David Lockwood Interview on the Indian Election

We are now into the third week of the Indian national election. Up to now, most international media coverage has been concerned with the hardline history of the Bharatiya Janata Party and it’s leader Narendra Modi. But with stunningly high voter turnout, who are the parties and what are the themes of the election? I spoke to Professor David Lockwood, Professor of Indian history at Flinders University, to get a backgrounder on the world’s largest election.



As before, I am unable to embed audio in the email blast. You can take a listen at Soundcloud.



Informing The News by Thomas E. Patterson

informingthenewsWho doesn’t lament the state of the news media? Their preoccupation with celebrities, disasters, scandals, crime, the political horserace, and other such pabulum and infotainment. But Thomas E. Patterson also deplores the state of democracy, and views the two as inextricably linked. Just as ninety years ago Walter Lippmann warned the “crisis in Western Democracy is a crisis in journalism,” Patterson has sought to highlight the deficiencies in modern journalism, how it is affecting our ability to self-govern, and has offered an antidote; knowledge-based journalism.

“It is a short step from misinformation to mischief, as we have seen repeatedly in recent policy.”

Around the world, studies measuring trust and satisfaction consistently put journalists at the bottom of professions. Even below politicians. All the while, the traditional mass media lose audience to the purveyors of satire, punditry and hackery. The financial issues facing the journalism industry are well documented, but as Patterson points out throughout the book, there is a deeper crisis facing the profession. Journalism has become dumbed down. Even name-brand journalism schools have structured their courses to more resemble trade schools than instructors of a vital component in a functioning democracy. Journalists increasingly have little experience or knowledge in the subjects that they cover. While technical expertise may be exemplary, content expertise is often lacking.

“It is nearly impossible to have sensible public deliberation when large numbers of people are out of touch with reality.”

In an age of tight deadlines and slimmed down newsrooms, this is a disaster for creating an informed public. Serious policy is overlooked while much simpler — for the journalist as well as the consumer — political hackery is played up. Minor but easy to understand developments — such as interest and inflation blips — are held under the microscope, while the larger picture — the state of the business cycle for example — is all but lost. Powerful figures — such as those who pushed for the invasion of Iraq – are left unchecked by those ill equipped to do so. All the while, journalists must rely ever more on outsiders to do fundamental aspects of their jobs — providing context and scrutiny in a world bursting with information. Studies show that the public are consistently misinformed on a variety of important subjects, and, as Patterson points out, many of these subjects bear a startling correlation to the innate biases of a profession that is chasing its audience and has lost sight of its intellectual rigour. Is there any doubt of the cumulative effect?

“Informed citizens do not spring forth from birth. The process of informing the public is an ongoing task”

For Patterson, the answer to both conundrums is the injection of “knowledge” back into journalism. Specifically, the “knowledge of how to use knowledge”. Obviously, the variety of subjects that any one journalist will encounter during a career is too much to become intimate with all of it. But similar can be said of a teacher. So, like teachers, Patterson suggests that journalists be trained in the fundamentals of what they need — history, analytical thinking, ethics, data analysis , etc. But also like teachers, they should be trained in communicating across these subjects. Providing context and other information in order that the audience can “make sense of the events”. According to Patterson, this “content knowledge” would take journalism a step closer to fulfilling its duty to democracy, all the while distancing it from the innumerable hacks who operate on the internet for free. Knowledge, Patterson claims, is the solution to more than one of the problems that plagues journalism.

“Knowledge is the starting point as well as the end product of systematic inquiry, guiding the practitioner in what to look for as well as what to make of what is found.”

As a citizen, an avid news consumer, and someone who spends considerable time in a newsroom every week, Pattersons’ book rings horribly true on many levels. The lack of socially beneficial news and a common set of facts, as well as the incursion of infotainment into the “bible of democracy” has undoubtedly harmed the public square. I would be glad to see more informed voices take the stage. But I am sceptical that there is a place for such a development. Recent election coverage in Australia and America was abysmal, topped only by the bush-league reporting of the actual governance after the spectacle. But it is this, along with the blow-by-blow accounts of everything royal and celebrity, beat-ups and other fluff; that really pulls in the ratings. Look at what actually gets shared on social media. Its cat pictures and Upworthy, not the Washington Post or the Financial Times. Patternsons’ book gives a great account of much of what ails the news media. I’m not so sure how much demand there is for his cure.

