Food is too cheap now

Screenshot anime GJ-bu

What is the proper way to eat hamburger and fries? No more than once a day. ^_^ Food has become so cheap that there are now more obese humans than starving ones.

Back to our world, which has its own troubles. But most of these troubles are not natural or technological or even economic, but moral: Greed, anger and ignorance. Today, let us look at the Quora question “What would be a good plan to produce enough food for everyone on the planet?

Ryan Carlyle pretty much nails it in his answer, and I am happy to say that this is the most upvoted answer at the time of writing. We already produce 2700 calories a day for each human on Earth, enough for everyone to get a little chubby. But some of the food spoils, some is wasted, and much of it is eaten by those who already are a little chubby (and then some). The real problem however is bad government, says Carlyle.

I tend to think that for the most case, bad government stems from bad culture, specifically a culture of war and strife. The most terrible places to live on earth are those where people have a tradition for war, civil wars or tribal feuds. It is impossible to have a good government in such places. Bloodthirsty people will follow bloodthirsty leaders. Those who do not feel bad about people being shot will not feel bad about people going hungry either.

If it is not obvious to you that the problem of starvation is human rather than natural, just read his explanation again until you get it. It is pretty straightforward. If there is more than enough food for all, then the problem is not in the soil but somewhere between the farm and the mouth, at least I hope we can agree on this.


What I want to bring up is related to that, but not quite the same. What would happen if all the wars ended, the dictators set their peoples free, and the ruined roads and warehouses were repaired? What would happen if hungry could finally eat their fill? The price of food would go up.

Today, because a billion people don’t get to eat their fill, there is that much more for the rest, and this presses the prices down. You may not think food is cheap, but in that case you are probably thinking of the wrong food. (Or you are reading this in the future, when various things have happened that I may or may not have predicted.) The price of food to farmers is so low that a great deal of arable land lies unused – the people who might have farmed it prefer to do things that are better paid, and buy their food in the supermarket. In the rich world, almost the only land being farmed is that which is suited for full-mechanized farming, where the work is done with large diesel-powered tractors and other farm machines. This is because if it required more manual labor, the hourly wage would simply not be worth the trouble.

If a billion more people came to bid for the same food, the price would necessarily rise. The supermarket may not look like an auction, but the food that ends up there has often passed through an auction earlier. Grain, potatoes, even cattle are auctioned. Unless you are getting your food from the local farmers’ market, chances are it has been auctioned. And even the local vegetable farmer will keep an eye on the Net to check what the current prices are.

So if all goes well, if we manage to end the wars and not start new ones (a big, big if) then food prices will go up. But this is not a bad thing. It is a good thing. First, it is a good thing because it is a sign that more people are getting food. But it is also a good thing because it means farmers will reopen their fallow fields, and small farms that would have been closed down will get new owners and continue to operate. With higher food prices, it will be worth the time to farm in terrain that is not quite as perfect for large machines. The production of food will expand until the price stabilizes, and it will likely do so on a level that is still very comfortable for us in the rich world. Even a ten percent increase in the hourly wages of the farmer would bring a lot of land back into production.

Over the last couple decades, the number of Chinese who have gone from poverty to middle class is large than the population of the USA. This means their eating habits have changed. No longer eating rice for all meals unless it is a public festival (in which case the family eats a chicken), people now eat pork and beef. It takes about ten pounds of corn to make one pound of beef (somewhat less for pork and poultry) so a lot of grain has gone into this process. But the world has not really noticed. The prices of food vary somewhat, but other factors have much larger effect. (Here in Norway, for instance, groceries have been consolidated into a few chains so the competition is less fierce. The chains have a lot of profit now, which they would not have had if we bothered to enforce competition. But food is too cheap for us to bother. Your state may vary.)

