Monday, December 10, 2007

Smiley is hilarious

I have blogged earlier about the article in the NYT about agriculture in Malawi. I wrote a long serious post, which a couple of people thought to be interesting. But nothing I wrote or have read about this issue comes near to Jane Smiley's article in the Huffington Post. It is a classic, an absolute gem, a gut response: i love it. Here's an extract, but read the whole thing, well worth it.


"According to the article, part of the hunger problem in Africa is a lack of fertilizer (something they have plenty of in Washington, D.C.). The World Bank opposes fertilizer subsidies in order to -- well, it boggles the mind. In order to what? Get rid of the population? Degrade the soil beyond repair? I cannot think of any other reasons.

What is the goal here? Regularized financial markets? More billionaires? Really, it makes you almost vomit to imagine how the minds of these people work. Don't they understand free market capitalism? Free market capitalism operates by lurching here and there and then correcting itself. Every correction is a correction for a reason -- people made bad choices and then had to pay for them, often with their houses, sometimes with their lives or those of their relatives.

In the US, the agricultural free market has brought us lots of booms and busts, depleted soil, contaminated groundwater, superbugs, obesity, the end of the family farm, and numerous other
disasters. But the World Bank says "More of the same". Free marketers never seem to understand what an investment is -- it is something that cannot actually be "corrected" at all easily, and so people who make them (as in ethanol factories for processing corn kernels into fuel) want to protect them. In order to protect them, they fight tooth and nail against innovation and "correction". You and I might call this stupidity. The free marketers call it "creative destruction". During "creative destruction", lives and livelihoods are lost."

1 comment:

Leila said...

Jane Smiley, with a Ph.D. in English and a working knowledge of Icelandic and Old English, plus many bestselling novels under her belt, is also deeply concerned with farming and the destruction of the family farm in America's middle west. I have not read her novels on these topics, only her discussion of same, but it seems that several of her early books deal with the corruption and the corporate skulduggery that have turned Iowa into what she calls a wasteland in my lifetime.

She's furthermore a real leftist firebrand critic of the Republicans. You ought to read her regularly.

Last spring she appeared at a local bookstore to promote her latest novel (a boccaccio-like romance about Hollywood); at the beginning of her talk she opened her prim overblouse to show a tee-shirt that said F*** Cheney (no asterisks). It was the day they convicted Scooter LIbby, I think. I was so delighted with this display that I shouted from the back of the room "Next year in the Hague!" Dr. Smiley liked that so much, she led the whole audience in a cheer - three times: Next year in the Hague! etc. etc.

I think she does see herself as a Charles Dickens (female natch) of our time. I am determined to read Thousand Acres and the other book she mentioned that deals wiht this farming issue.