Bread and Famine, History Rhyming

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes, saids somebody (it’s often attributed to Mark Twain, but hasn’t been solidly traced to him)

In a hungry Venezuela, buying too much food can get you arrested – The Washington Post

And here:

[…]Venezuela does not produce its own wheat and instead relies on imports, which it sends to mills where it is ground into flour and then distributed to bakeries. The new regulations, which come on top of existing price controls and foreign exchange controls, require that 90 percent of flour must be used to bake bread and only 10 percent can be used for pastries and cakes.
The government also demanded that bakers must have a constant supply of bread throughout the day and hold over bread from the previous day for sale the next day. […]
“Speculators who hide the bread from the people will face the weight of the law,” Maduro said, according to the BBC. “They’re going to pay, I swear. Those responsible for the bread war are going to pay and they better not complain that it was a political persecution.”
The national baker’s federation, Fevipan, argues it cannot produce more bread unless its members are given more flour and added that 80 percent of bakeries had “zero inventory,” while the remaining bakeries had only received 10 percent of the monthly supplies.
“When there’s flour, we sell bread, but they only send it every 15 or 20 days,” a worker in a Caracas bakery told the Agence France-Presse. “We are given 20 sacks and normally we’d need eight a day.”

From The Betrothed:

“Well said! bravo! bravo!” exclaimed with one voice the guests; but the word scarcity, which the doctor had accidentally uttered, suggested a new and painful subject. All spoke at once:—“There is no famine,” said one, “it is the speculators who——”
“And the bakers, who conceal the grain. Hang them!”
“That is right; hang them, without mercy.”
“Upon fair trial,” cried the magistrate.
“What trial?” cried Attilio, more loudly; “summary justice, I say. Take a few of them who are known to be the richest and most avaricious, and hang them.”
“Yes, hang them! hang them! and there will be grain scattered in abundance.”

This was the second year of the scarcity; in the preceding one, the provisions, remaining from past years, had supplied in some measure the deficiency, and we find the population neither altogether satisfied, nor yet starved; but certainly unprovided for in the year 1628, the period of our story. Now this harvest, so anxiously desired, was still more deficient than that of the past year, partly from the character of the season itself (and that not only in the Milanese but also in the surrounding country), and partly from the instrumentality of men. The havoc of the war, of which we have before made mention, had so devastated the state, that a greater number of farms than ordinary remained uncultivated and deserted by the peasants, who, instead of providing, by their labour, bread for their families, were obliged to beg it from door to door. We say a greater number of farms than ordinary, because the insupportable taxes, levied with a cupidity and folly unequalled; the habitual conduct, even in time of peace, of the standing troops (conduct which the mournful documents of the age compare to that of an invading army), and other causes which we cannot enumerate, had for some time slowly operated to produce these sad effects in all the Milanese,—the particular circumstances of which we now speak were, therefore, like the unexpected exasperation of a chronic disease. Hardly had this harvest been gathered, when the supplies for the army, and the waste which always accompanies them, caused an excessive scarcity, and with it its painful but profitable concomitant, a high price upon provisions; but this, attaining a certain point, always creates in the mind of the multitude a suspicion that scarcity is not in reality the cause of it. They forget that they had both feared and predicted it: they imagine all at once that there must be grain sufficient, and that the evil lies in an unwillingness to sell it for consumption. Preposterous as these suppositions were, they were governed by them, so that the speculators in grain, real or imaginary, the farmers, the bakers, became the object of their universal dislike. They could tell certainly where there were magazines overflowing with grain, and could even enumerate the number of sacks: they spoke with assurance of the immense quantity of corn which had been despatched to other places, where probably the people were deluded with a similar story, and made to believe that the grain raised among them had been sent to Milan! They implored from the magistrate those precautions, which always appear equitable and simple to the populace. The magistrates complied, and fixed the price on each commodity, threatening punishment to such as should refuse to sell; notwithstanding this, the evil continued to increase. This the people attributed to the feebleness of the remedies, and loudly called for some of a more decided character; unhappily they found a man that was willing to grant them all they should ask.
In the absence of the Governor Don Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordova, who was encamped beyond Casale, in Montferrat, the High Chancellor Antonio Ferrer, also a Spaniard, supplied his place in Milan. He considered the low price of bread to be in itself desirable, and vainly imagined that an order from him would be sufficient to accomplish it. He fixed the limit, therefore, at the price the bread would have had when corn was thirty-three livres the bushel; whereas it was now as high as eighty.
Over the execution of these laws the people themselves watched, and were determined to receive the benefit of them quickly. They assembled in crowds before the bakers’ houses to demand bread at the price fixed; there was no remedy; the bakers were employed night and day in supplying their wants, inasmuch as the people, having a confused idea that the privilege would be transient, ceased not to besiege their houses, in order to enjoy to the utmost their temporary good fortune. The magistrates threatened punishment—the multitude murmured at every delay of the bakers in furnishing them. These remonstrated incessantly against the iniquitous and insupportable weight of the burden imposed on them; but Antonio Ferrer replied, that they had possessed great advantages in times past, and now owed the public some reparation. Finally, the council of ten (a municipal magistracy composed of nobles, which lasted until the ninety-seventh year of the century just elapsed,) informed the governor of the state in which things were, hoping that he would find some remedy. Don Gonzalo, immersed in the business of war, named a council, upon whom he conferred authority to fix a reasonable price upon bread, so that both parties should be satisfied. The deputies assembled, and after much deliberation felt themselves compelled to augment the price of it: the bakers breathed, but the people became furious.
Chapter XII, The Betrothed, by Alessandro ManzoniThe Betrothed,

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


  • The Common Room on Facebook

  • Amazon: Buy our Kindle Books

  • Search Amazon

    Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

  • Brainy Fridays Recommends: