Wheat, the Stuff of Revolutions

By Alan Caruba

In a recent column, Lawrence Kudlow, an economist and popular radio host, opined that “the sinking dollar and skyrocketing food prices (may have) triggered the massive unrest now occurring in Egypt—or the greater Arab world for that matter.”

When barely two percent of America’s population is engaged in agriculture, growing the crops we eat or that is fed to livestock, it is perhaps understandable that the other 98% has no clue how all that food shows up in their supermarkets and restaurants.

Methinks that the turmoil we are witnessing in Middle Eastern nations derives more from the rumblings in empty bellies than in any real concern for human rights.

Historically, food is the stuff of revolutions. It was the origin of the French revolution that toppled the monarchy and, as we watch the Middle East and the Maghreb nations of northern Africa, it was food that was the match that set off the present popular demonstrations against dictatorships of varying description.

The monthly edition of Wheat Life, a publication of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, always features a look at the status of the “wide world of wheat.” It is particularly instructive this month.

“There’s a reason governments make every effort to keep food affordable. Just ask the deposed president of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. A popular uprising in the mostly desert country of 10 million was sparked by the self-immolation of a man who was arrested for selling vegetables without a license as well as rising prices, particularly bread.” Ben Ali was sent packing after decades of tight-fisted control.

The price of food along with his thirty years of control toppled Egypt’s Mubarack. As Kudlow noted, the mainstream media are so focused on the turmoil in the streets that it is “overlooking the impact of rising inflation, driven mainly by record food prices.” Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer but “Egyptian inflation is now over 10 percent while some experts estimate that Egyptian food inflation has risen as much as 20 percent.”

Much of the world’s inflationary woes come right back to actions being taken here in the United States. “Commodities are priced in dollars, and the Federal Reserve has been overproducing dollars for more than two years.” As the value of the dollar declines, it drives up the cost of everything everywhere. The rise in food costs said Kudlow is “a global phenomenon. It is a monetary phenomenon as much as anything.”

“In dollar terms,” noted Kudlow, “ the price of wheat has soared 114 percent over the past year. Corn has surged 88 percent. These are incredible numbers.” There is a reason for the increase in corn prices and it is the United States’ idiotic and insane mandate that ethanol, made from corn, be added to every gallon of gasoline. There is no justifiable reason for ethanol.

A look around the world also shows how Mother Nature is playing her role in the availability—or lack of it—of wheat. Do not fall for the “climate change” blather that hides the global warming fraud. Droughts and deluges alike are a normal part of the Earth’s weather and quite beyond the control of dictators or democracies.

In Russia, drought cut the 2010 wheat production of wheat by a third. Its government declared a moratorium on exports until the 2011 harvest. By contrast, China has had seven years of rising wheat harvests, but Chinese agricultural experts worry that grain production is increasingly concentrated in the water-scarce northern region of the nation.

So, while people around the world watch the Middle Eastern turmoil in the streets, it is factors such as the declining value of the U.S. dollar, the U.S. ethanol policies, and Mother Nature that are driving revolution.

A government that cannot affordably feed its people, it will not last for long.

The Moral Lib­eral Fea­tured Writer, Alan Caruba, writes a daily post at http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com. An author, busi­ness and sci­ence writer, he is the founder of The National Anx­i­ety Center. Copyright 2010 © Alan Caruba