Food, income, and hunger

The world is now producing more than enough food. Hunger results from poverty, not from food shortage.

Roger Thurow and Jay Solomon report on the front page of today’s WSJ that people worried about hunger have finally noticed that contemporary hunger is much more tied to a lack of income among the hungry than it is to inadequate food to nourish the population. (What’ll they discover next? That the Earth isn’t flat after all?)

In some places, governments and NGOs have even taken the next logical step: instead of trying to improve the lot of landless rural laborers by improving crop yields, they’re trying to figure out ways for those landless laborers to earn enough money to buy a decent diet for themselves and their families.

The article contains a statistic I hadn’t seen before: total world food production per capita is now at the 2800-Calorie-per-day level. (That’s what a teenaged boy or a man doing physical labor needs; the rest of us need less.)

Like everyone else my age, I grew up believing that the 1950s and 1960s were just the calm before the Malthusian storm. The WorldWatch Institute would like us to keep believing that, but it’s pretty obviously not true.

Now we can worry about something else instead.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: