Rand Predicted 'Project Soybean,' Too.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Doomberg has put out an essay describing how a combination of Green anti-fossil fuel policies and protectionism are starting to cause some of the world's poorest to starve. The whole thing is worth a read, but readers of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged will feel like they've had a preview of sorts with all the talk about soybeans replacing our food crops.

Shortly after quoting an industry consultant on the huge increase in acreage soybeans will require to meet (artificial) demand for "renewable diesel," Doomberg continues in part:

Image by Meredith Petrick, via Unsplash, license.
With the force of the government's thumb on the scale of demand compounding pre-existing inflationary pressures hitting farmers, the price of soybeans has soared to fresh all-time highs. At the time of this writing, soybeans trade for $17 per bushel, more than double the price seen just two years ago. Unless these policies are unwound, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where positive price momentum abates.
The piece then describes how such policies in tandem with protectionism are now causing prices of palm oil to skyrocket -- exactly as they predicted it would.

The past reader of Atlas Shrugged might think, The only thing missing here is Cuffy Meigs, Eugene Lawson, or Kip's Ma.

Well, I can't give you any of them -- You'll have to make do with Vlad Putin, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Greta Thunberg -- but I can give you what Ayn Rand might have thought, from notes she took while writing Atlas Shrugged.

Here is a passage from the novel:
But thirty million dollars of subsidy money from Washington had been plowed into Project Soybean -- an enormous acreage in Louisiana, where a harvest of soybeans was ripening, as advocated and organized by Emma Chalmers, for the purpose of reconditioning the dietary habits of the nation. Emma Chalmers, better known as Kip's Ma, was an old sociologist who had hung about Washington for years, as other women of her age and type hang about barrooms. For some reason which nobody could define, the death of her son in the tunnel catastrophe had given her in Washington an aura of martyrdom, heightened by her recent conversion to Buddhism. "The soy-bean is a much more sturdy, nutritious and economical plant than all the extravagant foods which our wasteful, self-indulgent diet has conditioned us to expect," Kip's Ma had said over the radio; her voice always sounded as if it were falling in drops, not of water, but of mayonnaise. "Soybeans make an excellent substitute for bread, meat, cereals and coffee -- and if all of us were compelled to adopt soybeans as our staple diet, it would solve the national food crisis and make it possible to feed more people. The greatest food for the greatest number -- that's my slogan. At a time of desperate public need, it's our duty to sacrifice our luxurious tastes and eat our way back to prosperity by adapting ourselves to the simple, wholesome foodstuff on which the peoples of the Orient have so nobly subsisted for centuries. There's a great deal that we could learn from the peoples of the Orient." (p. 862)
And here is one from Rand's notes:
The grotesque preposterousness of the "world planners" -- such as the "soybean project," the power-hungry incompetents, each with a plan of his own to rule the economy of the nation, each getting a little bit of his plan into action, at a devastating cost. Here we have soybeans, TV sets, etc. manufactured for the pleasure of the masters and the planners -- while the country is starving. Here material goods follow the pattern of the men who are still left -- the senseless and non-essential goods are manufactured, the essential ones vanish. The motives here are an almost inextricable mixture of corruption and humanitarianism -- some projects are undertaken for pure Cuffy Meigs-like looting, others for a Eugene Lawson-like vicious hysteria of giving away and saving the needy of the immediate split-second. (Show that the motive makes no difference.) (Journals of Ayn Rand, Ch. 13, pp. 643-644) [bold added]
When Rand says, the motive makes no difference, she is speaking about "humanitarianism" vs. looting as the motive for central planning.

Current events call for me to add, just to insure clarity, that our insane fetish for planting soybeans may be motivated by using them to feed our machines rather than ourselves, but that doesn't make a difference, either. Not for the folks who have to decide whether they can afford to keep using palm oil now -- or to God only knows who else later.

-- CAV

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