Posts Tagged ‘famine’

Paul Collier explains the famine

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Paul Collier explains the famine.

In the modern era, famines are usually caused by war or socialism.  This time around, it is a bit different.  Collier lists four causes – one is Chinese prosperity, two are environmentalism – the ban on genetically modified food, and the American biofuel program, and one is social engineering – state intervention to preserve small (and thus ineffectual) farms as a voting block.

As I remarked earlier, the twentieth century was a time of socialist famines.  Let us hope the twenty first century is not a time of greenie famines.

The first greenie famine

Monday, April 28th, 2008

The twentieth century was the century of the red famines.  Now, in the twenty first century, we are seeing the first greenie famine.  Let us hope it will not be the first of many.

The red famines killed an extraordinary number of people during the twentieth century – famines caused in part by carelessness, in part by active malice as socialists sought to centralize all food under their direct control.  To some extent the red famines were intended to end resistance by depopulating large areas, to some extent they were produced by incompetence, as politicians and bureaucrats directed farmers how they should farm, and some of which were caused by casual neglect, as those politicians and bureaucrats simply forgot to feed their captives.

We are seeing much the same with the first greenie famine.  It should have been possible to figure out that converting enough food to feed near a billion people into fuel was likely to cause problems.

Of course, the failure of capitalism to smoothly convert from oil to coal is also a problem, but the conversion has not been made any easier by the fact that it typically takes ten years to get such a plant approved, if you can get it approved at all.

There is a green path and a brown path to dealing with the failure to pump enough oil.  Environmentalists complain that coal to liquids conversion is on the brown path, and take for granted that the green path is inherently better and more virtuous, so much more virtuous that simply being in favor of it makes them more virtuous.  They neglect, however, to explain that the green path involves a substantial and rapid population reduction.



Saturday, April 19th, 2008

There is an oil crisis, and there is a food crisis. People in Haiti are eating dirt. Women are giving their babies away to random strangers. People who formerly were poor, and able to afford little more than enough to eat, now are unable to buy enough to eat.

I, of course, am more worried about the oil crisis, but the food crisis is probably more important.

Becker says that food prices are not going to be a problem

the second reason for optimism relates to the lower productivity of food production in the poorer parts of the world relative to the United States and other developed countries. Higher food prices will induce an increase in productivity in developing nations by encouraging greater use of machinery, fertilizers, and other forms of capital.

In fact of course, the problem with food is the same as the problem with oil. In most of the world if you apply machinery and so forth, your tractor is probably going to be stolen, and you yourself quite likely killed in the process, just as if you drill an oil well, your oil rig is probably going to be stolen, and you yourself quite likely killed in the process.

It would be hugely profitable to drill new oil wells in Iraq, and upgrade and maintain existing oil wells, but no one is doing it for obvious reasons. Similarly for drilling water wells and digging irrigation ditches in Iraq. Whenever you ask businessmen why they are investing gigantic sums in Alberta oil sands, and not investing elsewhere in the world in oil that is far easier to extract, they will tell you.

Tractors are just as attractive to tyrants, demagogues, and terrorists as pipelines are.