Monday, September 17, 2012

Food for thought

There is much discussion of the "religious right", but much less of the "religious left".  The Google ratio is 16:1.  The religious right is populated by folks who cannot accept evolution; the people who I place on the "religious left" are the well educated modern-day Luddites who cannot accept/grasp the idea of gains from trade.  And you thought this was settled by the writings of the classical economists.  (Steven Landsburg has looked at the economics of our presidential candidates and has settled on describing them as Dunce and Other Dunce.)

Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu take on some of the religious left in their splendid The Locavore's Dilemma: In praise of the 10,000 mile diet.  The great success story of our time (not just for Americans but for residents of half of the 34 OECD countries) is that most of us are more at risk for obesity than famine. 

Foods of great variety reliably delivered via an international supply chain consisting of an uncountable number of specialists is an amazing achievement.  And it was not always so, but (sad to say) many people don't get it.  They love their "locally grown" (fine), but ignore the costs (dumb) and often want to impose their romanticized choices on others less wealthy (worse than dumb).

"Isn't it possible that crushing bugs and removing weeds by hands were neither very effective nor the most productive use of one's time?" p. 185. There are many compelling lines like this, scattered through the book.

Tyler Cowen wrote about "World Hunger" in yesterday's NY Times.  He cited dumb food policies here (biofuels) and abroad (trade controls and price controls).  (Today, he blogs about the sorry state of the debate over GMOs.)