Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake
© 2011 Ross Williams

I’ve gotten a ration of shit lately from some hard-core Organics because I’ve dared to say that hard-core Organics are inappropriately full of themselves.

Actually, what I’ve said is that if their notions were to be implemented the way they want, it would result in the 95% of our nation’s population who are not involved in farming going hungry, and a large portion of half the rest of the world which relies on US agriculture having food shortages, probably riots, possibly thousands of starvation deaths [thousands more than “normal”, that is], and maybe even food wars.

Among the 95% of Americans going hungry, there may possibly be some of the same. Guess, I asked them, where those starvation deaths would occur? It wouldn’t be among the middle or wealthy class. It’s always the poverty class that catches it in the knickers.

Organics don’t like to hear ... they hate hearing, in fact; resent hearing ... that “organic agriculture” is a novelty in a technological society. It cannot be anything but a novelty. Just like solar energy and wind turbines. Novelties all.

Are they good novelties? sure. Worthwhile? you betcha! Admirable? that too. And I happily participate, for I like the idea. A lot. I simply don’t delude myself into believing it’s more than it is.

There is no way in hell that a technological nation of 300 million Americans is getting fed with organic means unless all 300 million devote the majority of their waking hours to agriculture, at which point we stop being technological. For there is another term for “organic agriculture” that Organics hate hearing: subsistence agriculture.

The two are the same. The only time human civilization subsisted solely with subsistence agriculture is when it absolutely had to. The results were uniformly dismal. Dark Ages, the first flood or drought wipes out half the crop and a quarter of the village, any trivial illness leads to death ...

The only reason we have the organic throwback philosophy without these curious little side-effects is because we have commercial farmers growing enough food that tens of millions of us are free to not grow food and instead do all the appliance manufacturing, medicine, chemicals, fuel refining, and paperwork shuffling that keeps it all working smoothly so that a few pampered nitwits can, in the evenings and on weekends, dig in the dirt their corporate salaries bought them. Their result? A moundful of radishes that didn’t use liquid sevin to keep the critters off. Woo!

...and yes, I’m trivializing. Good catch, there, ace.

Besides radishes, Organics also grow beets, and beans, berries of all varieties and ... so what? There aren’t more than a handful who grow everything they need to eat. Virtually all fill a niche market only, and they themselves live on food they primarily get from the same sources as everyone else does, even if they do more fruits, grains and vegetables … and less meat.

Organic farming is a labor-intensive novelty in a technological society. In a pre-technological society it’s called What You Do When You’re Not Sleeping.

Which is why it both flabbergasts and horrifies me that so many people with so many self-righteous delusions of their private “enlightenment” are so cavalier about their desires to obliterate the technological improvements to agriculture which allow:
1. So many Americans to eat, and
2. So many foreigners to eat.

When confronted about it, these pious pinheads either ignore the question altogether or flatly deny that deliberate starvation of huge masses of humanity would be the necessary result. How they arrive at that conclusion is anyone’s guess. My own guess is their lobotomy, since they all profess to being concerned about their fellow man. I’m willing to believe they’re concerned; I’m unwilling to believe they’ve got the brains god gave a gnat and thus have no ability to use their concern in practical ways.

A few years ago, the US announced its great Gaia-worshipping plans to increase corn-based ethanol production; food shortages and riots resulted around the world. Those who went hungry don’t eat US corn, though. They eat rice and there was no shortage of rice. There wasn’t even any shortage of corn.

The people who buy – on paper – tomorrow’s crops in today dollars and sell today’s crops in tomorrow’s dollars figured they’d better be buying tomorrow’s rice today since there’d be a lot less corn tomorrow what with the US moonshining more of it. The result was that the price of today’s rice skyrocketed and poor people the world over – where there was no shortage of rice – couldn’t afford to buy rice to eat. There were riots in Cambodia because the US was becoming more carbon friendly and renewably fueled.

