[Letters] The very literal “Conquest of Bread”The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, through its Food Price Index, tells us that “the wholesale price of basic foods” jumped “to a record high in January.” Observing the effects of “increasing demand in emerging economies,” BBC News reports that World Bank president Robert Zoellick entreats “world leaders” to confront the food quandary.
Since, as the BBC story points out, political turbulence in Northern Africa and in the Middle East has been imputed largely to “the high price of food,” it would seem that on some level governments have an interest in mitigating prices.
And while it’s certainly true that state pursuits are the predominant influence on and root of the prices we actually contend with today, it is not for a paucity of state interferences that consumers are suffering.
Though it conflicts sharply with what the modest citizen is indoctrinated to believe about the state’s correspondence with economic activity, government “leaders” aren’t scrupulously crunching the numbers to cushion the consumer from the harsh fickleness of the free market.
Contrary to the myth that bureaucrats and politicians must intervene constantly just to stave off all-out economic calamity, they are, in reality, entirely responsible for the high prices they are entrusted to “correct.”
The state, the institution that Gustave de Molinari called the “monopoly [that] has engendered all other monopolies,” is the nerve center for elite interests.
As such, its primary motivation, even without focused or streamlined premeditation, is to confine valuable resources like food commodities with the aim of creating occasions for completely unwarranted, extra profit. Quite the opposite of a glitch or complication that the supposedly commonsensical state is solicited to remedy, high prices are indeed the object of the game.
In explaining the monopolized economy, Murray Rothbard noted that cartels squander goods, engaging in economic “destruction” in order to manhandle price and stiff consumers.
“The waste,” instructed Rothbard, “lies in the excessive production of [some state-anointed goods] at the expense of other goods that could have been produced.”
He warned of the economic volatility inherent in supplanting the “evenly rotating economy” of free and nonviolent exchange with the cartel practice of “restricting production” to serve elite interests.
In his dystopian classic “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” George Orwell wrote that “the economic .?.?. basis for a hierarchical society [is] to waste the surplus labor of the world.”
And it’s that waste that the lucre of ruling class is built upon, that is reflected in, for instance, the U.S. government’s fortification of big agribusiness.
By forming an economy in which neither price nor levels of production are tied to real, market needs, the state has created a needless struggle just to subsist. The way out is repudiation of the state’s arbitrary power to allow monopolists to divvy up our sustenance.
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David D’Amato, a market lawyer