Sunday, February 22, 2009

Food independence and Nationalism

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...?


Anonymous said...

"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."

Agricultural productivity has doubled in last 25 years alone. Some of this is down to mechanisation and the removal of the need for farm labour (probably the biggest reason we had a food problem in the war: all the farm workers were off fighting). But a lot is also down to the agricultural revolution: UK cereal yields have gone from less than 3 tonnes/ha in 1948 to 8 now. Is all this delusional?

And, just in case you didn't know, bread wasn't rationed in WW2.

Devil's Kitchen said...

"And, just in case you didn't know, bread wasn't rationed in WW2."

No, you are quite right. Just so you know, Kay Tie, bread was rationed in 1946 -- after WWII.

As an information quid pro quo, I'd like to point out that potatoes weren't rationed until 1947...


Old BE said...

I think it is acceptable to put stronger constraints on people's behaviour when they are in charge of a vehicle because the other road users including pedestrians) have no way of avoiding their impaired driving. Even experienced drinkers are often not aware of their limitations, in fact alcohol seems to make us worse judges of our own abilities.

Mark Wadsworth said...

UK population in 1945 was 47.8 million, allegedly, four-fifths of what it is now.

And we would have been perfectly capable of feeding ourselves had we all turned vegetarian during that particular bout of unpleasantness, like in Denmark.

Rationing was a shit idea, of course, the only sensible form of rationing is price rationing.

Anonymous said...

Smoking indoors WILL harm some people, it is just we don't know in advance which of those inhaling your smoke will be harmed, especially if you count having to stink of cigarettes as harm. It is not a 'might' at all.

Anonymous said...

"No, you are quite right. Just so you know, Kay Tie, bread was rationed in 1946 -- after WWII."

Ah, the wonders of socialist government.

Anonymous said...

Wartime food rationing was due to the necessity to import food and the ever present Uboat fleet that interfered with that supply of food.
Post war food rationing was everything to do with state control of the population and fuck all to do with availability, price or any other reasoning.

Carbon rationing = Food rationing? see the similarities?
New Labour same Old Labours authoritarian bullshit.

Devil's Kitchen said...


"Smoking indoors WILL harm some people, it is just we don't know in advance which of those inhaling your smoke will be harmed..."

I get tired of saying this, but I am going to anyway—show me the report that shows this.

"... especially if you count having to stink of cigarettes as harm."

If you count smelling of cigarettes as harm, then you are a twat. Unless you want to count smelling of alcohol, or car fumes, or tanning, or anything else as "harm"...?

I know that, as a socialist, you probably don't like to wash your clothes too often, but that is a bad thing, Neil: in this way, smokers are doing you neighbours a favour...


Mark Wadsworth said...

We could have a jolly good argument about the net benefits and costs of smoking indoors.

Agreed, non-smokers don't like the smell, but OTOH think of all the pubs that have gone out of business and all the smokers who catch colds from shivering in the bloody car park. It is quite possible that the overall average health of the population has gone down since That Particular Ban.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Monty Don's musing on food production are a coded reference to incipient national socialism but on the other hand perhaps you are reading too much into it, Devil ?

I do think that resource issues (food/fuel primarily) will continue to tax our ability to organise society coherently (under the guise of whatever 'ism).

Personally, I am rather fond of John Grey's axiom:
"all future wars (by and large) will be wars over resources" - these conflicts will become global and in time will dwarf todays rather childish spats over religious ideology.

The million dead in oil rich Iraq is the shape of things to come, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

Harding is a fucking idiot. Where are all the non-smokers falling down dead thanks to passive smoking?

I might as well posit that Neil Harding gives you cancer. FACT.

Anonymous said...

DK fails to understand that Britain must attain total self-sufficiency in the production Um-Bongo. Until we do, we will find ourselves at the mercy of Congolese warlords.

Um-Bongo, Um-Bongo,
They drink it in the Congo.

Anonymous said...

I do agree, for most of the reasons stated, that this country is going fascist, in the ways described.

I am not clear though, how the manufacture of "enemies" squares with the present atmosphere of enforced multiculturalism.

The latter condition seems to have been an essential part of the ruling political philosophy from the start. It has much to do with what seems to be the growing popular support for overtly fascist parties.

A paradox here which puzzles me.

Anonymous said...

There are studies, Devil.

For example:
Lesmes & Donofrio [1992]
Passive smoking: the medical and economic issues.
The American Journal of Medicine.

These authors claim:
"Since the late 1970s, the dangers associated with passive (involuntary) smoking have been widely debated. While research throughout the world has produced findings showing sidestream smoke to be harmful and possibly deadly to nonsmokers, an equal number of studies have indicated that the harms have been overstated or misclassified or that they are nonexistent. Those debates have culminated in a report sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies. The report concludes that second-hand cigarette smoke kills 53,000 nonsmokers a year and is a major cause of indoor air pollution. This article identifies the major medical and economic issues in the debate on side-stream smoke. It affirms the federal government's position on the need to create more smoke-free environments and impose stronger smoking restrictions nationwide".

