Capitalism is best for the environment 2

Or, to put it another way, the Invisible Hand – not of a Deity, not of Nature, but of Free Economic Man (in the generic sense of “man”) – looks after land and sea best.* 

From the Conservative Tribune:

You have no doubt heard environmentalists say on multiple occasions that humans are utterly destroying the world’s forested areas, a terrible development that will dramatically increase the catastrophic effects of global warming and devastate the earth as we know it.

That assertion was put forward recently in a BBC report on the prospects of survival for Koala Bears in Australia, in which Deborah Tabart of the Australian Koala Foundation declared that “85 percent of the world’s forests are now gone”.

That shocking statistic likely came from a 2014 article by GreenActionNews, which asserted that 80 percent of the world’s forested areas had been destroyed, largely through human activity such as deforestation — a problem that would likely get worse unless regulations to restrict the rate of deforestation were implemented around the globe.

But a recent article in HumanProgress took great issue with the assertion that the world’s forested areas are disappearing, and offered up facts to dispute the claim.

For starters, roughly 4 billion hectares of forested areas exist around the globe, which in its entirety encompasses approximately 14.8 billion hectares of land, both above and beneath the earth’s oceans and seas.

If 4 billion hectares of forest were to remain after 80 percent of forests had been destroyed, that would mean 135 percent of the earth would have been covered by forests, and some 5.2 billion hectares of forest would have been removed from the oceans and seas.

Obviously those numbers don’t add up. The world’s plethora of deserts, frozen tundra, grasslands and swamps obviously disprove the notion that the entirety of the earth’s land surface was once covered by forests.

Furthermore, the GreenActionNews piece suggests the world’s remaining intact forest areas were “unevenly distributed”, as the five most forest-rich nations were Brazil, Canada, China, Russia and the United States. Though obviously not a precise correlation, it shouldn’t be surprising that a significant portion of the world’s forests are found in five of the world’s largest nations by landmass. Indeed, for every 7.6 million hectares of forest lost worldwide per year, some 4.3 million hectares of forest were added, meaning the globe was losing its forested areas by a rate of only 0.08 percent per year, hardly as dramatic as environmentalists would have you believe.

Making matters worse for the leftist environmentalists, the areas where afforestation or reforestation were occurring were happening in economically developed regions of the world. In fact, regions that have embraced forms of capitalist economic systems, like North America and Europe, have actually increased their forested areas in recent decades, in some places to more than pre-industrialization levels.

This phenomenon is also occurring in many still developing regions and has come to be known as the “Environmental Kuznets curve,” which posits that economic development will initially lead to environmental degradation, but as economies grow and improve that degradation will eventually reverse course.

That usually occurs around the same time a nation reaches approximately $4,500 GDP per capita, which has been dubbed the “forest transition” point, which is when forested areas begin to increase instead of shrink. The phenomenon also appears to apply to a nation’s biodiversity as well, such that animal species initially feared as nearing extinction will tend to stabilize their populations and begin to bounce back in more economically developed regions.

Thus, it would appear that — contrary to the assertions of radical environmentalists — a rapidly developing economy and urbanization are actually good overall for the environment, as rich nations can afford to spend money on environmental protection policies and more people living in cities means more land outside those cities can be returned to its original state of nature.

Bear in mind that radical environmentalism is, at its core, just an offshoot of Marxism and the marxist obsession with inequality would rather see all humankind be equally miserable in poverty than see some people rise farther and faster than others through capitalism.

While it is true that forest areas are declining in some regions of the world, they are actually being replaced and growing in others, typically those that have adopted a form of capitalism as their economic model.

Sorry environmentalists, but that is a form of inequality that we can manage to live with.

 

*From the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

Invisible hand, metaphor, introduced by the 18th-century Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith … characterizes the mechanisms through which beneficial social and economic outcomes may arise from the accumulated self-interested actions of individuals, none of whom intends to bring about such outcomes.

