The Atlantic has an on-line piece debating the virtues of the locavore movement. An economist named Pierre Desrochers is promoting his book titled The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000 Mile Diet. Not surprisingly, he received a warm welcome at The Cato Institute. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

Desrochers’ environmental arguments are the most interesting. But he has equal faith that these same economies of scale deliver us safer food, food that’s engineered to be more nutritious, and a more secure global supply of it – all benefits that locavores threaten. He sums all of this up with a dramatic slide warning that locavorism will lead inevitably to higher costs and greater poverty, no environmental and social benefits, less food security and nutrition, and significant penalties for developing economies.

In the audience afterward, one man raises his hand and wants to know what concerned citizens can possibly do about all these urban chickens reintroducing disease into the city.

“In the end, I throw up my hands in despair,” Desrochers says. “In the end, someone will have to die.”

h/t Stewart Lundy

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Mark T. Mitchell
Mark T. Mitchell teaches political theory at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA. He is the author Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing and The Politics of Gratitude: Scale, Place, and Community in a Global Age (Potomac Books, 2012). He is co-editor of another book titled, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry. Currently he is writing a book on private property. In 2008-9, while on sabbatical at Princeton University, he and Jeremy Beer hatched a plan to start a website dedicated to political decentralism, economic localism, and cultural regionalism. A group of like-minded people quickly formed around these ideas, and in March 2009, FPR was launched. Although he was raised in Montana and still occasionally longs for the west, he lives in Virginia with his wife, three sons and one daughter where they are in the process of turning a few acres into a small farm. See books written by Mark Mitchell.


  1. There’s always someone who will argue for more Doritos. Heck, Dalton’s there at the checkout line with 10 boxes of mac n cheese. And nope, she’s not waving hello.
    I did look him up, and based upon the discussion and a cursory review of his website, what I am assuming to be his premise seems a bit of an aberration for him. It’s a curiosity for me. I’m not giving him due diligence, granted, but it’s Friday, and it’s been Biblically hot.

  2. Does site allow HTML tags? Just posted with various supporting links and seems the interwebs ate it.

  3. “More nutritious” — because the science of nutrition is totally settled and beyond dispute! Scientists in the field are currently looking for work because their job is done! Sure, industry was wrong about margarine (and some other things that seemed like a really good idea at the time), but now they’ve got it all worked out. Their profit motive would never compete with their concern for your well-being…

    And people are dying already, even in the US, by the way. They’re just not “consumers,” so perhaps they don’t count. Farm workers are expendable (between 10,000 and 20,000 incidents of pesticide poisoning annually in the US alone). Of course, if they’re migrant workers they’re really expendable because they’re just a product that supplies the US economy’s insatiable demand for cheap labor. The industrial system is certainly efficient at spreading E. coli O157:H7, but I wouldn’t consider that a positive trait, and the 2000+ humans infected every year might not think so either.

    Ultimately, Desrochers’ argument sounds quite contradictory: the industrial system is the most efficient way to supply the demand for food, and yet their remains considerable demand for foods made independently of the industrial system. If there is a market for products that the industrial system cannot supply, then it cannot be the case that production of said products is “inefficient,” particularly if said market is competitive. Therefore, while the two markets may appear superficially similar, Desrochers seems not to have considered the need to look beyond mere appearances.

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