Independent scared of development

In: Uncategorized

24 Jun 2007

The Independent is scared of economic development.

Yesterday the newspaper ran a classic Malthusian scare story on its front cover about how food prices were rising while supplies were falling. It said one of the main factors behind this trend towards “agflation” (agricultural inflation) is the “growing affluence of millions of people in China and India is creating a surge in demand for food – the rising populations are not content with their parents’ diet and demand more meat.” The other factor it identified was the increasing use of agricultural crops as a source for biofuels rather than food.

The Independent did a poor job of putting recent food prices rises into context. Although food prices have risen recently the long-term trend is for them to fall. To be fair the article did conceded that: “Sixty years ago an average British family spent more than one-third of its income on food. Today, that figure has dropped to one-tenth.”

On Friday it ran an article on what it saw as the threat of relatively cheap cars becoming available in India. Apart from congestion the inevitable threat of climate change was raised.

It is a tiny step from expressing such fears about development to outright hostility. If the Independent’s perspective is accepted then it makes sense to try to limit development.

The alternative is to welcome economic development as it brings better lives to literally billions of people. It also brings with it a better chance of tackling such problems as insufficiently high agricultural productivity and climate change. After all, the experience of the two centuries since Malthus shows that his pessimistic outlook grossly underestimates human ingenuity.

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