The Breadipus Effect

“If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” — Robert K. Merton

Fearmongering?  Or yet another sign of the times?  From the pages of today’s New York Sun, we find the following article:

Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket Of The World

Major retailers in New York, in areas of New England, and on the West Coast are limiting purchases of flour, rice, and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. There are also anecdotal reports that some consumers are hoarding grain stocks.

I can provide one of those anecdotal reports, come to think of it.  My colleague’s family (specifically, her parents from the Old Country) has taken to stockpiling bags of rice as a hedge against future shortages.  She came home from work the other night to find that her parents had piled fifteen bags of rice in the garage.

“Where did you get all this rice?  And why?” she asked, incredulous.

“Don’t you pay attention to news?  Rice will be gone soon!” they answered indignently.  “We save up now!”

“But fifteen bags?  It takes us, like, two months just to get through one.  You’ve bought two and half years’ worth of rice, Mom.  Really.”

“You’ll thank us when all your other friends are complaining they have no food!  You’ll thank us when everyone coming to you saying, ‘You so smart to buy rice when you still can!'”

To me, this story doesn’t say “ZOMG, we’re all running out of food tomorrow!!!!11!1!  Must stockpile cans of soup!!!!” as much as it says “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Which brings me to ask the question: are we really, truly, honestly facing the prospect of Soviet-style bread lines, as The Independent erroneously tried to lead people to believe earlier this year?  Or is this simply another scare tactic employed by the media to sell more papers and generate more interest in the doom-and-gloom, apocalyptic scenarios that people have always so readily bought into?

Your call…

…and KUDOS to you if you caught that pun in the headline.  We’re officially best friends now.  Just FYI.

4 responses to “The Breadipus Effect

  1. I’m not sure about this food rationing phenomenon, but I did read last year that the most popular “breed” of banana is going extinct.

    That’s why I’ve cryogenically a banana tree and hidden it behind walls of bagged rice.

  2. ** Which brings me to ask the question: are we really, truly, honestly facing the prospect of Soviet-style bread lines **

    Maybe, but just for certain commodities. Check this out:

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/JD22Dj01.html

    I don’t know if I buy in completely, but Spengler is a smart guy, and I never just dismiss any argument of his…

  3. I think, as Kevin suggested, with corn, rice and other commodities there always runs the risk of having shortages because we just, quite simply, don’t grow enough to feed everyone.

    Then there’s the issue of making fuel out of food-stuffs, but I won’t get started on that here.

  4. Hmm. It would appear that my sentiments were somewhat misplaced. Wal-Mart has now joined the fray: Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club Limit Rice Purchases

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