“Journalists are in the daily business of making the unseen visible, of connecting us to the world beyond our direct experience.”

Title: Informing The News

Author: Thomas E. Patterson

Pages: 143 (Paperback)

Josh’s Rating: 3/5

Amazon Link: Informing The News

Book Depository Link: Informing The News

Weekly Exchange #8

Two months down!

1) I hate to keep being so inside-baseball about the media, but this year is seeing some profound changes. More specifically; it's seeing some of the biggest names in the US media leave behind the historic mastheads that propped them up (or they propped up, depending on how you look at it) to launch their own websites. For example, I have long been a fan of Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein, who has gone off to start his own site with Matthew Yglesias (another of my favourites). But Tim Worstall at Pando Daily has a bone to pick with the new venture. And one that I find hard to toss aside: “what I think is going to end up being the problem with Vox.com. Not that things will be badly written, not that the basic subject matter will be uninteresting. But that the “explainers” will be of one particular worldview, will be telling us how the world looks and should be run by those with that innate belief in technocratic wonkery.”

2) Keeping right on with the inside baseball, the furore over “native advertising” appears to be rearing it's head once more. This time it's Talking Points Memo's decision to introduce sponsored content. Here's Andrew Sullivan's take, which pretty closely mirrors my own; “My concern with “sponsored content” in vast swathes of online media – from the New York Times to Time Inc. and Buzzfeed – is simply that, by deliberately blurring the distinction between advertising and editorial, it must necessarily undermine this integrity and cast a doubt over that trust. It violates the core integrity of any journalistic institution to treat the prose of commercial interests as the equivalent of the prose of editors and writers – or to blur the lines between the two, by presenting commercial speech in extremely similar formats to editorial speech.”

3) Some new research by Stanford Phd students Etan Green and David P. Daniels has reaffirmed the idea that humans have a bias against making consequential calls in pivotal situations. The two looked at more than a million decisions made by umpires in Major League Baseball and found that in close and important calls, there were noticeable differences when the stakes were increased; “they show that an umpire’s strike zone shrinks in counts when the batter already has two strikes (and therefore a third strike would result in an out) and expands when the batter has three balls (with a fourth ball then resulting in a walk).” Someone needs to do this for cricket.

4) John O'Reilly, Co-Director at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, says the lack of more minute details of climate change's impact on humans is what's holding back any progress. “Specific risks to natural systems are well documented by the report. It finds, for example, the greatest risks are to those ecosystems, people, and things in low-lying coastal areas, because expected sea-level changes are in only one direction, up. This is also the case in the Arctic, where the temperature rise is expected to be much greater than the global average. There is good science and unanimous agreement among climate models behind these assertions… But a frustrating aspect of the report—and a reflection of the difficulty of working in this line of research—is that very few specific risks to humans are quantified in a meaningful way. For example, one might ask: has my risk of death increased because of more hot days?” Although, considering how much we know about what will happen to the inhabitants of islands like Kiribati, I am not sure this is an entirely convincing argument.

5) It's starting to seem that the next industry to be “disrupted” will be international travel. And not in a fun way like the invention of teleportation. First we have companies digitising the interior of museums so you don't have to visit them in person, now Google has started digitizing the interior of ancient monuments as part of their Street View program. “Users can get an up-close look at the relief carvings that embellish the walls of Angkor Wat, perhaps the most famous temple complex in Angkor. Angkor Wat's famous bas-relief spans over 12,917 square feet of sandstone carvings… Street View's digitization of Angkor isn't just valuable for short-term users looking to explore the ancient grounds—it creates a digital record of a place that can be used for posterity.”

6) Luis Andres at the World Bank has a thought experiment – using demographic data – of two children born on the same day; one in Switzerland and one in India. “The opportunities we get as children throughout life are directly determined by the circumstances related to access to infrastructure services. This means that I am more likely to get more out of my education because I can go to school and have time to study afterwards. It means that I am less likely to be exposed to certain illnesses because I have access to clean water and good sanitation… And despite your lack of formal education, you may learn from your others about proper sanitation and hygiene, the hazards of cooking with firewood, and the need for your siblings in the village to attend school.”

