After the succession of rather silly comments on my Monty Don post, your humble Devil is going to return to this idea of food imports, and clarify the situation a little. And expand on it.
The first question to address is that of history: the last time that we tried to be "food independent" was in World War II. Did we manage it? No. Despite vast swathes of land being given over to farming and despite the way in which every available garden was turned over to "allotments", people in this country still didn't have enough to eat.
This is a verifiable fact: why else would we need rationing? And why else would that rationing have carried on into the 50s, years after the end of the war. Indeed, meat rationing did not end until 1954, almost a decade after the war had ended.
And at that time, the population of Britain was probably half what it is now. To try to pretend that we could ever have food independence with a population of 60 million—even given the advances in growing technology—is delusional. To desire it is even stupider.
None of this is to say that if you wish to turn your garden over to growing vegetables, that you should not be allowed to do so: please, go ahead. Personally, I have better things to do with my time.
Which is why I, and everyone else, imports food.
Yes, we all import food and we do so because it makes us richer—both in terms of money and time (when what we rent in order to get money is, partially, our time, these things are, of course, pretty much the same thing).
Why? Let us look at it this way: to get a loaf of bread, the first (and generally accepted) option these days is to go down to the baker or the supermarket and to buy a loaf of bread for about £1.30. On my salary, this represents about 5 minutes of my time.
The second option is to buy a piece of land, and turn it over to growing wheat. You will need to be able to afford the land, buy the wheat seeds, buy the fertiliser, and learn the knowledge of how to grow wheat. You will then need to wait for the wheat to grow, and then learn how to harvest the wheat; you will then need to winnow it (to remove the wheat from the chaff). You will then need to grind the wheat yourself (which involves building a mill), and then take the ground wheat, the flour, and learn how to bake bread. Oh, and you will, of course, need to get hold of some yeast and all the other ingredients that you need to make said bread.
Or, as I say, you can do something more worthwhile (and more profitable) and then use the money earned to wander down to the shop and purchase the bread for 5 minutes of your time.
Do you see?—imports make us rich. And we import food personally. That is to say that we not only import food into our personal lives, but we also pay for that imported food.
To read some of the comments on the Monty Don post, one would think that it was the government that was, in fact, controlling our trade; it does not. All of these tossers wanking on about how the government has bankrupted our country and how our pounds are worth nothing and how we won't be able to import food because NuLabour have bankrupted the country are just utter fucking morons.
Our government may have bankrupted the state, and they may have stacked up colossal debts (that we, the taxpayers, will eventually have to pay for) but they have not actually bankrupted this country. At all.
After all, why should we care that the state is bankrupt: the state doesn't do the trading with other nations: we do. And if the pound did become worthless, then we would find other currencies to use.
But the pound is unlikely to become worthless—at least not to the countries from whom we buy food. Such countries include the poorer areas of the EU (perhaps you would like to wonder why they are poorer—do you think that it might, at least partially, be because a large part of the populations of places like Greece and Spain are engaged in the unprofitable area of farming?) and most of Africa. Is the pound going to be worth less than some African currency? No.
At the risk of being accused of hysteria or of being some kind of conspiracy theorist, your humble Devil would like to advance a somewhat more controversial theory of why this government is so keen that we should "eat local". And they are, you know.
Quite apart from their blatant campaigning against "fast food", this government is, leveraging the meme of climate change, attempting to control our eating habits in a far more subtle way—through the medium of air miles.
How? Well, as an example, let us consider tomatoes. We know that growing tomatoes in a greenhouse (as you have to do in Britain to get any kind of decent yield) is actually far more energy-intensive (and thus releases more carbon) then growing them in a hot country and then shipping them over here; and yet the government—and their BBC lapdog—have always been extremely reticent about this fact. And this example covers, of course, far more food types than tomatoes.
I have recently waxed lyrical over the fascist credentials of NuLabour; but for all of their corporatist nature, but there has been a minimal overt, concerted nationalist drive—I don't really count "British jobs for British workers" because the state is so obviously unable to deliver on such a promise (although it does, indeed, smack of nationalist sentiment).
Besides, such a statement is far too obvious for a government that has preferred to operate through media hysteria and propaganda suggestion. What NuLabour and, you can bet your life on it, the Tories have noticed is that, through a continual and subtle exercising of propaganda, you can actually change the way that a society views certain practices. Take, for example, drink-driving: twenty years ago it was frowned on but, talking to many young people now, it is viewed as being tantamount to murder.
If you would like a concrete example (rather than my anecdotal ones) of the scandal that defending such a practice engenders, just look at the outrage that accompanied Gavin Webb's pointing out that a drink-driver has not harmed another human being and thus should not be criminalised for said action.
And, of course, public attitudes to smoking is going the same way: within a few generations, smoking may not be illegal—it will simply be something that is sinful and which You Just Don't Do.
The justification for criminalising both of these actions (yes, smoking indoors is criminalised) is the possibility that you might harm other people—the possibility, note, not the certainty or even the probability.
