Be careful what you wish for

(Serious Discussion of budget deficits will continue presently.)

Agricorps are evil, I hear.  Apparently they produce food really efficiently and so drive quaint, rustic little family farms out of business — but they do it with GMOs and monocultures and other science-y sounding words that must be scary because, like, have you even seen GATTACA?  I hear this from middle-class urbanites whose closest connection to farming is idly dreaming about growing some pot in their closets and who never really worry about how much their next meal — or caramel-laced non-fat non-dairy two-shot fair-trade bull-semen latte — is going to cost.

Well, I can kind of understand this mindset.  After all, agricorps on this continent spend a lot of their time lobbying the government to subsidize their crops and stifle their competitors — the Wikipedia page for regulatory capture might as well have an image of an Iowan cornfield below the title.  I’ve spent some time ranting about this very subject.  So between the very real hazards of agricorporate interests overtaking the common interest, the rising frequency of dumbworm colonies spouting off scare stories about high-fructose corn syrup, the fact that most people associate “farming” with rosy memories of Dad reading them Little House on the Prairie as a bedtime story rather than “fourteen hours of backbreaking work, every goddamn day”, and scary science-y words like transgenesis, it’s not at all shocking that most grass-eaters think of agricorps as villainous and horrifying.

Hold that thought.

Let’s jump back to the middle-class urbanites who tell me about the evils of agricorps.  Many of them have also read Naomi Klein’s No Logo, and look with gasping horror upon multinational corporations.  Multinationals, I hear, are grasping and avaricious destroyers of honest and wholesome indigenous cultures and cruel enslavers of happy brown subsistence farmers whose harmonious pastoral values have been perverted by white-people-borne cravings like fast food and designer electronics, in pursuit of which they slave endless hours in filthy sweatshops to produce (gasp!) brand name products for fat sclerotic Anglos.  Plus, the greedy little fuckers steal our jobs.

It will no doubt surprise and delight these folks to hear of a nation where those evil awful agricorps have not taken hold, and in fact where traditional cultural values have precluded them from destroying the noble mores of a scintillatingly rich and ancient heritage.  That nation, we are told by the New York Times, is India — birthplace of Buddhism and vibrant emerging power.  Marvel at the striking contrasts between modernistic dynamism and reverence for the past!

Don’t, er, marvel too much at the malnourished children.

Four decades after the Green Revolution seemed to be solving India’s food problems, nearly half of Indian children age 5 or younger are malnourished. And soaring food prices, a problem around the world, are especially acute in India.


There is no agribusiness of the type known in the United States, with highly mechanized farms growing thousands of acres of food crops, because Indian laws and customs bar corporations from farming land directly for food crops. The laws also make it difficult to assemble large land holdings.

Yet even as India’s farming still depends on manual labor and the age-old vicissitudes of nature, demand for food has continued to rise — because of a growing population and rising incomes, especially in the middle and upper classes.


Food inflation hits especially hard here because Indians — most of whom live on less than $2 a day — spend a bigger portion of their disposable incomes on food than people in other big, developing economies like China and Brazil.

(Hat tip: Tyler Cowen.  Note that the comments to that post are rather skeptical of the NYT‘s conclusions — and that it takes a whole six of ’em before some asshat tells us that kids starving is a good thing because “there are too many people in India”.)

Yeah, it turns out that agricorps — while they may threaten the rustic way of life that asshole yuppies like to imagine exists somewhere in the world, preferably somewhere far away — actually do a really good job of producing cheap food.  The limited-liability corporation operating under liberal corporate laws may be far from benign and prone to outrageous exploits, and after watching the compensation packages that fell out of the credit crisis I’d like to see something better come along most fucking pronto, but it beats the shit out of everything else we’ve tried for large-scale — or, hell, even small-scale — capital allocation.

I tell you what: if Monsanto and ADM were running large-scale farms in India, they’d be wallowing in corporate-state corruption and crapping fertilizer into rivers and fucking the market’s incentives six ways to Sunday… but they’d be growing lots of cheap food.


0 Responses to “Be careful what you wish for”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a reply; use raw HTML for markup. Please blockquote quotations from the post or other comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

anarchocapitalist agitprop

Be advised

I say fuck a lot



Statistics FTW


%d bloggers like this: