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The Day's food in war and peace
([ca.1918])

Lesson I: [Food and the war],   pp. 7-18 PDF (3.4 MB)


Page 12

There are other features of food conservation that are of national Importance.
One of them lies in the whole problem of national saving. Wars are paid for
out of the savings of a people. Whether we meet that expenditure now or after
the war, we shall have to pay it some day from our savings. The savings and
power of a people lie in the conservation of commodities and of productive
labor. If we can reduce the consumption of the necessary commbdities in this
country to a point where our laborers can turn to the production of war mate-
rials; if we can secure that balance and get to the point where we can free
our 
men for the Army, we shall have solved one of the most important economic
problems of the war. If we are to carry on this war, and carry it on without
economic danger, we must meet a major portion of Its expense now during the
war from the savings which we make at the present time. 
Conservation has other bearings as well. There are the great moral questions
of temperance, self-denial, and self-sacrifice. We have been a most extrava-
gant and wasteful people, and it is as truly intemperance to waste food as
it is 
to take unnecessary drink. 
This year, in order to maintain the Allies in war. we must make even further
efforts to increase the export over last year, and it is obvious not only
that we 
can not do so without conservation, but that unless we do have conservation,
we must expect higher prices. 
It is often said that high prices are themselves a conservation measure.
It is 
true high prices reduce consumption, but they reduce it through the methods
of famine, for the burden is thrown onto the class of the most limited means,
and thus the class least able to bear it. There is no national conservation
in 
robbing our working classes of the ability to buy food. High prices induce
con- 
servation by reducing the standard of living of the majority. They work no
hardship on the rich but they discriminate against the poor. Real conservation
lies in the equitable distribution of the least necessary amount, and in
this 
country we can only hope to obtain it as a voluntary service, voluntary self-
denial, and voluntary reduction of waste, by each and every man, woman, and
child according to his own abilities; not only a contribution of food to
the Allies 
but a contribution to lower prices. We have and will retain sufficient food
for 
all our people. There is no economic reason why there should be exorbitant
prices. We are not in famine. 
It is obvious that our people must have whatever food is necessary and must
have it at prices which they can meet from their wage. If we are to have
as- 
cending prices, we must have ascending wages. But as the wage level rises
with 
inequality, It is the door leading to strikes, disorder, to riots, and defeat
of our 
national efficiency. We are thus between two fires-to control prices or to
re- 
adjust the income of the whole community. The verdict of the whole of the
world's experience is in favor of price control as the lesser evil. 
One illusion in the mind of the public I am anxious to dissipate. The Food
Administration, through its own authority and the cooperation of other Govern-
ment agencies, can accomplish a great deal, but it is limited in its authority
to the area of commerce between the producer and the retailer. In this area
we 
can only regulate the flow of trade, hold it to moderate profits, and excise
speculation. This is an economic step short of price control, except where
we 
can accomplish this control by indirect means. 
The Food Administration has no power to fix prices except through the 
control of export buying, the power to buy and sell certain commodities,
and 
the further power to enter into voluntary agreements with-producers. 
We have asked all to join us as voluntary workers, as we have to effect by
a 
democratic movement the results which autocracy has only been able to effect
by law and organization. Indeed, we feel there is a service here greater
than 


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