Taipei Discussion Transcript: Farming

Participants: Maggie, Fanny, Mary, Angela

I can’t choose a team, because I don’t really understand this question, really. It's hard to understand, ‘transferring wealth’.

Yeah, this time, it’s really an undigested question. I’ve been sitting on this article for weeks, because it’s all so new to me too, and finally, I finally figured out what I wanted to ask about it, but I couldn’t figure out what really kinds of positions you could take on it, so I though, I would just sort of prevail on you guys to work this idea through with me. I thought maybe we could think this through together.


Yeah, cuz there’s a lot of different questions that could be asked about this article, there’s a lot of material here.

Exactly.

I was thinking of the story of stuff, when I wrote example b. You know, the cost of the 5 dollar radio in no way reflects the whole production arc, from oil shipped to refinery shipped to plastics factory shipped to assembly factory shipped to warehouse shipped to store, and sold for only 5 dollars? How is that possible?

Coke for instance, it’s sugar water and flavoring, and the container, or packaging, is I think, just 3NT dollars, but it cost me 20NT.

That’s not the point I’m making. The whole process of making the can…. I know repetitive units make the money, but how could that can only cost 3NT?

But I think the profit on coca cola is 50% of the can, though.

But I think because nowadays, we produce those products by machines, and so-called automaticalized systems, so we can produce so large and amount of products, that in theory could reduce the cost. So maybe that’s why we can pay only a little money to buy those products. But for nowadays, oil and so many raw materials, their price go up, that makes, because in past time we can use low-labor from Vietnam or south Asia, and use low cost of raw material from south Africa or east Europe. But nowadays, oil prices, commodity prices…

What are commodities?

Oils, ores, or coal, is the definition we use at my job.

Okay.

So the commodities from those countries is more expensive, because transportation cost higher than before.

See, I wish I had a better grasp of economics, I can feel that it’s right, arghh, so I’m no better than Stephen Colbert’s ‘gut’. The Story of Stuff woman showed it but didn’t prove it.

Yeah, but it’s hard to get the exact numbers. But I do wonder how we can pay 10NT dollars for watermelon

Only 10?

Or whatever, we pay so little for watermelon, or other foods in Taiwan, but I can’t prove my thinking. I just feel …

I think it’s the balance between supply and demand.

Yeah, but that’s not the true cost of it, it’s just what you can get for it.

It’s like, how can I sit in this air-conditioned room and make so much more money than the Indonesian guy over there building buildings? He’s working much harder than me, but it’s what the market will bear. But how is my mental labor so much more expensive than his physical labor?

Yeah, that’s the market for you. We think the free market will set realistic value. In theory, something costs 100NT dollars, if you sell it to me, and I don’t want to buy it, so you slash it to 80 dollars, but you still don’t want it, then it goes to 50, so then you finally buy it. That’s the equivalent of the price. That’s how the market works. That’s how some guy like singer or artist, those guy in movies in movies or TV shows earn so much.

Actually they’re paying those guys for their availability. They’re paying for the year before and the year after the movie, so that you’re available to do their movie.

Only for movies?

I’m not sure. Another example is a painter. The actual cost of canvas and paints is negligible. But the reason they can charge so much is all the time and money they spent training, practicing, developing their skill and their talent, their unusual ideas, there’s a lot goes into a painting. This is true for musicians, too. You’re not just buying the object, you’re buying a kind of value, and you’re retroactively supporting all the work they put into getting to the point where they could paint that painting.

So when we pay for the cd, we’re paying not just for the materials, we’re paying for the talent,

For the machines…

For them taking the risk to do the music in the first place!

Exactly.

Question 8 to ten, it’s really a group of questions, and I wonder, what is really the answer of these question, because I think, these are really good questions, I want to know why?

Why did the Ancient Greek civilization die out in the 2nd or 3rd century?

Well, because of roman?

No, because they’re before the first century.

We need Lynn!

Yes, Lynn, where is you?!?

But I know the reason why roman empire came to an end. Because they were too big,

Just because the separation?

Yeah, the separation. And they failed to handle the different culture. Yeah. Do you remember?

Yeah, but the western roman empire, the east?

West!

Maybe, but…

It might also have been a food problem. The guy who wrote the book we sampled, in another part of the book he argues that the food quality of the Romans declined as they expanded and population expanded, and the fields were used for too long, so since the quality of food went down, the quality of intelligence also went down among the population.

So should we learn how to grow the vegetable or rice?

But the more important is to learn how to maintain the fertility. Sure, we have to learn how to grow vegetables or rice, but if the land dies…

In thirteenth century Europe, they separate their land to three part, and this year, the grow the two part of the land, and the third part

They let it lie fallow.

Yes, exactly.

Yes, that’s a Saxon practice. Before the Saxons became the Anglo Saxons in England, when they were still only in Germany, that was their habit.

So, does it possible to use this kind of system nowadays?

No, we use the chemical substance to increase the fertility.

