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July 24, 2011


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This post seems to rest on an assumption that any government activity must be "social engineering" whereas corporations and industry are expressions of free choice.

Two ironies: First, there is already a lot of "social engineering" going on with the food supply, it's just being done by the mega-corporations controlling the food industry, subsidized by current government policies.

Second, Bittman's proposal is actually meant to increase the real food choices Americans would have, as the money would be aimed at those places where the choice is between "another deep-fried Ding Dong" and some-other-fried-McMeal. Do choices only count if they come from corporations, or can governments intervene to promote more real choice?

If readers want a different perspective, I've written a bit more on the issue at my blog-post on "Anthropology and government planning":


Interesting reply, Jason, and much to think about; but to answer your question, yes, I do maintain that, because the state enjoys exclusive power of legal coercion, it alone can engage in social engineering, while interactions among producers and consumers are essentially voluntary. (And I wholeheartedly agree that the state is already tightly entwined with the food industry--as I said above, I disagree with that as well.)

Hi Mark,
Thank you for the reply. Although I will continue to disagree that only states can do social engineering, I imagine you, me, and even Mark Bittman can agree about the need to end government subsidies for current food industry practices.

Amen! :)

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Accepting the Invisible Hand: Market-Based Approaches to Social-Economic Problems, Mark D. White (ed)

Beyond Social Capital: A Critical Approach, Irene van Stavern and Peter Knorringa (eds)

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