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6 Bogus Economic Arguments Used to Trash Local Food

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A critique of local food proves that the models used in neoliberal economics do not accurately apply to food and agriculture.

A physicist, a chemist and an economist are stranded on an island, with nothing to eat. A can of soup washes ashore. The physicist says, "Let's smash the can open with a rock." The chemist says, "Let's build a fire and heat the can first." The economist says, "Let's assume that we have a can-opener..."

Economists all know this joke, which "comes from the stereotype that many economic models require unrealistic or absurd assumptions in order to obtain results." And yet, how many heed its warning?

A new book, The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000 Mile Diet by Pierre Desroches and Hiroku Shimizu, uses arguments from neoliberal economics to explain why those who advocate eating local food are wrong. Often, their arguments require assumptions as silly as the one in the joke. For example, in making the case that the world moved from a diet of local food to a global food system for a good reason (and therefore we should not return to eating local), they assume that modern locavores will face the same technological limitations as our ancestors, who were also locavores. But aside from the numerous strawman arguments found throughout the book, there are several points where economics are properly applied to food and agriculture and - the authors charge - prove that local food is a bad idea.

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