Global food prices are becoming dramatically more expensive

Originally published at: Global food prices are becoming dramatically more expensive | Boing Boing

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Better abandon those pesky carbon targets and use more petrochemicals!

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Well, on the one hand, paying agriculture workers above slave wages is going to increase the cost of the food they harvest. But on the other hand, the obscene amount of food western countries waste also dramatically boosts prices, and we could stand to have a reason to be a little more circumspect with what we eat and what we throw out.

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As with other aspects of everyday life, the pandemic is giving us a preview of what things will be like as we start dealing with the climate emergency (or worse if we don’t start dealing with it).

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This isn’t an explanation for rising prices, but an interesting phenomena:

According to my economic professor many years ago, increasing the price of beans in some places results in higher consumption, not less. People need a certain amount of protein, satisfied with a mix of beans and meat within a fixed budget. If the price of beans increase, consumers can’t just switch to meat and stay in budget. So they buy more beans and less meat.

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As a society, we still have more than enough food, money, energy, shipping capacity, and so on, to feed everyone, and we have for a while, with no climatic or technological or population-driven reason for that to change in any of our lifetimes, within the range of likely trends. We’re still doubling down on this whole economic system that ensures people starve anyway, though, I guess.

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To do otherwise would create moral hazard.

Also, you’ll never convince the proudly independent farmers of the corn belt to allow the gubmint to interfere in their business!

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You referring to the economic system that ensured people starved during the Soviet famine of 32 or the Great Chinese Famine of 59-61? Or do you mean the general tendency of people to be really shitty at figuring out how to do things right? Even food donations to Africa have had the effect of depressing crop values, keeping people in poverty and more vulnerable to hunger. Which is certainly better than letting them starve, but still shows we can screw anything up.

The most demonstrable reduction of poverty and hunger in our lifetimes has been in China. And it certainly wasn’t from doubling down on what they were doing previously. From that example, the best way to avoid hunger is to lift people out of poverty.

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Conservative proponents of late-stage capitalism are heavily invested in preserving the outmoded narrative of the “Malthusian trap” (supposedly leading us to the equally outmoded narrative of Hobbes’s "War of all against all). The roots of Libertarian ideology have deep, poisonous roots.

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One reason why a mandated minimum wage of $15 isn’t near enough. Should be 2x or 3x that figure.

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I was being intentionally vague to avoid dragging the whole thread into a political or economics debate, so let’s just say that yes, I agree with everything you said.

I would note that for most of human history, food was not one of the things you would normally buy with money. Every society has a vested interest in making sure even its poorest members can eat, as long as there is enough food to do so, and anything else is a failure of coordination for any of various reasons that by this point we should know how to quickly recognize and safely counter, but have chosen not to.

@Ratel /s, I know, but I really wish we didn’t use this phrase to mean such different things in insurance vs. economics

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The thing that has always confused me most about the thoughts of the Libertarians I know is the wall they put between coercion and violence and other interference by entities labeled “government” vs. by entities labeled anything else.

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When I see a report like this, it reminds me of political candidates being asked about the price of a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. They’re always so surprised when they guess wrong and find out what most people already knew about the cost of living. It also emphasizes the fact that they’ve probably never been inside of a supermarket. Since the beginning of the pandemic prices have escalated (sometimes more than doubled) in a lot of categories.

I saw this headline, and my reaction was somewhere between, “No shit, Sherlock” and “You’re just noticing this now?” :roll_eyes: It’s interesting to note the factors Bloomberg cites, but the prediction that it’s going to get worse wasn’t unexpected. Lots of safety and regulatory screw-ups in the food supply created by the previous administration are likely to be reversed, too. We shouldn’t expect those goods to cost less in the future, either.

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The real challenge is the fact that most things that are produced whether it’s food or electronics are wasted. Usually unsold. For example, most of the mid-tier fashion brands will dump their unsold stock overseas into countries like Rwanda and Haiti. It’s gotten so bad that the Rwandan government lodged a complaint at the WTO because their local textile industry is suffering badly from it. So it’s clear that American/capitalist gigantism will have to go away to save the planet but the population need not wear a hair shirt (pun intended).

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The US is an an extreme when it comes to food expenditure. Not the strongest argument for higher wages (meaning there are better arguments). From the linked article:

Since you bring up 2x or 3x, there’s something I read some time back that counters some arguments about minimum wage driving inflation. Unfortunately, you might not be thrilled with it either. It seems that a minimum wage of 75% of median wages is a transition point. Below, it doesn’t affect inflation. Above, it does. Wish I could find the reference, but I can’t (despite multiple searches). Sorry.

The good/bad news is that a $12/hr minimum wage in the USA won’t cause inflation. Beyond that, it’s a judgement call. Depends on your viewpoint. And there’s an argument that it should be adjusted for local conditions (i.e. Massachusetts vs Mississippi). And so on.

If anyone can find that 75% reference, I would be truly grateful.

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American wages in general haven’t kept pace with inflation since the 1970s.

The situation is even worse when you look at the prices of housing and higher education.

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True, but there’s lots of reasons for that part of it, such as supply is kept artificially scarce by zoning policy, perceptions of prestige bidding up the price of certain subsets of the markets, falling public support, rising expectations for what these entail, and other factors.

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Climate change is a huge driver, but don’t be surprised if it turns out speculation (futures traders) are amplifying the effect.

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