Noam Chomsky recently gave a lecture titled “Crisis and Hope: Theirs and Ours” at the Riverside Church in Harlem, NY. The financial crisis is “the” crisis, at least in the eyes of the mainstream media. Professor Chomsky argues that there is another crisis that is far worse in terms of scale; that being the food crisis.
Why does the food crisis not receive the same amount of attention as the financial crisis when there are more victims who are in worse condition? It’s quite simple according to Professor Chomsky. The financial crisis affects the rich countries so there is a lack of concern about the food crisis. Professor Chomsky also notes an observation Adam Smith made about policy formation in England.
He recognized that what he called the “principal architects” of policy—in his day, the merchants and manufacturers—make sure that their own interests are most peculiarly attended to, however grievous the impact on others, including the people of England, but far more so those who were subjected to what he called the “savage injustice of the Europeans,” and particularly in conquered India, his own prime concern.
In other words, policy makers at the time were far more concerned with their own interests and welfare, not the poor and less fortunate. And, not surprisingly, the tradition carries on to this day.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), before the current food crisis, about one billion people, or about one in every six people worldwide, were undernourished and about 3.5 million people die annually from malnutrition. Those numbers are expected to increase as food prices continue to rise. The WHO estimates that poor people spend over half their disposable income on food, so as food prices continue increasing, it’s likely that poor people’s disposable income will shrink as well if wages do not keep up with the price increases.