Exactly what do these ninnies believe will happen when the world’s biggest food producer enacts policies to not simply make food seem more expensive on paper when it isn’t and shouldn’t be expensive in the stores, but also does everything it can to reduce food supplies in the stores? A paper food shortage caused by speculators buying paper food is fixed by another piece of paper saying “Oops; we overreacted”; it takes a semi-literate clerk one-fingering his keyboard in Microsoft Outlook with a global distribution list twenty minutes to make the correction. A Bangladeshi peasant can probably tighten his belt until the email goes viral.

However, a food shortage in the warehouse where the lack of food is because the shipper didn’t have it because the depot didn’t have it because the farmer didn’t grow it because the US government outlawed his means of growing food in bulk very quickly and cheaply will take at least one growing season to fix. That growing season will be preceded by at least one Congressional season to remove the idiot laws and bureaucratic nonsense that caused it all in the first place. Bangladeshis will eventually be belt-tightening with dog collars. There won’t be mere rice riots in Cambodia; whole nations are likely to erupt in chaotic revolt. And likely whole American cities as well.

Needless to say, the US will be the bad guy even if only because we always are. This time, though, it will be deserved – and let’s not start with the “poisoning the planet” excuse. People who live hand to mouth – as around half the world does – could not care less what pampered organic idealists in California consider “poison”. They’re hungry; we promised to grow food to sell to their countries at a decent price and now we aren’t. The reasons why don’t concern them. It is the privileged arrogance of the organic idealists in California which thinks it should.

The United States inarguably grows the single largest share of the world’s food. Ever hear the saying: “When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches cold”? Well, when we make agriculture policy and bureaucratic rules that increase the cost of American food in the US by five cents a bushel and ten cents a pound, it means that we’ll spend fifteen cents more for each meal and complain the whole time. But in Bangladesh, where a family of eight lives on fifteen cents a day, they’ll eat today ... or tomorrow ... but not both.

This may not be important to those who wish to have new FDA rules that spend a half trillion dollars to prevent 3,000 idiot Americans from getting food poisoning each year, when they don’t know enough to wash their own lettuce. It may be inconsequential to those who cry and weep to stop Monsanto from genetically engineering wheat to be resistant to root rot; trivial to those who demand that wheat farmers not dust their fields with the chemicals that prevent root rot when they can’t grow the resistant seed. If wheat were grown organically, by farmers in touch with their land and their plants, root rot wouldn’t be a problem, would it?

Yeah, and potatoes were grown in Ireland by exactly that type of farmer; it sure worked wonders preventing the potato blight, didn’t it?

The supreme self-importance behind the “Because me, you” philosophy of political action serves no one except the Me who directs the politics. It is a form of tyranny. This form, on this general subject, replaces a despotic asshole who ruins the country by self-indulgent excess with an enlightened asshole who ruins the country by self-indulgent idealism. It is not an improvement.

And the ultimate consequences of their dictates – were they to be truly dictated, as some have been – is ... well, let’s see. The commodity price for wheat has risen by 80% in the last three months, since the passage of the Food Safety Act. This is partly explained by wheat being out of season, partly because of Egypt [canal], and Libya [oil], and Bahrain [oil] being newly in turmoil ... us having gotten used to perpetual Nigerian and Venezuelan turmoil. But the rest? Regulatory overhead that won’t make food safer, but compensates by making food more expensive.

Banning genetically modified seed to forestall the need for as much insecticide, herbicide or fungicide – and banning insecticides, herbicides or fungicides – makes food more expensive and reduces its availability to boot. This seems to be a fair price to pay for those who don’t like corporate farming and the technology it rode in on.

At least the pampered organics can sleep soundly in their own private Versailles while the peasants around the world, hopefully silently, die the slow death of starvation. Let them eat organic cake.


Blogger rwilymz said...

Dear 'anonymous' whose comment I just deleted:

Please take note of your instructions for commenting here. They are really very simple.

"Please be rational; if you can't be rational, at least be clever. If you can't be either, then you're required to be polite."

Informing me that you take issue with me elsewhere isn't rational, clever or polite. I would suggest you take it up with me elsewhere.

Thank you for your cooperation.

June 15, 2011 7:14 AM  

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