Published on: November 1, 2011
Yesterday’s Eye-Opener focused on the fact that the globe now has seven billion people, and I wondered how we’re going to feed all those people.
Which led one MNB user to write:As a general rule, most academic demographers are not of the belief that rising populations have much, if anything, to do with global hunger. Study after study has shown that famine’s root cause has been political instability and not food shortages related to population growth.
One of my favorite economists, Amartya Sen, was awarded a Nobel Prize in part by his research that proved, pretty convincingly, that nations with functioning democracies have never been plagued by extended famine.
This is, in large part, why the article from the Daily Beast raised these exact issues regarding democratic governments. Your observation: “how these people feel about their circumstances and whether they are satisfied or discontented will be directly related to whether their stomachs are full, and whether they are able to feed their families” is no doubt an important one. The question is causality.
And I would suggest that as we have seen in all of the recent political hotspots, widespread hunger may suck, and it may cause some unrest, but none of those issues are as casually important as an utter breakdown of civil rule, democracy, etc. The real eye opener in the story is that the problems like those we’ve seen in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, etc. could be magnified 500 X with a soaring population lacking civil rule. In this, Global political unrest may become the expectation, with democracy being the exception.
The thing I love about MNB is that I learn stuff every day.
On the subject of declining consumer confidence, one MNB user wrote:I don’t know about you, but when I opened my quarterly 401K report, showing I lost more than I contributed for the Q3, my confidence plummeted, too. A reaction to a paper loss the prior quarter. Possibly not a coincidence that general confidence is down if that’s the same news other investors just received.
MNB user Jill Hedin had a thought about a related issue:If the gap between the have and have-nots is truly increasing, I cannot help but wonder (and this might be a very naive view; forgive my ignorance) that we might need to redefine the word affluent or address it differently. I grew up in a working to middle class family. Now I am seeing this group viewing themselves as “affluent”.
Is the “middle class” really going away or are these times of economic struggle simply causing the human race to feel differently about their status?
MNB took note yesterday of an Advertising Age
report that in the UK, Kellogg Co. is dealing with the lack of sunshine during much of the year by fortifying a number of its cereals with Vitamin D, “touting the addition of the ‘sunshine nutrient’ as a way to combat rising incidents of rickets, a bone disorder caused by a lack of the vitamin ... Kellogg cited research showing a 140% increase in the number of British children under 10 admitted to the hospital with rickets in 2009 compared with 2001.”
My comment:Call me crazy, but I think I’d be more concerned about the fact that the UK apparently has seen such a dramatically reduced level of sunshine in just eight years that it is getting people sick...
Which led one MNB user to offer:If I had to guess, it isn’t the reduction in sunshine causing the lack of vitamin D, but the reduction in time outside in the sunshine that is causing the lack. Also from my limited research on the issue, using sunscreen to avoid dangerous UV rays also limits the production of vitamin D produced from spending time in the sun. That combination would reduce vitamin D in the diet. Sometimes it is a “Catch 22” when dealing with metabolic issues.
The other day, MNB quoted a new story that said:“Virtually everyone is exposed to BPA. Authors of the new study found BPA in the urine of more than 97% of the 240 pregnant women studied, as well as 97% of their children.”
MNB user Elizabeth Archerd wrote:Organic food in BPA free containers, anyone?
Regarding Walmart’s decision to move its fashion office from New York to Arkansas, one MNB user wrote:Wal-Mart has an expansive view of the world. It is just viewing it from Arkansas! How would you like to be an employee in New York offered a chance to transfer to Arkansas? Wow ... talk about culture shock.
Last week, MNB reported that Redbox, the Coinstar-owned DVD and video game rental service with 28,000 locations nationwide, announced yesterday in an email to users that it is raising its prices 20 percent - from one dollar to $1.20 - effective Monday, October 31. The move comes some months after Netflix, the online DVD rental service, caused a small firestorm among its subscribers by raising its prices 60 percent.
The company said that one of the main reasons for the increase was “higher debit card fees that went into effect October 1.”
My comment:After the Netflix debacle, Redbox probably figured there was no time like the present to increase prices. And the move is even easier when you can blame it on those damned politicians.
One MNB user responded:I would feel better about this if they would tell us exactly what these fees were, and what they are now. Transparency, or additional information, would be valuable in determining whether these claims are true.
But another MNB user responded:Come on. Be fair. Redbox is being completely transparent here. Their costs increased. Their customers are being informed of this and the necessary price increase and now have a choice of whether to pay or pass.
And, from another MNB user:So far, this "consumer protection law" and resulting transparency has resulted in both higher bank fees and higher prices (Redbox, for example). It's enough to make consumers nostalgic for the good old days of last year when at least we didn't realize how much all this was costing us.
In the end, I have to believe that transparency is better.
On another subject, MNB user Jim Swoboda wrote:I read once again, with amazement, your commentary sharing the conversation on Tower Records and the comment that companies like Apple and Amazon, like to build things but only leave destruction in their wake.
What is it about innovation and progress that many in our world bemoan the fact that some businesses become obsolete. I believe that has happened since the beginning of business.
Would you want to trade your light bulbs for oil lanterns, or candles before that, or simply torches before that! Were any business obsoleted in this progression?
How about trading your car back in for a horse and buggy and before that, just a horse. Any buggy manufacturers obsoleted?
Then, you could trade in your pocket digital camera with 15 megapixels for a film camera, perhaps a disc camera, or maybe even an old tintype that required a 8 x 10 metal plate or bigger and 50 plus pound camera to carry around. Any obsoleted companies or business models here?
We could go on and on listing examples like this. It is called progress. Those who innovate, survive and thrive, those who do not, have their day, and then fade away, sometimes with a whimper, sometimes with a bang.
Responding to my piece about the Cardinals’ World Series win, MNB user Steven Ritchey wrote:For every winner there has to be a loser, and many Texas Ranger fans are heartbroken at coming so close, we came within 1 strike, twice on Thursday night. So celebrate, enjoy it, you’ve earned it, but remember, how close it came to being over in game 6 and remember that to some degree some luck was involved.
First of all, I'm a Mets fan. (I’m not celebrating anything, except the good fortune being enjoyed by my friends in St. Louis.) Believe me, after 1986, I know about luck. But I also know about character.
Was it luck that St. Louis kept coming back in the sixth game of the series? Or was it an unwillingness to give up, and an ability to take advantage of an opportunity when it is presented - like a fat pitch that can be hit a long, long way. And was it bad luck that the Rangers could not close the deal? Or just an inability to close the deal?
I feel bad for the Rangers - especially for Nolan Ryan, who just looked crestfallen - but to ascribe the turn of events to “luck” strikes me as disingenuous.
And MNB user Henry Stein wrote:...and most impressive in St. Louis was the lack of rioting and the apparent civility after the 7th game win….not easy to accomplish, and yet, speaks to the fact that this baseball town not only appreciates what their team had done, but kept the celebration clean and free of strife and conflict.