Quote of the Day: Nine Meals

 

“There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy.” – Alfred Henry Lewis 

We have never had food riots in the United States or Canada. There was no need. Both nations have produced surpluses of food throughout their history and have been net food exporters. Certainly in the last 120 years, no one had worried about starving.

Yet up until 1900, famine was a worry, even in the United States. Even those in food-rich America understood the danger posed by the lack of food. Many of those who came to this country in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most notably the Irish, fled famine. Lewis, a late nineteenth-century American man of letters, recognized it.

Someone who goes without food for three days – nine meals – will be driven to desperation. If enough people go without food for three days anarchy prevails as those without food fight those with food to survive. Those with families will become the most desperate. It is not their survival success in getting food grants. It is the survival of their families.

Many have forgotten that in this country, especially urban Americans. Food is something that comes from the grocery store. Goods are something you order from Amazon. Both just appear. Until they don’t.

We may soon get a lesson in Lewis’s aphorism this year. Or possibly next. Food, clean water, electrical power, gasoline for our vehicles are not God-given rights, however much we proclaim them to be. All have to be produced and all have to be shipped to the people who need them. It does not happen by magic. It happens because people are motivated to make and move those goods.

Over the last two years, thanks to the hysteria produced by fear of Covid, our transportation system and our manufacturing base has been under stress. Recently cracks have begun appearing in both. Goods we want are unavailable. Either a necessary part for manufacture or processing has failed to reach the factory or, insufficient transportation exists to move finished goods to the consumer.

None of the reasons for these failures have necessarily been malicious. People may have abandoned jobs because the jobs became too stressful. Or unremunerative. Or because they have been blocked from doing their job due to regulation. (It turns out you can be too careful. Imaginary or overwrought fears can prevent truly necessary tasks from being completed.)

Now, due to government overcaution, the transportation network is primed for collapse. A shortage of truckers already exists, but due to vaccine mandates, it is being exacerbated.  We will be going from too few truckers to far too few truckers.  Fewer goods will be moved, and perishable goods, especially food will feel the shortage most. Perishables have to be moved and consumed promptly.

Is there a solution?

Solutions exist, but they require feckless people, those constricting the transportation corridors through overregulation and safetyism to reverse their behavior. That is unlikely. Those making the decisions are largely isolated from their consequences. Until, of course, we cease to be nine meals away from anarchy. By then it will be too late.

How stocked is your larder? You might want to check. And ensure you can protect it when anarchy erupts.

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There are 7 comments.

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  1. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Yes, for those following me, I posted this last week. It never appeared on the Member Feed and was only seen by the few people who follow me.  I decided it was important enough to put it up again and hope it appears this time.

    I will do a new one this evening.

    • #1
  2. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Yes, for those following me, I posted this last week. It never appeared on the Member Feed and was only seen by the few people who follow me. I decided it was important enough to put it up again and hope it appears this time.

    I will do a new one this evening.

    thank you for reposting, I had not previously seen it. 

    • #2
  3. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Hmmmm.  Our larder is overflowing, like always.  Perhaps I won’t think of that as a bad thing anymore.

    Washington State orchardists and vineyards have suffered from a lack of labor to harvest their crops in the past few years.  I wonder if the flood of illegal aliens on the southern border might help that situation.

    And one of the first countries to suffer if the US stops exporting food will be Communist China.  They have never had enough arable land to feed their huge population, and must import everything they need to survive.  Their ruination by pollution of their own land makes them additionally fragile.  I wonder how the Communists would suppress their own population if their inability to import food caused food riots there.  A communist’s worst nightmare is social unrest, and the Chinese have been especially active in their attempts to cut off any kind of agitation.  But there are some things that they simply cannot control.

    • #3
  4. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Seawriter:

    None of the reasons … have necessarily been malicious. People may have abandoned jobs because the jobs became too stressful. Or unremunerative. Or because they have been blocked from doing their job due to regulation. (It turns out you can be too careful. Imaginary or overwrought fears can prevent truly necessary tasks from being completed.)

    Now, due to government overcaution, the transportation network is primed for collapse.

    You are quite generous on your reasoning.

    • #4
  5. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Seawriter:

    Now, due to government overcaution, the transportation network is primed for collapse.

    You are quite generous on your reasoning.

    I have worked with civil servants for over 40 years. Very few of them are malicious. The vast, vast, majority of them are terrified of making a mistake or drawing attention to themselves due to errors. They are very, very, risk averse. This leads to them taking shelter in “the book,” blindly following the rules therein, regardless of how silly they seem. That way, when compost happens, they can point to the rules and smugly point out they followed them. And if changes are made to the rules they will modify their behavior. That is overcaution.

    As to how those silly rules get into “the book”? You have a bunch of bureaucrats terrified  of making a mistake or drawing attention to themselves due to errors. So they take as cautious an approach as they can in drafting the rules, often going beyond their expertise and choosing safe-sounding standards and procedures, even if they are ineffective. In other words, overcaution.

    Yes, it is a self-licking ice cream cone.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Seawriter:

    Now, due to government overcaution, the transportation network is primed for collapse.

    You are quite generous on your reasoning.

    I have worked with civil servants for over 40 years. Very few of them are malicious. The vast, vast, majority of them are terrified of making a mistake or drawing attention to themselves due to errors. They are very, very, risk averse. This leads to them taking shelter in “the book,” blindly following the rules therein, regardless of how silly they seem. That way, when compost happens, they can point to the rules and smugly point out they followed them. And if changes are made to the rules they will modify their behavior. That is overcaution.

    As to how those silly rules get into “the book”? You have a bunch of bureaucrats terrified of making a mistake or drawing attention to themselves due to errors. So they take as cautious an approach as they can in drafting the rules, often going beyond their expertise and choosing safe-sounding standards and procedures, even if they are ineffective. In other words, overcaution.

    Yes, it is a self-licking ice cream cone.

    You are absolutely right, Seawriter. It sounds crazy, but all the symptoms are there. I think I need to take a closer look at my pantry. Thank you.

    • #6
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    I have long saved large metal coffee cans (bug resistant storage) and recently shifted to storing dry rice and beans in them, a solid base for survival food. Add canned tomatoes and some form of Vitamin C (e.g. frozen lemon/lime juice), and I think you can weather months of food shortages without serious malnutrition. Not really worried about significant electric power disruption here, with nuclear and hydro power and no blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, or significant earthquakes.

    • #7
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