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i can't believe country leaders keep doing very stupid things
June 16, 2002 6:46 AM   Subscribe

i can't believe country leaders keep doing very stupid things what do you think of the attitude of silvio berlusconi, italy's ultra right prime minister? i don't give a damn about his decision, but he (and also other silly country leaders: bush, fox, blair, etc.) should try to prevent this going public! there's also an incredible fact about poverty… and you thought aids was a problem?!

also… are really so desperate the communists (a.k.a. left wing)? it's a shame they did this!
posted by trismegisto (26 comments total)

 
what?
posted by Satapher at 7:01 AM on June 16, 2002


ahhhh..yyyeeeeaaahhhh.
posted by clavdivs at 7:16 AM on June 16, 2002


?!

forza azzuri!
posted by dagny at 7:25 AM on June 16, 2002


The World Cup is only once every four years. You can have summits about hunger any time.
posted by dopamine at 7:50 AM on June 16, 2002


domapine, I hope you just wanted to be ironic. If not, you deserve to know first hand what hunger is.
posted by samelborp at 8:13 AM on June 16, 2002


Well, let's see...

The developed world is agonizingly productive with food. We are going out of our way to *not* have a monopoly in food production by producing nutritious strains of grain that will grow almost anywhere. We are not even demanding that poor nations pay for it; vast amounts are given away. (Some nations are even saying they now have a *right* to what we produce, for free, and forever.)
All the developed world asks is that local governments let their own people eat the food we give them.

But they refuse.

They *want* their hated minorities to starve.
They think prosperity threatens their control, their dictatorship, over their people.
They are not profiting from people eating, and they demand bribes from us to feed their people.

So why not watch football? If people democratically elect monsters as their lords, must we deal with monsters?
posted by kablam at 8:33 AM on June 16, 2002


Considering how much food is wasted in the world in general, ending a meeting two hours early for a soccer game seems like a pretty miniscule portion of the problem of starvation. Do you really think they would have had the problem taken care of in that extra 2 hours?

also:
"...in the fight to combat hunger, which affects 815,000,000 people around the world, who starve to death every year. "

4/5 of a billion people people die each year, just from starvation? Just how fast are we procreating on this planet? That sounds like some funny math, but I can't say I know for sure...

(not that I'm trying to argue the "pro-starvation" position or anything.)
posted by stifford at 9:22 AM on June 16, 2002


just to clarify, 800 million people don't die of starvation every year, as the article suggests. 800 million people don't have enough food. I believe its more like 15 million that die of hunger-related causes. (still appalling, of course).

also, we give food to poor countries mostly because it allows us to create new markets for american products while simultaneously keeping prices high in the U.S. by preventing excess supply. that doesn't necessarily mean its a bad thing, but we shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking that it is some sort of magnanimous gesture by the U.S. government.
posted by boltman at 9:26 AM on June 16, 2002


An article about this summit even funnier than the one above...
posted by evanizer at 9:57 AM on June 16, 2002


If only people were as passionate about things that mattered as they are about football...
posted by cogat at 11:53 AM on June 16, 2002


All the developed world asks is that local governments let their own people eat the food we give them.

You obviously ain't been paying attention to the IMF's rules of thumb for developing nations, kablam. In general, what the 'developed world' asks is that self-sufficiency make way for 'open markets', which normally entails an excessive emphasis on cash cropping for foreign exchange, and which in turn leads to the importation of staples from over-producer countries such as the US. It's all very well focusing attention on admittedly corrupt regimes that appropriate relief supplies, but the wider problem is the large-scale undermining of the capacity of individuals and communities to provide for themselves.
posted by riviera at 1:46 PM on June 16, 2002


Um, riviera? Some countries do better under neoliberalism. Certainly they have a better chance at eventual economic self-sufficiency than international welfare gives them. Obviously, if they're still corrupt, there's still a problem. But the conclusion of this summit seemed to be that they could do everything possible to make food directly available or loans and economic development, but that the major obstacle that remained was not under their control, viz. political reform in certain of the target countries like Zimbabwe.
posted by dhartung at 2:08 PM on June 16, 2002


