Beinstein column: It really is possible to feed the whole world
There are so many wonderful people out there doing such beautiful things. From making strides in education to advances in health to coming up with newer and better technologies — these things should make everyone’s heart sing.
And yet, according to the United Nations World Food Program, hunger is still the greatest cause of death. It kills more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis do combined. According to ReliefWeb, the average estimate to end world hunger is $136 billion. It might sound utopian, but if $136 billion is in fact the money required, the world can do it.
You don’t need to quote some far left socialist to achieve the goal of eradicating world hunger. Look no further than President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In the beginning stages of the Cold War, Eisenhower often commented how much better the world would be if defense budgets could be used for other purposes, like that of feeding the world. Imagine if, instead of competing with China and Russia as to who can build the shiniest and newest weapons, the three countries competed as to which one could feed the most people.
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The main purpose of the defense budget is to protect the host country. When some of that need is diminished, the money can go elsewhere. America doesn’t spend nearly $700 billion per year to protect us from Canada.
If America, China and Russia all devoted 20% of their defense budgets to world hunger, that would give us $175 billion, more than enough to accomplish the goal.
Even though this sounds expensive, the cost wouldn’t be any more, and it’d be great for business. Under this scenario, think about how many more world consumers our businesses can sell their goods and services to?
The Lord’s Prayer, which has been recited for 2,000 years, does include the line, “Give us this day our daily bread.” But putting aside the humanitarian aspect of eradicating world hunger, the irony is doing so can actually make us much wealthier.
The more we help those in need all throughout Africa and India and Latin America, the sooner they’ll truly become integrated in the world economy. They’ll be more likely to buy our computers and entertainment and natural resources and all the rest.
This isn’t to suggest free handouts to poor countries is the best solution. The path to self-sufficiency is always the ideal. But a little help along the way can pay enormous dividends.
Most 6-year-olds in America didn’t feed themselves. Their family and society did. Well, that same 6-year-old isn’t getting the same help in Nairobi or New Delhi or Mumbai, hence the need for our help.
And this strategy has worked before.
Shortly after World War II, we spent enormous sums on lifting up an impoverished Europe, partly to help American businesses broaden their exports. If the Marshall Plan could work in a devastated Europe, it can with enough determination work anywhere else.
On any given the day, the world seems so dark and horrifying. And yet, on balance, the world keeps getting more beautiful. There’s less of a chance of a catastrophic world war, fewer people are poor, and more people than ever before are joining the middle class around the world.
And perhaps one day we’ll make hunger a thing of the past. As long as we focus on the trends, and not the daily noise, we should be overwhelmed with optimism.
As the scriptures tell us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord; plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Alex Beinstein is a millennial who grew up in Aspen, lived in Carbondale for a while and now writes from Washington, D.C. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent.
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