“When reading this book, I had two feelings that I often have when reading Desrochers and Shimizu’s work–’Why was I never taught this?’ and ‘Everybody need to know this!’ …. The Locavore’s Dilemma will give you an appreciation of the unappreciated glory that is capitalist agriculture, which is responsible for the fact that you are alive, will live a long time, and in greater health than nearly anyone in history.”
One reason why the modern Green movement has won Americans’ hearts and minds, even as it advocates anti-development, anti-capitalist policies, is that the advocates of capitalism have spent too little time explaining, in vivid detail, the staggering improvements to human life that capitalism, and only capitalism, brings.
Advocates of capitalism have too often played defense, allowing anti-capitalists to control the debate: the anti-capitalists blame every problem (or pseudo-problem) under the sun on capitalism, and the pro-capitalist painstakingly refutes the charges point-by-point.
This is a futile strategy, because its best-case scenario is that observers hold the absence of a negative view about capitalism.
But why not make the positive case? Why not showcase the amazingly positive nature of capitalism, both its ingenious inner-workings and its glorious results?
If we frame the debate on our terms, the anti-capitalist side clearly gets exposed for what it is–an anti-freedom movement that seeks to interfere with and expropriate individuals whose lives would be much better without the anti-capitalists’ coercion.
Taking a positive approach to defending capitalism is one of the chief virtues of Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu’s must-read The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000 Mile Diet.
Much of the book, as the first half of the title indicates, is polemic. It systematically eviscerates the claims of the so-called locavore movement, which, as Dr. Desrochers explained on my podcast, is just the latest incarnation of the anti-capitalist, anti-development movement in agriculture, this time with a superficial focus on the distance food travels between production and consumption.
Five of the chapters are devoted to the major myths: Locavorism Nurtures Social Capital, Lovacorism Delivers a Free Economic Lunch, Locavorism Heals the Earth, Locavorism Increases Food Security, Locavorism Offers Tastier, More Nutritious, and Safer Food.
But what makes The Locavore’s Dilemma stand out from other myth-busting books is that it busts the myth primarily by illustrating the positive nature of the system it is advocating: global, capitalist agriculture. For instance, in combating “locavore” accusations that large firms jeopardize food safety because of the alleged potential of mass contamination, the authors make the positive point that one of the very reasons large firms exist is because they can produce much safer food:
the threat of food contamination by natural pathogens is much more serious in small than massive food production and processing operations because smaller operations can never possibly assemble the same quality of equipment and food safety know-how as much larger firms.
This method of combating the negative with the positive is not occasional or accidental–it is pervasive, and a result of the central question the book asks of the locavore movement, which is “why the globalized food supply chain had developed the way it did in the first place” given that it is supposedly so irrational?
This seemingly simple question leads the authors to focus on the fact that the modern agricultural system is the result of the intelligent choices of free individuals–and that the essence of the “locavore” movement is to deny them those choices. The “locavore” criticisms are plausible only because they hold modern agriculture to the standard of infallibility, and then assume, bizarrely, that “locavorism” could solve all of the problems while retaining all the achievements. Desrochers and Shimizu accept neither of these fallacies, admitting frequently that there are problems in modern agriculture (not least due to government interference) but always comparing the full, positive reality of modern agriculture to the full, overwhelmingly negative reality of anti-industrial “locavorism”–which, in its embrace of universal organic, local, and anti-biotechnology farming, would sentence much of the world to death.
Beginning the book with a section entitled, “A Short History of the Global Food Supply Chain,” the authors explain step-by-step, from Ancient Greece to the present, why the food supply became more and more global, more and more technological, more and more corporate. The features of capitalist agriculture that are regarded as bad–its modification of foods, its size, its “impersonal” nature, and dozens of others, are revealed to be benefits.
Paragraphs like the following are worth the book’s price of admission:
Food manufacturers have long relied on distant suppliers for additives that affect not only color and flavor, but also extend shelf life while often reducing production costs. People afflicted by diabetes, obesity, and dental decay have benefited from non-nutritive sweeteners such as saccharin, aspartame, and acesulfame K, used in everything from soft drinks and chewing gum to mouthwash. The application of fumigants keeps worms away from grain products such as flour and spices, a problem that was once significant. The fortification of staples such as flour, milk, sugar, and salt with the likes of iron, vitamins, and iodine also had important benefits including eradicating blindness (vitamin A), beriberi (vitamin B1), ariboflavinosis (vitamin B2), pellagra (vitamin B3), anemia (vitamins B6 and B12, iron), scurvy (vitamin C), rickets or insufficiently calcified bones (vitamin D), birth defects (folic acids), and weak immune system and growth (zinc).
When reading this book, I had two feelings that I often have when reading Desrochers and Shimizu’s work–”Why was I never taught this?” and “Everybody needs to know this!”
Everybody needs to know the material in The Locavore’s Dilemma. It will give you an appreciation of the unappreciated glory that is capitalist agriculture, which is responsible for the fact that you are alive, will live a long time, and in greater health than nearly anyone in history. And with this appreciation will come the ability to both enjoy your world that much more, and effectively advocate for the agricultural freedom that will enable us to consume ever-cheaper, healthier, tastier food.