Jeebus wept

Last year, the New Economic Foundation produced a provocative analysis of food production, Urgent Recall, arguing that if the real cost of unequal access to a healthy diet and its impact on obesity and social wellbeing was counted along with the cost of environmental damage, lost birds and disappearing butterflies, there would be a public outcry. Most people in Britain spend a smaller proportion of their income on food than in other rich countries. If it cost more, it would be valued more; subsidies would go not to farmers but in, say, income support.

Seriously, food should be more expensive?

Guess generation rent is really, really, valuing those bedsits they’re living in then.

Twats.

44 thoughts on “Jeebus wept”

  1. A non-charitable ex-pat view might be that Brits spend less on food not because it’s cheaper, but because they value it less.

    i.e. they don’t mind eating shit 😉

  2. Wouldn’t you normally want to get rid of subsidies that make food cheaper, make consumers face true prices, and handle distributional impact by using money previously spent on subsidies for cash transfers to poorer households?

  3. That’s about the size of it, LE. Though it might be better to chop VAT on gas & elec, so that the poor can heat themselves more cheaply.

  4. The beautiful logic of (i) unequal access to healthy food because it is “expensive” and proles choose cheaper less healthy food so (ii) make it more expensive is wondrous to behold.

  5. Bloke in Cornwall

    Luis – “by using money previously spent on subsidies for cash transfers to poorer households”

    How about this instead – “by stopping taking so much money off people in the first place and letting them decide what they want to do with the money they earn rather than take it off them and tell them it’s in their best interest…”

  6. Well, seeing as how the CAP raises food prices brexit shoud make food even cheaper in the UK.

    Shock horror.

  7. John Malpas – they would offset the impact on higher food prices, which Tim is worried about in the OP.

    Bloke in Cornwall. Yes could be combination of cash transfers or tax cuts. But poorest households who would be hit hardest by higher food prices tend not to pay much tax so you can’t make them better off by tax cuts.

    ‘course there’s the whole argument about VAT on food, but standard view seems to be uniform VAT no exemptions is best policy

  8. “Well, seeing as how the CAP raises food prices brexit shoud make food even cheaper in the UK.”

    The frankly immoral tariff of 28% applied to African agriculture products will go for a start.

    Trade not aid.

  9. Bloke in Cornwall

    Luis – Very true about tax cuts not helping much but then the incentive for them should be “earn more” not “we’ll give you more”… How we get to a place where everyone earns enough to get by without hand outs is another puzzle…

    Also – uniform VAT is best policy… Can you point me to a link about that please as i personally think the best VAT policy is “Scrap it”

  10. There’s a basic logic fail here.
    Agricultural subsidies go to food production, not food processing. And it’s unprocessed food comprises the “healthy diet” that’s supposed to counter obesity etc.
    So removing subsidies is going to proportionally affect the “healthy diet” far more than the “unhealthy diet”.
    Put simply, an increase of the basic price of wheat, dairy products, meat & vegetables will bear heavily on home baking. But make damn all difference to the price of a take-away pizza.

  11. I presume that falling food prices (like falling other prices) just get subsumed into the cost of land.. so the net long-term impact on the bedsit dweller will be nought.

  12. Irrespective of the discussion about how the subsidy would be paid for in future/VAT/and so forth above, can I just note that the idea that people are lobbying to increase food prices is abhorrent.

    I heard Lady Ghosh (or whatever) on the Today programme this morning, and her line seemed to be: “the proles need to pay for a pretty countryside for the great and the good to own homes and estates in”.

    And people wonder why the peasantry are revolting….

  13. John Square – Taking your argument the other way around… are you saying that subsidising things is the best way forward?

    Everyone should pay into a central pool and then get given an even share? that way we all get equal and it’s all better for everyone?

  14. The Guardian wants poor people to pay more for food. They feel slightly uneasy about this, so will take money from other people and roll it out generously so the poor can afford the food the Guardian insisted should be more expensive.

    “Most people in Britain spend a smaller proportion of their income on food than in other rich countries. If it cost more, it would be valued more”

    Only a smug middle class cunt could have written that.

  15. John Sq

    I heard the patrician Lady (if that’s not an oxymoron) too, while in the shower so not v clearly.

    It seemed to me she was arguing for people like her to be paid public funds to preserve butterflies etc (ie the flower beds at her palatial country pile). Rather a sort of let them eat cake attitude I thought.

    Will these people be surprised when the mob comes to string them up?

  16. Rob

    ‘Only a smug middle class cunt could have written that’ – and only equally smug middle class cunts would pay to read it…..

  17. Hang on a moment.

    Is food subsidised in the UK, or not?

    This seems a rather important point, and there seems to be disagreement.

  18. Farming is subsidised. But much of the incidence of the subsidies is on the consumer. If, after brexit, we reduce or withdraw those subsidies, prices of food produced in the UK will go up.

    On the other hand, if we eliminated tariffs on food imports, foods which can economically be imported from outside the EU would get cheaper (mainly meat and potatoes). If instead we introduced tariffs on imports from the EU (as I fear is more likely) foods we import from the EU would get more expensive.

  19. @BiC

    “John Square – Taking your argument the other way around… are you saying that subsidising things is the best way forward?

    Everyone should pay into a central pool and then get given an even share? that way we all get equal and it’s all better for everyone?”

    I wasn’t passing judgement on the subsidy of anything- I was saying what she was saying was abhorrent, and I was hinting that the lack of self awareness she displayed told me a lot about her view of her fellow humans.

    As it happens, I’d avoid relying on subsidies for anything in the long term, although clearly some short term support for certain kinds of farming post CAP would be needed- y’know, to ease the jolt from one state of affairs to the other.

