Sunday, April 13, 2008

Really, really egregious. (nasty naughty bad)

So, the world is running out of food?  People may starve?  Way cool!  We can make money!

"Investing in agriculture has been rewarding, even after a recent pullback. PowerShares DB Agriculture, for example, gained almost 19% through April 10 -- far outpacing the U.S. market. "

What a great idea.  Let's add to the cost of food- by adding food speculators to the scenario.  Those are people who buy "futures", which are a bet, basically, that it'll be worth more than the experts are guessing.  If they're big enough, they actually "hold commodities".  Waiting for the price to go- up.

Guess what?  Add a couple thousand "investors"- all buying- and.. hey, the price goes up!

Now here is a practice that the world should outlaw- NOW.  It serves NO useful public purpose- it's only to make people with money richer.

Shame on us.

Seriously.  Banned- Outlawed- now.  This is an obscenity.


update, 4/14-

Sorry; but obscene is the only word I can come up with.  How DARE we allow this?

I'm having trouble reading my calculator, but I think it's telling me that 10M is about 1% of 1.03B.  So the world is tossing the starving people of Haiti 1% - of the PROFITS - of ONE food processing company - for 1/4 of one year.  Huzza for us.


Anonymous said...

Yep. Two good illustrations of the problem of the marketplace at work.

To quote a good climate blogger:

"Free enterprise, and the profit motive which drives it, is necessary for economic and technological progress. But it can’t be trusted to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

See also:

Do we have a name for the situation where your cherished civilization looks so much like low-hanging fruit that bystanders are willing to knock the whole thing over just to run off with the easy pickings?

I'm sure I can recall this happening in the past, from time to time. You call them barbarians, but they're just doing what the market tells them is rational behavior, eh? Because they don't see themselves as hurting themselves when they tear down houses and turn good infrastructure to scrap. "That's where the money is" to quote a famous bank robber.

Back in the 1980s sometime, I recall a sociologist studying distribution of wealth who wrote that there was a point in the history of every nation studied where income distribution became skewed to about the same gross degree -- and the government, not just the people but the whole form of government -- collapsed.

He wrote at the time that there were, then, only two nations on the planet that had an income distribution that was skewed past the point that, he believed, predicted a revolution or collapse.

They were -- can you guess?
If so, you win the bumper sticker that came out slightly after that Cassandra wrote his paper:

I wonder if it's at all embarrassing to the majority of the people on top of the heap that, having bought up the world, they own it, they broke it.

David Brin has his doubts, not about the poor, but about the very rich -- who are doing the very same thing, tearing apart the infrastructure to make money:

".. take this futurist’s word for it. The next few decades will in part revolve around whether these people decide to side with Western Civilization... and with our children ... or instead, they give into the blandishments of ego and human nature, doing what you or I might do, if we stood in their $20,000 loafers. Giving in to the seductive temptations of privilege -- especially rationalizing reasons to cheat....
... It is easy enough to find faults with either stifling, state- bureaucratic paternalism or rapacious, cheating-infested thievery by conniving cabals of CEO golf buddies. But, in fact, we should have outgrown all of that simplistic nonsense long ago!"

DC said...

Well, all the world isn't running out of food -- the wealthy nations have plenty of it. They have food to burn in fact, and that's what they're doing, quite literally. According to the World Food Program and IMF, the first world's growing demand for biofuels made from food crops is the most immediate and obvious cause of the dramatic recent jumps in food prices.

To quote a recent news editorial: "The world’s one billion hungry people are competing for crops with one billion motorists -- and it’s not a fair competition."

And, yes, sadly, there is money to be made speculating on hunger and starvation. The real commodity that the power brokers are toying with isn't corn -- it's human beings -- like the children in Haiti who are in such a desperate situation that they are eating "cookies" made out of mud to survive.

Well, it's nothing new, I guess -- just a new wrinkle on age old problems: arrogance, greed, inhumanity.

There is perhaps one positive effect resulting from of all of this troubling news: More people in wealthy nations are getting hit by the gross inequities created by the corporate and governmental elite -- and they're getting fed up with it. I know a few lifelong Republicans who are going to vote for Obama in the next election. When your kids don't have health insurance or jobs, or are over in Iraq getting shot at, it's a lot harder to get a buzz from listening to rich neocons talk about efficient markets. People may not be able relate to children starving in Africa, but it doesn't take them long to get pissed off enough to demand change when their own family members' lives are going down the toilet.

Greenpa said...

many thanks, both Hank and DC for the backup info; it's useful. :-)

usidi said...

We are now using food for a weapon against mankind. The gas we run in our SUV'a is not gas at all but the blood of the worlds poor in the oil producing countries. I futher laugh at the references to IMF and the World Bank helping anyone other than themselves. The are not operated to help mankind but to rule thru financial terror.
Loans you can never pay and the rape of your recources. When is the US of A going to wake up and see that our American Imperialist
policies since the Mexican War in the 1840's is the prime cause of 1 World Hunger 2 Hatred of Americans
3 the loss of Forests and resources world wide.
All in the name of so called American growth.
Folks the free ride is coming to an end so get ready for the pay back.

Pete said...

Great post, and the first time I have come across your blog, which I found through the Dismantle Civilization blog. I have created a link to this post and your blog on my own blog. Keep up the good work!