Chris Koger, News Editor Q: Why did God create economists?
A: In order to make weather forecasters look good.
When it comes to being the butt of jokes, economists are easy targets. Sure, they will never surpass the lawyer joke category in terms of numbers, but their very nature makes economists ripe for a send-up.
They pick over arcane numbers and behaviors to explain everything from the financial world to how our everyday choices affect everything from the environment to how well-adjusted our children will grow up.
And for every study or report issued, there seems to be another economist whose research points to another conclusion entirely.
Since economist Steven Levitt and writer Stephen Dubner teamed up on the mega-successful “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything,” and a sequel, “SuperFreakonomics,” economics has become more user-friendly.
A new book, published April 12, takes a look at a subject near and dear to many readers of The Packer: locally grown food.
“An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everday Foodies” by George Mason University professor Tyler Cowen, turns some of the conventional wisdom often cited by local food advocates on its head.
Basically, according to Cowen, when an economic model is applied to local versus imported food, local doesn’t always have a lower carbon footprint or effect on the environment.
Food is just one subjects Cowen writes about on his blog, marginalrevolution.com, but the book also skewers foodie trends sweeping the nation.
“The novel idea of this book is that knowing some dry scientific economics helps make every meal count in a deeply human way and it helps you realize — counterintuitively — that a lot of the best food is cheap rather than expensive,” he writes.
One reviewer on Amazon.com calls “An Economist Gets Lunch Everyday” the “Moneyball for the food enthusiast.”
We are what we eat, as the saying goes.
Which brings us to another hot topic in the fresh produce industry: Food safety.
For every story in The Packer on an outbreak, or just a recalled product that didn’t make anyone ill or even reach its destination before being pulled from the market, The Packer prints several more on steps the industry or specific companies are taking to prevent a foodborne problem.
Every now and then, we also write about irradiation, which the Food and Drug Administration OK’d years ago to treat some leafy greens. That includes spinach, the culprit in a devastating E. coli outbreak in 2006.