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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Slow Food

The slow food movement,
Advances in technology have created ways for goods to be transported around the world quicker and cheaper than previously thought to be possible. As a result of fast/affordable transportation, our world has become a smaller place. Breakthroughs in transportation have allowed people to exchange goods over vast distances in a short amount of time. The modern day transportation networks have transformed domestic markets into global markets. Everything from fruits and vegetables to steel can be traded from anywhere in the world. The result has been more affordable goods for everybody due to individual countries comparative advantages.
Now the world has entered a new phase, a phase of sustainability. The earth is getting greener which means some things are changing. One thing changing in particular is food. It started with the demand for organics and now is shifting into what is being called the slow food movement.
“Slow Food aims to be everything fast food is not. It's slow — in the making and the eating. It's fresh — not processed. It's from neighborhood farms and stores — not from industrial growers such as Tyson Foods (TSN) or retail goliaths such as Wal-Mart (WMT).”– (Slow Food' movement gathers momentum
By Jim Hopkins, USA TODAY)

The idea of slow food is to eat locally. The goal is to have independent communities that are self sufficient. Advocates of slow food suggest this would lead to healthier communities by supplying them with fresh food as opposed to processed foods. Shipping foods around the world also requires preservatives to extend their shelf life.
Thinking like an Economist, I view the slow food movement as a step backwards. Communities striving to be self sufficient are losing out on the competitive advantages of others. The communities may have fresher tomatoes but they will come at a much higher cost. In addition, most foods grow in specific climates that support a given food. It would be really hard for people in Colorado Springs to locally produce their own pineapples, sugar cane, or citrus fruits. If every community joined the slow food movement we would all be worse off in another way, our exports. If we (Americans) are no longer consuming coffee beans from Colombia, we not only hurt ourselves, but the bean farmers of Colombia who now can only supply their domestic markets. Likewise, Colombians will no longer be importing America’s wheat, and the wheat farmer of America would be worse off.
The slow food movement would not only increase the cost of the food we consume, but would greatly diminish the variety we can consume. In other words, by striving to be self sufficient, we are lowering our own standard of living.

Hmm interesting. I agree with you. This could potentially equal a de-globalization, which would be a step backwards for us.
Well, I certainly wouldn't want government to use force to get us all to do "slow food." Using force to get this outcome, unless you think there is a market failure, could easily be expected to be a step backward and lead to less prosperity.

But, what if the slow food movement emerges from completely voluntary actions? If there are not subsidies, if there are not regulations, that attempt to achieve slow food, then would it be clearly a step backward?
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