Monday, August 30, 2010

New York Times flooded with localist letters

As I learned from a recent Cafe Hayek post, the New York Times had a bountiful harvest of letters in response to Stephen Budiansky's critical piece on a major environmental argument of localism, which I wrote about here and here.

In the normal order of things, most of the localists used the "yeah, but" tactic, where they were willing to admit that Budiansky's demolition of food miles was correct, but then claim that was never the "real argument" for local purchasing. It's exactly like chopping off the head of a hydra - two more grow in its place.

Localists advocate a ton of different arguments; economic, environmental, community, quality and safety are the most popular ones. Unfortunately, this gives them the ability to hop off any destroyed argument and cling to a new one.

I compare it to debating a creationist or conspiracy theoriest. Creationist debate Duane Gish is known for quickly switching topics and peppering the debate with unconnected assertions so fast that his opponent would need a few hours to respond to each of his arguments.

This same tactic can be observed in the 2008 "Buy Local" debate at the University of Vermont between economist Russ Roberts and localist author Bill McKibben. McKibben swamped the debate with a list of arguments that he demanded Roberts respond to individually - an impossible task in a debate with time limits. McKibben then proceeded to criticize Roberts for not responding to each of his points.

The correct response to such a demand is to ask for the very best argument, and prevent your opponent from changing the subject.

Not all of the letters the Times printed were critical of Budiansky. I especially liked the contrast the editors made by printing two different letters next to each other. First Eric Burnette of Louisville, Kentucky wrote:

That said, most Americans should not expect to have tomatoes in January. Eating seasonally is part of appreciating the diversity of local food.
Followed by the letter from Steven Grossman of Silver Spring, Maryland, which read:

Most of us older than about 45 can remember when fruit in winter meant canned pears dripping in oversweet juice. In the absence of other alternatives, it served a purpose, but it was expensive and not the best item nutritionally.

Nowadays you can go to a supermarket almost anywhere in America — in the coldest months of January and February — and get citrus fruits, fresh grapes, strawberries, tomatoes, melons and so on. Once seasonal delicacies, they are available year-round.

I guess it really comes down to if people want to live as slaves to Mother Nature. If "appreciating the diversity of local food" really meant going without things like coffee or chocolate, I would expect the locavore population to start drying up.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Video game community divided on push to kill used game market

A very smart post from the video game web comic Penny Arcade about the use of DLC and one-time use codes to combat the used game market. The accompanying comic sums it up nicely:

As I've written before, this is a lot of anger from video game players about these business tactics. Video game companies do not profit from the sales of used games - and they lose potential sales to the used market.

From my own experience, there are some great games I plan to purchase, but I usually wait until a used copy sells for $30 or less. That's a game I was going to buy at some point, but because the used market is out there, I chose to save about $5 on it.

But the other side disagrees with this idea. As Daniel summed it up in the comment section of my last post on the used market:

I either wait until the price drops in half or buy previously played. Does this cut into the sales of a company? Not in the slightest, because I would never have bought the game new. Ever.
As Daniel admitted, these are the actions of one person. That's not a trend, and even if consumers like him were in the majority, people like me still exist - people who buy a used copy of a game we would have otherwise bought new - and that absolutely cuts into their profits. Even if the Daniels of the world buy DLC, which does go to the company, it is small potatoes compared to the missed profits the used market eliminated.

To avoid being misunderstood, let me clarify. I am not saying that video games companies deserve some special protection, or that used buyers are rogues or thieves. Occasionally I am one of those rogues, but if companies keep using one-time use codes, I will cave in and buy more new copies.

I do not support the other solutions, such as inspiring game players to buy new copies as an act of compassion to show support to the companies that produce them. This is asking people to sacrifice self-interest in order to help someone else's business.

Widening the divide between the quality of a used copy and a new one, on the other hand, does play to people's self interest. There is no difference between giving a bonus to new copies and taking away features from a used one.

Keep in mind that it's the people who buy new copies who are the customers, and they have to pay when other people get a good deal on a used copy. Since the company is losing sales to the used market but still needs to remain profitable, resulting cost hikes or the decision not to lower prices means more money comes from the pockets of customers who buy new copies.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Foods miles" are the thin edge of the wedge

Yesterday economist Steve Landsburg wrote a critical post about Stephen Budiansky's recent piece in the New York Times demolishing the concept of food miles, the same piece I praised last week. Landsburg overstated his case and while absolutely correct in his larger point, he completely misread Budiansky's tactics.

Landsburg made the argument that the price of a product is an accurate measurement of all the resources that went into it, instead of into competing needs, then added:

Budiansky ignores all that to focus strictly on energy consumption. But the quality of our lives depends on a lot more than energy consumption, so Budiansky’s narrow-minded computations are strictly loco.
That's unfair to say. A focus can be narrow without being narrow-minded.

Budiansky wrote a piece blasting the myth of food miles, sending shrapnel to non-local places with its bold thrust. He directly confronted the activists on one of their major claims and showed they have it backwards.

Landsburg, on the other hand, made a claim someone like myself will find convincing, but will bounce off the noggins of localists because they distrust economics. In Landsburg's own words:

Markets are not perfect, so the price of a tomato does not, with 100% accuracy, reflect the social cost of acquiring that tomato. But in most circumstances it comes damn close, and in virtually all circumstances it comes a lot closer than Budiansky’s sort of crabbed accounting.
That's the flaw. The localists will simply reject his argument with a wave of their hand, as they do to all other market-based explanations. They will simply say that the price fails to capture negative externalities and will overemphasize the impact of agricultural subsidies. Those arguments are very wrong, but they will cram them into the thin gap Landsburg left open and go about their merry way. It doesn't matter that local production has negative externalities too, or may receive subsidies. The opposition is not a pool of critical thinkers.

There's nothing wrong with criticizing people on the same side of an issue for making a poor argument. I have done it here too, and I see no virtue in establishing solidarity to resist localism.

But the "buy local" argument is so vast, with so many flaws, that I've spent more than a year blogging about it and I still have plenty of ideas that I haven't written yet. Budiansky never claimed to write the definitive critical essay of localism. Neither have I, and I don't think it can be done in less space than an entire book.

Until that book is written, people like me will continue to poke holes in the sides of this issue with the goal of winning people over to our side.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Ground Zero Mosque" is a PR disaster

Imagine this:

An extremist pro-life Christian blows up an abortion clinic in Vermont, capturing national attention for several years. The explosion is so big it not only destroys the clinic, it takes out the entire strip mall. Documentaries, mournful songs and charities are created about the Vermont bombing.

Almost a decade later the strip mall is still an ugly crater, but word gets out that one of the strip mall lots has been purchased. The intention is to build a Christian church. The church, which does not list a denomination the public is familiar with, will be called King David's Palace.

How do you expect the country would respond?

Exactly the same was it responded to the Cordoba House in New York. It's hard to veil my analogy when my title reveals the true nature of the issue.

In brief, the organizers have every right to build the Muslim community center in New York City two blocks from where Islamic terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, and the government should not try to thwart the project in any way. However, the project has been marred by some tasteless choices and organizers like Feisal Abdul Rauf appeared foolishly unprepared for the backlash.

It's true that there are many different kinds of Muslims, and a Mosque is a temple, not a barracks. However, look at it through the lens of my example. Don't you get an instant reaction that the close prolixity appears rather triumphant. The Muslim center, renamed a vague "Park51," is not going to be built on top of the footprint of the two towers, but it is taking advantage of real estate that was cleared up because of damage from the terrorist attacks.

The site for Park51 is an old Burlington Coat Factory building that was abandoned after it was damaged by pieces of United Airlines Flight 175. It's part of the damage zone of the terrorist attacks. That doesn't mean that the entire zone should be off limits to Muslim centers, but someone wanting to build a Muslim center in that zone should expect public relations issues and have a plan to deal with them before they get big. They didn't, and the opposition has gotten very strong as a result.

The original name - Cordoba House - can be taken in two ways; as a place of enlightenment or conquest. Christopher Hitchens explained it much better in an essay on the foolishness of both sides of this issue:

I notice that even the choice of the name Cordoba has offended some Christian opponents of the scheme. This wonderful city in Andalusia, after the Muslim conquest of southern Spain, was indeed one of the centers of the lost Islamic caliphate that today's jihadists have sworn in blood to restore. And after the Catholic reconquista, it was also one of the places purged of all Arab and Jewish influence by the founders of the Inquisition. But in the interval between these two imperialisms it was also the site of an astonishing cultural synthesis... Here was a flourishing of philosophy and medicine and architecture that saw, among other things, the recovery of the works of Aristotle.

We need not automatically assume the good faith of those who have borrowed this noble name for a project in lower Manhattan. One would want assurances, also, about the transparency of its funding and the content of its educational programs. But the way to respond to such overtures is by critical scrutiny and engagement, not cheap appeals to parochialism, victimology, and unreason.
In my Vermont church analogy, namesake David can be seen as a revered, wise ruler. He can also be seen as a giant-slayer. If this story was real, you would hear critics say the church sees the bomber as a David-like figure, drawing blood from the towering abortion-rights camp with mere pebbles. They would choose the ghastly interpretation while the church builders would cling to the noble one.

Let's change my hypothetical example. Let's say it wasn't a church, but a pro-life group that was building a regional base at the location. Does it sound like provocation yet? It doesn't matter how often abortion opponents distance themselves from the bombers and assassins, or that such a large swatch of Americans has produced less than a dozen violent extremists. Opponents will link the two.

Muslims shouldn't have to walk on egg shells when they practice their religion in America. They shouldn't be taunted if they want to build a religious center in New York City. But they are also aware that their entire religion has been given a bad reputation by a group of extremists. They should use better foresight than the Park51 organizers showed.

Let me give an example of their poor public relations skills: While researching this post I wanted to reference that Park51 was scheduled to open on Sept. 11, 2011. This was hard to see as anything other than provocation. I tried to confirm it dredging the official website, but found only vague nonsense like "Park51 will join New York to the world, offering a welcoming community center with multiple points of entry. "

A Google search turned up uncited references in blogs. I started to suspect that this was an urban legend, so I added the word "myth" to my search and found a Media Matters post demolishing the rumor. Fair enough, the rumor wasn't true. But look at how the organizers let the ball drop.

Such a damning rumor is out there, and there's nothing on their website to dispel it. Even some of their supporters believe it. The entire thing makes no mention of any controversy, so its clear they are trying to wait it out in silence and do not want to post something that mentions criticism. However, there are other ways to handle it. They could add a sentence to the website saying "we have not decided on an opening date at this time." This would satisfy their non-confrontational stance and still help combat the rumor mill.

What I want to know is, were the organizers really surprised by the response they've received? The vague platitudes the Imam has cloaked himself with have no meat to them. They are indistinguishable from the hollow words a hostile organization would hide behind.

President Obama seems to have the same stance I do. As NPR put it:

Weighing his words carefully on a fiery political issue, President Obama said Saturday that Muslims have the right to build a mosque near New York's Ground Zero, but he did not say whether he believes it is a good idea to do so.
He's keeping half his hand hidden and won't say if he finds the plan tasteful or not. If he thought it was, he'd lose nothing as his liberal supporters think it is and his conservative critics disagree. However, if I'm right and Obama thinks the location is all wrong, then he'd anger some liberal supporters. His conservative critics would thank him for his support, but still oppose him on everything else.

I believe
the community center project was well-intentioned, but from a public relations standpoint, it has been handled so terribly and with such a distant grasp on reality that supports should hold the organizers responsible for the bulk of the angry response.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Liberal Curmudgeon" on the same side as Young, Hip and Conservative

The New York Times ran a piece yesterday by about the fallacy of food miles entitled "Math Lessons for Locavores." It wasn't shy about saying things like:

The statistics brandished by local-food advocates to support such doctrinaire assertions are always selective, usually misleading and often bogus.
The article also stood up for the accomplishments modern agriculture has made:

Agriculture, on the other hand, accounts for just 2 percent of our nation’s energy usage; that energy is mainly devoted to running farm machinery and manufacturing fertilizer. In return for that quite modest energy investment, we have fed hundreds of millions of people, liberated tens of millions from backbreaking manual labor and spared hundreds of millions of acres for nature preserves, forests and parks that otherwise would have come under the plow.

Don’t forget the astonishing fact that the total land area of American farms remains almost unchanged from a century ago, at a little under a billion acres, even though those farms now feed three times as many Americans and export more than 10 times as much as they did in 1910.

The best way to make the most of these truly precious resources of land, favorable climates and human labor is to grow lettuce, oranges, wheat, peppers, bananas, whatever, in the places where they grow best and with the most efficient technologies — and then pay the relatively tiny energy cost to get them to market, as we do with every other commodity in the economy. Sometimes that means growing vegetables in your backyard. Sometimes that means buying vegetables grown in California or Costa Rica.

Eating locally grown produce is a fine thing in many ways. But it is not an end in itself, nor is it a virtue in itself. The relative pittance of our energy budget that we spend on modern farming is one of the wisest energy investments we can make, when we honestly look at what it returns to our land, our economy, our environment and our well-being.

The author, Stephen Budiansky, blogs at and I don't think I could have crafted a better antonym to my blog title if I tried.

What on earth could bring two polar opposites to the same side of such an important issue?



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Localism as a proxy for protectionism

I often refer to localists by such charming euphanisms as neo-mercantalists, economic nationalists and hyper-protectionists. The last one is the most useful for finding modern experts to reference.

I've stumbled into a nice niche as the only blog that focuses critically on the "buy local" movement. I will see similar posts pop up here or there, but I've yet to see any other writer spend the majority of his or her time on this subject from a pro-trade perspective.

But that's not true for protectionism. A lot of people write about the fallacy of protectionism, which by no coincidence, is the same fallacy of localism. It's a simple trick for me to take something an economist wrote about protectionism and show how the same rules apply to localism.

Another non-coincidence is that people who become localist activists often hold strong opinions against free trade and globalization.

In the past week two very good posts against protectionism came up from Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek. The first is a response to a letter that said Mexican workers hurt America when they work here and send their money back home.

"The vast majority of these immigrants acquire their wealth by working – a fact that means that the wealth that immigrants accumulate while in America is paid to them voluntarily.

"That is, these immigrants acquire wealth only by creating goods and services that are valued by the Americans who hire or otherwise do business with them. The process that Ms. Pavia describes and dislikes benefits both working immigrants and Americans, regardless of whether or not immigrants take their earnings back to Mexico."

The wages paid to foreign workers is analogues to money paid to distant merchants, and Boudreaux's logic applies equally to both of them.

Localists make the common mistake of confusing dollar bills with wealth. The more a community relies on expensive local production, the less a dollar bill will buy, so even if money is trapped in the community, it's value will slip away into the abyss.

In another post, Boudreaux writes about the protectionist mentality of political commentator Lou Dobbs - a charge Dobbs, dishonestly denies. Boudreaux shares some quotes from Dobbs that says otherwise. The following examples from Dobbs could easily be used to defend a localist mindset:

“Our lack of self-reliance and inability to produce our own goods is seen by most economists as simply a global economy at work, but our growing dependency on the rest of the world for commodities and finished goods alike is, in my opinion, reason for considerable concern, if not alarm.”
Or how about this one:

“...Or is it in our national interest not to spend those hundreds of billions of dollars on imports, but rather to preserve our national manufacturing base – even expand it – and create more jobs at home? These are questions that should be addressed in a national dialogue.”
Localism is protectionism, through and through. But instead of looking at the world past the national border with cold, slitted eyes, the proponents share that same distrust for the world past the border of their home town.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Matt Ridley on the localist fallacy

"Buy local" activists promise rich, prosperous communities that get wealthier by isolating their residents from trade. This is very much at odds with Matt Ridley's TED talk about the palpable benefits of trade. I did not know that trade preceded agriculture until watching this interesting talk:

Ridley also recently wrote about the myth that an environmentally sustainable culture would rely on local production and not trade. He also takes a potshot at the idea that we need to lower our standard of living by eliminating consumer choices and luxuries while recounting the survival stories of North Korean defectors:

They lived free from the evils of consumerism, indeed in the late 1990s they were so free of consumerism that their children or parents starved to death before their eyes. They never faced the paralysing agony of choosing between bagel brands, indeed for a lot of the time they ate meals based on stewing grasses and the husks of corn cobs. They had few possessions at all, let alone SUVs. Their pets needed no grooming, because they had been eaten. And they lived as locavores off the land, in all its organic purity, recycling their waste so that the local farmland stank of ‘night soil’. All around Chongjin by the 1990s the wildlife had been trapped, the wild plants picked, the grasses cut for food and even the bark of trees stripped to make flour.
Perhaps that's not fair; after all, these forced-locavores did not have an infrastructure arranged to produce food and had to make due without tools or machinery. However, that's something the localists always gloss over - their ideas always assume a future technology will produce goods on a small scale as cheaply as at a large factory.

The angry responses to Ridley's post seem to be making the argument that the North Koreans are a poor example, as their "living off the land" strategy is using extremely inefficient means to gather food. But not so fast, localists. They routinely ignore the issue of efficiency and economics of scale. Their entire argument has been on the source of goods, so Ridley simply extended that logic to an extreme to show the fallacy.

For example, I recently needed six copies of a 40-page document. I could have made them all locally by printing them off my computer. Indeed, I had the machinery to do it. But I didn't; I printed one copy and used a photocopier to make the other five. This involved leaving the house and paying for the new copies. Why did I do this? Keep in mind the printer is like a small farm, and the photocopier is a distant corporate farm.

I knew it would be cheaper in the long run. My printer uses very expensive ink and large photocopiers are made to be cheap. The gas money I used didn't change anything.

To step outside this metaphor, I made the copies at a location near the supermarket, so the time and money driving there wasn't very big, otherwise there would have been a large opportunity cost from the time it took to get the copies. This doesn't compromise the metaphor, as buying a potato from Idaho doesn't require actually driving there to get it.

The localist movement speaks of utopias, but everywhere their solution is tried is a horror. Ridley continued in his post:

There is something terribly wrong with the standard litany we recite about the environment. It just is not true that extravagant western lifestyles come at the expense of nature. The more I see of the world, the more persuaded I am that human prosperity is actually good for wildlife, because it leads to investment in things that boost biodiversity. Things like productive farms and sewage treatment and well stocked stores and fossil fuels and lawn sprinklers and bird feeders and sport fishing lobbies and national parks. Things that make it unnecessary to use the local forest as a source of fuel, the local valley as a source of food and the local stream as a dump for waste. Things that value a moose as something other than a meal.

The oft repeated recommendation of the environmental movement that we live more locally, live off the land, live with fewer choices, fewer inputs, fewer resources and fewer possessions would in fact result in devastation not just for human life but for wildlife too. Going back to nature would be a disaster for nature.

I wish I had put it that eloquently.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sometimes the local option is better

Most of my posts are about how small, local businesses aren't as efficient as larger companies and can't compete. Imagine my surprise when the Institute for Justice took up the cause of the monks in Saint Joseph Abbey of Saint Benedict in Louisiana.

The funeral industry capitalizes on peoples reluctance to shop around when planning a funeral and sells expensive caskets and the monks have been building and selling cheap caskets.

Enter the lobbyists for the funeral industry and resulting laws:

Under Louisiana law, it is a crime for anyone but a licensed funeral director to sell “funeral merchandise,” which includes caskets. To sell caskets legally, the monks would have to abandon their calling for one full year to apprentice at a licensed funeral home, and convert their monastery into a “funeral establishment” by, among other things, installing equipment for embalming.

The State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors is now going after Saint Joseph Abbey for the “sin” of selling caskets without a government-issued license...

The only reason the state of Louisiana is preventing the Abby from selling its caskets is to protect the profits of the state’s funeral directors. The law is on the books, and the State Board is enforcing it, because licensed funeral directors want the funeral merchandise market to themselves.
Remember, corporations are not in the business of protecting the free market.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sex offender registries are useless

As long as the list includes people that are not sex offenders except on paper, inclusion in a sex offender registry is meaningless and needlessly cruel.

A few years ago someone at my office was upset. Police had been by her house with print-outs of a a sex offender moving into the area. My coworker said she afraid and wanted to get the offender to move elsewhere.

I explained to her how easy it is for false-positives to get on the list. There is a big difference between a rapist and someone who crossed the line of consent with their steady girlfriend 15 years ago when they were both in high school, but both get listed.

To her credit, my coworkers listened, changed her mind, and stopped being so afraid.

Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids fame wrote about a Maine woman who had two sons end up on the list by overzealous law enforcement. The first worked at a carnival and a child accused him of touching her bottom while buckling her in for a ride:

The police come over and ask, "Is that true?" Your son replies, "Maybe. I have to lock the bar around their waists and between their legs. They squirm. It could have happened."

The next day the police take him in for questioning. They ask him the same thing, this time with the videotape running. He gives them the same answer.

It is considered his confession. He is convicted of "Indecent Assault and Battery on a Child." He goes to jail for nine months. He is put on the Sex Offender Registry -- for life.
The second son didn't even get a job around children:

He's at the urinal in the school bathroom during a weekend service project. A girl too young to read bursts in and he yells, "Out out out! Get out!" She starts crying and leaves. Her mom is concerned. The police are called. Was he in the men's room with a girl?

Well, yes. Since everyone agrees the girl was not touched, he is convicted of "Visual Sexual Aggression Against a Child" -- the crime of having a child see his genitals. He does six months in jail. He's placed on the Sex Offender Registry for the next 10 years.
Skenazy makes a strong point about how terrible their placement on that list really is:

Let us remember this when we look up our local sex offender maps and see two convicts: One who ostensibly exposes himself to children and one who ostensibly assaults them.
This isn't justice. It's fear mongering and it's condemning innocent people to a lifetime of dirty looks and tight-fisted barriers. As horrible as sex crimes are, they should not overrule the American idea of innocent until proven guilty.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Saving the public from illegal lemonade stands

It was only a matter of time before this would happen.

County officials in Portland, Oregon shut down a lemonade stand because the 7-year-old operator didn't have a $120 temporary restaurant license.

Technically, any lemonade stand -- even one on your front lawn -- must be licensed under state law, said Eric Pippert, the food-borne illness prevention program manager for the state's public health division.
The reason they shut down this criminal operation is that little Julie Murphy brought her stand to a public event, instead of the seedy suburban streets where black market lemonade usually thrives.

Say there was a crackdown on unlicensed lemonade stands. What would the preschool merchants do if they had to pay $120 for the right to be in business?

The industry as a whole would be destroyed due to a dead weight loss. The start-up cost would be incredibly high, and the price of a glass of lemonade would have to rise considerably. Customers would buy less and profits would fall. The only reason this industry is allowed to exist is because it's publicly unpopular to enforce the existing laws.

UPDATE The county has apologized to Julie.

"A lemonade stand is a classic iconic American kid thing to do," county Chairman Jeff Cogen said. "I don't want to be in the business of shutting that down."


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The era of the family farm is over

The New York Times recently ran an op-ed about a 378-year-old family farm calling it quits. Writer Verlyn Klinkenborg doesn't understand that its the wheels of production that have made this business model obsolete. He instead blames government subsidies:

"It is too simple to say, as the Tuttles have, that the recession killed a farm that had survived for nearly 400 years. What killed it was the economic structure of food production. Each year it has become harder for family farms to compete with industrial scale agriculture — heavily subsidized by the government — underselling them at every turn. In a system committed to the health of farms and their integration with local communities, the result would have been different."
The frustrating thing about his view is that he doesn't see agricultural subsidies as a problem, he just thinks they are misapplied.

Agricultural economists like Daniel Sumner disagree and think farm subsidies should go away altogether. When asked about the local, small-scale food production model Klinkenborg yearns for, Sumner said it would not be affordable and waste a lot of resources; adding:

"If wealthy consumers demand more local production they will get it. Rich folks in New York or San Francisco can hire personal gardeners to grow things for them in the backyard or on the roof tops as noted in recent NYT articles. But given the huge costs of such practices, that is unlikely to be a significant share of the food consumption for normal people."
Family farms are not a good way to produce food today. Our technology level has advanced and created an industrial process that makes tons of food. Fear mongers want us to believe that is a bad thing, and make a lot of flawed arguments about health, environmental and economic problems that come with efficient food production. Exposing the nonsense behind those views has become the focus of this blog.

Klinkenborg wants protectionism for family farms. I must admit, however, I can relate because I really miss having pudding in metal cans.

When I was a kid I liked the little pull-tab and the clink of the spoon on the bottom of the can. Today, pudding comes in tiny plastic tubs and I can't find metal cans anywhere. It seems manufacturers found a cheaper way to store individual servings of pudding. I miss that aesthetics that come with the old way of selling pudding, and for me to get that is to pay more in a niche market, or as food Luddites like Klinkenborg want, force the taxpayers to make up the price difference so expensive metal cans have the same price tag for consumers.

But some of those tax payers don't care about pudding containers. Why should they have to pay for my niche preference? The truth is, they shouldn't, and tax payers shouldn't have to subsidize food production - large or small.

Family farms are now a niche market to satisfy an aesthetic preference, not a cheap and affordable way to produce food. Don't blame lobbyists, don't blame bureaucrats and don't blame illegitimate business practices. It's technology that killed them - the technology of large-scale production.