Friday, February 1, 2013

How Unfounded Fear Can Lead to Real Hunger

Ever since John introduced me to podcasts, I have been hooked (Information? On the go? All the time? Dream come true!). One of my favorites to listen to is NPR Planet Money, where stories of economic realities are told, and sometimes contrasted with economic thought. Truly, this sounds a lot more boring written down than any of the episodes actually are. Ever wondered how to get an offshore banking account, and what to do with it (legally)? Or what economists would actually want presidential candidates to campaign for? Then Planet Money is your source. 
You can imagine my excitement when they recently repeated an episode that was originally produced in 2010 (before my Planet Money - loyalty began) that dealt with - the food crisis! In particular, the part of the 2008 food crisis related to rice supplies. It tells the story about how - without there being an actual real supply crisis - the expectations surrounding one of Asia's main food commodities brought prices shooting up, and created real hunger for low-income consumers. The show does an amazing job in highlighting how governmental policies of "food security" (specific only to their own country, of course) can lead to market interventions that are troubling to say the least (don't I already sound like a neo-classical economist? =P). Also, without giving away too much, the solution to the vicious circle of food shortage expectations that lead to even higher prices is as ingenious as surprising, since it came as the result of even more distorted trade policies - give it a listen! It's Episode 320: How Fear Turned a Surplus into A Scarcity.

Bonus: Three more fascinating and entertaining episodes that I enjoyed recently: 

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