Posted under Economics, Environmentalism by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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“I, Pencil” forever 2

We posted this classic essay by Leonard E. Read at least twice before, but it seems to have dissolved in the mists of time. We were recently reminded of it by our contributing commenter, Don L.

It needs to be known by all generations down through the ages.

So here it is, or most of it. (We have made a few small cuts to appease our prejudices.)

As I sat contemplating the miraculous make-up of an ordinary lead pencil, the thought flashed in mind: I’ll bet there isn’t a person on earth who knows how to make even so simple a thing as a pencil.

If this could be demonstrated, it would dramatically portray the miracle of the market and would help to make clear that all manufactured things are but manifestations of creative-energy exchanges, that these are, in fact, spiritual phenomena. The lessons in political economy this could teach!

There followed that not-to-be-forgotten day at the pencil factory, beginning at the receiving dock, covering every phase of countless transformations, and concluding in an interview with the chemist.

Had you seen what I saw, you, also, might have struck up a warm friendship with that amazing character, I, PENCIL.

Being a writer in his own right, let I, PENCIL speak for himself:

I am a lead pencil — the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write.

Writing is both my vocation and my avocation; that’s all I do.

You may wonder why I should write a genealogy. Well, to begin with, my story is interesting. And, next, I am a mystery — more so than a tree or a sunset or even a flash of lightning. But, sadly, I am taken for granted by those who use me, as if I were a mere incident and without background. This supercilious attitude relegates me to the level of the commonplace. This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too long persist without peril. …

I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove. In fact, if you can understand me — no, that’s too much to ask of anyone — if you can become aware of the miraculousness that I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to teach. And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because — well, because I am seemingly so simple.

Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me. This sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Especially when it is realized that there are about one and one-half billion of my kind produced in the United States each year.

Pick me up and look me over. What do you see? Not much meets the eye — there’s some wood, lacquer, the printed labeling, graphite lead, a bit of metal, and an eraser.

Just as you cannot trace your family tree back very far, so is it impossible for me to name and explain all my antecedents. But I would like to suggest enough of them to impress upon you the richness and complexity of my background.

My family tree begins with what in fact is a tree, a cedar of straight grain that grows in Northern California and Oregon. Now contemplate all the saws and trucks and rope and the countless other gear used in harvesting and carting the cedar logs to the railroad siding. Think of all the persons and the numberless skills that went into their fabrication: the mining of ore, the making of steel and its refinement into saws, axes, motors; the growing of hemp and bringing it through all the stages to heavy and strong rope; the logging camps with their beds and mess halls, the cookery and the raising of all the foods. Why, untold thousands of persons had a hand in every cup of coffee the loggers drink!

The logs are shipped to a mill in San Leandro, California. Can you imagine the individuals who make flat cars and rails and railroad engines and who construct and install the communication systems incidental thereto? These legions are among my antecedents.

Consider the millwork in San Leandro. The cedar logs are cut into small, pencil-length slats less than one-fourth of an inch in thickness. These are kiln dried and then tinted … [because] people prefer that I look pretty, not a pallid white. The slats are waxed and kiln dried again. How many skills went into the making of the tint and the kilns, into supplying the heat, the light and power, the belts, motors, and all the other things a mill requires? Sweepers in the mill among my ancestors? Yes, and included are the men who poured the concrete for the dam of a Pacific Gas & Electric Company hydroplant, which supplies the mill’s power!

Don’t overlook the ancestors present and distant who have a hand in transporting 60 carloads of slats across the nation.

Once in the pencil factory — $4,000,000 in machinery and building, all capital accumulated by thrifty and saving parents of mine — each slat is given eight grooves by a complex machine, after which another machine lays leads in every other slat, applies glue, and places another slat atop — a lead sandwich, so to speak. Seven brothers and I are mechanically carved from this “wood-clinched” sandwich.

