"Food is an important part of a balanced diet." Fran Lebowitz
There was an interesting article
in yesterday's New York Times discussing the developing spat/misunderstanding between the U.S. and India about responsibility for the rise in food prices. The whole to-do started a couple of weeks ago with some comments by Condoleezza Rice and was exacerbated by President Bush a couple of days later (shocking).
I've looked over a number of articles discussing this issue and, as usual, most of them just pick and choose which quotes to offer or simply paraphrase what Rice and Bush (hereafter referred to as Brice) said. To paraphrase the paraphrasing, a good portion of the commentary has gone something like, "Brice blames rising food prices exclusively on the irresponsible growth in India and China and their lack of willingness to continue starving for the benefit of the West. To address this travesty, the U.S. is now developing a secret program to sterilize all of the women in both countries to ensure a continued orgy of steak, ale, Oreos, and Hummers for the best, brightest, sexiest, most shaved, and most smiled-upon people ever to grace the face of the planet – Americans."
Let's actually take a look at exactly what our beloved leaders said. First off, Rice was offered the following question at a recent Peace Corps Conference:
Many of us are in countries where the predominant source of food is grain, rice, et cetera. And I'm wondering about your thoughts about the US government's thoughts about the skyrocketing prices of grain worldwide?
We obviously have to look at places where production seems to be declining and declining to the point that people are actually putting export caps on the amount of food. Now, some of that is not so much declining production as apparently improvement in the diets of people, for instance, in China and India, and then pressures to keep food inside the country. So, that's another element that we have to look at.
Now let's look at exactly what Bush said a few days later.
Worldwide there is increasing demand. There turns out to be prosperity in developing world, which is good. It's going to be good for you because you'll be selling products in the countries, you know, big countries perhaps, and it's hard to sell products into countries that aren't prosperous. In other words, the more prosperous the world is, the more opportunity there is.
It also, however, increases demand. So, for example, just as an interesting thought for you, there are 350 million people in India who are classified as middle class. That's bigger than America. Their middle class is larger than our entire population.