Leftover turkey has probably dominated your recent menu as many of us have had to decide whether to turn the final Thanksgiving remains into pot pie, soup or tetrazzini. As many of us groan from the weight of heavy pots filled with food and sinks filled with dirty dishes, it’s easy to disregard our nagging suspicion that apparent prosperity may be more of an illusion-of-plenty than a genuine horn-of-plenty.
This uneasiness is one that is often fueled not so much by bad news as by mixed messages that leave us wondering if, or when, we will ever be told the truth about anything. Recent news reports have been filled with reports of food “insecurity,” the definitions of which are a far cry from famine.
The USDA definition of food security, as it appears in Wikipedia, doesn’t differ much from the one given by the UN FAO:
“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” (UN Food and Agriculture Organization)
There is something truly insidious about these sorts of “declarations” and “proclamations.” In what universe is going for a few days, or even months, without one’s “food preferences” a cause for serious alarm? It may very well coincide with a serious alarm when there is no preferred food, or any other nutritious food, available at all and the populations of the entire world are in jeopardy without adequate food reserves.
In times of relative economic prosperity worldwide, the just-in-time philosophy of inventory management that began to emerge in the late 1970s to early 1980s seemed like the ideal ticket to efficiency and cost-cutting measures which would permit consumers to buy even more goods, reducing the cost of necessities and increasing what they had available for discretionary spending, which also brought a host of desirable goods into affordable price ranges.
Particularly as soaring inflation and interest rates eased with the exit of former President Jimmy Carter, it no longer seemed necessary or even sensible to hoard goods fearing they would be unaffordable only a short time later. With affordable energy prices fueling the engines of global transportation, cheaper goods, including food products, began appearing in American markets from all over the world.
Many businesses began to view stocking inventory in warehouses as pass’e, often relying on inventory data that treated goods in transit differently than those on shelves as they calculated supply and demand needs. These same models became incorporated into agricultural practices and businesses as well, including strategic government planning for insuring adequate food supplies to guard against disasters such as droughts, famines and disruptions to the transportation pipelines.
While the myth of man-made global warming continues to prod farms and agri-businesses into replacing valuable food crops with food for fuel, such as corn for ethanol production, creeping fuel prices and energy dependence caused by fears of climate change mean that the relatively cheap fuel and labor which permitted the transportation of plentiful, reasonably priced food around the globe is coming to a grinding halt.
Worldwide grain reserves are woefully inadequate to feed the world’s hungry in the event of even minor disruptions to food supplies. China is right to be fearful not only of our debt to them, but also the fact that America may be unable or unwilling to keep buying their cheap goods as the prices go up.
Should the devaluation of the US dollar continue and inflation rear its ugly head, we have little to fall back on in terms of just-in-case inventories. Our markets are predicated on models which assure continuous deliveries of products with genuine market supply and demand forces keeping inflation at steady, modest rates which we can easily adjust for in terms of long range planning.
When consumers and producers are manipulated by hoaxes and absurd government regulations, coupled with wild spending and massive debt, market forces are subjected to the constant necessity of reacting to the next manufactured crisis, rather than being allowed to be proactive about ensuring their future plans. People don’t know whether it is wiser to save and invest or spend now for anticipated needs while items are still affordable.
We can madly leaf through financial and economics magazines and books, hoping to find the next hot tip for investing or avoid the next impending disaster, or we can stop and remember why we say Grace before meals or give thanks for our other blessings. We acknowledge that sometimes we are blessed with abundance, but need to remember that we are also charged with providing for ourselves and our families in bad times as well as good times.
So, before we rail against the wastes and excesses of our government, it is wise to first look around our own homes and lives to be sure that we have used our own gifts and talents to prepare for the future and any of the impending hardships that will inevitably occur at some point or another. It’s also a good idea to have plans for those turkey leftovers.