With all the problems we are seeing in the international markets and economies, might it be safer to be less exposed to these vagaries of Supply and Demand? For example, if we all grew our own vegetables, would that free us from the shackles of the financial world when buying our food?
Modern economic systems increase our vulnerability to forces far beyond our control. Greater self-reliance — on both the household and community level — could give us more protection. In modern economic parlance, it could diversify our portfolio.
This, of course, is hogwash. The market was created precisely for the purpose of diversification and any step away from it is a step backwards. If there are problems in the market, it can be tempting to want to isolate one’s self and state: “I’m growing my own food so I won’t be affected by outside food prices.” There are only two problems with this: 1) This will not be the case at all, and 2) if it were, it would spell the end of our civilization.
Dealing with the first point is obvious: if you grow your own veggies, you’re still buying dirt and land and seeds and fertilizer and gardening equipment and tools, etc. etc. Not to mention, you may decide you want to eat some veggies you cannot grow one day, or some fruit, or some meat, or a Pizza and a Coke. And you’re still buying gardening magazines and books, or watching gardening TV shows, all of which entail exposure to the international markets.
The second point is rather serious (and we deal with it in our upcoming book). Folbre continues her article to say:
Self-provisioning of services is already central to our economy. The American Time Use Survey shows that we spend about as much time cooking, cleaning, shopping and caring for one another as we do in paid employment. (Standard measures of well-being such as gross domestic product continue to omit consideration of the value of this work).
If people decided to produce their own products they would still have to spend as much time as they did before cooking, cleaning, shopping and caring for one another, as well as at their paid employment. Except now they would also have to spend time growing their own foods. One can see that this will be a luxury that only a privileged few can permit themselves.
Of course, you could argue that people who grow vegetables could then sell any surplus. This, then, would lead to more diversification, since I’d quickly realize that if I concentrate on producing tomatoes, I get more out of selling the surplus in order to buy my neighbors’ potatoes and the milk from two doors down, rather than try to do it all myself. These, of course, are the beginnings of a market, which is what we were trying to avoid in the first place.