Yeah, but it’s like drinking coffee. Does coffee actually give you energy? No, it just releases the energy from the body that’s already there. It’ doesn’t increase anything

I think, because we want to keep the price in certain range, so it’s hard to use the fallow policy.

Yes, right.

How does that affect it, can you explain?

Because if you use fallow policy…

The whole land of the farm, can produce, say for example, 1000 pounds rice, but if you use fallow policy, then you use only 2/3 of it, 60 or 70 percent, then it’s only 600 or 700.

But what if, as you use up the fertility of the land, then…fallow looks like a pretty good idea, stable 700, instead of decreasing yields

Yes, but how do you use this to talk the farmer, and say ‘oh, you can save the fertility of the land’

Well, you can tell them they can save the money from the fertilizer.

Population = nutrition = more people, so… we cant afford more population. So on one hand, do we really want to increase the land’s fertility? On the other hand, you can’t go around killing people off because they’re inconvenient, so what do you do?

Well, so the gods do it for us, that’s why there have been so many terrible typhoon and earthquake in recent years. I think that’s the penalty.

Well, global warming, if the scenarios are true, lots of people might die, but that’s us wiping ourselves out, right?

I read in the Chinese newspaper today that a guy is setting up solar systems and encourage us to use less oil energy. When I read this I was so happy to see someone has the same ideas about our future. But we need someone in gvt can, I just think maybe we can, is it possible to contact this guy, and discuss with him or her?

Sure, do you know his name?

No, because they will not show the real name.

Why not?

I have no idea, but maybe we can call the newspaper, to ask them the real name, who wrote this essay.

You can leave your information and ask them to give it to him to have him call.

Okay, so let’s maybe look at example a.

But, what is transferring wealth, actually?

See this is what I could barely get a toehold on, this is what I wanted to talk with you about, he gave this example, of farmers in England in the 1940s, their land didn’t produce quality enough feed for their cattle so they imported ‘oil cakes’ from somewhere in the 3rd world, and so the nutrition of the soil of wherever they got the cakes from was transferred to feed English cows, so the nutritional ‘wealth’ was transferred. Money was transferred back, of course, but the real wealth, the unreplaceable nutrition, was transferred away permanently.

Just like, now due to globalization, we absorb resources from developing countries, and the sell back products to them to earn money, and I think this is another kind of transferring wealth.

And in paragraph nine, he’s saying those European people took in resources from America and Asia and New Zealand and Australia, that made them so there was still so many resources to use, and then they over used the resources and overproduce, like the society nowadays.

Well, that’s not like that was then and this is now, this is still happening.

Right, if we only used local resources to produce, then when we aware the shortage of resource, then we will reduce the production, however, if we can import resources from other countries, then we will keep producing, and then on and on.

But also, the market end of things, Americans have too much stuff, now, they’ve no place to put it, and now they don’t have any money anymore. My friend Johnny was saying that if we didn’t have India and China as new markets, capitalism would have died by now, it needs new people to buy things. Capitalism is fucked, basically, you know what I mean? It’s a really off balance system.

Who create capitalism, anyways?

Who knows, I think we’re all sucked into being a part of the system.

Okay, but let’s look at example a. If I’ve thrown away all my resources, is it okay that I pay to get someone else’s? Is that ethical?

Its evil.

Why do you think it’s evil?

I don’t know, it just wrong.

What do you think, Miss Mary?

I just don’t know the answer.

Yeah.

Do you think it’s evil?

Well, I was trained by capitalism, and trained by economic courses, so I just think, if I have money, why can’t I use it? The teacher always teach us that’s the right way, if somebody grow rice, and somebody build house, and somebody sew clothes, and you just pay money for that. So I never think it might be evil to behave in like this way. But, …

I think capitalism is convenient for most of people, but it’s still evil.

But you like, it, right? That’s what you’re conflicted about, because you like buying things.

Well, yeah.

See, the question I’ve had for a long time, is buying and trading things capitalism? Is capitalism like trading things ‘on steroids’?
What I mean is, for instance, Nantou is really good for growing tea, but not much good for growing rice or anything else. Taichung is really good for growing rice, and other veggies. So Nantou and Taichung trade for what they need. So is that just trade, or is it capitalism?

No, that’s a classic trading system. The case of Taipei and Nantou, that’s capitalism, because Taipei doesn’t grow anything.

Taipei grows money!

Ha!

Taipei provides a place to trade everything and grow profit.

So the relationship between product and product is trade. And the relation between product and money is capitalism.

I like the way you think!

So the stock market, it’s only for money, it’s totally capitalism.

Yeah, when you get to futures and derivatives and all that crap, it’s like it really hasn’t got much to do with the actual products being exchanged.

So food for food is not evil, but maybe money for food…is money for food evil, question mark?

I think it’s a question of degree and emphasis, as the author said, because money is a very convenient medium of exchange.

Yes, that’s what I’ve learned during these five to ten years, money is the most convenient medium for exchange system.

Yes, ‘a question of degree and emphasis’.

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