Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Amid Growing Inequities, Wall Street Journal Tells Readers to Stockpile Food

Amid sobering news of a deflating economy, Wall Street Journal columnist Brett Arends urged readers to start investing in their kitchen pantries. Arends compared current food cost inflation with the spike in gas prices earlier this decade, while warning that the reality of food shortages could catch many consumers unprepared, like $4 gallons of gas. “The emerging bull market in agricultural products is following in the footsteps of oil. A few years ago, many Americans hoped $2 gas was a temporary spike. Now it's the rosy memory of a bygone age,” said Arends. Attributing rising food costs to the demands of the biofuels industry and of the growing middle class in China and India, Arends fails to mention the export restrictions that these countries have imposed in order to meet domestic demands and which are likely the direct cause of recent sharp increases. Arend also fails to acknowledge that concerned consumers buying in bulk have already prompted rationing at major wholesale stores; that those hit hardest by the current crisis are incapable of “stocking up;” and that middle class hoarding will in fact exacerbate the problem. His stark “every man for himself” proposal contrasts sharply with the recent opinion of Kaushik Basu, Professor of economics at Cornell University, who finds the source of the crisis in the increasing vulnerability of low-income populations worldwide. Said Basu, “Relative price fluctuations are an unavoidable part of an efficient economy. This becomes worrying when some people are so poor that a small rise in price becomes a life and death question for them. This crisis therefore should also be a reminder that the level of inequality that prevails in the world today is untenable.”

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