We see it everywhere; the crunchy panic around genetically modified corn, peas, and drought resistant lettuce. It makes the news about quarterly. Whenever a company is discovered using fragments of algae DNA for the disturbing crime of pesticide-free crops. The information can be public knowledge or a company secret but it’s always treated as the latter. GMOs (genetically modified organisms) such as beans, corn, and tomatoes pose precisely no threat to human health. But the bigger risk of all of this gene editing in strawberries is that it is starting to move into the realm of human genetics. GMOs are all fine with food products, but when it enters the womb, it smells suspiciously of eugenics.
Millions of Venezuelans escape a country destroyed by bad government and coercive collectivism.
The border of Colombia and Ecuador is full of Venezuelans who are doing their earnest to escape the clutches of a coercive regime in search of free markets and better opportunities. Common tourists, amongst the droves of Venezuelans, must wait hours and hours in a line that wraps around the immigration office here in Ipiales, Colombia. During peak days, it can take over 24 hours to cross the border between Colombia and Ecuador.
The border crossing’s elevation is 2898 m (9500 ft), which makes the experience a rather cold one as nighttime approaches. Individuals in line are able to stay warm with the help of vendors selling coffee, hot dogs, and empanadas.
Most South American countries have no choice but to allow free movement of these refugees due to treaties signed by UN member states. The strain of this situation hampers economic stability and the free flow of goods and services due to long lines at the border.
While in the line, one can also learn of the tragedies affecting the people of Venezuela and understand why they are leaving their beloved homeland. Men and women full of fond memories and past success, now crushed by coercive collectivism. Doctors, welders, and professionals of all sorts are throwing away their experience to land a job in a neighboring country, hoping to make the minimum wage of $300 per month in favorable countries such as Chile and Peru. Ecuador and Colombia are not desirable, and Brazil’s language barrier makes the destination unattainable.
To date, an estimated 4 million Venezuelans have left the country. Hyperinflation is the sole reason these people have left. “There is a lot of work, but there is no money.” The minimum wage is currently 2,000,000 Bolivars per month which equates to $3 USD per month. That is $36 per year. The price of a kilogram of beef in Venezuela is $3 dollars and the price of shampoo is also $3.
To make matters worse, the Venezuelan government instituted new currency controls on money entering the country through financial institutions. In order to send money to your family members stuck in Venezuela, you must have a bank account in both Venezuela and an outside country. One refugee believes this policy is “choking the people.”
The current administration’s new constitution would completely eliminate the ability to own private property. This market uncertainty makes investments impossible.
The people who are working to stay in the country are almost at the end of what seems to be the brink of collapse. Schools are functioning, but they have no food to feed their students. Most of the faculty members leave the schools in search of new opportunities. Revolutionaries like the violin playing patriot and Oscar Pérez have become heroes to Venezuelans trying to take back their country.
The Venezuelan regime is continuing to provide a box of food to each family in accordance with its collectivist agreement. This box is called CLAP and contains two packages of flour and rice along with powdered milk “if you are lucky.” The frequency of these food distributions is about once every 5 to 6 months according to a refugee waiting in the 24-hour line.
One wealthy Venezuelan had a stable career for over 15 years. He had a house, a car, and “a whole complete life.” He went on trips with his family inside and outside the country. Right now he is busy moving groups of Venezuelans to more favorable environments scattered throughout South America. He understands the attraction of collectivism and believes “the Venezuelans have to learn the lesson.”
A Colombian bus driver passes and asks, “are you going to Cúcuta?”, a town on the border of Venezuela and Colombia, 32 hours in the opposite direction from this particular crossing.
It is truly a sad state of affairs for the people of Venezuela who slowly lost their grip on freedom and their country. Experts believe it will take 30 years to bring this country back to its former self. Many Venezuelans will most likely never return to their homeland, which is but another civilization lost to socialism and coercive collectivism.
In the modern era, it is difficult to deny that Americans live in a culture of waste. In fact, people do not actually eat most of the food Americans grow. Out of all of the crops that American farmers produce, humans only use a mere 27% for their food. What’s more is the fact that of that 27%, Americans throw away 40% of it.
