June 6, 2006


Organic Matter (James H. Joyner Jr., 06 Jun 2006, Tech Central Station)

University of California at Berkeley journalism professor Michael Pollan argues in the New York Times Sunday Magazine that, by attempting to make organic foods -- now derided by many as an elitist luxury -- cheap enough for the masses to afford, Wal-Mart may be undermining the very things that make organics desirable in the first place.

The retail giant has announced plans to stock a wide variety of organics in its stores later this year with prices only ten percent higher than for similar non-organic items it now carries. Pollan argues that, "To index the price of organic to the price of conventional is to give up, right from the start, on the idea, once enshrined in the organic movement, that food should be priced not high or low but responsibly."

One of the arguments of Rod Dreher's incredibly vacuous book, Crunchy Cons, is that in buying organic food he demonstrates himself to be less "consumerist" than his capitalist peers on the Right. Not that he's growing the stuff himself, of course.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 6, 2006 11:23 AM

The growing popularity of organic food is indeed vexing to the left. It's supposed to be *their* thing, dammit! It's supposed to be one of the things that make them better than the Wal-Mart rabble. If every smelly T-shirt wearing Joe sixpack can buy organic strawberries, then where's the smug superiority? As organic food (which is a luxury but, like expensive gas, one our society can easliy afford) watch for more gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts from the eco-fascist left. Doritos has an organic line of chips. McDonald's now sells organic coffee. Did I see an ad for organic 7-up recently? The eco-facist left want to be successful, but only on their terms. No compromise is permitted, which is kind of odd for a group that prides itself on its conflict resolution skills.

Posted by: Bryan at June 6, 2006 11:36 AM

Defining yourself by what you do or do not buy for reasons unrelated to the product itself is not "consumerist"? It's one thing to say that you only buy manure-grown rutabagas because they taste better (it's the coliform bacteria that gives it that special tang), but quite another to say it's because it makes you a better person.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at June 6, 2006 11:36 AM

This is the same exact sort of reaction that we'll see in a few years if hybrid cars actually become mainstream. Pathetic.

Posted by: b at June 6, 2006 11:47 AM

Well, to be fair, "more expensive food" is also the rallying cry of the anti-immigrationist right.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 6, 2006 11:51 AM

Who aren't about to grow or pick it either.

Posted by: oj at June 6, 2006 11:55 AM

Whole Foods will get back at them by selling premium Colt .45 and Marlboros.

Posted by: Mike Beversluis at June 6, 2006 1:15 PM

Fact: People in health food stores look unhealthy and weak while the crowd at fast food fatteries look robust and vigorous. Organic foods ditto.

Posted by: erp at June 6, 2006 4:15 PM

Hybrid pickups? Hallelujah! Something with decent suburban gas mileage which can haul 3 cubic yards of mulch. Sign me up!

Posted by: BrianOfAtlanta at June 6, 2006 4:44 PM

Okay, I give up: how do you price food responsibly?

I did the usual freshman econ core course, and I don't recall seeing this one. I can understand the farmer pricing food to make money, the distributor, ditto, the store, a-yup; and I can see the average consumer wanting food priced low.

I can even understand the average sprocket-adorned dictator pricing food to keep the masses happy.

But what's a 'responsible' price for food? Can anyone define this without their heads exploding? Thx in advance,

Posted by: Steve White at June 6, 2006 6:57 PM

Steve: We have to be responsible stewards of the planet, and anyone can see that there are just too many Americans. Also, Americans are fat because Americans are stupid & rich. The plan is to use Kyoto-type methods to destroy the American economy to take care of the "rich" part, but that will take too long. So food should therefore be more expensive, so that the average stupid American can't afford very much of it. And if we make it expensive enough, we can make sure that there aren't just skinnier Americans, but fewer as well. And that's responsible stewardship of the Earth.

Posted by: b at June 6, 2006 7:12 PM

Well put, b. The Few. The Skinny. The Stewards.

I'm going to Steak 'n Shake.

Posted by: jdkelly at June 6, 2006 8:13 PM

OJ, finally a topic I can agree with you on! (although your hatred of the car does create the whiff of crunchiness on you).

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 8, 2006 12:06 AM