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In his Foreign Policy article Got Cheap Milk?, "The Optimist" Charles Kenny decries local, organic food and especially government subsidies to farmer's markets:
... these First-World food fetishes are positively terrible for the world's poorest people. If you want to do the right thing, give up on locavorism and organics über alles and become a globally conscious grocery buyer. This should be the age of the "cosmovore" -- cosmopolitan consumers of the world's food.
Everyone knows that all government subsidies should go to agribusinesses, so Kenny advises us to buy the cheapest genetically-modified food we can find, whether it comes from next door or New Zealand. But an unnamed commenter on The Dish counters:
As Bill McKibben has argued in Deep Economy, small farms produce more food per acre while large farms produce more food per dollar. The reason, of course, is oil; we've substituted human labor with mechanical labor on those "efficient" farms in the US and the West compared to those in Africa, and thanks to the era of cheap oil and farm subsidies, we've grown accustomed to having "cheap milk" at $2/gallon.
Kenny is making a case for GMO foods and against organic methods, but the model he's advocating for is fundamentally based (even if he doesn't mention it) on a radical expansion of fossil fuels to grow crops in these areas. If diesel is already $4/gallon in the US, and thus increasing food prices (corn and oil being the two greatest ingredients in our food economy), then what happens when we start converting the Third World to our First World large-scale practicies? Providing for fair trade, eliminating subsidies and tariffs, and promoting conservation of soil and water should be the focus of our efforts in the Third World, not GMO foods and mechanization. Those things would allow farmers to avoid the growth and debt trap of expanding their farm, only to find out they need expensive machinery, fertilizer and pesticides to service their farm land, and thus spiraling down into being farm managers instead of farmers. Which is exactly what's happened in the US.
I had first noticed another article by Kenny, The Myth of the Middle Class which I gather is Kenny's response to the plethora of articles concerned about the decline of said middle class:
... is there any evidence to support the argument that the middle class is so vital to prospects for stability and economic growth? In fact, the middle class exhibits little more of the entrepreneurship or social progressiveness that is typically ascribed to it than do poor people. ...
What the worldwide evidence suggests is that becoming middle class doesn't suddenly turn you into an entrepreneur or an innovator. Indeed, quite the opposite is true: The reason that most in the middle classes are richer is because more of them have stable 9-to-5 jobs, with weekly or monthly paychecks. By contrast, poor people are more likely to work in casual labor, usually paid by the hour, often going stretches without employment. We may talk about every new graduate into the middle class as a potential next Bill Gates, but the fact is that most more realistically aspire to be the next Walmart associate.
As I read this, Kenny is saying that the middle class are just better-paid poor people that don't contribute nearly as much to society as innovative, risk-taking, handsome, dynamic and wealthy movers and shakers. Kenny doesn't mention that the rich often take those risks with middle-class pension money. So who is this Kenny guy?
As a Schwartz Fellow at New America, Charles Kenny will focus on issues connected to extending financial tools to people in developing countries, and the role of technology in raising living standards around the world. Mr. Kenny will be on leave from the World Bank, where he is a senior economist. He has written extensively on such issues as the role of communications technologies in development, the ‘digital divide,’ corruption, what we know about the causes of economic growth, the link between economic growth and broader development, the causes of improvements in global health and the link between economic growth and happiness. He is a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine. Mr. Kenny has a BA in History from Cambridge University and a MA in Development Studies from SOAS in London and in International Economics from Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington DC.
Essentially Kenny's articles favor the interests of a global elite over those of ordinary folk who simply go to work every day. For example, in How to Be a Patriot: Hire an Illegal Immigrant he argues that those who hire illegals are the heroes:
Laws against illegal immigration make little economic or moral sense. So why punish the brave citizens who break them? ... What makes the political impasse over immigration particularly frustrating is that hiring an illegal alien is good for the illegal alien, good for the U.S. economy, and good for the country he or she comes from. So what’s not to like?
If hiring coyotes to recruit illegals, paying them low wages and bullying them with the threat of deportation is so brave, why not just let anyone that works here become a citizen - and a member of the mythical middle class?