7) The internet refuses to stop giving me ammunition to proclaim that the machines are taking over. This time it's a couple of researchers at the Harvard Business Review who tested whether humans would respond to a robot as an authority figure. “When a person tried to quit our experiment they were faced with a prod to continue. If they insisted on quitting, the prod got increasingly demanding until they passed a threshold, where the experiment was stopped… half of the participants had a human experimenter – a 27-year old male actor in a lab coat – and the other half a robot – an Aldebaran Nao, a 58cm (23”) tall harmless-looking robot with a child-like voice, that we introduced as having advanced artificial intelligence. We expected that people would essentially ignore the robots’ insistences but follow the human; after all, the robot is just a simple computer in a plastic casing.” But the subjects didn't just ignore the robot. In fact, 46% obeyed the robot right until the end. This number was smoked by the 86% who succumbed to the peer pressure the human, but it's still quite scary.

8) Keeping this sunny train of thought going, scientists at Washington State University have been able to make robots that can teach and learn from each other. “Researchers had the agents — as the virtual robots are called — act like true student and teacher pairs: student agents struggled to learn Pac-Man and a version of the StarCraft video game. The researchers were able to show that the student agent learned the games and, in fact, surpassed the teacher.” While the scientists say there is nothing to be feared, that robots are stupid, I'm not sure if I buy it. Isn't this how Skynet got started?

9) Today is Election Day in Afghanistan. An election that will determine international support, among many other things. But as Foreign Policy reports, the future of Afghanistan's mining industry, an industry that could provide thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in revenue per year, is tenuous. “Afghanistan's roughly $1 trillion in mineral deposits was meant to largely replace the international support that has marginalized the Taliban insurgency and kept Karzai in power for more than a decade… extra-legal mining activity has been cited across the country, as strongmen, oligopolies, and monopolies take control of mineral resources. As lines are drawn, some groups are likely to side with the Taliban, which could then provide the enforcing muscle for moving the assets across the country and borders, in much the same way they did for the opium lords of the southern provinces.”

10) Seems like I wasn't the only person to notice the sheer amount of Women heading up far-right parties in Europe. Naomi Wolf examines why Women are leading, and seem to be flocking to, far right parties. “The attraction of right-wing parties to women should be examined, not merely condemned. If a society does not offer individuals a community life that takes them beyond themselves, values only production and the bottom line, and opens itself to immigrants without asserting and cherishing what is special and valuable about Danish, Norwegian, or French culture, it is asking for trouble. For example, upholding the heritage of the Enlightenment and progressive social ideals does not require racism or pejorative treatment of other cultures; but politically correct curricula no longer even make the attempt to do so.”

And that’s all for this week’s exchange. The exchange will hopefully be back again next weekend with more intriguing stories and ideas. Same bat channel.

The Weekly Exchange was first published on Joshnicholas.com. Sign up to receive the Weekly Exchange Newsletter.


The Square Up – Episode Two

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Square Up is back for another episode. The Square Up is a podcast where Ellen Leabeater, Alexia Attwood and myself – as journalists and lovers of media – highlight and discuss stories and ideas that don’t get play in the mainstream.

Last week we tackled some gender issues, this week features a lot of food and climate change. Enjoy:



This episode featured the following articles:


As before, I am unable to embed audio in the email blast. You can take a listen at Soundcloud.


Is urban agriculture unhealthy for growthers and eaters?

Urban Agriculture has erupted around the world in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis. Cities like Detroit, Toronto and Sydney now play host to ground breaking firms and communities set on rejuvenating dilapidated spaces. But new research on PLOS ONE has highlighted some of the health concerns of farming in spaces that are surrounded, or were previously used as industrial and heavily trafficked areas.  In a piece for The Wire I looked into the health concerns over the food revolution:



Here is the full interview with Professor James Weirick:



As before, I am unable to embed audio in the email blast. You can take a listen at Soundcloud


The First Tycoon by TJ Stiles

firsttycoonEven now, more than a hundred and thirty years after his death, it’s pretty hard to escape the shadow of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Along with the likes of Rockefeller, Carnegie and Morgan, he was instrumental in the creation of our modern world. They kicked off the era of the mega-corporation and titans of industry, of the worship of laissez-faire and self-made men. They so dominated their age that even now, reading almost any newspaper, you can still see the fear these robber barons stirred. But if anything, Stiles’ account of Vanderbilt only makes him rise in my estimation. He wasn’t just the richest man of his age. He wasn’t just the railroad king with the killer sideburns. He was the 19th century’s Richard Branson. He was batman.


