Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Feed the world!


In his 1981 essay, “Poverty and Famines”, Amartya Sen, an Indian economist, argued that the 1943 Bengal famine, in which 3m people died, was not caused by any exceptional fall in the harvest and pointed out that food was still being exported from the state while millions perished. He concluded that the main reason for famines is not a shortage of basic food. Other factors -- wages, distribution, even democracy -- matter more.

Yet The Economist isn't interested in other factors. Instead it wants to talk exclusively and at length about what are called "agricultural yields" -- how much can be produced at a given cost, within a given acreage; in other words, the efficiency of agricultural output.

And while I am no expert, the impression I get from this article is that The Economist, rather than confronting the fundamental problem of profit in production, would merely prefer that agricultural yields, by the entrepreneurial magic of state-sponsored biotechnological chicanery, increase by a million percent!, so that "farmers" -- corporate agribusiness -- can finally produce commodities at so minimal an expense to themselves that they can feasibly sell them to people living on less than a dollar a day and still make a profit.

Failing that, all bets are off.


Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Hence my distaste for "economics," a sad pretender at science, an excuser of many injustices, a callous dismisser of such injustices under a heading of "externality" or the like.

Most frightening: people take The Economist seriously and treat it as gospel-true.

A fine game of 3-card Monte, that.

Abonilox said...

The "dismal science" is a pseudo-science as Oxtrot alludes. And the Economist, while it provides a lot of useful information that is hard to get elsewhere, has an editorial position that is consistent with the most mercenary application of capitalism imaginable.

Excellent post. Great blog.

Brian M said...

Have to chime in with another "excellent post" No concern trolling this time!

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Abonilox -- agree on the "useful information hard to get elsewhere," but since the editorial bias is skewed, it makes me doubt the veracity of that useful, hard-to-find stuff. Eh? The spin, I mean. The spin. And the lies by omission.

It's definitely written in a dry, serious manner that gives every appearance of informed objectivity, though.