Tag Archives: agrinomics

Marx Was Right

A college undergrad at Liyang’s Crazy English said he was studying marketing. What he really said was Mǎ Kè Sī 马克思 Marxism. At the time my Chinglish vocabulary was limited to Mai Dang Lao (McDonald’s) and Xin Be Ke (Starbucks). Being a recovering Yankee trying to find expat gold in China, I dropped the Q&A right there, not because Communism was a taboo subject but I didn’t really know anything other than the usual refrain Commie-Pinko-Bastard.

I started my seventh year in China with bi-monthly sojourns to South Korea where I proceed directly to the Itaewon bookstore for three weekly issues of the Economist. The store lacks the ambitious selection of Page One in Hong Kong but it did have four choices for Marx. I came away with The Communist Manifesto and The Essential Marx edited by Leon Trotsky and two hours later I was in complete agreement on Marx’s theory of Capitalism.

C – M – C  

M – C – M1

M1 = M + ∆M = surplus value

The disagreement with Marx comes about with his Communist philosophy but his 150 year old Econ 101 course is equally valid today.

“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine tenths of the population.” Karl Marx

New York Times on July 22, 2014, the “richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent”

Like Marx, Thomas Piketty, the economic North Star of a new generation, has proscribed an international wealth tax of 80% to do away with private property.

Marx’s C – M – C equation from the dairy goat farmer’s perspective:

(C) Stands for a COMMODITY in our case a gallon of goat milk.

(M) Means MONEY, $15 at the farmers’ market.

(C) The new COMMODITY, whatever the buyer turns it into; most people drink it but others make kefir, cheese or soap.

M – C – M1

(M)  MONEY is needed to produce the (COMMODITY) in our example it costs us $5 to produce one gallon which begat $15 of new (M1) MONEY. Marx calls this transaction exchange value.” The next step in the process is defined as “surplus value” where:

M1 = M + ∆M = $10 of “surplus value”

Bill Gates, the bourgeoisiest guy on the planet, thinks philanthropy is the answer but he wants to give it away, his way. In 1998, Gates’ net worth was valued at $50 billion. By October 2014, that number had increased nearly 60 percent to $79.3 billion, despite his having given away tens of billions of dollars.

Adam Smith’s 1776 Econ 101 text book, Wealth of Nations declares that “Agriculture, the Produce of the Land, is the SOLE or the PRINCIPAL Source of the Revenue and Wealth of every Country.”

In the 500 years of American farming, the individual farmer only made M1 MONEY from 1865 when Lincoln freed the slaves, ending subsidized agriculture to the end of WWI when Henry Ford’s ‘Farmall’ tractor forced the self-sustaining bourgeoisie agrarian entrepreneur off the land and into the cities to become a labor-power slave proletarian.

Marx was right, Piketty proved that Marx was right but Gates put his (M1) MONEY where it was needed SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP in the support of agriculture in Africa and India. I observed the Agricultural Cooperative Development International’s ‘Small Farmer Production Project’ in Egypt in 1985, I know a millennia ago, but it was a USAID sponsored form of Social Entrepreneurship. Last year in Ethiopia, while Jane Marie climbed a mountain to view the falls of Bahir Dar, I interrogated a USAID dairy coop farmer and the collection station boss. The farmer got a buck a gallon which is similar to the $1.10 the US proletarian farmer, only a buck in Ethiopia makes the farmer a member of the “bourgeois” class.

Marx Was Right

A college undergrad at Liyang’s Crazy English said he was studying marketing. What he really said was Mǎ Kè Sī 马克思 Marxism. At the time my Chinglish vocabulary was limited to Mai Dang Lao (McDonald’s) and Xin Be Ke (Starbucks). Being a recovering Yankee trying to find expat gold in China, I dropped the Q&A right there, not because Communism was a taboo subject but I didn’t really know anything other than the usual refrain Commie-Pinko-Bastard.

I have started my seventh year in China with bi-monthly sojourns to South Korea where I proceed directly to the Itaewon bookstore for three weekly issues of the Economist. The store lacks the ambitious selection of Page One in Hong Kong but it did have four choices for Marx. I came away with The Communist Manifesto and The Essential Marx edited by Leon Trotsky and two hours later I was in complete agreement on Marx’s theory of Capitalism.

C – M – C  

M – C – M1

M1 = M + ∆M = surplus value

The disagreement with Marx comes about with his Communist philosophy but his 150 year old Econ 101 course is equally valid today.

“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine tenths of the population.” Karl Marx

New York Times on July 22, 2014, the “richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent”

Like Marx, Thomas Piketty, the economic North Star of a new generation, has proscribed an international wealth tax of 80% to do away with private property.

