Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's that got to do with the price of wheat, rice, maize and ethanol?

As Raj Patel correctly notes on the Guardian blog, we are shaping up for a fairly substantial risk of a free market democide. . There was certainly no shortage of people pointing out at the time that removing fertiliser subsidies and dismantling strategic grain reserves was a hell of a risky thing to do, but the neoliberals pushed it anyway, under the assumption that deregulated food markets would encourage investment and improve productivity. Which, given a very long run of good weather indeed, might have worked, but that was hardly the way to bet, and it really does not appear to be the case that anyone did a huge amount of detailed research into how this green revolution might have been carried out and financed. Beware, always beware, of long term solutions to short term problems.

I think the underlying idea, in as much as there was one, was that international aid was a more efficient way of providing food security than domestic reserves and price controls. Which has a certain plausibility to it, as long as you only look at one country at a time and assume that food shortages will be caused by ecological famines, which are more or less uncorrelated between regions, rather than a global inflation in food prices which overwhelms the capacity of the food aid industry, and which arrives at a time of fiscal strain in donor nations. Of course, the general approach of assuming that one's risks are uncorrelated and manageable is one that has been causing all sorts of problems in the world economy of late. But I rather suspect that no such considered plan was ever drawn up and the real thinking behind the current disaster was the simpleminded and arrogant assertion typified by the dreadful Pollard's piece.

I wonder if, in fifty years' time, people will be writing nasty obituaries of recently dead neoliberals? I almost hope so. It really is hard to see what qualitative difference one might draw between the way in which the World Bank and IMF have fucked around with the food security systems of third world countries in the name of "free markets", and the way in which Stalin and Mao did more or less the same thing in the name of "collectivisation". Peter Griffiths' article and book refer. The great thing about the market mechanism, of course, is that when it kills a million people, it doesn't leave fingerprints.
29 comments this item posted by the management 4/23/2008 04:48:00 AM

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