Wasted Food, but People Starving
So, running the numbers, what does that look like? Combining those two statistics gives a grand total of 16.2%. In other words, we have, without any technological improvements at all, the capability to feed a great deal of people – far more than we do today. Of course, we currently use the rest for bio-fuels such as ethanol, and for feed for farm animals, such as cattle. And, to recall, about 11%, or one ninth, we throw away.
It is inevitable that people will waste some food, and that we will give some of it to animals. Despite this, it also is evident that there are people starving and things society can do about it. As mentioned above, nearly 15% of Americans face a form of food insecurity. Though not all of those with food insecurity are starving, it frankly is trivial. A free society should not tolerate any levels of food insecurity, especially when a portion of those people are truly starving.
Though the sheer number of people starving is an abhorrent statistic, it is not one without a number of identifiable causes and solutions. One of the first, without a doubt, is eliminating waste. If Americans reduced their food waste by only 15%, there would be enough food saved to feed an additional 25 million people.
By splitting this in two, the food could feed 50 million people half of their daily nutritional needs. This would serve as a very useful supplement to those who cannot afford all of the food they need. In fact, it would be enough to give half of the daily food requirements to every American who struggles to put food on the table, plus an extra million. There does not have to be any number of people starving. Those with adequate (and 40% extra) need to be more conscientious.
15% is not a difficult figure to reach. For all of this talk about cutting wasteful spending, why not start in the most important place? Americans could spend 40% less on food, or even better, donate the 40% they aren’t going to eat to a food pantry. In either situation, with just 15% compliance, America could see massive reductions in, if not elimination of, hunger. It isn’t that hard. Someone’s health, or even someone’s life, may depend on it. Make the right decision, America.
The Great McMyth
The prevalence of fast food over supermarket food in lower income communities also perpetuates hunger. Fast food restaurants have a reputation for being cheap meal options, but in reality, this is only true when comparing it to other full service restaurants. In comparison to real food options, fast food is horribly expensive. A McDonald’s Dollar Menu, for example, claims to be a highly affordable way of eating. However, it actually offers nothing for more than 390 calories. So, to satsify the caloric needs of an adult, (2000 and 2500), one would need to spend $5 or $6 a day. This would also entail eating nothing but McDoubles, which obviously is not a healthy way to eat.
Does this sound cheap? Perhaps upon first look, sure, but not on further examination. A family of four would need to spend around $22 a day, or $660 a month, to eat absolutely nothing but the cheapest fast food option available. Multiplying this number by twelve leads to an annual food budget, at the absolute bare minimum (and likely much higher, with fast food choices only) of $7920. Yes, that’s right. A little bit under $8000 a year, which is almost a third of the federal poverty line ($25,100 for a family of four). Families living well below the poverty line may be surrendering half of their income to fast food.
A Better Way
Hope, though, is not lost, for supermarket foods are considerably more affordable, especially for the poor. Looking at some basic staple foods, it appears that each dollar can stretch to many more calories. At a local WalMart, a 16 ounce container of Jif brand peanut butter costs $2.50. That jar contains 14 servings of 190 calories each, for a total of 2,660. All natural, non-GMO wheat bread sells for $1.47 per loaf, and has 1,650 calories. The same store offers five pounds of whole wheat pasta for a mere $7.40. At 8,450 calories, this box, cooked alfredo-style with grated cheese and butter, which also are very cheap, speaking in terms of calorie per dollar, could feed the entire family for dinner for several nights.
Deserts, with One “S”
Though the double “s” counterpart is far more attractive, food deserts are sadly a major issue in America today. A food desert is an area in which people, usually low income, do not have access to affordable, healthy food. Specifically, it means that a large number of low income people live at least 1 mile from a grocery store or supermarket. In rural areas, the area expands to 10 miles.
Currently, 23.5% of Americans live in a food desert. Many of the poor do not have any means of getting beyond this radius to buy the right foods. Instead, they are nearly forced by situation to go to one of many available fast food options, which means that there are people starving that are going to be spending a lot more than they have in order to get back a lot less than they need.