While Arya et al [1991] Hazards of smoking
Journal of the Indian medical association.
Apr; Vol 89 (4), pp 98-100
"A strong association exists between cigarette smoking and several diseases namely, cancer of the lung, bronchitis and emphysema, cancer of the larynx, oral cavity and oesophagus, gastric and duodenal ulcers, Crohn's disease, cancer of the bladder, coronary artery disease, macrocytosis, polycythaemia, leukaemia, etc. This is due to the harmful constituents of cigarette and other modalities smoking. Smokers not only harm themselves but also harm those around. Foetal malformations, abortions, stillbirths, prematurity and low birth weight are common in smoker mothers. These are the effects of passive smoking. There is no safer cigarette in the market even by lowering its harmful constituents. Mass education about the hazards of smoking with emphasis on complete stoppage of smoking is the only way to prevent its rising incidence".

There are others - how well conducted they are, and to what extent they are politically driven is another matter, of course

sconzey said...

Second hand smoke, drink driving, all these things are externalities -- consequences of your actions that you do not bear the burden of.

So treat them like any other externality -- tax them.

For cigarettes the calculation is simple, multiply the cost to the average non-smoking Briton of contracting some smoking-related disease (in pounds sterling) by the probability of them contracting that disease from a single second hand smoke "incident"

That gives you the marginal cost of each cigarette smoked in the presence of non-smokers. Use that to apply a tax to cigarettes, and pour the money into the NHS (or better -- a cut in the base rate of income tax)

The calculation for drink driving is no trickier, except this time it is a fine that is being calculated, not a tax.

I strongly suspect that the current duty on cigarettes already covers the marginal cost of second hand smoke.

I'm not a smoker.

Anonymous said...

Sconzey: Bring it on! The price of a pack of smokes would drop to under £1.50 right away.

I am a smoker.

bernard said...

DK -

Well well, so the rise of German Nationalism in the 1930s was due (as you suggest in the UK) to 'johnny foreigner'? I never knew that!
But there IS a comparison: The Treaty of Versailles after WW1 robbed Germany of it's independent economy and heavy industries. The conditions were so punitive that Nationalism was bound to arise.
If Nationalism is once again rising today in the UK/Europe then look around to see if there is not yet another 'Treaty' that threatens to repeat history.

Whale oil beef's the EU! Who would have guessed?

Devil's Kitchen said...


"Well well, so the rise of German Nationalism in the 1930s was due (as you suggest in the UK) to 'johnny foreigner'? I never knew that!"

Well, yes and no.

You point to the Treaty of Versailles which was drawn up by "johnny foreigners" and was so punitive that it gave the Germans the "siege mentality".

Like our government, the Germans also demonised certain elements within society -- our government demonises Muslims and Poles, which the Nazis demonised the Jews and the homosexuals. It's not so very different.

Jeff Wood,

"I am not clear though, how the manufacture of "enemies" squares with the present atmosphere of enforced multiculturalism.

The latter condition seems to have been an essential part of the ruling political philosophy from the start. It has much to do with what seems to be the growing popular support for overtly fascist parties."

To create a state of siege, there must be an enemy. To justify draconian laws on your own people, there must be an enemy within. In WWII, that was German spies and Communist Fifth Columnists: now it is fanatical Muslims (note, the enemies don't have to be phantom ones).


Anonymous said...

At the risk of sounding condescending, this is an excellent piece. Really.

bernard said...

DK -

Your main post is better than your replies' to comments.
Nationalism is rising in the UK for precisely the same reason it rose in Germany...NO Self-Determination.
Persecution of the Jews came LONG after the rise of Nationalism which had began around the mid 1920s.

Devil's Kitchen said...


Yes, of course. And remind me -- when was the Treaty of Versailles?


bernard said...

You just won't accept my point, will you DK.
It came into effect in 1920.
So what are to trying to say?

Devil's Kitchen said...



I am not saying that your point is irrelevant: in fact, your point about the Treaty of Versailles actually reinforces my thesis.

I accept your point about self-determination, but if you think that that was the sole reason for nationalism, then you would be as stupid as I would be were I to insist that a lack of self-determination had nothing to do with it.


Anonymous said...

the present phase of human culture is a friendly mask on an iron inhospitable planet. an acre was defined as the land needed to support a family for a year. but a human being really is a hunter/gatherer. mankind is a tough old bird, and civilisation is not normal.

pjanus said...

You have the conspiracy arse about tit.

The purpose of mass immigration is to destroy nationalism. Can you think of a better way?

If the purpose is nationalism why would the 'ruling elite' sign away our sovereignty to the EU?

How many times have you heard Brown say, "global problems require global solutions" Now that is conditioning.

Brown is a 'Globalist'

Global warming, global terrorism and global finacial crisis. Coincidence?

Anonymous said...

First off, I enjoy your blog. You say what you think and don't couch your words. I don't always agree with you but you make excellent points.

Political propaganda would not be possible without a complicit news media. We need to free our "free" press. I say let's start with dismantling the dire BBC. Bias is rife. We're all going to die in some terrorist outrage or we're all going to fry or drown because some idiot forgot to turn off the TV stand-by. There's no balance, no counter arguments. It's what gets us laws like risking arrest for taking a snap of PC Plod without so much as a whimper.

