Last year, I wrote “Your Groceries are Shrinking.” Anyone who cooks and buys groceries knows that this is getting worse all the time. Not just packages shrinking, but whole categories of food and other products are either vanishing or becoming too expensive for everyday use.
Fruits and vegetables are a very easily identified example. There are many factors involved, and some are simply not even noticed by a great many people. It is easy for some unthinking folks to blame the farmers, or the climate, or even the grocery store, but there is just so much more at work here.
First, all of the government involvement in land and water use, the EPA insanity worried about shrimp and bugs, taxes and fees at every level, and the vast body of intrusive and contradicting regulations on everything from seeds to packaging add a mostly unseen mountain sized barrier to producing anything at all.
Second, there is a shrinking demand for fresh produce at the retail level. Think about this the next time you go to the store. The fresh fruits and vegetable section is small, with a very limited selection most places. Then take a look at what most people are putting into their carts. I see mostly frozen stuff, boxed, canned and otherwise pre-made things, chips and snacks of all kinds, soda pop and sugary desserts. How much real, basic food does the average person buy these days? The store is going to stock what people will buy.
Then, since fresh food has a very limited shelf life, anything that spoils or is not sold is a serious loss to the store. They will order less, and further narrow the selection to what sells best. Eventually, things that don’t sell simply vanish. All this contributes a great deal to the increasing price, and the diminishing quality. And we won’t even get into what shipping and labor cost.
I’m no economist, obviously, and many millions of words have been written about the economy, inflation and all the rest. Ludwig von Mises Institute is probably your best resource if you wish to read more about it.
But even the child with a lemonade stand understands the most basic concepts. If she can’t find enough money (capital) to buy the raw materials, or if she can’t sell enough of her product before it spoils, she will not make any more lemonade. If the local cops haul her off and confiscate her raw materials or the money she gets for the lemonade, she won’t make any more of it either.
The law of supply and demand is truly as immutable as the law of gravity. It can be twisted and diluted by manipulation of the money and stupid regulation, but there is simply no way out of the fact that people generally produce what they can sell, at a price that makes it worth their while, and that the people who buy it ultimately decide the acceptable price because they don’t buy it otherwise. Not even for “essentials.” If buyers think the price is too high, they’ll find another way to get what they need or do without. If the producer can’t sell at a profit, he will try to cut costs or bend the “rules,” but eventually stops producing if it costs him more than he takes in.
Left alone, in all its unorganized glory, that’s the essence of the free market. Tangled up with government and fiat “money,” it becomes a multi faceted nightmare. But inflation and the money supply insanity isn’t the whole story, by any means. As terrible as it is, that is truly a symptom and not the disease.
The disease is the belief that government, “rulers,” kings, priests or anyone else actually has legitimate authority to control (own) other human beings. This “divine right of kings” and all of the political fallout from that has been ingrained, indoctrinated and enforced with violence throughout the last few thousand years.
So, here are a few things you can do to help yourself and your neighbors in these difficult times. Produce as much as you can – yourself, for yourself – and trade with your neighbors. As much as possible, stay out of the log chipper that is government regulation and “help.” And, as you trade with your neighbors, you can gently challenge the notion that the government has any legitimate authority to either regulate or “help” at all.
And if people start to think that way, accepting the fact that they alone are responsible for their lives and safety… why, who knows what might happen?