NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Political Freedom The Enemy Of Famine," Expert States

November 22, 1996

While the accent was on population control to meet world food needs at the recent U.N. World Food Summit in Rome, some experts present spoke up for free markets in agriculture as the solution.

Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute said: "Very generally speaking, political freedom is the enemy of famine. And economic liberty is the foe of hunger."

  • While the number of people in the world has doubled since 1960, the share of those without enough to eat has fallen to 20 percent from 35 percent by U.N. estimates.
  • Yet farmers cultivate about the same amount of land as they did 35 years ago.
  • Food has become 50 percent cheaper in real terms over this period, and even in poor countries the amount of food available has risen an average of 30 percent to 2,520 calories per person per day.

Agricultural experts blame misguided government policies -- particularly in poorer countries -- for holding food production down; policies such as subsidies, import barriers and wage and price controls.

One recent example of farm reform success is Vietnam.

  • In 1986, the nation could not produce enough rice on its collective farms to feed its own people.
  • So the government freed food prices and broke up collective farms.
  • Within three years, Vietnam was the third largest exporter of rice in the world -- earning it enough money to help diversify its farm sector.

Source: Anna J. Bray, "Hunger's Real Cure? Freedom," Investor's Business Daily, November 22, 1996.


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