My “lead” itself — it contains no lead at all — is complex. The graphite is mined in Ceylon. Consider these miners and those who make their many tools and the makers of the paper sacks in which the graphite is shipped and those who make the string that ties the sacks and those who put them aboard ships and those who make the ships. Even the lighthouse keepers along the way assisted in my birth — and the harbor pilots.

The graphite is mixed with clay from Mississippi in which ammonium hydroxide is used in the refining process. Then wetting agents are added such as sulfonated tallow — animal fats chemically reacted with sulfuric acid. After passing through numerous machines, the mixture finally appears as endless extrusions — as from a sausage grinder — cut to size, dried, and baked for several hours at 1,850 degrees Fahrenheit. To increase their strength and smoothness the leads are then treated with a hot mixture that includes candelilla wax from Mexico, paraffin wax, and hydrogenated natural fats.

My cedar receives six coats of lacquer. Do you know all the ingredients of lacquer? Who would think that the growers of castor beans and the refiners of castor oil are a part of it? They are. Why, even the processes by which the lacquer is made a beautiful yellow involve the skills of more persons than one can enumerate!

Observe the labeling. That’s a film formed by applying heat to carbon black mixed with resins. How do you make resins and what, pray, is carbon black?

My bit of metal — the ferrule — is brass. Think of all the persons who mine zinc and copper and those who have the skills to make shiny sheet brass from these products of nature. Those black rings on my ferrule are black nickel. What is black nickel and how is it applied? The complete story of why the center of my ferrule has no black nickel on it would take pages to explain.

Then there’s my crowning glory, inelegantly referred to in the trade as “the plug,” the part man uses to erase the errors he makes with me. An ingredient called “factice” is what does the erasing. It is a rubberlike product made by reacting rapeseed oil from the Dutch East Indies with sulfur chloride. Rubber, contrary to the common notion, is only for binding purposes. Then, too, there are numerous vulcanizing and accelerating agents. The pumice comes from Italy; and the pigment that gives “the plug” its color is cadmium sulfide.

Does anyone wish to challenge my earlier assertion that no single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me?

Actually, millions of human beings have had a hand in my creation, no one of whom even knows more than a very few of the others. Now, you may say that I go too far in relating the picker of a coffee berry in far-off Brazil and food growers elsewhere to my creation; that this is an extreme position. I shall stand by my claim. There isn’t a single person in all these millions, including the president of the pencil company, who contributes more than a tiny, infinitesimal bit of know-how. From the standpoint of know-how the only difference between the miner of graphite in Ceylon and the logger in Oregon is in the type of know-how. Neither the miner nor the logger can be dispensed with, any more than can the chemist at the factory or the worker in the oil field — paraffin being a byproduct of petroleum.

Here is an astounding fact: neither the worker in the oil field nor the chemist nor the digger of graphite or clay nor any who mans or makes the ships or trains or trucks nor the one who runs the machine that does the knurling on my bit of metal nor the president of the company performs his singular task because he wants me. Each one wants me less, perhaps, than does a child in the first grade. Indeed, there are some among this vast multitude who never saw a pencil nor would they know how to use one. Their motivation is other than me. Perhaps it is something like this: each of these millions sees that he can thus exchange his tiny know-how for the goods and services he needs or wants. I may or may not be among these items.

There is a fact still more astounding: the absence of a mastermind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work. This is the mystery to which I earlier referred.

… I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles that manifest themselves in nature an even-more-extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies — millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human masterminding! …

The above is what I meant when writing, “If you can become aware of the miraculousness that I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing.” For, if one is aware that these know-hows will naturally, yes, automatically, arrange themselves into creative and productive patterns in response to human necessity and demand — that is, in the absence of governmental or any other coercive masterminding — then one will possess an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people. Freedom is impossible without this faith.