Ah, but Riviera, the question becomes "what is the most efficient use of the arable land?" Is it subsistence farming of multiple crops, or the production of a single, profitable crop on a larger scale?
Romanticists insist that small farmers still have a place producing crops in competition with massive corporate farms. The small farmer will always lose in this competition unless he adopts high-value crops that he can sell supplementary to those grown by the corporate farm.
Can the modern world even *tolerate* farmers using valuable land for subsistence farming?
America is unexcelled in producing staple crops. Leave us to it. Other nations can become prosperous raising rare and exotic crops that can benefit all, especially medical production crops of extraordinary profitability.
posted by kablam at 2:08 PM on June 16, 2002


Some countries do better under neoliberalism.

And those countries are? Argentina? No post-imperial pariah, that one. Had that kind of slavish devotion to neoliberal principles took place in somewhere that hadn't built up its economy the old way, as tried and tested in the West, people would be boiling their boots for broth in Buenos Aires.

The point is that there's a middle-ground between 'international welfare', as you so sneeringly put it, and 'international marketeering', which I could also describe in your tone as 'international profiteering'. Empowering individuals to control their destiny is allegedly a tenet of the right, but I don't see it here.

Can the modern world even *tolerate* farmers using valuable land for subsistence farming?

You mean, can you tolerate it? Well, that's your problem. I choose to grow lemon thyme on my windowbox, so depriving Sainsbury's its economy of scale in selling it to me. I'm sure that people with vegetable patches should, according to your distaste, be installing decking and water features in their gardens.

America is unexcelled in producing staple crops. Leave us to it. Other nations can become prosperous raising rare and exotic crops that can benefit all, especially medical production crops of extraordinary profitability.

Um, no thanks. That kind of attitude may have worked for the East India Company, but colonialist condescension ('rare and exotic'? please.) is just a bit dated. And have you ever heard the one about not putting your eggs in one basket? The people who fully invested in Enron can tell you how smart that one is. As (irony redux) can the descendents of the Stalinist experiments in planned agriculture. Adam Smith's a-spinning in his grave.
posted by riviera at 2:51 PM on June 16, 2002


And here's a fun report on just what kind of economic restructuring aids development.
posted by riviera at 5:46 PM on June 16, 2002


riviera said: "...In general, what the 'developed world' asks is that self-sufficiency make way for 'open markets', ..."

If they're self sufficient, why do they want our aid?

riviera futher went on the add: "...which normally entails an excessive emphasis on cash cropping for foreign exchange..."

Whatever is riviera trying to say here? Why does so much of what riviera write seem so dense and obtuse? If riviera truly has something worthwhile to say, why doesn't riviera just come out and say it? Like in plain English?
posted by mikegre at 7:14 PM on June 16, 2002


mikegre, if you have reading (and writing) difficulties, I'm sure there are plenty of remedial classes in your area. Get a grown-up to flick through the classified ads in your local paper until he or she finds something suitable.
posted by riviera at 7:20 PM on June 16, 2002


riviera said: "mikegre, if you have reading (and writing) difficulties, I'm sure there are plenty of remedial classes in your area. Get a grown-up to flick through the classified ads in your local paper until he or she finds something suitable."

That's much better, riviera. You are smart to heed my advice. Now just keep practicing writing that way so it becomes ingrained.
posted by mikegre at 7:27 PM on June 16, 2002


Can the modern world even *tolerate* farmers using valuable land for subsistence farming?

You mean, can you tolerate it?

No, I mean the WORLD. I'll use Chiapas, Mexico as an example. How long will the Mexican people as a whole, no matter *what* their form of government, tolerate agricultural methods that date back to Aztec days? With an exploding population, they *cannot* permit the waste of their prime arable land by people who plant their crops with sticks. That land *must* be used to produce food for millions, not hundreds.
It is a situation of USE IT OR LOSE IT. And tragically enough, if being taken from their land kills the indians of Chiapas, the rest of Mexico will tolerate it. If you want to compare it to anything, compare it to Darwinism.

