Malthusian

For instance, the World Bank is essentially an American instrument, and the United States is a food-surplus nation threatened with loss of foreign markets for farm products as modernization of European agriculture proceeds. For the World Bank to finance such institutional reforms in developing nations as would lead them toward self-sufficiency on food account would run counter to American interests. U.S. farm surpluses would become unmanageable as the overseas market for U.S. farm products dwindled. Hence, the World Bank prefers perpetuation of world poverty to the development of adequate overseas capacity to feed the peoples of developing countries.

There is a yet more subtle point to be considered. Mineral resources represent diminishing assets. It is in the interest of developing peoples to conserve such assets for their own ultimate use in manufacturing industries, as these develop within the borders of nations rich in raw materials but backward in general development. In the short run such domestic use of mineral resources is not possible because of inadequate industrial capital and consumer markets place. The specter is thus raised that in the long run these countries will find themselves depleted of resources as World Bank programs accelerate the exploitation of their mineral deposits for use by other nations.

The long-term prospect is thus for these countries to be unable to earn foreign exchange on export account sufficient to finance their required food imports. The World Bank has foreseen this. Its proposals for population limitation in these countries is a cold-blooded attempt to extort from them their mineral resources, without assuming responsibility for the sustenance of these peoples once the industrialized West has stripped them of their fuel and mineral deposits.

Consider the alternative, that World Bank loans and technical assistance foster agricultural self-sufficiency among these peoples. Assume substantial success in this endeavor in, say, a decade. Thereafter, exportation of fuels and minerals would become a matter of choice by these peoples, not a necessity. Such export might continue at current levels; it might increase, or it might diminish. The decision to conserve or to dissipate exhaustible resources would be autonomous, a matter of choice by these peoples and their governments, not something imposed upon them from outside. The decision about desirable levels of population also would be a local matter, not something demanded among the terms on which capital resources are obtained from foreign suppliers. The peoples now dependent would escape that trap. This is not intended or desired either by the World Bank or by the government of the United States and its client regimes….

Excessive industrialization in the United States, coupled with increasingly wasteful uses of resources on armaments and on personal luxuries that are essentially trivial in terms of human well-being, makes essential the U.S. exploitation of the developing countries, their resources and peoples. The United States is in deficit on raw-materials account, but is unwilling to limit its industrial expansion correspondingly. It is in surplus on farm products account, but is unwilling to limit its agriculture accordingly. The peoples of developing countries therefore are to be turned into the instrument through which the otherwise untenable U.S. economic process is perpetuated.

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Michael Hudson, Super-Imperialism

jp morgan fired him for writing this stuff in the early 70s

Some thoughts on third world famine.

Disease is a significant, probably primary, limiting factor in human population growth near the tropics. Further north food becomes the limiting factor, since the disease carrying insects are less common. This may be why some societies have developed agriculture and complex legal systems, their primary concern being food over disease. 

So this brings me to the thought. With the introduction of first world medicines, populations in the third world are booming. With that, food becomes a more limiting factor. This is likely the primary cause of third world famines and a major cause of conflict (conflict naturally resulting from a population boom while scarcity becomes more noticeable). I suppose the question becomes “why don’t these people readily adopt advanced agricultural and legal systems (they have, but not to the degree that’s desired or expected),” but that’s another thought. 

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Malthusian - Slouching Equinox

Economic Optimism? Yes, I’ll Take That Bet

Paul Higgins:

An interesting piece in the New York Times about optimism versus Malthusian attitudes/thinking and who gets the most coverage in the media. I am a big fan of bets to make people have some skin in the game on this sort of stuff.

I’m generally one to downplay Malthusian concerns with overpopulation, and as the text accompanying this graphic from The Economist notes, we need to take these demographic forecasts “with a bucketload of salt [because] tiny shifts in today’s birth rate extrapolated over 90 years produce huge changes.” Still, a 750-million-person Nigeria, or a Tanzania populated by 300 million, does give at least a little pause for thought. Then again, if given a time machine, I’m sure my nineteenth-century counterpart would have been no less alarmed by the idea of a billion-person India—not even including the 300+ millions more partitioned into Pakistan and Bangladesh. Click here to view the complete set of updated demographic estimates and forecasts from the UN.

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Sounds good!

Feeding 10 Billion

This is a really nice article from Good about the ongoing debate about how we feed the world’s growing population.

It ends with this:

“Historian Warren Belasco argues in A History of the Future of Food that hunger is newsworthy only when it’s countable, so the recurring debates—biotechnology versus agroecology—have really been battles over which data the sages and oracles use to predict the future of food. Ending hunger is more than just redistributing calories, Belasco says. It’s about questioning the underlying assumption involved with concentrating calories into profitable and wasteful products.

In short, calculations of the total food supply require a comprehensive audit of the global food chain. Production of calories is only the start.

Furthermore, the 3,000-calories-a-day solution comes with cultural assumptions. Think about a school lunch. Chances are it’s made with wheat and corn. And we generally give kids liquid milk instead of cultured yogurts. Those choices aren’t universal.

Until we answer the more qualitative questions—how many people do we feed for how long, with what technology, and with what kind of stability—any population estimates will continue fostering competing visions by the world’s cornucopianists or Malthusian catastrophists.”


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Malthusian - Forms Become Vapour