The justification for driving actions based on the spectre of climate change is the same as smoking or drink-driving—there is the possibility, however remote, that your actions may harm others (in this case, the entire population of the planet) and thus anything that might bring this about is to be frowned on, if not actively proscribed.
And, like drink-driving or smoking, this possibility is communicated through statistical manipulation, relentless propaganda, enjoinders to guilt (think of the chiiiiildren! Or, in the case of climate change, think of our chiiiiiildren's chiiiiiiildren!) and, when all else fails, outright lies.
"What has any of this to do with nationalism?" is probably what you are asking yourself (if you are still reading). Well, let us ask ourselves what is required for a real nationalist fervour to set in; well, the population should think of anyone else as "outsiders", "foreign" and, if possible, somewhat inferior.
One of the best ways in which to do this, is to stop your population from ever actually interacting with foreign cultures. The British are already pretty adept at this, usually being "British" wherever they go and making little effort to appreciate or blend into said culture.
The next thing is to ensure that your population remains ignorant of said foreign cultures at all; in this way, they can be caricatured as "bloody foreigners" or "not like us" (for which read "inferior") and not, actually, human beings (like yourself) at all.
The final stage is to convince your population that they are under a state of siege: that all of those foreigners are only out to destroy your population's native (and, of course, innately superior) culture.
Sounding familiar yet?
OK, let us move onto some examples, shall we? For keeping people in ignorance, few things are better than to ensure that they have no knowledge of foreign tongues. This government has made a step towards that—as Jon Worth points out—by removing the requirement for schoolchildren to learn a foreign language (not that language teaching, in our state schools at least, was anything other than fucking abysmal in the first place).
And as for convincing the population that they are under a state of siege... Well, where should I begin? After all, if the government isn't enacting draconian legislation to convince us all that we are about to be blown up by disgusting foreign Muslims, then they are planting scare stories about how all of these Poles are coming over here and taking our jobs and women.
Of course, there are a number of countries that speak our language, and might not seem that foreign. Well, that's easy: make sure that very few of them can stay in the country through yet more draconian foreign labour laws, and ensure that they are marked out as foreign by having to carry an ID Card that (at present) the natives do not have to have.
Climate change, of course, offers yet another prime opportunity. After all, they are already trying to imply that flying anywhere is going to kill Gaia: if you cannot fly anywhere, then your chances of interacting with any foreign culture is pretty small. It is even smaller when travelling anywhere, by any means, is socially unacceptable.
And if importing anything is frowned upon for the same reasons—that it racks up "food miles" or "toy miles", etc.—then the number of people doing business with any filthy foreigners is also reduced.
And, of course, if importing things is bad then we really are going to have to rely more and more on our own resources. And, if that includes food, as I pointed out at the top of this increasingly long essay, then inducing the population to believe that they are under a state of siege is going to be a piece of piss: after all, when no one has enough to eat (although just enough not to descend to anarchy), who are they going to blame it on? Why, the filthy foreigners, of course.
So, we end up with a country in which the natives know little of foreigners and their culture beyond the fact that they are inferior, and which believes themselves to be under a state of siege. And there, my friends, you have the perfect conditions for some real, good, honest-to-goodness, paranoid, dangerous Nationalism.
Combine this Nationalism with the already existing Corporatism, and a Socialist government attempting to spend its way out of recession by mortgaging the future of its taxpayers (and yes, I include the Tories in that description) and what you have is a textbook Fascist state. And, given that, will the last one into the ovens please turn out the light?
It is, needless to say, something that I am utterly opposed to: not only because I object to totalitarian legislation affecting my life but because, as a Libertarian, I fundamentally see humans as being one race—I see everyone as a human and worth the same (although, I'll admit, deliberate ignorance annoys me).
Unfortunately, our country seems to be determined to sleepwalk into fascism and the only thing that we libertarians can do is to try to give those who object a voice in our increasingly debased democracy. It will be a slow process to get LPUK to a point in which we can enact any change and, alas, I fear that time is running out.
UPDATE: by the way, can I also say that it is mildly depressing that almost all the commenters on this post have simply discussed their pet peeves, rather than engaging with the thesis as a whole?
Who the hell cares whether the smoking ban was right or not in this context? It doesn't matter—it's only an example.
Similarly, who the hell cares whether criminalising drink-driving is right or wrong in this context? It is, again, merely an example.
What does matter is the methods used to achieve these bans, and those used to change the public's attitudes to said topics. What is important is how the state has managed to manipulate society to make certain things "unacceptable" without people ever having to think about them.
There are arguments to be had over drink-driving, for instance, but you actually cannot have such an argument with many (especially younger) people today (I know: I've tried) because they have been conditioned to believe that drink-driving is an absolute evil in and of itself when, in fact, it is not. What we are supposed to be condemning is what might arise out of the act, i.e. injury or death to others.
Successive governments have used propaganda in a concerted attempt to make things "socially unacceptable", to the point that one can no longer even have a discussion about certain topics.
If the generally well-informed and intelligent readers of this blog cannot see the danger inherent in this, then I fear that we are all lost. Will the last lover of freedom into the gulags please turn out the lights...?