we can observe its efficacy.
    My son is Coeliac (proper one with an autoimmune problem, not the new-age hippy version) and he gets bread (and other things) on NHS. My chemist tells me the prescription price is £37 per loaf. Round the corner I can buy it from Sainsburys for £3.

  6. Yes, but Sainsburys are doing it purely for profits in the interests of their shareholders, so that’s evil and that’s final.

  7. Sorry to go on, but as a Progressive I think I have the moral duty to. The problem here is that Tim Worstall and his readers are neoliberals, and thus have no grasp of morality and decency and are quite incapable of comprehending socially just outcomes.

    The most important point in any system is the declared moral outcome; some people call this a “mission statement”. Neoliberals like Tim and his commenters are instead mentally disturbed social defectors who are more interested in mere bean counting; as such they concern themselves with unimportant statistical outcomes.

    As an attempt to speak simplistically enough for you to be able to understand, the moral declaration, “Food provision for all, free at the point of use, by socially just means” is far, far more important than “people actually get enough food to not starve to death”; the latter is how neoliberals see the world in terms of mere materialistic satistfaction of selfish consumerism.

    An excellent example is the National Health Service. The NHS supplies “health care for all, free at the point of use”. Only neoliberals attempt to undermine it with consumaterialistic statistics like, “old people die forgotten on trolleys in corridors”.

    Any Progressive person of high moral character understands that is far better to die for social justice than to live for profit.

    I daresay that the neoliberals will now insult me for demonstrating their moral depravitude. This is the price one must pay for being of superior character in every way, and a price I have become used to paying.

  8. “…far, far more important than “people actually get enough food to not starve to death”; the latter is how neoliberals see the world in terms of mere materialistic satistfaction of selfish consumerism.”

    See, even satirical progressives (well done, btw) don’t fully get it.

    Neolibs (you know, them) desire to see (and already actually see) the common man being able to eat better than the absolute top Kings of three or four hundred years ago. And neolibs want to see an on-going higher percentage of people from all around the world enjoy this possibility. Plus, they have the means to see this though.

    That is the true level of complete bastards they are for not seeing the moral point you make.

  9. My son is also coeliac. We don’t get the (overpriced prescription stuff). It is not the job of the state to feed my children, especially when all the supermarkets have huge stocks of GF food getting ever cheaper.

  10. Dear Mr Worstall

    It would seem that Mr Murphy desires to precipitate a revolution post haste.

    I can’t imagine why else he would want to have people in this country starving in short order.


  11. @ Dr Cromarty. You know nothing of my circumstances. You have no information on how often I take/took GF from the chemist, whether I still do, why I do or don’t.

    Simpler maybe to get back off your high horse and debate the issue at hand – do we know of any theoretical reasons or practical experiences that suggest why the State should or should not be more efficient at providing all basic essentials?

  12. @Ian B. You cvnt. The reason I frequent this blog is because that – whilst I am vaguely aware that the truth does exist and that I don’t have a decent grasp on it – at least everyone else here is also a neoliberal bastard and is therefore unable to rub my nose in my stupidity by pointing out the real truth to me.

    Then you post that and shatter my little greenhouse with your rock of truth. I am shattered.

  13. Not a criticism of you at all. Simply my choice. If the NHS is being charged £37 a loaf, we’re all being scammed if sainsburys can charge £3. If GF is available free it’s hardly surprising if people avail themselves. I simply choose not to. I’m not judging you or anyone else. My choice. You’ll note I said it’s not the job of the State to feed *my* children. I didn’t mention your circumstances. They are none of my business.

  14. PJF-

    Indeed, the National Food Service will make absolutely sure that nobody has the means of gluttony.


    Can I have my rock back?

  15. “I’ve lived in a country with a National Food Service and that’s not quite what actually happens.” I’m intrigued. Which country? And what did “actually happen”?

  16. So Much for Subtlety

    Given the obesity and poor fashion choices of most British people, I am sure that these ideas would find a large audience in Britain today.

    Although needless to say what fools like Ritchie do not consider is that a National Food Authority is more likely to make us fat than healthy. Just look at the idiocies of their dietary recommendations over the years. And then force us all to wear muffin tops.

    But to be on the safe side, I think TW shouldn’t even mention a National Housing Authority. Don’t give them ideas. Still, perhaps Lenin is right and the worse it is, the better. In that case, he forgot to mention the National Sexual Intercourse Authority. The only way to prevent the sexual exploitation of jail bait by celebrities, obviously.

  17. Iirc some soviet functionary on an official visit to Britain is supposed to have asked the question “who organises bread supplies for London?” Apparently he couldn’t compute the answer of “err nobody”

  18. I was there for the tail end of the Soviet Union. I was also there when Yeltsin abolished food price controls. Simply amazing how free market prices brought the supplies out into the open.

  19. As a fully ‘intellectually’ paid up neo-liberal, I feel aggrieved that we are not replying in kind with sufficient vigour and labelling things as they are.

    Neo-marxist is a term I have seen a couple of times. I think we need to bring it to the fore.

  20. Ritchie is right though, the State does deliver the most most efficient allocation of capital. Thus is Mrs Murphy’s huge GP salary explained.

  21. Well, we all know privater firms can’t do things like delivery.

    I mean, on Saturday morning my printer packed up. Staight on to the Wibbly Wobbly, ordered one from Amazon at 11:42. Delivered from Amazon S.a.r.l (another tax dodge, eh!) at 3.15 pm Sunday, postage £7.99

    What a fluke!

  22. Martin

    I don’t really know. However, i do think it would have merited a mention if it were the latter.

  23. The Pedant-General


    re coeliac bread in chemists. I happen to know a very great deal about this from the viewpoint of the manufacturer. Our genial host will be able to verify this…

    The problems of this are legion, systemic and chronic.
    Let’s start with getting onto the list. First you have to go through the ACBS: the Advisory Council on Borderline Substances. It’s a QuANGO basically that reviews foodstuffs and the like that have medical usages and who approve your application to be a supplier of prescription items. They only meet once every 6 months and your application can be rejected for the most trivial and utterly irrelevant reasons, with no appeal or discussion. Add delays, paperwork and cost to the sales process. They might go as far as insisting on different packaging for the prescription product simply to remove perfectly true and valid (and in some retail cases mandatory) labelling even though it’s identical inside the package.

    Next, unnecessary complexity in the supply chain. When you deal with the major grocery mults (JS, Tesco etc), you’re dealing with them direct. With the prescription market, it goes via an inane system of distributors, all of whom want their cut. Add to price, complexity, more stock and longer lead times in the supply chain.

    Next, order volumes and complexity. Major mults send an order during the day, and arrive with a fleet of lorries overnight, collect it and inject it into their – incredibly effective and efficient – distribution systems. Orders are measured in terms of lorry loads. The prescription system orders on a shop by shop basis: the order processing load is several orders of magnitude greater. for the hard of hearing, that means that if it costs 2p/loaf to process an order for JS, it’s going to be between £2 and £20 for the NHS.

    Net result:
    – same product
    – possibly lower factory gate revenue for the manufacturer
    – vastly higher cost for the grateful subscriber to the wonder of the world that is the NHS
    – shorter shelf life product when the consumer gets it.

    What’s not to like?

  24. I asked RM to explain what he meant in terms of universal products etc (eg telecoms, broadband, mobile phones) and strangely he didn’t publish my comment nor respond.

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