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Food Crisis

July 4, 2009

Noam Chomsky recently gave a lecture titled “Crisis and Hope: Theirs and Ours” at the Riverside Church in Harlem, NY. The financial crisis is “the” crisis; at least in the eyes of the mainstream media. Professor Chomsky argues that there is another crisis that is far worse in terms of scale; that being the food crisis.

Why does the food crisis not receive the same amount of attention as the financial crisis when there are by far more victims in worse conditions? It’s quite simple according to Professor Chomsky. The financial crisis affects the rich countries so there is a lack of concern for the food crisis. Professor Chomsky also notes an observation Adam Smith made about policy formation in England when:

He recognized that what he called the “principal architects” of policy—in his day, the merchants and manufacturers—make sure that their own interests are most peculiarly attended to, however grievous the impact on others, including the people of England, but far more so those who were subjected to what he called the “savage injustice of the Europeans,” and particularly in conquered India, his own prime concern.

So it seems that the policy makers at the time were far more concerned with their own interests and welfare. It’s not hard to see the same logic being applied in this context.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), before the current food crisis, about 1 billion people (1 in every 6 people worldwide) were undernourished and about 3.5 million people die annually from malnutrition with both those numbers expected to grow. Food prices continue to rise and the WHO estimates that poor people spend over half their disposable income (gross income minus tax income on that income) on food so it’s more than likely that the percentage of disposable income spent on food will likely increase.

Couldn’t some of the bail out money allocated to the very financial institutions that got us into this mess in the first place also be used to help those who are facing a true crisis?

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