Monday, May 19, 2008

World hunger--the public policy connection

We debate the role of public policy in the creation or elimination of human misery. Usually, on this page, the context is urban and domestic.

Recently, while making a presentation to a local church group on what ordinary people can do to "seek justice and do compassion," an audience member erupted with the one-word expletive, "Bull!" As a matter of fact, the gentleman shouted his disgust twice.

He had been offended by my example of how American farm policy contributes to the growth of poverty, hunger and pain among West African cotton farmers.

I was attempting to make a couple of points.

First, our world is more interconnected than ever before in its history.

Second, ordinary citizens can change and help shape public policy in ways that can make a real difference in the lives of other ordinary citizens of other nations half-way around the world.

Sunday morning, I read the front page article in The New York Times concerning the mounting world food shortage brought about in part by the abandonment of agricultural research and development assistance on the part of the world's developed nations, including the United States ("World’s Poor Pay Price as Crop Research Is Cut," KEITH BRADSHER and ANDREW MARTIN).

Read the article: (or simply click on my title line above).

Tell me what you think.

Applying moral principles to public policy formation is more important today than ever before, both here at home and around the planet.



Travis Stanley said...

It's not just American farm policy but our entire way of eating that is causing world poverty and our climate crisis. I just finished Bill McKibben's great book DEEP ECONOMY, in which he argues that our import/export, grow at any cost economy is not only destroying our world and causing global poverty, but it is actually making people ("the haves") less happy with life. He argues for smaller, city-based economies where citizens learn to live together, providing for one another's needs on a local level.

As I read it, I couldn't help but think about how such a re-working of our economic system would dramatically change global and domestic/urban poverty. Too much to get into in a blog comment, but I would suggest reading that book. The vision he paints for the world is an attractive one, and one that I think could begin taking place as places like CDM build community among the forgotten places in our cities.

Anonymous said...

Our Farm Bill is one of the biggest boondoggles and worst examples of public policy around, both for us and the rest of the world. We pay our rich farmers (making up to $1.25M!!!) not to grow, or exhorbitant premiums for what they do grow, and thereby strip poor farmers in Africa and elsewhere from being able to compete. It's a double whammy against American taxpayers and the world's poor, and a prime example of American politics at its absolute worst.