Marx’s C – M – C equation from the dairy goat farmer’s perspective:

(C) Stands for a COMMODITY in our case a gallon of goat milk.

(M) Means MONEY, $15 at the farmers’ market.

(C) The new COMMODITY, whatever the buyer turns it into; most people drink it but others make kefir, cheese or soap.

M – C – M1

(M)  MONEY is needed to produce the (COMMODITY) in our example it costs us $5 to produce one gallon which begat $15 of new (M1) MONEY. Marx calls this transaction exchange value.” The next step in the process is defined as “surplus value” where:

M1 = M + ∆M = $10 of “surplus value”

Bill Gates, the bourgeoisiest guy on the planet, thinks philanthropy is the answer but he wants to give it away, his way. In 1998, Gates’ net worth was valued at $50 billion. By October 2014, that number had increased nearly 60 percent to $79.3 billion, despite his having given away tens of billions of dollars.

Marx Comes to the High Plains

MARXISM

Then the Great Depression transformed what was an extremely hard life into an impossible one. With prices for crops, in real terms, falling below what they’d been in colonial times, financial disaster began to overwhelm rural America. By the end of 1931, 20,000 farms a month were being foreclosed, with even greater numbers on the horizon. Farmers’ pleas for relief – among them, a moratorium on foreclosures – were rejected by President Hoover, who in effect told America to quit whining and go chew on its moral fiber. Hoover seemed ignorant of a basic fact of human nature: people tend not to be models of obedience when they’re starving to death. “They had put their faith in government,” as one contemporary reporter said of the farmers, “and government had failed … they reached a point where they could stand the strain no longer and moved toward open rebellion.”

No one under the age of ninety has any first hand knowledge of the Great Depression. However, my mother-in-law, now 93, pictured here with Ken Burns, was at ground zero for the Dust Bowl in 1937.

You are not likely to find this episode of American history in the schoolbooks. In Iowa, the Farmers’ Holiday Association organized a strike in which farmers refused to bring food to market for 30 days. The strike soon spread to the Dakotas, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and beyond. Roads were picketed, then blockaded to enforce the strike. Telephone operators coordinated with striking farmers to warn them when soldiers or lawmen were headed their way. When 60 strikers were arrested in Council Bluffs, Iowa, a thousand farmers marched on the jail and forced their release. Four thousand men occupied the Lincoln, Nebraska, statehouse, and another 7,000 marched on the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio with the intention of establishing a “workers’ and farmers’ republic”. Across the Midwest, farmers began to band together in armed groups to stop foreclosures; lawyers and judges were threatened with hanging, stripped and beaten, and in at least one case, murdered. “Rebellion in the Corn belt: American Farmers Beat Their Ploughshares into Swords” was the title of a December 1932 article in Harper’s that described the farmers’ increasing desperation and militancy.

Jan, Bob, Dugie and Trixie January 15th  BIRTHDAYS: Martin Luther King Jr. 1929, Aristotle Onassis 1906, Joan of ArcGamal Abdul Nasser 1918, Moliere, Edward Teller 1908,  Drew Brees 1979, Lloyd Bridges 1913, Trixie Brown 1927, Charo, Ben Shapiro 1984, Gene Krupa 1909. 
 

Roosevelt gave it a name, the New Deal, and it transformed American life so thoroughly that it’s become invisible to us, as taken for granted as the air we breathe and the ground beneath our feet. Or as, for instance: electricity. As Caro shows in The Path to Power, 30 million farmers and their families lived in the preindustrial dark not because of technological obstacles – many lived within sight of power lines – or prohibitive cost to the utility company – plenty of farmers offered to pay the expense of running a line out to their homes – or that utility companies couldn’t make a profit on rural lines – studies in Minnesota and Alabama showed that rural lines were profitable – but because rural electric service wouldn’t be as profitable for utility companies as the urban market. The companies based their decision, as companies do, on capital risk and rate of return. Considerations of fairness, fellow feeling, or the greater social good simply didn’t factor into the corporate calculus.

This is known among economists as “market failure”. Sam Rayburn, the Texas congressman who led the legislative fight to bring electricity to rural America, stated it plainly during debate on the House floor: “When free enterprise had the opportunity to electrify farm homes – after 50 years, they had electrified 3%.” The Public Utilities Act of 1935 and the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 – crucial New Deal legislation – “brought the lights” to rural America over the strenuous opposition of the utility lobby, which put out fake “spontaneous” mass mailings to members of Congress (one of the first instances of astroturfing in American politics) and pushed a whisper campaign alleging that President Roosevelt was insane. John Carpenter, president of Texas Power & Light – there’s a freeway named after him in Dallas – so loathed Sam Rayburn that he offered to spend any amount of money to defeat him in the next election. Rayburn won. The lights went on.