The population is expected to peak around 9.5 billion at the middle of the century, barring some unimaginable disaster (which will likely happen, but it is not clear whether this will make the number lower or higher). We can feed them all with a moderate increase in food prices. Of course, this is not a big deal in northern Europe or America. But there are other parts of the world where food is a big part of the budget. The solution to this is to let these people earn more. And this is currently happening.

While my friends in Europe and America feel like they are trapped in an endless recession, the developing world is growing at about 5% a year. That is from a low level, of course, but as Albert Einstein said, “compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe”. The next time it grow by 5%, it is 5% of a higher number. And as an old friend of mine would say: “$10 is a lot of money when you don’t have it.” For the poor, 5% more money makes a big difference. It allows them to improve their lot even more. With a bike, they may be able to commute to a better paid job in the town. With that better paid job, they may be able to afford an Android tablet. With that tablet, their kids may improve their school skills and get a better job than their parents ever could. Poverty is a deep valley, but the higher you climb, the higher you can climb. By 2050, it may not be the same parts of the world that are struggling. It may be those who are fat and lazy today.

We do not need cheaper food – we need less poverty. And we know the way to that. As the Buddha said, we need to remove the 3 poisons of the mind: Greed, anger and ignorance. The world is not Heaven, but we could make it a lot closer just by this.

40 thoughts on “Food is too cheap now

    • General advice? Sure!

      First, do no harm. Do not wish ill on anyone, including yourself. One day it should be clear that life is so fragile and so precious, and our adventure on Earth is short enough as is.

      Please do not expect too much, including from yourself. Even when we want to be good, we don’t always know how. And even when we think we know how, it is not easy to do it. We may well make the same mistake seven times seventy times, without meaning to. Change is not impossible, but it is difficult.

      Believe in a better future. When we plant a tiny tree, we don’t expect it to bear fruit at once. It is the same with good thoughts and good deeds. It may take years, but in time they will flower and bear fruit, more and more for many years.

      I am a lucky man, but even I have had my years in hell. And over the gate to the hell of hate is written the word “Justice”. Do step carefully if you see that sign.

    • Even if the other person is at fault, they may not know it, or they may think it is not a big deal. There are almost no humans who enjoy being evil. Almost everyone who hurts others either think they deserve it, or they think it is not a big deal.

      It is very hard to reach out to such people and get across the message that they are doing something horribly wrong. Perhaps they will find out later, but it is almost impossible to convince them, especially if you are the one they have wronged.

      So the only thing we can do to reduce the evil in the world is to try to not be that kind of person, and try to be one who supports others instead.

    • Anxiety attacks generally fall under the category of neurosis, same as uncontrollable looping thoughts and personal rituals that force themselves on us. The root cause in all of these cases is a conflict where one of the sides is hidden in the subconscious. It is basically a cry for help from one of the parts of which we (our personality) are composed. The situation where it appears may give a hint as to what it is.

      To take an example from my own life, I reached the age where it was natural to look for a woman to be my wife. My friends in the Christian Church also reminded me that this ought to be on my agenda. But the more I moved in that direction, the more weirdness happened. I became unable to sleep at night but unable to stay awake at work. I would wake in the middle of the night filled with terrible fear. And when I was actually in the company of a potential romantic interest, I would start shivering as if I was outside in the middle of winter.

      Looking honestly at my life, inspecting my thoughts and feelings, my dreams and memories as if I was looking into the head of someone else, I eventually had to admit that I was a pervert. The thing that turned me on was not kissing and fondling, but people getting tied up and humiliated. I realized that I had been that way from I was little, and despite my best attempts to Not Be Like That, I was still the same inside. In light of this, I decided to enter a lifelong celibacy. Once the decision was made, the various neurotic symptoms disappeared.

      Notice that I did not, and still do not, need to act on the formerly hidden side. I don’t actually hang out at SMBD places or even web forums, much less actually tie up people in real life. What was needed was to dig the truth out from where it was buried under a ton of pure white snow.