The story starts on Staten Island, where an entrepreneurial family instilled Vanderbilt with many of the skills and qualities that would lead to his total domination of the American economy. He wasn’t educated — he left school at the age of 11, and many of Stiles’ quotes betray a command of spelling and grammar that would embarrass a modern 11 year old. By sixteen he was already a skilled sailor and wheeler-dealer, by twenty he was ferrying goods and people along the cost, and only a couple of years later he was riding the crest of the Steam Revolution with Edward Gibbons.


What follows is several hundred pages tracking Vanderbilt’s rise through the echelons of the business and social world. First smashing the syndicates that monopolised shipping around New York, then pioneering new lines up and down the coast, and even riding the rapids through Nicaragua to the West Coast of America – to capitalise on the Gold Rush. Along the way Vanderbilt encountered entrenched interests, traitors, legalised monopolies, and even the American Civil War. He waged battle after battle (and not just financial), slashing fares and costs, and engaging in the short-selling and cornering that marked the new battlefield — the stock exchange. Eventually we wind up with Vanderbilt in the role most of us know him as: railroad king. A role that would see him build New York’s Grand Central Station and personally oversee/fund the construction of infrastructure that would shame the South and much of Europe. In all, we follow Vanderbilt from captain of a small skiff to his station as the first tycoon — a man whose wealth would have counted for $1 out of every $9 in circulation.


This is the book that any proponent of unfettered capitalism should be forced to read. But it also masterfully illustrates the shortsightedness of decentralisation, cronyism and over/needless regulation. It is hard to read of the syndicates, monopolies, vulture capitalism, lobbying, battles and dominance, and not wonder how this benefited the average consumer and citizen. But the regulatory and societal norms that Vanderbilt had to push through, also make you wonder what more he could have accomplished, and what others were left behind. Stiles has managed to write a book that both serves its purpose as a historical account, and provides commentary on our present. About the only complaint I can muster is that after a while the names and dates were just too much to follow — but this is no complaint at all. It is a brilliantly written — dare I say swashbuckling — story. The subtitle “Epic life of Cornelius Vanderbilt” doesn’t capture the half of it. Four out of five.


Title: The First Tycoon

Author: T.J. Stiles

Pages: 571 (Paperback)

Josh’s Rating: 4/5

Amazon Link: The First Tycoon

Book Depository Link: The First Tycoon

Weekly Exchange #7

1) Whether the new Afghan President signs an agreement with ISAF or not, international military clout will be leaving the country within a year. For the countless Afghans who have served alongside international forces, this could spell disaster. Without some form of protection, what future awaits those currently on the Taliban’s death lists? “In each of our foreign conflicts over the past half-century, America has staged withdrawals of its troops, tanks, and spies from bases of operation overseas but disastrously failed to plan for the dangers its abandoned allies would face after we left…Our collective sense of shame, however late, redressed a grievous wrong in Vietnam. But you can’t feel shame for wars you have little stake in, and in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve waged armed conflict largely out of sight of the American public.”


2) Wasn’t that long ago that we were all laughing at Google’s plans to bring internet to the masses with balloons. Now, it seems, Facebook is putting it’s money behind spreading internet through the use of drones and satellites. “In remote places with a low population dispersed over wide areas, Facebook will beam down internet connectivity from low-earth orbit satellites passing overhead… In denser locations, such as towns, villages and suburbs, it makes more sense to station a high-altitude solar-powered planes circling overhead for months at a time.”


3) Researchers at Harvard University have developed a model to quantify the healthcare cost of the Amonia pollution from agriculture. “The new research by Paulot and Jacob calculate the health cost associated with the ammonia emissions from agriculture exports to be $36 billion a year – equal to about half of the revenue generated by those same exports – or $100 per kilogram of ammonia.” Yet another in a long line of uncounted externalities in our major industries…


4) Jonathan King-Slutzky at The Awl takes us into the world of robot poetry. Which, it seems, is neither a new idea nor noticeably different from human poetry. “It turns the romantic notion of creativity as “collected lightning” on its head—French-Romanian avant-garde poet Tristan Tzara really does sound like a robot, and so does contemporary poet Deanna Ferguson. So does Gerard Manley Hopkins. If some of the best modern and contemporary poets sound like robots, the reverse is true, too: many computer-generated poems are a détournement of human poetics.” But I dunno. I always found poetry to be a bit of a racket really.


