Hobbesian Realities and U.S. Agriculture Policy to Support Sustainability

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As one looks out at the world in the 21st century, issues like poverty, malnutrition, hunger and starvation, threats to food security, and an array of health problems and diseases seem to dominate the political, social, and economic landscape. Even further, with the global population seemingly growing out of control, many policymakers and researchers fear that the food security equation may soon become unsolvable. A growing chorus has, therefore, emerged in the name of agricultural sustainability. From a more pragmatic point of view than the Hobbesian-like realist mindset, sustainability could be supported through mutual interdependence, cooperation, and win-win outcomes in the international space. Yet, too many developed nations are not on the same page with respect to progressive international relations assumptions. US agriculture and foreign trade policies are, for example, based in many ways on Hobbesian assumptions - i.e., a zero-sum worldview.

Research Questions

With the above observations in mind, two research questions emerge:

1. Do Hobbesian realities limit the U.S. in restructuring agriculture and international trade policy in ways that would support sustainability?

2. Is sustainability still possible?

Initial response to research questions

As a matter of initial response to the two research questions, the short answer to research question one is no, Hobbesian realities do not limit the U.S. in restructuring agriculture and international trade policy in ways that would support sustainability. The short answer to research question two is yes, sustainability is still possible.

As a conceptual model, the Hobbesian worldview must be understood as a set of political views and assumptions about reality. Like all models, the Hobbesian worldview offers the benefit of explanatory power. Tariffs, for example, might be explained according to Hobbesian assumptions as a necessary policy element for protecting developed nations against foreign competition. After all, in the Hobbesian reality, the world is a hostile place where survival is all about having enough power.

Hobbesian explanations about the world often sound eloquent in some ways. A Hobbesian protectionist might, for instance, utilize a realist term like “international anarchy” to advocate power confrontation and/or hostility against another nation. In other words, in an international relations arena where the rule of law is assumed to be absent, the use of military power would appear, at least sometimes, to represent the only way to protect the interests of the nation. The first problem is that such a suggestion merely serves to reiterate and/or confirm the underlying Hobbesian assumptions. In other words, explanations about the world order and proper course of action are not necessarily true. The explanations only follow logically from the premises (i.e., assumptions) of the Hobbesian, pessimistic reality. The Hobbesian worldview, even further, does not hold any real predictive power for the future. In sum, Hobbesian realities are little more than subjective impressions, colored lenses for analyzing and seeing the world as one already believes.

As subsequent discussion and analysis will demonstrate, in some ways the U.S. agriculture and international trade policy framework is also built on top of Hobbesian, realist assumptions and claims. Specifically, the U.S. agriculture and international trade policy framework contains elements of protectionism and other top-down sovereign impositions that contradict some of the basic presuppositions of sustainability – i.e., the ability of humankind to live in harmony with nature and humankind's capacity for altruism and cooperation, mutual interdependence, and win-win outcomes in the international space.

In summation, the current report argues that Hobbesian realities do not limit the U.S. in restructuring the way we deal with agriculture to support sustainability in international trade. Sustainability is possible. Hobbesian realities are illusory, dystopian-like descriptions of the world. People are far more altruistic than Hobbes understood or wanted to believe. Alternative worldviews exist that can support an international trade environment capable of advancing sustainability. Under the influence of the moral collective of global citizens (not Hobbesian elites), sustainability is still possible. Democracy must prevail throughout the world, however, for sustainability to be possible.

Two Contrasting Worldviews: Sustainable Idea versus Hobbesian Realities

The world is facing major food crisis issues and problems in relation to food security. Food security fundamentally refers to the goal of ensuring that all the people of the world have the means of getting adequate nourishment daily. Yet, hundreds of millions of people in the world today possess no semblance of food security. By some estimates, in fact, close to one-third of the world’s population (approximately 2 billion people) live in abject poverty without sufficient access to food, potable water, arable land, education, and/or adequate health services (International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council, 2013). At the same time, more and more stress is being placed on the world’s limited resources as many undeveloped nations are experiencing dramatic population explosions.