      What causes the hidden conflict varies from person to person. It will certainly be something else in your case. But write down the situations where it appears, any peculiar symptoms or recurring thoughts, and if you can remember your dreams when you wake up, write up them as well. Be Sherlock Holmes. Or you could pay a professional, but they sometimes have their own agenda (quite apart from the money). A shallow psychologist cannot help a deep person.

      • I am simply better than most shrinks at their jobs.

        The amount of time I have thrown in complex issues like the existience of God means I am better than most.

    • Quite possibly! But if knowing this does not stop the anxiety, there may be one more side to it that is hidden. Keep watching your thoughts, your unplanned actions, your dreams. “What I say unto you, I say unto all: Watch!”

      • Anxiety attacks occur because I can’t tell if I am danger or not. The data is simply inconclusive. I keep throwing effort at but end up with no conclusion.

      • I have trust issues. I am seriously considering severing human contact offline and online.

        I also wondering about happiness and how to balance it with seriousness. I am quite restrained.. Will being happy hurt my productivity?

        • Being unhappy hurts productivity. I have not heard of happiness hurting productivity, except when the “happiness” was induced by pleasure drugs.

          Severing human contact should be very interesting. Solitary confinement usually makes the human mind dissolve into madness in a matter of weeks. When the Bible mention that Moses and Jesus each spent 40 days and nights alone in the desert, it is because this proved their connection to Heaven. Normally people would not be able to speak coherently for quite a while after 40 days in isolation.

          Of course, Moses and Jesus did not have pets, TV, newspapers etc. It’s a shame I won’t be able to know the outcome of this experiment. But it strikes me as going quite a bit too far.

  1. I had sort of a nervous break down from being manipulated from another person.

    I freaked out when interacting with the person who I am under the care of.

    The person refuses to comminicate with me but still has to care for me. I won’t be left alone because of my instability. The person has lied to me but I can’t tell if it is for the sake of self protection or manipulation.

    What do I have to do to know if I am safe?

    I want to know if I am safe. I am really suffering.

    I don’t know if I can trust this person or not.

    • We have too much of a tendency to make trust into an on/off switch, but that is not real. This is especially true when we trust someone deeply, and they fail our trust. Humans tend in that situation to “flip the switch” and go from full trust to no trust, but this is usually not the best way to see things. We should have known in advance, and should at least know afterwards, that almost everyone is *partially* reliable. People may have moments of weakness where they do things they would not normally do. Or they may simply misunderstand us, and we misunderstand them. They may think something is important that we think is unimportant, or the other way around.

      We are usually in a situation where we have to trust people to some degree. I trust my bus driver to not suddenly scream ALLAHU AKBAR! and drive into an incoming truck. I trust the people who make my tomato sauce to not mix poison, needles or glass shards into it. Occasionally such a trust is misplaced and people die horribly, but statistically this is a much smaller risk than the risks we cause ourselves by living a less than perfectly healthy lifestyle. Worrying is not a healthy lifestyle either. So, we have to live like that.

      We are never safe, outwardly speaking. We are never fully in control of our FATE – what the world does to us. But we are to some degree at least in control of our DESTINY – what we do to the world. We can work on this, build a castle within, which cannot be breached by any enemy, even a traitor. This is what all spiritual traditions teach. In Christianity, for instance, Jesus was betrayed unto death by one of his twelve disciples, those who had stayed with him in thick and thin. But this betrayal could still not destroy his soul. Only we can betray ourselves, and in the beginning we do this way too often. This is something we CAN work on, although it is a hard work.

      • This person has lied to me and given facts to me about themselves that do not check out.

        This person might simply be intensely private though.

        They have also lied about truths that are extremely obvious.

        I can get the person thrown out and risk instability or I can stay under the care.

        I can work to have this
        person thrown out or I

        • Well, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, right? So if you have solid proof that they have been lying, no one would find it strange that you expect them to be lying again. We cannot conclude more from that – there is no particular reason to think they are more evil than other random people in other ways – but there is every reason to think they will lie again, so if that would cause you problems, some kind of precaution should be taken.