Thankfully, things are looking up for those in food deserts in recent years. In Boston, for example, a food market bus is now serving healthy food to those in food deserts. Moreover, Geisinger, a private healthcare company, provides food to diabetics in food deserts, claiming that the proper food is a type of essential medicine for those with unstable blood sugar. Uber and Lyft also now provide more affordable ways of getting to grocery stores for those without a vehicle.
The Fight Begins with the Individual
However, despite recent improvements, the fight is not over until there are no more people starving. As with many critical issues, one person can truly make a difference.
By spreading this message, by aiding those in food deserts, by donating food, rather than wasting, each of us can make a noticeable change in the world. It’s time to do the right thing for those with little.
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By John Liu | USA
Last year, Phoenix surpassed Philadelphia as the 5th largest city in the US. I live in Houston, Texas, where it is the 4th largest city in the US, and that got me thinking, what makes a city a city. What is the minimum population required to be a city? What is the classification of a city? What makes some cities so special?
Before we talk about cities today, let’s talk about what it means to be a city and places before the Industrial Revolution. Merriam-Webster defines a city as a place where people work and live and cities are bigger than towns. This definition is very vague and does not specifically states the criteria for a city. In order to be a city, the minimum population needs to be around 1,500 to 50,000. That is just the minimum population. Size is not all; it also has to have some kind of political importance. Cities also have taxes in place to help support the local government.
So what makes Houston a bigger and more complex city then, let’s say, West, Texas?
First, proximity to water. The ten biggest cities by population in the USA are located next to a water source. It has always been the best way to trade goods because it is so cheap to transport the goods. Today, shipping is still the cheapest method of hauling enormous amounts of goods. It is also a transportation station. Back in 1892, Ellis Island was the best way to get to the US and by the time it closed in 1954, 12 million immigrants called the United States home. Many Asian immigrants made it to the US via San Francisco and there is a strong number of Asians in this country.
Secondly, food and potable water. It is our basic need that has to be achieved and you cannot survive without water after three days. So getting to a water source is important. There is also food that you can get from the water like fish.
The third aspect is resources. This is probably the most important reason why cities are where they are at. Most major cities are not located in the mountains because they are far away from a water source. (with the exception Denver; they are located near the rocky mountains because it has a large amount of silver in its deposit and minerals that are crucial). These cities need resources to sustain themselves.
Lastly, the jobs and affordability. The Sunbelt area, where Houston is located, is one of the fastest growing cities along Phoenix, is one of the most affordable areas to live and it is an area where most elders want to spend their days after they retire. But why do so many people still live in North, especially that San Francisco and New York City is so pricey to live? Both of these places have a lot of jobs to offer. In Houston, we have the largest medical center in the world so many scientists and doctors live over here. In San Francisco, it is the tech giants like Twitter that many tech geeks live over there.
So as cities continue to grow, the futures of millions are on the line finding jobs in these big cities and continue to grow the local urban economies of America.
By Mason Mohon | USA
It comes up in every single debate. We see it every time we are arguing with a communist or another sort of lefty. The right-wing proponent will throw out instances like Venezuela, the Soviet Union, and other catastrophic failures of socialist economies. This is followed by the response from the left-winger that either those were not real communism/socialism, or that there are factors that the right-winger fails to realize. In reality, both of these arguments are really bad. We cannot throw out death counts and assume they are causally related to the institution of socialism. What must be explored is economic law, and we need to look at what sort of incentives a socialist economy creates, and whether or not it is compatible with human actors.
In this article, socialism and communism will be used interchangeably because they both fit the definition of a planned economy.
We must first look into how we are supposed to study economics. The beginning of all economic thought comes from logical deductions coming from the action axiom. That is, we begin all economics with the axiom that man (human) acts. It is why Mises termed his magnificent economic treatise Human Action, and it is the starting point the Austrian School of economics comes from. This article is not to explore all of the warrants behind this line of thought, though. For an in-depth explanation of praxeological reasoning, I recommend the “Chapter Zero” of Chase Rachels’s book A Spontaneous Order, which is written by Will Porter and titled Epistemology and Praxeology. Within it, it is explained why we begin here and has refutations of the opposition.
