Feeding the poor

Ignoring the fact that no where in the U.S. Constitution does it allow for the Federal government to do this it’s just plain stupid even if it was allowed:

President Bush called on Congress Thursday to approve $770 million to help alleviate dramatically escalating food prices that threaten widespread hunger and increasing social unrest around the world.

In a surprise mid-afternoon appearance at the White House, Bush announced he is asking lawmakers to approve the additional funds for global food aid and development programs. The money is being included in a broader $70 billion Iraq war funding measure for 2009 that the White House sent to Capitol Hill on Thursday.

If it were the case that it was some sort of rare natural disaster at a personal or business, not governmental, level I could see accepting promissory notes in exchange for food or even making gifts of food. The goodwill generated might prove worthwhile. But to feed those that can no longer afford to feed themselves and have no realistic hope of improving their economic situation will only increase the suffering.

A short story will illustrate. The essence is true but I forget the details.

A few years ago a group (I think it was a state wildlife department) decided to feed a small herd of hungry deer searching for food in the snow. There were only a few of them–perhaps 20 or 30. Nearly all the deer made it through the winter when perhaps a five or ten of them would have died had they not been given assistance.

The next winter, at the same location they again fed the deer but this time there were 40 or 50. The wintering area could only support perhaps 15 or 20 deer. If they didn’t feed them again then perhaps 20 or 30 would die. If they could not allow for five or ten to die last year then certainly the could not allow 20 or 30 to die this year! A few years later the herd was in the hundreds and not only was it prohibitively expensive to feed them the deer were destroying the plant life of both their winter and summer feeding grounds. That many hooves and mouths became, in essence, a swarm of locusts that stripped the countryside clean.

What should be done now that they realized the folly they had engaged in that first winter? They had reached the point where they would have to feed them even in the summer to avoid the deaths of hundreds and still they would destroy the plant life and endanger other animal species wherever they went. I believe some were trapped and moved to other areas but increasing the bag limits on hunting season thinned the herd down to levels where the environment could support them. Most of those deer they feared would die were killed.

So what do we do about people in some distant land that cannot afford to feed themselves? I don’t know exactly but the free market, if it were allowed to work, will find solutions such that most of them will not starve. Someone who is hungry and whose family is hungry will work hard and for long hours. Cheap labor attracts the capitalists. The smart ones in those areas of food shortages, if allowed to do so, will find products and/or services they can export in exchange for food and/or money. And yes, some will die of starvation. The media will show us high resolution color pictures of dying children and say it is the fault of the greedy capitalists. But giving them food without anything in exchange will only mean death is delayed and the magnitude of the tragedy increased.

3 thoughts on “Feeding the poor

  1. About 10 years ago or so I posted a similar post on a chat forum when we were going to fund a temporary programme in Africa for feeding the poor and refered to the Biafrians or Ethiopians (I think) and compared with the Chinese (Who we refused because we didn’t like) and boy did I get a lot of hate mail.

    Still think it is right although it is cruel. We can only help them by giving them the infrastructure to help themselves.

  2. The “bag limits” are sufficiently high already. The can all be voted out of office but not enough people are willing to “pull the trigger”.

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