We’ve written before on how the would-be prophet of the “food movement,” Michael Pollan, and his devout locavore followers – aka, people who refuse to eat anything from outside of their 100-mile “foodshed” – completely ignore the economic principles of comparative advantage and economies of scale. But as discussed in a recent blog post by NPR’s Jane Black, many of those same locavores are getting a real life lesson on another fundamental principle of economics: The law of unintended consequences.
The law of unintended consequences holds that specific actions always have effects which were not originally intended. Sometimes it can be a good thing, sometimes bad. And then there are those unintended consequences which are beautifully ironic, a poetic justice of sorts. According to Black, the latter is exactly what’s happening to the locavores in New York City:
In the good old days, which weren’t actually all that long ago, it was easy for people like chef Peter Hoffman to hire experienced cooks. Lately, though, the chef shortage has turned his recruiting process into something of an extreme sport. “I began to ask myself the questions: ‘What is going on? . . . Where has everybody gone?’ “
So apparently the Pollanites’ campaign to buy locally had the intended consequence of getting more people to buy local produce, including chefs. The problem, though, is that such produce is rarely produced in or near big cities. Hence the now unintended consequence of chefs leaving big cities like locavore columnist Mark Bittman’s hometown of New York City for smaller towns closer to rural areas like Chapel Hill, NC.
You have to love the irony. Elite “foodie” culture is often trumpeted in our country’s urban outlets, but those same city-dwelling locavore devotees are now victims of their own bumper stickers. Unfortunately for us, this is merely another episode in a long line of Pollanite campaigns that fail to comprehend the laws of economics and their ultimate impact on consumers.