Regardless of one’s theoretical orientation (Hobbesian pessimist, Malthusian doomsday prognosticator, or sustainability proselyte), it is obvious that the food security equation is a serious matter – one that is only growing more challenging each day. In fact, the global community faces the “critical challenge of increasing global food supplies by 70 percent to meet the anticipated world population of more than 9 billion in 2050” (International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council, 2013). Despite the ostensibly troubling news, policymakers and citizens of the world still have a choice. They can relinquish hope and subscribe to Hobbesian fears and pessimism. Or, they can look towards the future with pragmatic hope for achieving agricultural sustainability.

What does agricultural sustainability look like?

In the scheme of progressive thinking to support agricultural sustainability, it is necessary to ask the question: what does agricultural sustainability look like? Utopian visions in philosophy have a long history. Often dismissed as the unrealistic musings of idealists, utopian visions for the future are anything but wishful thinking. A world characterized by agricultural sustainability would be a world without hunger. It would be a world in which “the ethical, cultural, social and environmental aspects of food [its production, processing, exchange, and consumption]” are assured for all people of the world (Rosin & Stock, 2012). And most importantly, it would be a world in which the competitive pretenses of the Hobbesian reality would be replaced with a spirit of cooperation and mutual interdependence. The new world order would not be characterized as a game with winners and losers. It would, to the contrary, support altruism, win-win scenarios in a global non-zero-sum game.

In further answering the question of what sustainability looks like, the doctrine of sustainability assumes an ecological relationship for humanity and nature. Advocates of sustainability commonly believe that Mother Earth protects and supports all life - human beings included. Thus, the doctrine of sustainability overturns the basic pessimistic assumptions referred to as Hobbesian realities with the proclamation that humanity “must learn to live in harmony with nature, rather than try to conquer nature” (Ikerd, 2013). The doctrine of sustainability, therefore, implies that every person should have the opportunity to reconnect with nature. As subsequent discussion and analysis explains in greater detail, one of the best ways to support this objective is for policymakers in Washington to advocate the reemergence of local farms. Thereby, agricultural sustainability can be supported in the international space through the construction and integration of “networks of community-based food systems” (Ikerd, 2013).

The shadow of Hobbesian realities

In contrast to the ecological assumptions inherent to the doctrine of sustainability, in Hobbes’ state of nature, human beings are vulnerable and insecure. People should expect to be victims and/or taken advantage of by others. It would be foolhardy, in Hobbes’ estimate, to expect peace and harmony to be maintained in the world without exerting power and force. In other words, Hobbesian realities reflect a predisposition of pessimism which denies that the common person is capable of self-governance (Williams, n.d.). For any semblance of peace and harmony to exist, the Hobbesian paradigm insists that people need to be ruled by a sovereign authority capable of knowing right from wrong (Williams, n.d.). Otherwise, reality devolves towards a state of nature where the fittest (i.e., the most powerful) survive. In sum, no place for cooperation and harmonious relationship exists in the Hobbesian paradigm.

Hobbes’ threefold argument: the necessity of sovereign rule

In establishing a theoretical foundation for understanding how the Hobbesian worldview has influenced U.S. agriculture and international trade policy, the philosopher’s threefold argument for the necessity of a sovereign ruler gets to the heart of the matter. The argument also reveals why sustainability is unrealistic according to the Hobbesian worldview. Hobbes’ three premises include:

(i) People will violently compete, to secure the necessities of life and perhaps to make other material gains.

(ii) People will challenge others and fight out of fear (i.e., diffidence), to ensure their personal safety.

(iii) People will seek reputation (i.e., glory), both for its own sake and for its protective effects [for example, so that others will be afraid to challenge them] (Williams, n.d.)

Hobbes sees the world as little more than a dog-eat-dog social, political, and economic reality. People are incapable of experiencing Maslowian growth and development – that is, learning to show and express empathy, altruism, and higher-order behaviors associated with self-actualization. Many people in the world, according to Hobbes, operate on the lowest level of psychological and emotional maturity. Society is superficial as it is predicated on the innate desire to preserve oneself by any means. For the elite ruling class, this is done most effectively through power and control of others. Therefore, sustainability (something that requires cooperation and altruism) is unrealistic in the Hobbesian world.

U.S. Agriculture Policy and International Trade

In examining U.S. agriculture and international trade policy, one discovers the implicit influences stemming from worldview assumptions consistent with Hobbesian realities. Most obviously, U.S. agriculture and international trade policy assumes that the global marketplace is a competitive and even hostile environment. Protectionism is, therefore, the first line of defense against other nations.