          Contrary to what some people say, to forgive is not to forget. To forgive is more like to understand. Just as we find that we have certain “faultlines” where we are more likely to make mistakes, so also others, and most people even lie to themselves so as to not remain aware of those weaknesses.

          • That is my line of thinking.

            I really do not know what to do here.

            My earlier stupid behaviorcaused mistrust

          • Part of me thinks i should tightenen up my “security”.

            Part of me think i should let go.

  2. Yes, because if you make the wrong decision, bad things could happen, and if you don’t make a decision, bad things could still happen. Making choices based on very incomplete knowledge is something I do for a living, but of course it is different when it impacts one’s own life.

    This is where simple religious people have their shiny day. They think: “Well, I could make a mistake, but at least I tried to do what was best for everyone, and God sees that. He will certainly think of some way to make the best outcome of this in the long run.” And when they look back on their lives, that is exactly how it looks like, that God has done that.

    But you are an atheist at heart still, and you reasonably feel that if you are not in full control of your world, things will go downhill fast. This is based on your past impression that humans generally are not very competent and trustworthy, which of course most aren’t. The world is a motley crew.

    The voice in my heart seems to believe that everyone has a voice in their heart, although they may not refer to it as such or even be aware of it. But when people ask for advice, they will feel deep inside if the advice was not what they wanted to hear, and continue to ask until they get the right answer. This is sometimes presented as a fault, as if people who do this just want someone else to shoulder the responsibility for their choice even though they make it themselves. But the fact that people really do this – and they really do – could also mean that everyone has an inner destiny even if they don’t have fancy names for it.

    In the end, you are going to make your decision regardless of what I say. But it hurts, yes. It hurts like hell, because a part of you must die no matter what you choose. And I cannot change that, and the Presence in my heart cannot change that. All I can say is that you should know afterwards that you have a good conscience. It is a salve on any and every suffering.

  3. I’m the kind of person who cannot purchase a guitar without feeling guilty because it means wasted wood.

    Message in gnosis says to let go.Says nesscary data will be supplied to prove person can be trusted and simply is insecure.

  4. I’ve decided to let things be. The person is as wounded as I am.

    I have to stick with it now.

    • Sticking with hard decisions is the easiest, since otherwise you have to go through the whole pain of indecision over and over again. It is the easy decisions that are hard to stick with, the ones which are obvious. That is why the world is full of tired, weak, overweight, undereducated people who absolutely intend to be the opposite of who they are … someday. Just not today.

      There is no other way to stick with anything than one hour at a time. The human mind works in waves, so if we hang on, the wave will pass. If we don’t hang on, the wave will still pass, and we’ll regret.

  5. If God is real then all the bullshit will cancel out. All I have to worry about is entering my rightful place in the system.

    • If you haven’t already, stop consuming news that are not necessary for your job. TV news, radio news and national newspaper all exist primarily to stoke people’s fears. At some point they probably were useful, but the need of ordinary humans to feel alive through fear has entirely taken over the institution of news. News is the noise that drown out the signal. Because of news, people live in a false world where they fear the “scenic” risks but ignore the real risks. The real risks, today like thousands of years ago, are mainly such as anger, foolishness, greed, gluttony and laziness.

      Make a habit of thinking about how others contribute to your life, until you find yourself as a strand in a vast web of service. For instance if you eat bread, think of the farmer who grew the wheat, the mill workers that ground the grain, the drivers who freighted the flour, the baker who baked it. It is like this with every little thing. The chair you sit on, people have worked to make it, people have worked to design it, the raw materials come from various places where people have worked for our benefit. By default, each of us feels important, and this is one reason why we feel like a target, thinking that people see us as we see ourselves, special, standing out. But in reality we are a part of a large web of service, one we contribute to but also benefit from, and which existed before us and will exist after us.

      Those who always think of helping others have few if any enemies. (Unless they tell people the truth, but that is a special case.)

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