A right to food

I have no idea what you can do with a guy like Jean Ziegler, if his comments on food and biofuels are being translated and reported accurately. He doesn’t do the UN any credit as its “special rapporteur for the right to food,” at any rate.

“Producing biofuels today is a crime against humanity,” UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food Jean Ziegler told Bayerischer Runfunk radio.

Using arable land to produce crops for biofuels has reduced surfaces available to grow food, many observers warn.

Ziegler called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to change its policies on agricultural subsidies and to stop supporting only programmes aimed at debt reduction.

Agriculture should also be subsidised in regions where it ensured the survival of local populations, he said.

“In addition, international market speculation on food commodities must cease,” Ziegler said.

Command economies all ’round, then, to preserve whatever the world happens to have made possible right now in perpetuity, and also to improve whatever isn’t working very well.

Without dismissing the very great importance of getting food to people who don’t have any, or the very real problems created for people who can barely afford it now that rich societies are running our cars on it, where does Ziegler think the stuff comes from? Collective farms?

(It may be a significant data point that Ziegler apparently helped create a human-rights prize named after Muammar Gaddhafi and likes Che quite a bit.)

Ziegler himself might be a daffy old French Marxist, but this well-intended nonsense points out one of the very serious problems we run into when we start talking about rights as positive things — as rights to things (food, shelter, education, work) instead of rights against things (interference with your thoughts, religion, speech). Most of the time, it means ordering up, by legislative fiat, solutions to problems that have bedeviled humanity for as long as there have been humans. That, in turn, opens the door to wrong-headed idealism.

After all, I don’t know how to feed everybody. I think I know how we can do at least a bit better at it, but I’ll tell you right now I can’t solve the problem entirely. Jean Ziegler, meanwhile, insists he can. If it’s your legislated duty to get everybody fed, I have to admit I can’t deliver the answers you need — and that means I have to leave the field entirely to Ziegler’s dangerous foolishness.

It’s all be a bit of good fun, if people weren’t starving while this guy was supposed to be helping them.


One response to “A right to food

  1. Pingback: A right to food II « The EcoLibertarian

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