Thursday, November 20, 2008

Barack Obama, Anti-Corporate Nutter

The remarks below are from an interview then-Senator, now President-elect Obama gave to Joe Klein of Time Magazine. (Hat tip: Soren Dayton at Red State.)

As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it's creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they're contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs. That's just one sector of the economy.

He never uses the adjective "corporate" here, and indeed uses it only once in the entire interview, but this is hard-core anti-corporate stuff. In my research (go here and search in the book for the word "monoculture") I discovered this illucid idea that large agribusiness puts the world food supply in danger through the creation of monocultures - the destruction of local food systems and their replacement by giant banana plantations, corn farms and cattle pens. This makes global food more vulnerable to destruction by pests, raising the possibility of famine. As best I can tell it is traceable to an anti-globalization activist named Helena Norberg-Hodge, who wrote an article in 1996 laying out this argument in The Nation.

Sen. Obama cleverly phrases this as a national-security issue, but it is still just as loopy. The average global consumer has more food choices than ever (my mother certainly couldn't get organic tofu and fresh flour tortillas when she went to the store), global malnutrition is probably at an all-time low, we have the scientists at places like USDA and Texas A&M on call precisely for problems like this, and this kind of techno-pessimism has never been true, but never mind all that. Corporations, in their relentless pursuit of profit, are crafting some kind of science-fiction disaster whose results would make Thomas Malthus blush.

I am disappointed and worried to hear this. "Monoculture" is a signaling word, like "transnational corporation," that marks the speaker as an anti-corporate extremist, who has bought into the full anti-corporate madness. During the campaign I thought John Edwards had the fever the worst, but my inability to see it in Sen. Obama is a testament to his slickness as a campaigner and the quality of his campaign advice. An anti-corporate extremist at a time of profound global economic uncertainty is not exactly what the doctor ordered.


Anonymous Rob said...

Great work.

I love reading your material.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

Thanks so much. I am not posting so much lately, but hope to be doing more after I get back to the U.S. in February.

9:20 PM  

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