Friday, May 16, 2008

Food: Shortages and rationing - Reality and fact

There has been a lot of talk about food prices and shortages in the media lately.

Wanting to throw some gas on the fire, Saturday's Bulls and Bears program on Fox was worth a viewing this past weekend. The subject of food prices, rice in particular came up. Prof. Marc Lamont Hill of Temple University suggested that rationing was the inevitable and best solution in the near future. His "rationale": Rationing would ensure that people of limited income would get "their fair share".

Let's go over a few terms here about supply, demand and the current situation:
- Shortage - nothing is available in the stores. There is rice available in every store I have been to, so no shortage. Yes, some of the size options are not always available in every store. However, I can get 1,2,5 and 10 lb. bags of rice at every grocery I have been to.

- Prices - Yes, rice has gone up in price as has other foods. The price has gone up because the cost of obtaining rice and other foods has gone up. And the price has gone up because there is a greater demand both real (Asian countries with larger appetites and worse harvests) and manufactured (media frenzy over food shortages).

- Rationing - taking any supply, large or small, and limiting the amount any one person can purchase based upon an allotment system. What always accompanies rationing? Black markets ("Psst! Need some rice? I got 100 lbs in the back of this truck. How you need, bub?"). Also, rationing only encourages store owners and producers to hold some of their supply back for their own backdoor sales. Why not?

(Which also brings up the inevitable idea of "price controls" whereby the government decides the "fair" price for goods and services. The government, which generally hates the idea of supply and demand because it makes their entitlement voting base unhappy, thinks that prices can be set and legally everyone will play nice. Reality has a different set of rules, as it often does when the government is involved. Ask Zimbabwe).

- "fair share" - There is no such thing as fair share. What is fair to you, may not be fair to me. What the good professor meant above was that people of alleged limited means would be allotted a portion of a product which is not in short supply and be able to obtain it without having to work or for a price determined by a bureaucrat trying to buy his vote.

So let's recap here:

- There are no shortages in the U.S. There may be some future date, but not today.

- Rationing sounds good on paper but never works in real life.

- Nobody gets a fair share.

Happy shopping.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Beef stew and Tang

TB2K had a great thread the other day about food. With the price of food rising daily, shortage of certain foods here and abroad and our obsession with the end of the world, naturally any thread about food, especially "shelf stable foods" found in our pantries and cupboards.

Someone brought up how they purchased a case of Vienna Sausages. I don't know what was more surprising. How many people had never had Vienna Sausages or how many people ate them regularly.

The problem with people into preparedness, in my opinion, is how many of them are into food which are not exactly the best for you. Yes, when the poop hits the fan, you had better believe I will be into my canned beef stew and Spam. Yes, I have multiple boxes of macaroni and cheese, corn bread mix and other cholesterol laden foods.

However, long term, I know I will also be eating far more healthy fare. Rice, beans, fresh produce from my garden. The junk is just to get me from point A to B.

Second is the fallacy, "Look. You will be stressed and your body needs more fats to survive". Says who? Or "Look. You will be doing more hard labor once the SHTF and your body will need more calories". I guess that depends.

Take this scenario. The end has finally come. You are in your suburban home waiting for things to settle down long enough to load up the truck and head to grandma's remote house in the country. You might be holed up for as long as a month. Are you really going to stuff your face with Little Debbies, Hormel canned tamales and Criso? You know that stuff is bad for you and putting more in your system just increases the risk of a massive heart attack later in life. I can see the health care available when that happens! ("We can get Doc Stone the 80 year old veternerian down the road or get Mama in here. She know all about folk medicine!").

My suggestion is the fatty, cholesterol-filled junk food be kept on hand for limited sustinance or for younger people. For the rest of us, prepare now for a diet of healthier fare. YOur body will thank you after the SHTF.

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