Monday 23 May 2022 | 11:49 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 May 2022 | 11:49 | SYDNEY

The role of government in food security


Sam Roggeveen


12 November 2008 10:31

According to, 74% of Americans believe it is the government's responsibity to ensure that people's basic food needs are met. That's in the home of free enterprise; in the twenty other countries surveyed, the figure is even higher.

I doubt this means Americans want the Department of Agriculture to create collective farms. In fact, most of the world has learnt that such basic needs are far better met by efficient open markets. And it's pretty clear that consumers around the world like the greater variety and higher nutrition offered by market-based food production.

So what's going on here? I reckon there's a clue in the survey question: 'Do you think the [country’s] government should be responsible for ensuring that its citizens can meet their basic need for food, OR do you think that is NOT the government’s responsibility?'

Perhaps that word 'basic' stuck in respondents' minds, and they took the question to mean, 'do you think governments should allow their people to starve?'