    I can also see a value in preserving pleasant countryside- I live in the South Downs national park, and it’s lovely. I’m not sure I’d demand the urban poor should pay for it to stay nice, but I’m comfortable with some form of protection for it.

    As for achieving equality- it’s not possible, it’s not worthwhile, and even if we could wave a wand to achieve it, it wouldn’t solve the ‘problems’ people say it would.

  20. ‘a vision of an agriculture policy that puts the environment first.’

    Feeding people is secondary. Protect the dirt, not the people.

    They want to punish all who voted Brexit. Expect more strange policies that make no sense any other way.

  21. And people wonder why the peasantry are revolting…

    There’s a reason we’re known as the great unwashed 🙂

  22. dearieme – yes would be handy having an extra £150 a year to spend on other stuff with no VAT on gas and lecky. That’s almost 3 pounds a week. Wow, could buy a takeaway for the family meal once a month.

    Not sure most people would be that grateful – most would get well below £150 reduction.

  23. Another thing that could be done would be to take VAT off all food, not just fresh food. Then the diet of the poor – at least according to stereotypes – would gain more than the diet of the asparagus-munching classes.

  24. @LE

    “Wouldn’t you normally want to get rid of subsidies that make food cheaper, make consumers face true prices, and handle distributional impact by using money previously spent on subsidies for cash transfers to poorer households?”

    But…but.. they might spend the extra cash on boze, fags and McDonald’s and not quinoa! We can’t possibly allow that!

  25. So is there a definitive answer on how much of the ‘subsidy’ for food is cash handed to farmers and how much is just not taxing the food producers quite as hard as the other poor buggers?

  26. Jack C: “where do those subsidies come from? From the consumers, correct?”

    Not *the* consumer. Specific consumers. Presumably rich ones.

    But anyway it is all nonsense trying to make people healthy with government policy. Just get rid of all the subsidies and tariffs and let people do what they want.

  27. “If it cost more, it would be valued more;”

    Let’s raise fuel prices 50%. People will “value more” the restricted hours they can now afford to run the central heating in.
    Let’s abolish housing benefit. Then the poor would “value more” the housing they now have to pay more to live in.

    Marvel at the mind which thinks that because something has become more expensive, people will “value it more”.

  28. Most people in Britain spend a smaller proportion of their income on food than in other rich countries. If it cost more, it would be valued more

    Interesting thesis. Do you think it also applies to the NHS?

  29. If I buy a loaf of bread for £1.50, but was able to buy a similar loaf last week discounted by 50%, does that mean I ‘value’ today’s loaf twice as much as the one last week?

  30. does that mean I ‘value’ today’s loaf twice as much as the one last week?

    I think the fundamental message here is that if you don’t, you damn well should.

    “And stop dragging that mud in. Ghastly peasant …”

  31. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I would favour the complete abolition of market-distorting subsidies, whether directed at producers or consumers. Let food cost what it costs. But—and here’s the main point—if that means some farmers go to the wall, and if it means that the sort of food favoured by the Mum’s Gone To Iceland brigade gets more expensive, then tant pis. That’s the idea. What the Grauniad is calling for (naturally) is not for a market-based solution but more thumbs on scales from the State. No. Fuck off. The fact it’s a gang of rent-seeking shitehawks like the NT peddling this should be a warning sign the size of the Bishop Rock lighthouse.

  32. ‘But – as the NT director general Helen Ghosh, who will launch this policy, recognises – radical farm reform is a perilous road. It can be introduced only gradually.’

    Radical. Gradually. Wait . . . what?

  33. We’ve just learned that the UK net contribution to the EU exceeds £190m a week, and previously learned in the EUref campaign that UK farm subsidies total arounf £3bn a year, and that EU farm subsidies total about 38% of the EU budget. With a little arithmetic it is clear that the UK spends more subsidising non-EU farmers competing in the same trade area as ourselves than it does subsidising its own farmland owners.
    If you voted Leave on 23rd June, give yourself a part on the back, because at worst it means a review of this madness of subsidising competitors more than yourself, and at best could mean devolution of the farm subsidy budget to local authorities, or even total abolition.

  34. It seems to me that the lesson of agricultural liberalisation in the Antipodes in the 1980s is that it is always simplest to liberalise the opposition’s constituency. Brexit has created an opportunity, but we may have to wait for a Labour Party that has the wit to get even rather than to get mad before before we take advantage of it.

  35. But anyway it is all nonsense trying to make people healthy with government policy.

    See the US’s “food pyramid”, and what was in many ways for decades a policy of carb-loading.

  36. It seems to me that the lesson of agricultural liberalisation in the Antipodes in the 1980s is that it is always simplest to liberalise the opposition’s constituency.

    Well the Labour Party in NZ did more or less abolish agricultural subsidies, and did so without hurting their vote, as farmers were almost 100% National voters.

    But that Labour Party were to the right of your current Conservatives on economic matters. It’s a main reason why I could vote for them.

    The current UK Labour Party is never going to be able to do anything that economically “dry”.

  37. Anyway, off topic: Shami has been given a peerage by Corbyn which is entirely unconnected to her anti-semitism report whitewash, thank god, because Jeremy is principled and doesn’t do that sort of thing.

    Richie might have a stroke when he reads about that.

  38. I sneeze in threes

    “Marvel at the mind which thinks that because something has become more expensive, people will “value it more”.”

    We do we call them Veblen goods, though general foods probably aren’t.

    “In economics, Veblen goods are types of material commodities for which the demand is proportional to its high price, which is an apparent contradiction of the law of demand; Veblen goods also are commodities that function as positional goods.”

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