Once government has had a monopoly of a creative activity such, for instance, as the delivery of the mails, most individuals will believe that the mails could not be efficiently delivered by men acting freely. And here is the reason: each one acknowledges that he himself doesn’t know how to do all the things incident to mail delivery. He also recognizes that no other individual could do it. These assumptions are correct. No individual possesses enough know-how to perform a nation’s mail delivery any more than any individual possesses enough know-how to make a pencil. Now, in the absence of faith in free people — in the unawareness that millions of tiny know-hows would naturally and miraculously form and cooperate to satisfy this necessity — the individual cannot help but reach the erroneous conclusion that mail can be delivered only by governmental “masterminding.”

If I, Pencil, were the only item that could offer testimony on what men and women can accomplish when free to try, then those with little faith would have a fair case. However, there is testimony galore; it’s all about us and on every hand. Mail delivery is exceedingly simple when compared, for instance, to the making of an automobile or a calculating machine or a grain combine or a milling machine or to tens of thousands of other things.

Delivery? Why, in this area where men have been left free to try, they deliver the human voice around the world in less than one second; they deliver an event visually and in motion to any person’s home when it is happening; they deliver 150 passengers from Seattle to Baltimore in less than four hours; they deliver gas from Texas to one’s range or furnace in New York at unbelievably low rates and without subsidy; they deliver each four pounds of oil from the Persian Gulf to our Eastern Seaboard — halfway around the world — for less money than the government charges for delivering a one-ounce letter across the street!

The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society’s legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow.

Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed. I, Pencil, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth.

Posted under Capitalism, Commentary, Economics by Jillian Becker on Monday, May 18, 2015

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How the world really works 1

The free market is the engine of our civilization. It works. Works best if it is not interfered with by government. Works as a spontaneous system of co-operation and division of labor.

On which subject, here is part of a splendid short essay by Jonah Goldberg. He writes:

No one in the world knows how to make the newspaper you are holding (and, if you’re reading this on your phone, computer, iPad or Kindle, no one knows how to make those things either).

Even the best editor in the world has no clue how to make a printing press or the ink, or how to operate a communications satellite.

This is hardly a new insight. In 1958, Leonard Read wrote one of the most famous essays in the history of libertarianism, “I, Pencil.” It begins, “I am a lead pencil — the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write.” It is one of the most simple objects in human civilization. And yet, “not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.”

The pencil tells the story of its own creation. The wood comes from Oregon, or perhaps California. The lead, which is really graphite, is mined in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The eraser, which is not rubber but something called “factice” is “made by reacting rape-seed oil from the Dutch East Indies with sulfur chloride.”

To make a long story short, the simple act of collecting and combining the ingredients of a pencil involves the cooperation of thousands of experts in dozens of fields, from engineering and mining to chemistry and commodity trading. I suppose it’s possible for someone to master all of the knowledge and expertise to make a pencil all by themselves, but why would they?

The lessons one can draw from this fact are humbling. For starters, any healthy civilization, never mind any healthy economy, involves unfathomably vast amounts of harmonious cooperation.

These days there’s a lot of buzz about something called “cloud computing.” In brief, this is a new way of organizing computer technology so that most of the data storage and number crunching doesn’t actually take place in your own computer. Rather, everyone plugs into the computational equivalent of the electrical grid.

Do a Nexis search and you’ll find hundreds of articles insisting that this is a “revolutionary” advance in information organization. And in one sense, that’s obviously true. But in another this is simply an acceleration of how civilization has always worked. The information stored in an encyclopedia or textbook is a form of cloud computing. So is the expertise stored in your weatherman’s head. So are the intangible but no less real lessons accumulated over generations of trial and error and contained in everything from the alphabet to the U.S. Constitution

More relevant, the modern market economy is the greatest communal enterprise ever undertaken in the history of humanity. Friedrich Hayek did the heavy lifting on this point over half a century ago in his essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” The efficient pricing of markets allows millions of independent actors to decide for themselves how to allocate resources. According to Hayek, no central planner or bureaucrat could ever have enough knowledge to consistently and successfully guide all of those economic actions in a more efficient manner.

