30 December, 2008

A Disingenuation...

By way of a continuation?

The debate surges on, and I couldn't help but comment. The question was posed--perhaps awkwardly--if there could be any positive outcomes in the immediate future from this whole "recession" thing.

One theory (and one restricted to a particular sphere of benefit) says yes! As businesses are finding ways to cut back on overhead, many are floating around the idea of cutting back the workweek, rather than the workforce. The immediate result would be less work for employees, and as Elliot has noted, only slightly less money in their pockets.

And so the question: as people are tightening their belts, might they find it easier because they are now leading healthier, more active lifestyles. With more time at home, people may be more inclined to cook for themselves--a practice which many in this high-powered world have abandoned. Cooking is a labor of love that almost automatically puts people into a closer relationship with the foods they eat. Evidence points out that people are more aware of what goes into their food when they prepare it themselves, and generally prefer less heavily processed material. There is a health benefit right up front that may have quite significant results in reducing medical problems caused by poor diet.

In addition, for many, eating locally and in-season will become an easier, less expensive choice than it was before. Supporting local agriculture is good. Really good in a time of recession! So we could have an equation describing this situation:

We may define "recession" as:
-Money(More Time/Shopping Local+Cooking) = Less Obesity+Active Lifestyle

Of course, the logical consequence of Less Obesity + Active Lifestyle is Lowered Healthcare costs, which in turn means NO RECESSION!!

It's brilliant and untenable, but who knows? Maybe there's still hope.

3 comments:

higgy said...

Although I think we could move our society to a situation where buying food locally and regionally would be less expensive, from my own experience that certainly isn't the case now (at least out east!). A shift to that situation, while great in the long run, would likely be costly in the short run. Consumers would have to collectively start buying locally and regionally in mass numbers. This would impose unnecessary hardship on normal Americans for a somewhat short period of time. The influx of wealth to the local regional food providers would allow them to refit to provide their products at a lower cost, so thing would eventually balance out - but the idea of consumers taking a hit collectively and voluntarily like that seems very unlikely to me.

Unless the recession sends us back to the Middle Ages, it all seems unlikely.

spencer said...

Similarly, high unemployment gives people more time to do all kinds of awesome things, like spend time with their kids, jog, read philosophy, and hug more! Also, you should probably run around smashing windows because then that will provide lots of jobs for window-makers.

spencer said...

Regarding higgy's point, I think we have two different data sets that lead to two different conclusions. In the Midwest, farmer's markets are cheaper than grocery stores (right?) because they cut out the middle-man, if you will. So recession leads people to substitute away from more expensive processed foods to more time-intensive cooking, thus leading to more local agriculture (of which there is already much to begin with).

In the cities of the East, farmer's markets are ridiculously expensive because produce must be transported longer distances, there are many fewer and smaller farms, and demand for local/organic/natural food is much higher. During recession, people substitute away from local produce to much cheaper processed foods. So the effect is likely to be different in different regions.

But higgy's broader point, that larger farms have lower costs, is very important, and I think that is we won't really see local food take off until someone can square that circle.