What is important, though, is that we deduce economic law logically, not through reflecting upon history. This is not to say that history is not important, for it can prove itself to be an important tool in many instances, but all too often will people interpret history one way, which goes directly against logical deductions, one example being the second industrial revolution. Economic law cannot be deduced from history, it can only be reflected on and compared.
What this means to the present situation is that it goes directly against what it means to be a student of economics to say that “the Soviet Union had starving people, and because of that socialism/communism must lead to starvation.” We cannot use a historical example as an economic law. Rather, we must look to what economic law says and the reasoning behind why it says what it says. Once we have done this, then we may say that socialism is causally related to starvation and mass death. It is simply not enough to make claims about historical repetition.
Now, we may look at the economic issues with socialism. The argument will take its form in three planks: how socialism will cause misallocation, how socialism will incentivize people to produce, and how socialism will incentivize people to climb society.
In the first place, we must look at why socialism causes misallocations. These misallocations are the causes of the shortages of food and resources we associate with socialism. It is often objected that instances where this misallocation did occur, it was “not real socialism” or “not the right brand of socialism.” The problem is that misallocations will occur in any instance where the factors of production are no longer privately owned, which is the defining characteristic of socialism. In any economy, to determine whether or not an entrepreneur or producer is engaging in fruitful, efficient, and socially productive action, they must engage in economic calculation. This is the action of seeing whether or not their initial investment has created a profit or a loss. If an entrepreneur or producer discovers they have suffered a loss (people are not buying what they are providing), they discover that it is not good for resources to go where they are putting them. In a socialist economy, no economic calculation can exist, because market prices are nonexistent. Because of this, there is no way to discover whether or not resources are going to the right places. With something like food, it is extremely important that we figure out if it is going to the right places. To read more into how entrepreneurs serve society, I recommend this article.
Now that we have established the economic law proving socialism to misallocate resources, we can look at history and the world around us to see this being reflected. Socialist commonwealths across the globe have fallen apart. It is why there was no food in the Soviet Union, and it is why Venezuela failed to properly utilize its oil, resulting in profound economic decline. Some economies may seem to be socialist and successful, but those are instances in which we are either misunderstanding what their economy is, or they are purely surviving off of luck, meaning enough resources to keep the country from collapsing have been delegated, but there is no way to know what kinds of losses this is and will be producing without economic calculation.
Furthermore, we must look at the incentives to produce that are produced by a socialist economy. In Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s critique of socialism in his book Democracy: The God That Failed, he explains the ways wealth can be created within an economy. There are three, the first of which being mixing your work with untouched land. The second is to produce the good by combining or changing resources, and the third is by transferring a good through voluntary and contractual means. If the ownership of all assets is assigned to the collective (or the state), then individuals who mix their work (or homestead) with land, individuals who produce, and individuals who exchange lose their incentive to create wealth, because anything they create they will not own, for the collective (or the state) shall assume ownership. The cost of performing fruitful tasks is raised, and those that do not act productively still benefitted, increasing the incentive to not work (to each according to his need).
Moreover, we must look at the paths available to people to get to the top of society. In a capitalist free-market society, the best way to climb to the top is by starting a business and serving consumer needs. As Dr. Hoppe said, if one “wants to increase his wealth and/or rise in social status, he can only do so by better serving the most urgent wants of voluntary consumers through the use he makes of his property.” Clearly, the way to raise your own social status in a private property order is to serve others, making selfishness ultimately selfless. A socialist order stands in stark contrast, for to rise one must appeal to the collective or whoever elects people into the state. Doing this promotes cutthroat dirty politics, and it forces one to rise through “promises, bribes, and threats.” This has clearly been reflected throughout the world of big government and socialism, for Soviet Union leadership was given to whoever could stab the most people in the back in the end.
In conclusion, it is important that we know the causes of socialist terror. It is not logical or economically sound to make quick assumptions about starvation in the past and claim socialism and communism are failures. Rather, we must make praxeological economic deductions from the basis that man acts to determine whether or not socialism will work. The results are in strong opposition to socialism, which causes misallocations, laziness, and dirty politics. In the end, the results are catastrophic, and history only stands to prove.