According to progressives, the financial crisis discredited “market fundamentalism” and created a burning need for a more cooperative society where “we’re all in it together.” It’s an ancient argument, with many noble intentions behind it. But it rests on a misunderstanding of one simple, astounding, irrefutable fact. The market economy is cooperative, and more successfully so than any alternative system ever conceived of, never mind put into practice. Admittedly it doesn’t feel that way, which is why everyone wants to find a better replacement for it. But they never will, for the same reason no one can make a pencil.

Find Leonard Read’s classic essay I, Pencil here, either to refresh your memory and enjoy it anew, or to learn its lesson for the first time. It is essential to the proper education of every generation.

Posted under Commentary, Economics, Industry, liberty by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, September 8, 2010

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The invisible hand 5

Obama’s chief economic adviser, Christina Romer, admits that the Keynesian economic policy she (among others) advised Obama and the Democrats to adopt and implement, which they did eagerly as it was the redistributionist policy they wanted, was wrong and has failed.

The Washington Post reports:

Christina Romer, chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, was giving what was billed as her “valedictory” before she returns to teach at Berkeley, and she used the swan song to establish four points, each more unnerving than the last:

She had no idea how bad the economic collapse would be.

She still doesn’t understand exactly why it was so bad.

The response to the collapse was inadequate.

And she doesn’t have much of an idea about how to fix things.

What she did have was a binder full of scary descriptions and warnings, offered with a perma-smile and singsong delivery: “Terrible recession. . . . Incredibly searing. . . . Dramatically below trend. . . . Suffering terribly. . . . Risk of making high unemployment permanent. . . . Economic nightmare.” …

At week’s end, Romer will leave the council chairmanship after what surely has been the most dismal tenure anybody in that post has had: a loss of nearly 4 million jobs in a year and a half. … She was the president’s top economist during a time when the administration consistently underestimated the depth of the economy’s troubles – miscalculations that have caused Americans to lose faith in the president and the Democrats.

Romer had predicted that Obama’s stimulus package would keep the unemployment rate at 8 percent or less; it is now 9.5 percent. … The economy lost 350,000 jobs in June and July. …

When she and her colleagues began work, she acknowledged, they did not realize “how quickly and strongly the financial crisis would affect the economy.” They “failed to anticipate just how violent the recession would be.”

Even now, Romer said, mystery persists. “To this day, economists don’t fully understand why firms cut production as much as they did or why they cut labor so much more than they normally would.” Her defense was that “almost all analysts were surprised by the violent reaction.”

That miscalculation, in turn, led to her miscalculation that the stimulus package would be enough to keep the unemployment rate from exceeding 8 percent. Without the policy, she had predicted, unemployment would soar to 9.5 percent. The plan passed, and unemployment went to 10 percent. …

The truth is that the Obama administration is pretty much out of options. … “What we would all love to find – the inexpensive magic bullet to our economic troubles – the truth is it almost surely doesn’t exist,” Romer admitted.

Okay, there is no magic bullet – but there is the invisible hand.

It’s also called the free market.

Free marketeers would lower taxes, remove the minimum wage and the multifarious bureaucratic burdens on employers, and above all forbid government interference in the market. That is to say, they would reverse the policy of high spending by the state which Romer advised, Obama and the Democrats wanted, and even President Bush was seduced into attempting.

Economically wise conservatives have been telling liberals for decades, Keynes was wrong, Hayek was right.

Will the Republicans remember that when they regain Congressional power in November?

Posted under Commentary, Economics, United States by Jillian Becker on Thursday, September 2, 2010

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To eat or not to eat? 2

PART ONE.  ETHICAL EATING: THE THEORY

One of the latest fads of the elite who know what’s best for the rest of us is “ethical eating”.

The Financial Times recently carried a long article about it. Reviewing three books on the subject, the author, Simon Kuper, castigates us for eating beef, chicken, rice, and salad:

Suppose that you and your partner go out for dinner tonight. You order steak and salad while your partner has chicken with rice. Now inspect your plates. Your cow spent almost all its life in a shed, burping methane that heats the planet. It was then slaughtered, often incompetently: it may have been still alive when its head was skinned and its legs cut off. Your “salad”, doused in dressing, is really “fat with a little lettuce”.

