Friday, August 29, 2008

Eating Local

There is nothing wrong with wanting to grow or eat your own food, or get it from your neighbor, if that's your choice. We all should have to power to decide how we spend our money. More and more schools and government organizations are promoting and purchasing local food under the assumption that it is better for the environment and taking your taxpayer money to do it.

By doing this, policy makers can feel good about themselves at our expense.

The following post from the Marginal Revolution economics blog addresses eating local and the relationship between food miles and your ‘carbon footprint.’
Is there a tradeoff between how ‘local’ your food is and your impact on the environment?

Some say yes , but there is much debate about that issue, as you may find in the blog link or here in National Geographic.

Actual research related to this issue can be found here

Of course some of these take a shot at beef. They forget that cars are very necessary for transportation, and we know that they produce greenhouse gases, but we don’t stop driving altogether. We continue to produce more and more fuel efficient cars instead. The same can be said for beef production. Considering beef is a healthy and nutritious food source, we should not stop eating it altogether. Instead we should continue to produce more and more efficient cattle.

Today we get 185lbs more beef per head than we did just 40 years ago, and today's beef is a lot leaner and healther.


One of the policy recommendations for the policy guide for the documentary ‘Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?’, is to support guaranteed and culturally competent quality healthcare, access, and treatment for all.

Of all of the inconsistent policy proposals included in the policy guide, this one is probably the most egregious. National healthcare is incompatible with quality, access, and treatment for all but a few people.

Perhaps we could get advice from our neighbors to the north. Transforming broom closets into hospital rooms seems to be their specialty. Even with nationalization, they still seem to be having trouble with people not getting treatment due to cost issues. I thought national health care was supposed to make 'cost' a non issue? I though 'cost' was only an issue with private health care?

The truth is, medical care requires scarce resources, specific information about the circumstances of time and place, and incentives for people to act on that information to produce results. National health care just takes this 'information and coordination' problem out of the hands of markets and individuals and dumps it in the laps of politicians and administrators. Instead of allocating resources by recognizing trade offs based on the knowledge and preferences of millions ( via prices), resources are allocated utilizing the limited knowledge and preferences of a few administrators.

The following headlines are descriptive of how this information and coordination problems is being handled by Canada’s national healthcare plan:

B.C. hospital's bed crunch getting worse
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 | 11:25 AM ET
CBC News
"There are patients that are literally in closets. They're in the nurses' lounge, where the nurses go to have coffee, there are patients in there," said Dr. Bertrand Perey, the hospital's deputy chief of surgery.

A Fraser Health Authority internal estimate predicts that about 200 acute care beds will be eliminated in the coming year because of rising costs.

Wait times for surgery in Canada at all-time high: study
Last Updated: Monday, October 15, 2007 | 10:33 AM ET
The Canadian Press

"It's becoming clearer that Canada's current health-care system cannot meet the needs of Canadians in a timely and efficient manner, unless you consider access to a waiting list timely and efficient," Esmail added.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


In a previous post I mentioned the inconsistency in policy recommendations with regard to food and agriculture as outlined in the policy guide for the documentary ‘Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?’

Next I will discuss problems with their policies regarding housing and wealth. They recommend policies that support zoning reform, affordable housing, green spaces, repealing recent tax cuts and loopholes for the rich ( which would actually target family farms and small businesses as well), and increasing minimum or living wages. They also have adopted the grand goal of reducing the influence of money and lobbyists over politics.

First of all, increasing taxes on income and profits will undermine the productive base of society and economic growth. The result will be increased inequality and the reduction of resources that could be used to promote public health.

Empirical evidence and economic science suggests that green spaces, zoning restrictions, and ‘smart growth’ type policies lead to increased housing costs ( a boon to wealthy property owners) and are inconsistent with affordable housing.

Minimum wage laws, especially living wages, discriminate against low productivity labor in favor of wealthier, higher skilled members of society. Most current minimum wage earners are already from families earning incomes greater than $60,000 per year, and less than 5% are ‘working poor.’ In addition, these laws further entrench large corporations like Wal-Mart at the expense of small businesses.

Finally, these sorts of government interventions only increase the stakes involved, and provide stronger incentives for big business to lobby congress and influence the political process.

Most of the proposals found in the Policy Guide turn out to be ineffective in accomplishing their goals, and will likely result in greater burdens for the poor.


David Neumark, Mark Schweitzer, and William Wascher, “Order from Chaos? The Effects of Early Labor Market Experiences on Adult Labor Market Outcomes,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 51, no. 2, January 1998, pp. 299-322.

David Neumark and William Wascher, “Do Minimum Wages Fight Poverty?,” Economic Inquiry, 2002,
v40(3,Jul), pp. 315-333.

Cox, James C., and Oaxaca, Ronald L. 1986. Minimum Wage Effects With Output Stabilization. Economic Inquiry, vol. 24 (July): 443-453.

Behrman, Jere R.; Sickles, Robin C.; and Taubman, Paul. 1983. The Impact of Minimum Wages on the Distributions of Earnings for Major Race-Sex Groups: A Dynamic Analysis. American Economic Review, vol. 73 (September): 766-778.

Neumark, David, and Wascher, William. 1992. Employment Effects of Minimum and Subminimum Wages: Panel Data on State Minimum Wage Laws. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, vol. 46 (October): 55-81.

Other : 50 years of research related to the minimum wage:

Harvard Institute of Economic Research
Discussion Paper Number 1948
The Impact of Zoning on
Housing Affordability
Edward L. Glaeser and Joseph Gyourko
March 2002
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Does Sprawl Reduce the Black/White Housing Consumption Gap?,

• The Dynamics of Metropolitan Housing Prices by University of North Carolina researchers Donald Jud and Daniel Winkler shows that housing prices grow faster in places "with restrictive growth management policies and limitations on land availability."

Robert Barrow. Macroeconomics- 5th Edition MIT Press 1997

Lindsey, Lawrence B. 1987. “Individual Taxpayer Response to Taxcuts, 1982-1984.” J. of Public Economics 33 (July) 173-206

Lucas (1988). ‘On the Mechanics of Economic Development.’ Journal of Monetary Economics 22 (July) 3-42.

Krueger (1993) ‘Virtuous and Vicious Circles in Economic Development.’ American Economic Review 83 (May) 351-355.