Interesting Article …Starving for Freedom

WSJ.com : “Today is World Food Day and, once again, millions of people in East Africa are starving. Some have sought to turn this tragedy into opportunity. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi blames Western-induced climate change, and demands that rich countries cut greenhouse gas emissions and provide more aid. These views are echoed by the World Bank, Oxfam, Christian Aid and that bellwether of bad ideas, Gordon Brown. But such top-down solutions are doomed to failure. If Africans are to to weather their existing and future climates, the solutions must come from the bottom up. ”

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“Before about 1800, famine was a common cause of death everywhere. The majority of the world’s population were subsistence farmers. When conditions were good, they produced enough to eat and a little more. When conditions were bad, they consumed their savings. If the bad conditions persisted, they died.

Then, first in England and soon in many other parts of the world, people began to rise above subsistence. They specialized more narrowly than before in the production of certain goods and they traded with others who also specialized. This led to increased output, as specialists were able to produce more than generalists. Competition in the supply of goods drove innovation, which led to further increases in output. Agricultural production rose dramatically and famine declined.

Two European famines of the nineteenth century stand out as exceptions: Ireland from 1845 to 1852, and Finland from 1866 to 1868. Both were the result of oppressive governments restricting the rights of individuals to own land and trade. In both countries, subsistence farming, combined with disease and bad weather, resulted in the death of many.

Since the 1920s, global deaths from drought-related famines have fallen by 99.9%. The reason? Continued specialization and trade, which has skyrocketed the amount of food produced per capita, and has enabled people in drought-prone regions to diversify and become less vulnerable.”

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