Less edifying was a session titled ‘An Uncertain Harvest: Investigating Global Food Security’. Malthus seemed to have a couple of seats at the table in a round of agonizing about food security and whether the world can feed its population in the 21st century.
I made the point that food security is often the code word for agricultural protectionism. It has been the excuse for the common agricultural policy and protection of Japan’s rice farmers, for example. If markets are allowed to work, trading is free, and property rights and contracts are secure, it is hard to see why global supply and demand will not balance over the longer term. As one delegate said, there’s never been a famine in a democracy.
Consumers never win from protectionism and in the long-term producers don’t either. New Zealand is proof of that.
We might have been dragged kicking and screaming into the real susbisdy-free world in the 1980s but New Zealand farmers are much the stronger for it now.
Protectionism increases the power of politicians and bureaucrats which adds costs and uncertainties.
It also upsets the law of supply and demand, creating unwanted surpluses or unnecessary shortages.
Aid might be needed in the short-term but the best way to tackle famine is to open borders and ditch subsidies.
Fair Trade is a compelling slogan but the only really fair trade is free trade.