Your partner’s chicken lived for six weeks, diseased and crammed so closely with other birds that it cracked several bones. After torture, came slaughter: the bird was shoved into a truck, taken to the slaughterhouse, and shackled upside down. It died screaming and excreting on itself in terror. The rice comes from plants bred by scientists in the 1960s. Both your meals are lathered in the extra fat, sugar, salt and chemicals to which you have become addicted. Enjoy your meal. …

“… if you’re self-indulgent and sadistic, and care not a whit for the planet”, is not said in as many words, but strongly implied.

The author goes on:

People are increasingly wondering whether they should enjoy today’s food.

Millions of animals experience horrible deaths after worse lives. Constantly sick, they give us our flu pandemics. They occupy and degrade nearly a third of the world’s land, use up and pollute water, and warm the planet. According to the United Nations [and who could possibly doubt them?], animal agriculture is the single biggest cause of climate change. It contributes 40 per cent more to global warming than all forms of transport combined…. Certainly, in rich countries, logic should impel us to close factory farms and turn meat back into a luxury food such as caviar and truffles, to be eaten on special occasions only. …

In the past [when the expectation of life was less than half what it is now, but let not that spoil the argument], “Americans typically chewed a mouthful of food as many as 25 times … now the average American chews only 10 times.” The industry has mastered what it calls “hedonics”: how to make food feel and taste delicious. The new food is also addictive, like drugs. … Many Americans now suffer from “conditioned hypereating”, wolfing down fat, sugar and salt as a habit.

Our betters despise us for that.

“Elites want elite foods,” the FT article asserts. “healthy ethical food.” Do they? Or do they just want the rest of us to eat saltless, unsweetened, undressed mouthfuls of hunted or gathered foods that need to be chewed 25 times?

This sort of moralizing is a great luxury. It should be classed with truffles and caviar.  At the same time, it’s all intensely puritan. The old puritans wanted to drain pleasure out of life for the good of your soul. The new puritans want to do the same for the good of your body.

Environmentalists go even further. They don’t want us to eat at all. The existence of the human race annoys them. We eat. We cook. We make things. Almost everything we do endangers the planet. The planet must be saved from us. For what? The animals, presumably.

Don’t they eat too?

Yes, but you see they’re good, we’re bad. We humans are a disgusting, cruel, greedy species that the earth and all the other creatures would be better off without.

They really do think this way.

If it were the obsession of a few madmen it would be merely a curiosity. But it is the settled opinion of thousand of our species, many of whom have the power to regulate our lives.

Since we cannot be eliminated, or not immediately, we must at least be regulated.

*

PART TWO.  HEALTHY EATING: GOVERNMENT STEPS IN

The solution that our betters propose to the “problem” of us eating what we like, is as always a collectivist one. Government should, say the food police, compel us to eat what it deems good for us, good for our health. Healthy eating by force. The new ethics.

This is from Canada Free Press, by David Pietrusza:

The Invisible Hand moves amber waves of grain from farm to factory to freezer.

We all get fed.

Until now.

This month, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand decided she would allocate another $1 billion the federal treasury on building 2,100 grocery stores nationwide. [Capitalism has been called ‘the incredible bread machine’. It works as long as it’s not interfered with. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand doesn’t know this, and wouldn’t believe or even understand it if it were spelled out for her.] She is an Obama mainstream kook. Her “Healthy Food Financing Initiative” is merely upping the ante on a proposal already found buried in Barack Obama’s 2011 budget to expend $345 billion on a similar fool’s errand.

The idea, if it may be termed that, is to provide grants and loans to fund groceries in so-called “food deserts,” areas “under-served” by the right kind of food emporia, those not providing “fresh” food and thereby fueling the national “obesity epidemic.” …

“By building new grocery stores in underserved areas across the state,” says Gillibrand, up for election this year, “we can give people the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives, save billions in health care costs, and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs.”

