Robert Samuelson takes on this topic this morning, noting that food prices have climbed around the world, with particularly grave impacts on those in developing countries. And when people can’t feed their children, they have less to lose and are more likely to riot. In some cases, when the governments are particularly evil, those protests and that unrest may lead to positive change. However, obviously, in the long-term, the world needs a food supply that’s sufficient for the population to prevent starvation as well as encourage stability.
There are many reasons why food prices have been on the rise, but as Samuelson notes, policies (like that in the US) that encourage the use of ethanol are among them. I wrote a piece on how ethanol was driving food prices higher a couple of years ago. It’s grown increasingly clear in the last few years that ethanol subsidies fail just about every test: they don’t make economic or environmental sense and are helping cause worldwide starvation. How bad does it have to get before we end this completely counterproductive policy?