Notes from The Omnivore’s Dilemma

The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Young Readers Edition) (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

Pollan points out that the governtment subsidies on crops artifically skew our our food supply, as it depresses prices of corn and soy products (and also, I think sugar) artificially.  Essentially, this is a problem in my view because it’s not a free market (and note well, I don’t know when we last had a free market economy- it’s certainly not been for at least a dozen decades).

This is why when you go to the store, junk like chips, packaged bakery products, and crackers seem like a better buy per ounce than good stuff like apples, berries, peppers, carrots, and eggplant.  Those foods do not get government subsidies to offset their prices to the consumer (or to the grower).  Pollan says that before the 1970s government policy was designed to support small farmers, not agribusiness, but I think that’s wishful thinking.  Any government regulation automatically plays into the hands of larger businesses, not small cottage industries, whether that cottage industry is making baby booties or growing broccoli or pears.

He claims that in the 1930s the government’s involvement ‘protected consumers from having to pay too much for food’ and it protected farmers.  But I disagree.  I think it led directly to the problems we have now.  Pollan’s concerns are with which people the government subsidizes, that’s all. My issues are with government subsidies, period.

In the 1930s the government’s involvement skewed the market and influenced farmers as the government paid farmers NOT to grow foods.

“Big agribusiness corporations… ” helped write laws “that set farm policy ….” complains Pollan,  and this is a problem, we both agree.  But unlike Michael, I do not think politicians are any purer than the businessmen who work for big agribusiness corporations.  This isn’t an evil inherent in agribusiness or the corporate world. This is the nature of bureaucracy and government intrusion.

If the government stayed out in the first place, permitting farmers and their own customers decide what to buy and sell, then there would no excuse for big agribusiness corporations to get involved.

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