Thursday, February 27, 2014
Book Review: Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present, And Future Of Rationing
This is a short, well-written interesting book that presents rationing in a favorable light.
We live in an increasingly managed economy and technocratic age, so the notion of planned economies is an important one. There are really two reasons to ration. One is actual shortage of a good (such as fuel or food in wartime) and the other is a desire to alter human behavior by making something expensive or rewarding behavior.
Very often, the free market can produce pretty strange results and the book provides some examples of this . Case in point - the case of quinoa. Cultivated for centuries by Peruvian highlanders, Westerners now outbid natives for the grain. The result is a change in diet to other foods for the natives - ironic that while surrounded by fields of quinoa. Another example is Egypt, where the author asserts that there's much organic agriculture that is exported to Europe while Egyptians are forced to import bread of low quality.
So do you ration the imported food, the native food, what? And what would be fair and moral? This book will help you think about these issues.
The book also discusses when people will accept rationing and when will they reject it. Another concept discussed here is dealing with underground economies.
The author does not really address situations where rationing has failed or produced tragic outcomes.
The ethics of an unelected technocracy (who in reality are often immune or exempt from rationing) deciding what behavior is to be altered is also not addressed. It is, after all, basically a pro-technocrat, pro-rationing book.