To fuel Thanksgiving-mentum through this holiday transition week, we’ll dig into our incredible modern food abundance (yes, even amid recent inflation) and how globalization helps fuel it.
My Cato colleague Sophia Bagley and I explored this issue in-depth in a recent essay for Cato’s Defending Globalization project. We explained that for all the talk about container ships and trade agreements and wonky economic metrics, there’s probably no better symbol of real globalization—the (mostly) seamless exchange of stuff, ideas, cultures, and people—than the food we eat every day. Consider, for example, your local watering hole:
There, you’ll almost certainly find something on the menu that didn’t originate in the United States. If you’re at an ethnic restaurant, it’ll be almost everything listed, but even the classic American bar and grill serves nachos or egg rolls or French fries (that probably originated in Belgium). The food you’ll eat, meanwhile, will contain numerous imported ingredients—spices, sauces, or produce that don’t grow locally this time of year (if ever)—and likely imported plates, glasses, and flatware. Maybe you also enjoy imported beer or Australian wine (though even your Miller Lite comes from Czech hops and German yeast). And it’s a good bet that at least one person in the kitchen—and often a waiter or even the owner—was born outside the country. You might think you’re having a good ol’ American cheeseburger, but you really have the whole world on your plate.
As Bagley and I explain in the essay, food has always been global (and globalized), but the relatively recent combination of new technologies (containerized and refrigerated transport, the internet, etc.) and policy liberalization (lower tariffs, trade agreements, etc.) has undoubtedly accelerated the worldwide proliferation of foodstuffs, cuisines, related supplies, foodies, and even Western capitalism around the world. As a result, most Americans today enjoy a level of “food abundance” that our grandparents could only dream of. And as someone who loves to eat, I’m particularly pleased with this delicious state of affairs.