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Shadowed Force

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Current Rant


food is a right pt. 2: a socialized system

So if we accept that food is a right, how can we imagine a socialized system where food is treated as a right in people's everyday lives, both in the short and the long-term? How can we imagine a world in which food is, by increments, disentangled from the current cloak of money and capitalism and instead connected with both environmental welfare and societal need?

Step One: Ensuring Income for Food

The first step towards a more socialized, equal system that treats food as a basic right will have to, unfortunately, be intrinsically linked with capitalism. In my opinion, the quickest and most efficient way to quickly transition from food as commodity to food as a right is to, in essence, borrow the concept of UBI to hijack the current EBT system.

The amount given should not be based on income, but rather a combination of household size and COL (specifically, the COL as it relates to groceries). This should be seen not as an ultimate solution for food insecurity, but rather as a stopgap measure as other systems are put in place to further distance food as a necessity from the overall fabric of capitalism.

At the same time, efforts should be made to expand the idea of "essentials" as related to food. In most jurisdictions, vitamins/supplements and hot/prepared food (even that which can be easily eaten over multiple meals) are not covered under EBT. This INCLUDES items such as prenatal vitamins (even more essential for low-income mothers) and full cooked rotisserie chickens (simple to use in multiple ways over multiple meals when you don't have access to a full kitchen). Eliminating meaningless restrictions when it comes to food items will not only make life easier for new Universal Food Credit program users who may not be familiar with the more restrictive current EBT measures, it will also be essential for the next steps in a socialized food system.

Step Two: Government as Intermediary

Much hay has been made about how the U.S. government props up various farming industries through "handouts" or, in some cases, by buying excess product to prop up the industry and either artificially inflate or deflate prices. While under the current system this is blatant manipulation to keep a delicate balance where farmers don't lose profit or land and customers are able to buy food at a balanced price, the fact that government funds and farm production are already entangled may, in a system transferring over to socialism, be a blessing in disguise.

After all, what if the government wasn't so much a string-puller and benefactor but rather a majority or sole buyer? What if this system then allowed prices to be determined not by price gouging and capitalism, but rather by amount supplied, geographic proximity, seasonal availability? By using the government as an intermediary for first raw produce, then processed food, prices would be more easily stabilized on both a regional and national level - and shortfalls from one supplier due to disease or miscalculation would be able to be made up for by other suppliers in a more equitable way.

Step Three: Government Stores and the End of Money

This step would be gradual and gradually take place not over a period of years or decades but perhaps a century or more. It would require food to be seen as not a privatized industry for the benefit of capitalism but a right to be provided by the government. It would be done in conjunction with other rights being disentangled from capitalism - the right to water, sufficient shelter (including air conditioning/heating in necessary areas), healthcare, education (including trade schools and higher education), internet access, transportation, etc. - the complete disentanglement of needs from the concept of money, with money as we understand it being used only for non-necessities.

Of course, food is a finite resource, no matter how much more we produce than we necessarily need at the moment. Therefore, individuals can't be allowed to simply take, say, every jar of peanut butter from the shelf at a store. At the same time, the system should be flexible and abundant. The easiest way, as I see it, is a sort of reversal of a rationing system, one that puts more power in the hands of customers than any that so far exists.

With the government as a sole or majority intermediary, the establishment of government-owned (though employee-operated and democratically run day-to-day) would be a natural extension. These would first be established in food deserts, but as grocery stores naturally close or go under due to mismanagement the government could easily buy and take over closing stores. Though at first these stores would take the same money-based UFC, when government-run stores are the majority in a certain jurisdiction they would shift over to a point- or credit-based system - a system based not on money but on abundance, seasonality, transportation, and (perhaps slightly) on demand.

Items would be assigned a point value from 1 to 5 - these point values would be determined by both the amount available, the demand, and the amount of processing and transportation required to get the raw product onto the shelves. This would allow the point system to not only be more equitable but also more environmentally efficient - after all, people would be more inclined to buy raw produce that can be grown locally and with less water effort when those products take fewer points. In addition, if a household needs/wants to buy certain items using money rather than points - either because they are out of points/credits or because they deem those items not worth using the universal point system for due to being a luxury/rarely used ingredient - it would be a rather simple matter to show both a point value and a money value on the same price tag.

I won't pretend that this is a realistic possibility in our lifetime. I'm not saying that this vision of a socialized food system takes every broken aspect of our current capitalist system into account - after all, this system depends on every part of the system being under the same government, which does nothing to address parts of the world where the food simply isn't able to grow in sufficient locally because of climate change or other factors. But I am saying that this is one model that could be used to disentangle food from capitalism in certain areas, thereby freeing up resources and energy for solving problems in other parts of the world where the issues with food insecurity isn't solely due to corporate greed and price-gouging.

Current Review


daniel immerwahr: how to hide an empire (book, 2019)

How to Hide an Empire book cover

The birth control pill, chemotherapy, plastic, Godzilla, the Beatles, Little House on the Prairie, Iran-Contra, the transistor radio, the name "America" itself - you can't understand the histories of any of these without understanding territorial empire.

Incredibly informative and eminently readable, Daniel Immerwahr's history of the United States outside the states is a must-read for anyone who wants a quick-and-dirty overview of both U.S. colonialism/imperialism and the current state of foreign affairs. While the book's scope is wide-reaching, it grounds itself in the stories of individuals - both those who sought to expand and resist U.S. expansion and influence over the world.

While I wouldn't call this a comprehensive book by any means, it is probably the most accessible - and in terms of popular history, that counts for a lot. The abundant endnotes, which span over 80 small-print pages on their own, provide enough sources that anyone looking for a deeper look at various points won't have to struggle to find where Immerwahr got his sources.

The fact that the information provided on even the most familiar subjects, such as Pearl Harbor, was sometimes new even to me (someone who has read numerous seemingly more scholarly works about U.S. history) just proves the necessity of Immerwahr's work - to provide a broad history of the parts of the U.S. that are often ignored in our history classes and by our historians. With that in mind, I'd highly recommend this book even to people who think they know about the subject - even if some of the information is old news to you, there are sure to be some segments that are completely new.