The View From 1776
Monday, April 14, 2008
Liberal-progressive environmentalists are starving the world’s poor.
Liberal-progressives are enthralled with imposing collectivist regulation to satisfy their religion’s “feel-good” agendas.
But the cost of liberal-progressive worship of collectivist abstractions is great. Diverting limited economic resources into less important or less effective uses, inherent in the straitjacket of government regulation, impoverishes the world with lower output. It also results in the loss of innovation inherent in the liberty of millions of individuals to experiment and discover the most effective and least costly ways to solve problems. Liberal-progressive-socialism’s claim that government bureaucrats are better at administering the economy than “greedy” individual workers and private businessmen is repeatedly belied by experience.
A front-page article in today’s Wall Street Journal highlights the latest fiasco engendered by liberal-progressivism. Under the headline Food Inflation, Riots Spark Worries for World Leaders, the Journal reports:
Surging commodity prices have pushed up global food prices 83% in the past three years, according to the World Bank—putting huge stress on some of the world’s poorest nations. Even as the ministers met, Haiti’s Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis was resigning after a week in which that tiny country’s capital was racked by rioting over higher prices for staples like rice and beans.
Rioting in response to soaring food prices recently has broken out in Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ethiopia. In Pakistan and Thailand, army troops have been deployed to deter food theft from fields and warehouses. World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned in a recent speech that 33 countries are at risk of social upheaval because of rising food prices. Those could include Indonesia, Yemen, Ghana, Uzbekistan and the Philippines. In countries where buying food requires half to three-quarters of a poor person’s income, “there is no margin for survival,” he said.
Many policy makers at the weekend meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank agreed that the problem is severe. Among other targets, they singled out U.S. policies pushing corn-based ethanol and other biofuels as deepening the woes.
“When millions of people are going hungry, it’s a crime against humanity that food should be diverted to biofuels,” said India’s finance minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, in an interview. Turkey’s finance minister, Mehmet Simsek, said the use of food for biofuels is “appalling.”
Let’s acknowledge that Congressional “feel good” environmental regulations mandating and subsidizing increased use of ethanol are not the sole cause of higher food prices around the world. But those enactments are a major contributor.
Diverting agricultural production into growing corn for ethanol has reduced other food supplies, with the inevitability of higher prices for lesser amounts of foods grown on the reduced acreage not devoted to ethanol production. In addition, every gallon of ethanol produced requires the use of almost two gallons of gasoline. Rather than reducing our dependence upon oil, ethanol production sharply increases the use of petroleum, adding upward pressure on the price of the world’s major energy source, increasing food prices still more.
This counterproductive effect is typical of liberal-progressivism, which inherently is limited to a one-dimensional view of political and economic society. Liberal-progressivism is prone to the quick, grand, symbolic gesture, without careful consideration of the manifold effects of imposed policies. Liberal-progressivism is a religion that finds its trade-mark expression in mindlessness mob demonstrations in the streets, calculated to rush legislative bodies into quick-fix enactments.
Above all, liberal-progressivism is a religion that abhors the idea of individual responsibility and the vastly greater wisdom inherent in the independent actions of tens of millions of individuals planning and reacting to events where the rubber meets the road.
As former liberal-progressive Senator Bill Bradley said, liberals always prefer the bureaucrat whom they know to the individual whom they can’t control.
In the case of world food prices, ivory-tower liberal-progressive intellectuals and politicians have, in smug satisfaction, starved the world’s poor to gratify their own self-importance. Worshipping their philosophically materialist goddess of Reason, they are delighted to behold in self-admiration their own images each day in the mirror, believing themselves to be the saviors of abstract intellectual conceits called “humanity” and “the planet.”