Getting specific, Gillibrand estimates that her act will “create” 26,000 of those “good-paying jobs.” It’s funny how expropriating money from the private sector to fund tin-horn politicians’s hobby-horses always “creates good-paying jobs.”

Much of the rationale for combating these alleged “food deserts” relies on data as bogus as the “facts” that support the current global warming (er, excuse me, “climate change”) hysteria. Michelle Obama [she who heads the food police] has recently contended that 23.5 million people—included 6.5 million children—now live in these “food deserts,” defined by Ms. Obama as “communities without a supermarket.” Oddly enough, many of these folks are not poverty-stricken. Some are quite well to do. And thanks to the genius of Henry Ford and American capitalism many of them still own cars, so living that distance from a supermarket, translates into driving a whole 4.5 minutes more to a supermarket. …

And that translates into another federal crisis — another federal program.

But beyond jobs and geography, there is health. There is always health, nowadays.

“This initiative,” contends Brooklyn Congresswoman Nydia Vasquez, “is about empowering families to make healthier food choices so they live longer.” [A  perfect example of Obamaspeak, that!]

Let’s see what happens when a government “empowers” people to make the choices it wants them to make.

*

PART THREE.  NO EATING: THE END ACHIEVED

One government that tries to make the people do what it knows is best for them is in North Korea.

How has Kim Jong-il’s food solution work out for the North Koreans? These extracts come from Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick :

Kim Jong-Il had taken an even harder line against individual enterprise than his father. “In a socialist society, even the food problem should be solved in a socialist way. Telling people to solve to solve the food problems on their own creates egotism among people,” he said in a December 1996 speech, one of the few in which he acknowledged the food crisis. Other than vegetables grown at home, food was not supposed to be sold on the market. To sell rice or any other grain was strictly forbidden; North Korea considered it illegal and immoral, a stab in the heart of Communist ideology. Any private endeavor fell under the rubric of “economic crime” and the penalties could include deportation to a labor camp, and, if corruption was alleged, possible execution.

North Korea started running out of food, and as people went hungry, they didn’t have the energy to work and so output plunged even further. The economy was in free fall…

All staples are grown on collective farms. The state confiscates the entire harvest … [As famine intensified] the North Korean government offered a variety of explanations, from the patently absurd to the barely plausible. People were told [for instance] that the United States had instituted a blockade against North Korea that was keeping out food …

Enduring hunger became part of one’s patriotic duty. …

How do you tell a mother her child needs more food when there is nothing more to give? Dr Kim would write out a slip admitting the child to the hospital, knowing she had no cure for this condition. The hospital didn’t have any food either

[Many] victims of the North Korean famine … did not go passively to their deaths. When the public distribution system was cut off, they were forced to tap their deepest wells of creativity to feed themselves. They devised traps out of buckets and string to catch small animal in the field, draped nets over their balconies to snare sparrows. They educated themselves in the nutritive properties of plants. … They stripped the sweet inner bark of pine trees to grind into a fine powder that could be used in place of flour. They pounded acorns into a gelatinous paste …

North Koreans learned to swallow their pride and hold their noses. They picked kernels of undigested corn out of the [old] excrement of farm animals. Shipyard workers developed a technique by which they scraped the bottoms of the cargo holds where food had been stored, then spread the foul-smelling gunk on the pavement to dry so that they could collect from it tiny grains of uncooked rice and other edibles.

