G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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Wait a minute, I didn’t think liberal Keynesians considered this a problem during an economic lull with high unemployment and excess capacity:
Each year, about 40 percent of all food in the United States goes uneaten. It’s just tossed out or left to rot. And that’s a fairly large waste of resources. All that freshwater and land, all that fertilizer and energy — for nothing. By one count, Americans are simply squandering the equivalent of $165 billion each year by rubbishing so much food.
It was proto-liberal Matt Yglesias who wrote a year ago about the benefits of shop-lifting in a down economy:
It seems to me that in an economy with high unemployment and excess capacity, a temporary increase in shoplifting would in fact create jobs. Why? Well, retailers place their orders on a forward-looking basis. If you think you can sell stuff at a profit in the future, you order stuff. The shoplifting surge would reduce inventories, and cause a spike in orders. That would mean extra employment in manufacturing and transportation.
This seems to me to be similar to the alleged broken windows fallacy. Having goods vanish off store shelves would produce no additional jobs if full employment were already in effect since it wouldn’t be possible to create any extra goods. Only technological improvements to move the production frontier outward would raise living standards. But if there are unemployed people sitting around, then why shouldn’t shoplifting boost employment? Of course we need to distinguish a temporary surge in shoplifting from a permanent increase in the level of shoplifting. The latter would merely increase retailers’ costs and depress the economy.
So really we should just buy, cook, and order food that we don’t really need. Order two Big Macs and throw one away; it’s good for the country. That extra foodstuff employs more people for more hours. Being a conservationist is bad for the economy.