Dignity comes before purchasing power

Summary

– Dignity, an underestimated value

– The devastating effects of support for organic farming

– The peak of agricultural areas is exceeded

– Economists in the face of food interventionism


Dignity, an underestimated value

Increasingly, politicians are taking citizens for children whose behavior they want to change through bans and subsidies. Development with Dignity (Routledge, 2022), an admirable book by American Liberals, Tom Palmer and Matt Warner, seeks to restore order in economic priorities and knowledge. “It’s a book that encourages the individual as an adult,” said Deirdre McCloskey, the economist I would like to see awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics this fall.

When Mohamed Bouazizi killed himself on the streets of Tunis on January 4, 2011, after much harassment, humiliation and attempted corruption and extortion by police, his mother said the move was not the result of confiscation. of his working instrument, in this case the scales to weigh his vegetables, but of his permanent humiliation. “Dignity comes before bread,” she admits. Money is needed, but its abundance depends on the developmental possibilities of the individual. There is nothing worse than a political system that denies its citizens.

In economics, dignity does not play a major role in academic research, with the notable exception of Deirdre McCloskey’s books, which demonstrate that dignity in terms of respect for citizens has been source of the “great enrichment” that began in Europe in the eighteenth century and multiplied revenues by 30 in two centuries.

Indeed, for this historian of economics, our wealth is not “the result of a stack of bricks, diplomas, bank accounts, but the addition of ideas.” The industrial revolution is a matter of value and not of capital accumulation. The term capitalism is, in this sense, wrongly chosen. Political freedom, no matter how positive, is not enough either. The dignity of the bourgeoisie, entrepreneurs and merchants, celebrated by Voltaire, has transformed the world.

This transforming power of dignity would transcend the values ​​of justice, equality or freedom. “It’s the foundation of democratic governance,” Palmer and Warner said. These two leaders of the liberal Atlas Network criticize official development assistance precisely because it ignores this need for recognition as well as the notion of effort contained in dignity, as Cicero has shown.

The authors point out that “economic development occurs when individuals enjoy dignity, because it allows them to use their own knowledge in solving the problems of poverty.” Prosperity increases when everyone can grow on their own and not when they receive money from outside.

When an individual is humiliated and powerless in the face of an official who denies him permission to do business, this act is not only costly, it is unworthy. In emerging countries, the phenomenon is causing the explosion of undeclared work, as the authors show in many examples.

The chapter on development aid wanderings picks up on criticism of the risks of corruption, incentives to seek annuities, and the profits of donor countries. Some forms of aid are “humiliating” and “based on a colonial or post-colonial approach that presupposes a superiority of Western ideas, models, and norms.”

Property rights are crucial in this quest for respect and autonomy. The authors cite the example of 99-year-old Maria Mothupi, who for the first time in South Africa received a legal document stating that she had finally owned her land and exclaimed, “Now I can sleep in peace ».

Dignity is being denied today, according to the authors, “to billions of people through a modern system of privileges that is called crony capitalism and which takes the form of subsidies or the granting of monopolies by friends in power, and with respect to the poor, difficulties in accessing property, employment, starting a business, or trading, ”says Tom Palmer and Matt Warner. This is not only true in emerging countries. When parties, in the debate over inflation and purchasing power, are fighting for the state to pay money to their customers by punching the taxpayer more, isn’t that crony capitalism?

The devastating effects of supporting organic farming

The world’s population is suffering from the consequences of absurd economic and ideological food choices.

Bjorn Lomborg, climate expert and chairman of the Copenhagen Consensus, denounces the irresponsibility of EU agricultural policy and the recommendations of many NGOs in favor of organic farming. The consequences of this drift in agriculture appear today.

In the Wall Street Journal, Bjorn Lomborg recalls that for years the political authorities have been massively encouraging organic farming, which is characterized by a ban on synthetic inputs and the obligation to rotate crops. Last year, the EU called on member countries to triple organic farming by 2030.

“Organic farming is inefficient, very expensive and is likely to starve billions of people,” writes Bjorn Lomborg. It produces between 29% and 44% less food than traditional agriculture, requires a 78% increase in agricultural area, and increases the cost of food by at least 45%.

Not only is it ineffective and 50% more expensive, but it is not healthier. “Organic is overrepresented in food recalls!” Organic products accounted for 25.6% of these recalls in 2020-2021, for 6.5% of household food expenditure in the same period, ”writes Aymeric Belaud, a graduate in political science from the Catholic Institute. of Vendée and in political science and public affairs at HEIP, on the blog of the Institute for Economic and Fiscal Research (IREF).

The dramatic damage of this policy has occurred in Sri Lanka. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected in 2019 by promising a transition to organic farming. The result was only increased misery. Abandonment of fertilizers has caused a 20% drop in rice production in six months, Lomborg says. Last winter, farmers announced that tea yields would drop by 40%. Unsurprisingly, the cost of vegetables has quintupled and the protests have piled up, with the abandonment of organic farming and the return of chemicals. But it’s too late.

Globally, Bjorn Lomborg notes that every 1% rise in food prices plunges an additional 10 million people into poverty. For Aymeric Belaud, the solution is “more freedom for research in plant biotechnology, the authorization of GMOs already produced and marketed in many countries.”

The peak of agricultural areas is exceeded

The agricultural challenge must be all the more spared from false receipts of all organic as agricultural areas are not extensible. “The peak is over,” says economist Tyler Cowen on his blog. Three types of analysis differ in methodology, but use all FAO data. All conclude that agricultural areas can no longer increase. The graph provided by Our World in Data is pretty clear on this.

Economists in the face of food interventionism

Food paternalism is often absurd. Mathias Binswanger, one of the country’s most influential economists, observes that the Swiss, who consume large amounts of sugar, are greedy but thin. Food interventionism is out of place, he notes in the Schweizer Monat.

The WHO recommends a sugar intake corresponding to 10% of the daily calorie requirement. In fact, we consume 110 grams per person, while 50 is enough for 2000 kcal. The Federal Council has taken matters into its own hands and is trying to reduce our consumption.

Alain Berset’s department has led 10 companies (including Coop and Migros) to sign the Milan agreement to reduce the sugar content of yoghurts and cereals for lunch. The plan was strengthened in 2019 so that sugar in yoghurts and 15% in cereals should be reduced by 10% by 2024.

Mathias Binswanger wonders if our behavior in this matter is really harmful. It seems that the measurement of our sugar consumption is debatable. The problem is less sugar consumption than its high concentration in processed products such as sugary drinks and yogurts.

The need for intervention is all the less present as young Swiss are champions in brushing teeth and on average Swiss are less often obese than our neighbors or Americans. “Radical measures such as taxes or bans are not justified,” Binswanger said. Besides, should the state dictate or even advise us on a diet? Does a healthy life, in the sense of state food regulations, make you happy? As Mathias Binswanger concludes, “it’s not unhealthy eating or overly healthy living that makes you happy.”

The bureaucratic absurdity is admirably evident in the Liberal monthly. Birgitte Grangier, director of the Vaud jam producer LFB in Mont-sur-Lausanne, has developed jams that are low in sugar, but with natural ingredients and no preservatives. Unfortunately, according to FAO standards, its products do not contain enough sugar to be defined as jams …

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