Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Control the food, control the people

The older I get, the less crazy some conspiracy theories sound to me...

You can live without cars or cell phones or cable TV. In fact a lot of what people think are necessities are little more than luxuries and a many of them are actually harmful. But food? You simply cannot live for very long without food. Food, water and shelter are the essentials of life but with each passing year all three become less free and more controlled by the government.

Our food system is completely and almost inextricably linked to our government control. For the vast majority of Americans, even families that raise some of their own food like we do, it is virtually impossible to feed your family without eating food that has been regulated, controlled and subsidized by the Federal government. Walk through a supermarket with me and I bet that you would be hard pressed to find a single food item that didn't get handled, subsidized or regulated by the government. Now that may not seem like a big deal, after all don't we all want "safe food"? Sure but at what cost? I am not talking about the price sticker on a bag of Doritos, I am talking about the real costs of food that you don't see at the checkout line but that we all pay.

Thanks to onerous and usually unnecessary regulations that make smaller scale (and more local) operations economically nonviable, more and more of our food is produced hundreds or thousands of
miles away. Have you ever stopped to wonder how it is that you can buy virtually any food you want, regardless of where you live and what season it is? We used to live in one of the northernmost towns in North America, a place where the growing season is very short and winter is very long, but I could still buy "fresh" fruits and vegetables year round even though the nearest place that could raise strawberries in February was over 1000 miles away. I wasn't buying produce that was "produced" locally, I was buying food that had been trucked from all over the country (and outside of the country) to provide me with whatever food I desired, whenever I desired it (and at a low price of course). Gone is any sense of the seasonality of food, something that makes sense when you realize that the harvesting that happens in fall now is mostly field corn and soybeans that are completely inedible for humans. The crops that are harvested in the fall will be shipped off to a food processing plant or a feedlot somewhere far away or stored until the prices hit the right level.

Of course to move that food efficiently requires a key ingredient, namely cheap fuel. If we paid $7 or $9 per gallon for diesel fuel you can be sure that it would be far more expensive to buy food from far away processors and you wouldn't be able to obtain produce in the winter, or at least not at such a low price. One of the most insane features of our modern food system is that it is built not so much on sun and soil as it is on petroleum, petroleum that we on the one hand refuse to extract from our own domestic sources but on the other hand are perfectly willing (and often eager) to sacrifice countless lives and limbs of our young people and innocent by-standers overseas to keep the river of cheap oil flowing. If we ever suffer a real petroleum crisis you can be sure that a food crisis will follow right behind. Our food system is dependent more on oil than on crop yields or biotechnology or the good old American farmer. Without oil, cheap and plentiful, we could not continue to feed ourselves as we are used to doing. Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing. It also shows what a farce the idea of cheap food really is. Between crop subsidies, disaster insurance, trade deals, military interventions around the world, etc. we pay an enormous cost for our food supply but the difference is that it is an indirect cost, something lost in the morass of the income tax system.

Another way that Uncle Sam controls food is simply having the government become the provider of food for many Americans, more now than at any time in history which is a symptom of the bitter irony of the "War on poverty" that has made poverty generational and more common rather than reducing it in any meaningful way. There are over 23,000,000 American households receiving food assistance via the SNAP (Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program) program administered by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. Broken out by actual people and we see that over 47,000,000 people or 15% of the population is enrolled in the SNAP program with some states like Mississippi and the District of Columbia having over 20% of their population enrolled in the "food stamp" program. The modern day United States Department of Agriculture is mostly involved in regulations and in supplementing tens of millions of Americans food purchasing budgets rather than anything having to do with actual agricultural practices, having long ago abdicated the development of agricultural practices to international food and agriculture companies like Monsanto, Tyson and Conagra as well as land grant universities funded in large part by those same companies. This isn't a knock on people who legitimately are in a position to need food assistance but it is an accusatory finger pointed right at the same organization that on the one hand provides "free" food for some while perpetuating an economic system that leaves so many people in need in the first place, namely the United States government. Not only can you not really buy much food that isn't controlled by the government, many families simply cannot afford to feed themselves at all without that assistance.

So what is my point other than conspiracy ranting? Not much other than pointing out that the majority of Americans and the citizens of other industrialized nations are more or less completely dependent on the government for feeding themselves to the point of being completely incapable of procuring even the most basic food needs without the assistance and permission of their government. It is easy to assume that the government will always be there but given the troubling instability of European nations and the incredible debt level of our own government that permanence is no longer a given. The seemingly steady and secure food system we enjoy is actually on pretty shaky ground and any disruption could have serious, potentially catastrophic consequences.

Each little step toward food independence, no matter how small, is important. Whether you have a small square foot container garden or a few backyard chickens or you raise most of your own food yourself you take a small step of peaceful, lawful rebellion against those who would enslave us by controlling our food supply. Cheap food is anything but inexpensive and a people cannot be free when they are not able to even feed themselves without a by your leave from the government.

1 comment:

Aussie John said...


You are so right on target. This is a world wide thing.

I assume the American public are similar to their Australian counterparts: simply too lazy, and too interested in the diversions which governments are so pleased to support,such as entertainments of every kind, to spend time thinking about what is happening.

When governments control the food supply the populace lose any voice in decision making.