Re: Hollywood Economics

James Rogers (
Fri, 28 Aug 1998 23:37:59 -0700

At 02:40 PM 8/29/98 +1100, Avatar Polymorph wrote:
>Doubtless the 50 million Americans living in poverty appreciate having
>some power, food and answering machines, while 80% of the wealth lies
>with the top 10%. Ever do a graph of what that looks like? Perhaps you
>could debate it with the starving millions across the world. Doesn't
>America store enough grain to feed the world for a decade in the event
>of a nuclear war? Now it's asking other countries to do that for it.

The United States is responsible for roughly 1/3 of the world's food production and virtually every country in the world relies on US agriculture for part of their food supply. The US stores very little for emergency purposes (and for most scenarios, doesn't need to). Your "50 million Americans living in poverty" is a highly suspect figure. I grew up among the lowest strata of the "poverty" segment in the US population (i.e. I lived in a shack on an Indian reservation with marginal utilities access and none of the luxuries that most "poor" people have, such as TV), but nonetheless we never starved. Food is abundant in this country, even for the poorest of the "poor". The truly starving in this country are starving because of reasons completely outside the socio-economic realm.

>To think, how little it would take for the elite of the superwealthy to
>provide food and power for the bottom third. How very little. How very
>very little.

You obviously do not understand the economics of the food industry. The cost for the production of raw food product is negligible in compared to the cost of transporting and processing agricultural products (hence the reason vast piles of grain rot in US farm country every year). Lets assume for the moment that you are speaking strictly of the "poor" in the United States (rather than the bottom third, which would be significantly more): your "50 million". We will utilize the minimum possible expense for this example by assuming that you only give these poor people rice and beans, purchased and packaged in large bulk quantities. At today's US bulk grain prices (not including local distribution costs), this would come to about $100 per person annually for a total cost of US$5 billion annually in the cheapest case scenario that in no way takes into account the total costs. Not a small piece of change, but manageable by a government (the real number would likely be larger by *at least* a factor of 10). And in any case it is irrelevant; hunger in this country is caused by factors completely unrelated to food availability.

However, if you try and apply this to the world population, your position is entirely untenable. Because most of the world's excess food supply is at least one ocean away from the starving masses, logistics becomes a severe economic and technical problem. The biggest problem is that the logistical resources simply do not exist to distribute the excess food. The transport resources do not exist to perform wholesale distribution of free food around the world even if we wanted to. Not only that, but the annual cost of trans-oceanic transport of billions of tons of food is extremely prohibitive, even for the "superwealthy", nevermind the cost of local distribution.

The *real* solution is to advocate the local production and distribution of food rather than having it shipped around the world from the US. This has neither the logistical nor economic limitations of distributing food from US production centers. In fact, the distribution of cheap US food around the world is largely responsible for the disappearance of local agriculture in many regions of the world.

>The Australian Government gives one third of one percent of GDP to
>foreign aid. America is equally generous. Private citizens who are
>wealthy give a pittance.

You are mistaken. The wealthy private citizens give the poor far, far more of their resources than you realize. When I lived in extreme (relative to the US) poverty, I never had to pay any taxes of significance, yet there where a vast number of free programs available from the government that I could take advantage of to my hearts content (actually, being a single white male effectively excluded me from receiving any benefits, but that is another story). I think people who have never been poor would be truly surprised at the number of free stuff, advantages, and benefits that are available to the poor in the US. Nonetheless, now that I have migrated to the upper-most tax brackets through years of hard work, the government gets between 1/2 and 2/3 of my money, which it promptly redistributes to "those that need it most". Nevermind that I still cannot afford to purchase a house where I live.

Have you ever considered that maybe the wealthy feel they have already given enough? Is 1/2 to 2/3 of your income "a pittance"?

>If I ever become wealthy, I intend to put half my wealth into a fund
>were the interests goes to the third world and the promotion of

In the US, you don't have a choice. Typically, at least half your wealth *will* be put into a fund to advance the interests of your poorer brethren. Whether the poor actually benefit is another matter.

-James Rogers