And as far as the spectre of rabid nationalism is concerned, maybe that wouldn't be such a concern if there was a political party actually capable of doing the job the electorate wants it to do. Con-Lab-Lib are all pro EU. Not everyone wants to be part of the EU so we are denied a referendum because there's a good chance the British people will tell the EU to get stuffed. I certainly would.

Disenfranchised people become angry and reactionary people. The Lindsey protests are just the beginning. I can only hope more will become angry and reactionary quickly, before it's too late.

Anonymous said...

I take your point about Nu Labour's fascist thought control, but you are wrong about the bankruptcy issue. Britain is already bankrupt, that is why the government is printing money, they can't borrow from abroad anymore.
The collapse of the pound is imminent, it may go lower than the Congo shilling, but they could sell food to somebody else and not have the risk of the pound falling further.

Anonymous said...

BTW you should remember that those of us who are warning of economic collapse didn't buy RBS shares. I could have told you they were going bust 3 years ago. You are not an expert at everything, none of us is.

Pogo said...

I realise that you're not impressed with those who've taken your generic examples as points for discussion, but...

The smoking ban has, IMHO, by speeding up the number of pub closures, had a knock-on effect that one assumes wasn't in the minds of the anti-smoking mob. The "old fashioned boozer" style of pub appears to be worst hit - and they were the places where free association and general chat (ie potential insurrection) took place. Now, we're left with night clubs, where conversation is utterly impossible, or drinking alone or "in the bosom of one's family" at home in front of the TV - being fed Righteous-sponsored PC pap.

Neat move, eh?

It's looking more-and-more like a good time to get out, shame that the cunts have managed to knacker the currency, making it a tad more difficult.

neil craig said...

You are right about how economically senseless it would be to try to be food self sufficient.

On the other hand I am sure it could be done by (A) allowing all sorts of GM foods including ones not yet developed (B) carpeting much of the countryside with mylar greenhouses & (C) high intensity farming techniques like hydroponics. Each of these is capable of raising productivity by an order of magnitude or 2.

I don't think any of them form any part of the "we must go back to the Middle Ages or we're doomed" programme of the eco-fascists but even so I wouldn't want to see the government enforcing it.

Anonymous said...

pogo: you are completely right: the munich putsh started in a bierkeller didn't it? i thought that myself, especially when you factor in ever increasing taxes on alcohol.
excellent post dk. it is, i believe, all connected. the conspiracy isn't entirely back to front, the nationalism being encouraged is merely a pretext to manufacture consent for the police state... the global police state.

Anonymous said...

DK said : our government demonises Muslims and Poles

What? Our Provincial Govt love muslims as, mostly, they work 24/7 and have lots of money for the Govt to steal. The Govt would like all of us to become muslim because of this and their total obedience to a god, and our Prov Gov believes itself to be godlike; power over life and death, freedoms, rights, nanny state and moral guidance etc.

DK said : ... to buy a loaf of bread for about £1.30. On my salary, this represents about 5 minutes of my time.

Well thats fine and dandy while bread is £1.30 and a person is on £15 an hour ( £1.3 * (60 / 5 )). It may be different after Mr Singh gets shitcanned and can no longer afford the second mortgage ( Latin: death - choke ) on his Barret Home.

Even if Miss Kzcynsky can hold on to her job at the NoLeak Prophylactic Customer Support Call Center what she gonna do when bread is £5.50 and her Eazi-Start No Deposit Adjustable Rate Mortgage goes from £800 p/m to £1500...

The BoE is printing huge quantites of Toil£t Pap£r, Lloyds/RBS want us to insure £500 Billion, our banks have £4 Trillion in foreign currency, Sterling is down 30% in 6 months, our banks also have a share of £1.7 Trillion loaned to Eastern Europe. If Bank of America and Citigroup are 'nationalized' in May that'll trigger a Global Market ShitStorm (GMS).

Food Independance for UK(plc) is a pipe dream; folk like strawberries in winter, cheap flowers from NotFairTradeAfrica and Aussie wine, let alone SweatShop Jeans and ChildMade Footballs.

I can't blame some folk for, naively, trying to grow some spuds and toms either. When, obviously, folk should start hoarding canned food, water, shotgun ammo and precious metals.

Anonymous said...

I am a "bloody foreigner" who used to live in this country in the 90's and have just come back to it - yes, Britain is great! ;) I am very sad to say that your post is spot on. Britain has changed a lot during the decade I've been away. It is slowly but surely becoming a fascist nation - just like each other EU country is, you're not alone there. It's just something you realise when you're not "local" or very inquisitive, like yourself.

Anonymous said...

On the news today: one in four people in Britain were born overseas. Sorry, not much of a point really but gives some perspective on our openness to 'foreigners'.

Anonymous said...

Good thoughtful article that really made me think. I think you are spot on in some respects. However it's difficult to see how any nationalist sentiment encouraged by the government fits in with the multicultural agenda they also push. Can you elaborate on this please?

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