I was listening to Democracy Now yesterday morning as hosts and guests discussed the COVID vaccines. They were specifically discussing the lack of vaccines around the world especially in "low-income" or "economically developing countries" (both these terms being problematic in their capitalistic-based definition and are called so only in relation to "developed/western countries"). There's been activism and deep discussion around the TRIPS waiver (which is frustrating that people even need to be persuaded or spend the last several months deciding on this waiver). The waiver would allow the vaccines or their components to be shared more broadly so that companies in other countries could also make vaccines or get the current ones more affordably (yes - leave it to capitalism to use such dire circumstances to make money - i.e. the pharma billionaires i.e. capitalism loves destruction). If it wasn't obvious before, it must be now: capitalism has no room for equity, in fact, it binds and stuffs it into a closet, and creates wildly creative rationale on why humans should leave it there like some even more twisted version of Omelas.
Okay, okay. The part of this interview that really got me going, was the discussion around having plenty of vaccines for the entire world to receive, but the problem lying within allocation. What does allocation mean? Well, here our "problem with allocation" is that for, and because of, capitalism we cannot simply make the vaccine available throughout the world. There are patents and trade laws which under some circumstances may make sense but within an international pandemic that even as of last month was raging wildly in some countries it makes no sense. This is a time when vaccines should be available to anyone and everyone, hands down, full stop, for free.
But I'm still not at my critical juncture. What spoke to me was the high alarm of sacrilege of not having wildly available vaccines and then for many scientists, doctors, and UN-related folks to call it an allocation problem. It rang an alarm of familiarity to our food system.
Some folks in the food system will say that there is enough food for everyone. And just like the vaccine conversation, some will say there isn't enough food that production must continue to climb. I will not even pretend like I can state with factual knowledge my opinion here and I do lean towards us probably having enough food production as is but similar to the vaccines, trade laws for external allocation for other countries, and laws governing internal allocation, keeps things tightly squeezed.
Food allocations that enter and exit countries is still being controlled by a small few (usually or most likely white). It is so tightly squeezed that much like the vaccines it's hard to know if the world has enough food which under the current laws it probably doesn't since the laws favor the wealthy countries and internal laws favor white people. The very laws themselves create scarcity, hierarchy, concretize racism, and promote growth/bigger-is-better with lots of attached strings. I'm reminded of when there's road work and the lights at an intersection have been turned off and there is only a traffic guard directing traffic. Time and again, no matter their level of skill it never moves as fast as when the lights are used. I don't understand it, but it feels similar to the idea of control over allocations.
Now I can't, nor should we, reduce the food access issue to simply an allocation or distribution issue (less we forget the trifecta of capitalism: housing, employment, healthcare). But what I found interesting while listening to the interview on vaccine access is that talking about it in terms of allocations (even more specific than distributions in some ways) it begins to tether the issue squarely with capitalism. And capitalism is racist and power hungry and continually looking at ever growth models (still). Some might be reading and thinking that "allocations" has a power dynamic of paternalism bound to it and I say it does only if thinking about the traditional emergency food system. However, that is not what I'm referring to when talking about having enough food for everyone. I'm referring to a food system that can and could be complete within itself and not need the traditional emergency food system which is itself a child of capitalism and full of paternalism and white saviorism. If people were able to grow when, where, and how they choose without corporations or governments from other countries stepping in or without internal racist practices, then, yes, I believe we could have enough food (check out food sovereignty work here or here). But, just like the vaccines, those super rich power hoarding patriarchs, will not cede any iota of their footing.
Maybe this brief writing is more about the woes of capitalism than anything else. How it promotes "free markets" when they aren't or "free trade" when it isn't or reduced rules and regulations (for an elite few) or how capitalism is inherently paternalistic and racist.
Or maybe it's about just that: paternalism with a dash of racism to decide on "allocations" and who gets what and by when and in what method.