5) You may have noticed a rise in the price of your margarita’s recently. According to Raul Gallegos at Bloomberg view, atleast part of it has to do with Mexican criminals extorting the lime industry. “The racket goes like this: criminals in lime growing states block roads and extort a fee for every truckload of limes they let pass. The choice for lime growers is simple — they can pay or be killed. Those smart enough to pay push the “tax” up the supply chain until it hits consumers.”


6) Livemint has the story of one of the most incredible long distance runners ever, Fauja Singh; “the most extraordinary long-distance running career that can be imagined: first marathon at 89, and nine more since, and a half-dozen lesser distances; the oldest man to run a full marathon, when he completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon at 100; and a fantastical timing posted in 2003, 5:40:04 at the Toronto Marathon, at the age of 92″.


7) There has been much gnashing of teeth in recent times, including from me, about robots coming to steal all our jobs. But James Bessen at the Harvard Business Review argues differently; “economic research shows that new technology increases the need for more educated workers at first, but, as technology matures, less educated workers are hired in general.” In short, early adopters may need to have more specialised education, but the technology and business models will evolve to the point that learning on the job and lower skills will take over.


8) I recently reported on a new CSIRO study showing how even slight increases in temperature (read: climate change) will prove disastrous for agriculture in tropical areas. Well, it appears that ship is starting to sail. Richard Schiffman reports from East Africa, where unpredictable weather is having disastrous effects on food security and economic development. “Subsistence farmers like Amani Peter depend on steady and predictable rainfall to produce their crops. Yet nowadays the twice-yearly seasonal rains rarely arrive on schedule in East Africa, and in some years they do not come at all or are frustratingly sporadic: Violent cloudbursts often leading to floods and destructive soil erosion alternate with long, withering dry spells. Spikes of high temperatures, until recently unknown in this mile-high mountain area, have also prematurely wilted the corn.”


9) It’s been quite fun watching the Bitcoin debate unfold over the past year. But as Adam Levitin points out, the recent ruling by the IRS, that bitcoins will be treated by tax authorities as property, makes it unworkable as a currency. “The IRS ruled that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are property, not currency. This means that they are subject to capital gains taxation. And that means that Bitcoins are not fungible.”


10) I for one am in favour of how the internet is being de cluttered. I never really could get my head around those “portals” like MSN and yahoo. But Felix Salmon laments how minimalist news websites have become, as he claims it strips away much of the context for stories still developed with a print-first mentality, and hypes up even the punchy and mediocre. “It’s time for websites to put a lot more effort into de-emphasizing less important stories, reserving the grand presentation formats only for the pieces which deserve it. In theory, most content management systems these days support various different story templates; in practice, however, there’s a kind of grade inflation going on, and everything ends up getting the A-list treatment.”


And that’s all for this week’s exchange. The exchange will hopefully be back again next weekend with more intriguing stories and ideas. Same bat channel.

The Weekly Exchange was first published on Joshnicholas.com. Sign up to receive the Weekly Exchange Newsletter.

The Square Up – Episode One

Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the first episode of The Square Up. The Square Up is the brainchild of Ellen Leabeater, Alexia Attwood and myself.

As journalists and lovers of media, we read countless interesting stories, press releases and articles each week that never make it to the mainstream press. This podcast is our avenue to highlight some of the best:



This episode features the following articles:


 As before, I am unable to embed audio in the email blast. You can take a listen at Soundcloud.


Death sentence for 529 Morsi supporters in Egypt

Monday saw the Minya Criminal Court in Egypt give the death sentence to 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters for the murder of one police officer during unrest last year. In a piece produced for The Wire, Emma Lancaster and I looked into the response from the Egyptian community, how such sentencing compares to that found under Morsi and Mubarak, and what this means for Egypt’s future:



Here is my full interview with Michael Hayworth, Middle East Campaigner at Amnesty International:



As before, I am unable to embed audio in the email blast. You can take a listen at Soundcloud

Weekly Exchange #6

Exchange time!

1) Medium user @Jeswin has written a brilliant essay on why Facebook is awful and needs to go away: “Facebook is godsent for people who love to talk, but have nothing to say. Here is a network that doesn’t care about originality or the quality of content. In the time it takes to create something original, they could share dozens of things…there is an entire industry working non-stop creating low quality, emotionally appealing content that gets ‘likes’ from gullible users.”