And despite your condescending reference to colonialism, by what logic should a farmer grow rice on his five acres, rather than an herb he can sell for $20/lb? There are hundreds of such botanicals that the international market craves!
How ignorant must a peasant be to only want to feed his family with subsistance farming, when he can become wealthy and prosperous? But such ignorance exists. And by hook or by crook, that land shall eventually be used to its greater efficiency.
Another example is Bangladesh, with some of the most fertile farmland in the world--yet it only grows JUTE! Its bloated and convoluted government accepts vast largess from other nations to grow only a waste product. How very generous. But in the long run, intolerable.
If Bangladesh could discard its antiquated religions and cultures, within ten years they could have a higher standard of living than the Swiss.
posted by kablam at 8:08 PM on June 16, 2002


Thanks, riviera, for your attempts to keep this thread out of grade school. Personally, I always find your comments lucid and well-considered.

Looks like you wasted your time, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:49 AM on June 17, 2002


And yet for the whole of Latin America, taking at face value that neoliberalism has been the dominant theme of recent years, has stabilized its economy, keeping per-capita GDP rising faster than population, while bringing inflation and interest rates to manageable levels. External debt has risen and is falling again. Is it bad for Argentina? Argentina is in bad shape, but given that it's a single case it doesn't speak to the neoliberalism=bad general case. It may speak to Argentina's own reluctance to swallow bitter pills like trimming its vast government sector while going further into debt.

Note that I don't necessarily endorse kablam's simplistic proposals either. Obviously most nations should be as self-sufficient as possible; in fact, most are, especially when you count by larger regions. The US is a breadbasket but not for the whole world. No country should take on debt it cannot afford; many make the excuse that the messes were created by predecessors, and their solution today will fix all. Sure, the IMF isn't perfect, but the investors have a right to invest as they see fit and put loan conditions on debtors with chronic tendencies to ignore those conditions. And there will be economic failures, because neoliberalism is neither panacea or a safety net. Failures are often, in fact, a sign the system is working.
posted by dhartung at 1:37 AM on June 17, 2002


(Sorry, dhartung, for singling out riviera for praise - even though I rarely agree with your conclusions, I also must applaud you for your thoroughness.)

(No more cheerleader posts, I promise. After mikegre's ad hominem on riviera, though, I felt it necessary.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:34 AM on June 17, 2002


And despite your condescending reference to colonialism, by what logic should a farmer grow rice on his five acres, rather than an herb he can sell for $20/lb? There are hundreds of such botanicals that the international market craves!

You mean opium poppies in Afghanistan, coca plantations in Colombia, and cannabis fields in Nepal and the Caribbean?

Oh, not those 'botanicals', the ones people really crave.

(Really, you do sound like an export agent for the East India Company. 'Botanicals', now? 'We bring fine spices and dyes for West, now can we have our lovely beads? Oh, and a Nike factory too, please?') And the good people of Chiapas have far more to concern them than sniffy critiques of their agricultural methods. Hence the EZLN.

How ignorant must a peasant be to only want to feed his family with subsistance farming, when he can become wealthy and prosperous?

How ignorant must the middle-classes be to only want to feed their families, when they can become wealthy and prosperous on Enron stock that the market craves? As dhartung says, your prognosis is simplistic beyond belief.

My big gripe, though, with the IMF-brand path out of poverty: that the doctors wouldn't prescribe it to themselves or to their families. Were a country in hock to the IMF to behave like the US under Bush with regard to budget deficits and tariffs, it'd be regarded as your classic irresponsible developing nation. (American national debt is just of a different vintage.) It's historical good fortune (and military clout) that developed nations have the luxury of setting a bad example.
posted by riviera at 2:46 AM on June 17, 2002