Another example: banks. When Roosevelt took office, the banking industry was in freefall, a “market failure” that threatened to finish off what was left of the US economy. The system of government support and regulation established by the New Deal over banks – deposit insurance, capital requirements, the Glass-Steagall Act (separating commercial and investment banks) – and over the financial industry in general – such as the Securities Act of 1933, AKA the “Truth-in-Securities Act”, and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (if you think Wall Street is a rigged game these days, it’s a seminary compared with the fraud-fest of the Roaring Twenties) – made bank panics and market crashes a thing of the past. From the mid-1930s into the early 1980s, the US financial industry enjoyed remarkable stability. Bank failures were rare, isolated events. The bipolar booms and busts of laissez-faire capitalism became the much more manageable phenomenon of the business cycle. This began to change with deregulation, starting with the bipartisan overhaul of the savings and loan industry in the early 1980s. “All in all, I think we hit the jackpot,” said President Reagan as he signed the Garn-St Germain Act into law. Not quite. Within a few short years, there was no savings and loan industry, thanks to the frenzy of speculation and self-dealing that followed passage of Garn-St Germain. The biggest bank crisis since the Great Depression had erased an entire sector of American finance, leaving the American taxpayer on the hook for $160bn – a huge amount of money at the time, chump change compared with what was coming. The New Deal framework continued to be dismantled through the 1990s – Glass-Steagall bit the dust in 1998 – and, just as importantly, regulation was never extended to new markets in financial exotica like credit default swaps and derivatives. Banking and finance grew increasingly volatile, culminating (so far?) in the Great Recession of 2008, when only massive government intervention saved the economy.

Would You Buy Some Donkey Hide Viagra from this Guy?

(CNN)Gelatin produced from donkey hide is a key ingredient of one of China’s favorite traditional remedies, known as ejiao, which is used to treat a range of ailments from colds to insomnia.

But as the rising power shifts towards advanced industry and away from traditional agriculture, donkeys are in decline. State statistics show the population has fallen from 11 million to six million over the last 20 years.

“Da-ji-how! I’m Howard Ruark. I’m a graduate of Harvard University, with a PhD in physiology and am the director of Asia-Pacific Pharmaceuticals.”

Viagra and Shark gelatin for arthritic joint pain were my bread and butter product promotions

Thus, began my 10 minute sales presentation to between 500-700 Chinese countryside folks at zero-seven hundred hours in the municipal theater of a city famous for its donkey cuisine. My handler-translator and I arrived the night before, checked into our shared room at the local one and a half star hotel, then headed out for the best donkey restaurant.

Couldn’t read any of the Chinese characters but the Donkey logo made it easy to spot

I had the full-Monty of five dishes from donkey soup, stir-fry and filet. Donkey meat has that large dog taste, lean and not a threat to the beef industry.  I had, had the donkey experience in Zhengzhou a few times – even an illiterate can spot the silhouette over the entrance.

However, as Howard Ruark, I was there to put my American face on the promotion of ‘Nah-Dough,’ Japanese health food capsules labelled as an American product. But the real selling feature that got 500-700 people to the show – oh, I forgot, they were old married couples – was the implicit benefit of Chinese Viagra.

Henan Province sends 20+ doctors for a two stint to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Zambia. Jane Marie and I were lucky enough to visit this group at their hospital in Addis Addaba

Following a contract dispute, I fell back on my ESL teacher role and proceeded to immerse Henan Province doctors going to Africa in my beginners’ course “Green Eggs & Ham.”  Once they mastered the linguistics of “Not here, not there, not ANYWHERE,” we moved on to “The CAT in the HAT.”

你能和山羊一起去吗?我不会,也不会,你和一只山羊

My students covered the medical field from acupuncture to brain surgery and I initially sought their advice for my osteoarthritis. But around the sixth week I manned-up the face-losing nerve to ask for their Chinese Viagra recommendation. A doctor getting ready to go on his second two-year stint to Zambia gave me this script: 条鱼,两条鱼,红色的鱼,蓝色的鱼

Your typical upscale donkey meat delicacies restaurant

We moved to Yantai in 2013 and when I took my script to the neighborhood pharmacy I discovered why China is buying up the global supply of donkeys. After, the usual pleasantry “Knee-How,” I show my note and she gave me the “May-Low” NO! The pharmacist suggested ejiao tea. I quickly responded with my third Chinese vocabulary word “Dew-Ow-Shall” or how much? 900 yuan or $150 for three of these brown bars.

My over the counter purchase was in the difficult to dissolve brick format

The Google search of ejiao put Yantai , China as famous for their donkey hide concoction that increases the blood flow and circulation system. How the hide of a donkey turned into gel bricks could do that remains a mystery but for 900 yuan I sensed it was meant for something else besides colds and insomnia.