If you got out to the mountains, you could maybe find dandelion or other weeds so tasty that people ate them even in good times. Occasionally, Mrs Song [one of the author’s sources] would find rotten cabbage leaves … She would take the day’s pickings home and mix it with whatever food she had enough money to buy. Usually it was ground cornmeal – the cheap kind made from the husks and cobs. If she couldn’t afford that, she would buy a still cheaper powder made out of the ground inner bark of the pine, sometimes extended with a little sawdust. … [Nothing] could disguise the god-awful taste. She had to pound away and chop endlessly to get the grasses and the barks into a soft-enough pulp to be digestible. … All she could make was a porridge that was flavorless and textureless. … a porridge mad out of bean and corn stalks … was bitter and dry, and stuck in her throat like the twigs of a bird’s nest…

In the year after Kim Il-sung’s death the only animal product she consumed was frog… North Korea’s frog population would soon be wiped out by overhunting. …

In a famine, people don’t necessarily starve to death. Often some other ailment gets them first. Chronic malnutrition impairs the body’s ability to fight infection and the hungry become increasingly susceptible to tuberculosis and typhoid. The starved body is too weak to metabolize anti-biotics, even if they are available, and normally curable illnesses suddenly become fatal. Wild fluctuations of body chemistry can trigger strokes and heart attacks…

The killer [starvation] has a natural progression. It goes first for the most vulnerable – children under five. They come down with a cold and it turns into pneumonia; diarrhea turns into dysentery. Before the parents even think about getting help, the child is dead. Next the killer turns to the aged … then makes its way through people in the prime of their lives. Men, because they have less body fat, usually perish before women. The strong and athletic are especially vulnerable because their metabolisms burn more calories…

The killer targets the most innocent, the people who would never steal food, lie, cheat, break the law, or betray a friend. …

By 1998, an estimated 600,000 people had died as a result of the famine, as much as 10 percent of the population. … Exact figures would be nearly impossible to tally since North Korean hospitals could not report starvation as a cause of death.

Between 1996 and 2005, North Korea would receive $2.4 billion worth of food aid, much of it from the United States… While big ships laden with donated grains from the U.N. World Food Programme started docking at Chongjin’s port in 1998, the relief was off-loaded into trucks by the military and driven away. Some food reached orphanages and kindergartens, but much of it ended up in military stockpiles or sold on the black market. …

Death was a virtual certainty for people who didn’t show some private initiative. A human being needs at least 500 calories per day on average to survive; a person subsisting on a diet of what could be foraged in the woods would not survive more than three months. …

Hyuck [a homeless boy] found a small and friendly stray [dog], wagging its tail as it followed him into his friend’s yard. Hyuck shut the gate behind them. He and his friend grabbed the animal and shoved it into a bucket of water, holding down the lid. [It took about ten minutes to die.] They skinned it and barbecued it. Dog meat was part of the traditional Korean diet, but Hyuck liked animals and felt bad, though not so bad that he didn’t try it again – although by mid 1996 dogs too were scarce. …

Among the homeless population, a disproportionate number were children or teenagers. In some cases, their parents had gone off in search of jobs or food. But there was another, even stranger, explanation. Facing a food shortage, many North Koreans families conducted a brutal triage of their own households – they denied themselves and often elderly grandparents food in order to keep the younger generation alive. That strategy produced an unusual number of orphans, as the children were often the last ones left of entire families that had perished…

In the first years of the food shortage, the children at the train station survived by begging food, but before long there were simply too many of them and too few people with food to spare…

When begging failed, the children … formed themselves into gangs to steal together …

It was a dangerous life… There were strange stories going around about adults who … would drug children, kill them, and butcher them for meat. Behind the station near the railroad tracks were vendors who cooked soup and noodles over small burners, and it was said that the grey chunks of meat floating in the broth were human flesh. …

The stories got more and more horrific. Supposedly, one father went so insane with hunger that he ate his own baby. … It does appear that there were at least two cases … in which people were arrested and executed for cannibalism…

Even without cannibals … the children couldn’t survive long on the streets…

People … spoke of the large number of bodies scattered around the station and on the trains …

At the station, employees from the cleaning staff regularly made round through the public areas, loading bodies onto a wooden handcart… Some days they removed as many as thirty bodies from the station…

Why doesn’t the government just leave us alone to live our lives?” the women at the [black] market would grumble among themselves.

THAT IS THE QUESTION.