2) Despite its incredibly, incredibly, (incredibly) annoying click-bait headline, the guys at Business Insider have a graph showing the power of compound interest that should be widely disseminated. And it’s young people, who need to start saving when they are young, who should be taking particular notice; “Interestingly, Susan, who saved for just 10 years, has more wealth than Bill, who saved for 30 years…That discrepancy is explained by compound interest.”


3) Modern a Farmer has the “confessional” of a pig farmer who is going through an ethical struggle with what he does for a living; “no matter how well it’s done, I can’t help but question the killing itself. In a well-managed, small-scale slaughterhouse, a pig is more or less casually standing there one second, and the next second it’s unconscious on the ground, and a few seconds after that it’s dead. As far as I can tell — and I’ve seen dozens of pigs killed properly — the pig has no experience of its own death. But I experience the full brunt of that death… In a way, livestock farmers lie to their animals. We’re kind to them and take good care of them for months, even years. They grow comfortable with our presence, and even begin to like us. But in the end, we take advantage of the animals, using their trust to dupe them into being led to their own deaths.”


4) The Atlantic explains why we are so bad at giving gifts: sentimentality. We care so much about wanting to be thoughtful, and to surprise and blow away the recipient, that we take our eyes off what they really want and need; “the clever paper asks givers and recipients to rate gifts along two metrics: desirability (i.e.: the quality of a restaurant, the cost of a coffee maker, the visual complexness of the video game) and feasibility (i.e.: the proximity of that restaurant, the ease of the coffee maker, the learning curve of the video game). Across several experiments, they find that givers consistently give gifts based on desirability and recipients consistently favor gifts based on feasibility.”


5) The Exchange has already featured some heart breaking stories about failures in the fight against ivory poaching. Quartz has the story of “Japan’s Amazon” – Rakuten Ichiba – which features the online trading of ivory and whale meat: “As of Feb. 2014, Rakuten Ichiba featured 28,000 ads for elephant ivory products… These ranged from ¥3,800 to ¥320,000 ($36 to $3,126)… nearly 800 whale meat ads on Rakuten Ichiba as of February, most cost the equivalent of only a few dollars.”


6) The Priceonomics blog starting out trying to quantify the cost of babysitting services, but by digging through more than 170,000 online babysitter profiles, they came up with some other incredible data. For example; only 2.9% of babysitters were male. And despite having such a tragic participation rate, and in a field that is probably dominated by females because of societal norms and expectations, the males actually received a higher average wage.


7) With the ongoing stoush over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, and the steady economic rise and arms build up in that region of the world, David Pilling at Foreign Policy has a brilliantly timed history on ‘Why Japan is so different‘.


8) According to Tom Jacobs at Pacific Standard, new research has confirmed the cliche that stressed Men turn inward, while stressed Women turn to their friends. “Men respond to stress in a fight-or-flight manner, conserving their energy for the confrontation they fear is coming by turning inward. Women, on the other hand, take a “tend-and-befriend” approach.”


9) Just a few kilometres from where the Deepwater Horizon oil spill took place, scientists are digging for worms on the Ocean floor. “These sorts of critters – worms and crustaceans chief among them – represent a critical strand in benthic food webs. They consume much of the dead organic material from surface waters that is constantly snowing down on the seafloor, ultimately repackaging it for larger animals, like crabs, larger crustaceans, and ultimately fish or octopi. Without these middlemen – the macrofauna and meiofauna – the seafloor would likely remain an exclusively microbial domain.” Who knew there were worms in the ocean floor?


10) In an article in The Conversation, David Nally argues that “dietary convergence” is resulting a “food system designed not to meet human needs, but to facilitate capital accumulation and economic growth. Recycling surplus industrial grains through livestock, for example, has the economic advantage of converting cheap (because heavily subsidised) animal feed into higher value proteins in the form of meat and dairy. In other words, by harnessing the metabolic processes of animals, cheap and usable nutrition is replaced with more valuable (but not necessarily better) nutrition, and in the process the problem of price-deflating grain surpluses can be nullified.”


And that’s all for this week’s exchange. The exchange will hopefully be back again next weekend with more intriguing stories and ideas. Same bat channel.

The Weekly Exchange was first published on Joshnicholas.com. Sign up to receive the Weekly Exchange Newsletter.