Well, sorry if I interrupt your mutual admiration society, but I do not see it as an argument between the incompetence of the bloated IMF bureaucracy, and small farmers eeking out an existence trying to feed their families in arcane and wasteful manner. I see it as using historical models, not your armchair speculations.
Since neither of you seem to have any education in agribusiness, my proposed solution is no different for the rest of the world as it is *right now* for the US. What I propose is how we, efficiently, do it, with neither the IMF and its bizarre dictates nor small farmers attempting to achieve "self-sufficiency" with 60 acres.
Most of the world's grain is produced by the US/Canadian/Argentinian breadbasket in an economy of scale. But the US is a temperate climate and can't produce the vast quantities of tropical produce the world needs. One of you sneeringly suggested that only meant drugs.
In a tropical country you want to grow tropical plants more suited to the land than temperate grains.
In the US, you have a similar situation, with massive corporate farms producing vast amounts of the same thing, while smaller farms specialize in produce from "organic" to high-value and higher-maintenance produce like avacados. How otherwise can a small farmer compete in the US? By trying to sell a few bushels of corn on the roadside each year?
posted by kablam at 7:04 AM on June 17, 2002


Since neither of you seem to have any education in agribusiness...

Ooh, calling props, are we? Well, 'agribusiness' says it all. I'm guessing that you never met a bit of semi-tropical land that you didn't see as a nice profit opportunity for 'exotics' and 'botanicals', regardless of whether or not the people living there so desire it.

Obviously, you don't see a problem in offloading the supply of staple produce to good old importers and corporate agriculture, even though it raises the potential of putting entire nations in hock to the breadbasket.

One of you sneeringly suggested that only meant drugs.

It's not a sneer: it's one of those 'historical models' that you apparently hold so dear. Remember the attempts of the US to challenge the exports of small-scale banana plantations in the Caribbean through the WTO, in order to satisfy the demands of Chiquita? Right there it was a toss-up between bananas and marijuana. Nice one.

my proposed solution is no different for the rest of the world as it is *right now* for the US.

Since you seem to have no education in international politics, your proposed solution neglects the extent to which dividing up production of staples and cash crops within a country is rather different from dividing up production between countries. Not even the EU's common agricultural policy puts all its eggs, grain, fruit in one basket. The food supply relationship between Mississippi and Minnesota is rather different than that between the US and Malawi.

You're Brian Aldridge, aren't you?
posted by riviera at 8:03 AM on June 17, 2002


sarcasm / kablam, are you proposing that transporting food around the world is good for agriculture due to all the carbon dioxide that is created? (which can stimulate growth) / sarcasm
i am confounded by your reasoning for centralising food production to specific locations. i would have thought that someone schooled in 'agri-business' might have some knowledge of the practicalities of plant husbandry.
huge farms specialising in single crops are not the ideal way to produce. they are the ideal way to promote disease, pests, 'super-pests', 'super-weeds' etc., use huge amounts of synthetic fertilisers/fungicides/herbicides/poisons and they are appalling for the local environment. it exibits the worst of the 'victorian' belief that man can dominate nature. this is alongside the political 'eggs-in one basket' argument used by riviera.

kablam 'How ignorant must a peasant be to only want to feed his family with subsistance farming, when he can become wealthy and prosperous? But such ignorance exists. And by hook or by crook, that land shall eventually be used to its greater efficiency.'
maybe the 'ignorant peasant' understands more about their situation than you do? they might have heard of the success of 'local currency' and want to try that, before capitulating before the WTO.

'The first big experiment with Gessell's theories took place in 1932 in the Austrian town of Wörgl. The depression had hit, and the town had thousands out of work and little money in the municipal coffers. So the mayor, Michael Unterguggenberger, printed his own. The value of the Wörgl "stamp scrip" was set to automatically depreciate: that is, it earned negative interest. Once a month, its holders had to pay a "stamp" fee of 1 per cent of the value of the note. The mayor had thus created money that could only be spent locally, and which grew less in value the longer you held it. The result was that everyone spent the new money in the town as fast as possible. The streets were repaved, the water system rebuilt, new houses appeared, then a ski jump, a new bridge... Even the French Prime Minister came to visit the "miracle of Wörgl". Then some 200 other Austrian towns came up with plans to copy it, the central bank panicked, and it became a criminal offence to issue currency. Unemployment returned to where it was before.'

there are thousands of alternatives.

your suggestion that the farmer 'gets rich quick' by selling a cash crop in order to buy food from abroad is not a sustainable option.
posted by asok at 10:17 AM on June 17, 2002


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