History of trade protectionism

Trade protectionism is a logical response for policymakers who subscribe to Hobbesian realities. After all, in the Hobbesian world, nations compete against one another for economic viability and survival. Nonetheless, if the past truly is prologue, then one must look to the history of political/economic issues like protectionism for answers. In other words, to understand how U.S. agriculture and international trade policy can be restructured to support sustainability, society must look to the past for valuable lessons and guidance for the future.

Under current U.S. and European Union international agriculture trade agreements, tariffs are used to control prices and the flow of products between nations. On both sides of the Atlantic, the rationale for the use of tariffs is to protect domestic farmers and workers from suffering the negative impacts of a globalized marketplace - price competition, job displacement, and so forth. However, the use of tariffs for protecting domestic farmers has a long and dubious history. During the Great Depression, for example, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 was heralded as the political solution to the threat of European agricultural imports (Irwin, 2011). While the Smoot-Hawley Tariff did reduce the number of European agricultural products in the U.S. marketplace, it also resulted in a similar response from many European nations. Consequently, thousands of U.S. farmers lost access to vital European markets. Many historians and economists believe, therefore, that tariff policy in the United States and Europe stymied global trade and even served to lengthen the Great Depression (Irwin, 2011).

As history shows, during the Great Depression, the United States and European nations (based on Hobbesian notions) assumed a defensive, protectionist posture in the international marketplace. As a result, the United States and the scores of European nations pitted themselves against one another by imposing tariffs and other protectionist measures. History further shows that when international trade between the United States and some European nations resumed during World War II, the Great Depression came to an end. It can be said, in other words, that the economic merits of two components of sustainability (i.e., cooperation and mutual interdependence) were proven even in the worst of geopolitical/economic times.

The protectionist practice of government subsidies through tax credits and/or direct payments to farmers is yet another aspect of U.S. agriculture and international trade policy that is derived from Hobbesian assumptions. Once again, during the Great Depression, the Agricultural Adjustment Act enabled the U.S. government to not only pay farmers extra money for growing crops but also for not growing crops at all (Irwin, 2011). At the time, Hobbesian elites believed that they needed to intervene in the zero-sum, every-man-for-himself marketplace. In other words, as Hobbes would see it, the troubling marketplace of the Great Depression was no surprise or anomaly. The marketplace is always one in which people will compete, even violently, to secure the necessities of life and perhaps to make other material gains (Williams, n.d.). In the end, however, the protectionist practice of government subsidies failed to correct marketplace problems with pricing, supply, and demand. Farmers in America and Europe had to wait for World War II and the subsequent years of international trade liberalization before fully recovering from the woes of the Great Depression. In sum, history shows that Hobbesian policy formats do not solve economic problems. Often, Hobbesian agriculture and international policies are the problem.

21st century U.S. agriculture policy and free trade agreements (FTAs)

In attempting to work towards a policy foundation that can be more supportive and amenable to agricultural sustainability, the United States and the European Union accept the World Trade Organization’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) guidelines. The SPS agreement states “that measures taken to protect human, animal or plant life or health should be science-based and applied only to the extent necessary to protect life or health” (Grueff & Tangermann, 2013, p. 4). The proposed scientific basis for agriculture and international trade policy formulation represents a significant step (that is, at least in theory) in the right direction. Science and empirical evidence should guide and inform all decisions concerning the development of agriculture and international trade policy. In this way, agriculture and international trade policies can be based on consideration for variables that are critical to the sustainability formula – most notably, social and environmental impacts. Unfortunately, a closer examination of U.S. and EU trade relations shows that Hobbesian assumptions about reality appear to be influencing the agriculture and international trade policymaking process for the United States and the European Union.

Agriculture trade disputes

If the United States has not learned its proper lesson from past mistakes like the Smooth-Hawley Act of 1930 and the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, then it is no wonder that costly agricultural trade disputes persist even in the 21st century. For example, the U.S. has imposed demand on the imports of beef from the European Union for close to fifteen years over fears of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in Europe (Grueff & Tangermann, 2013, p. 8). Of course, the United States is relatively self-sufficient in meeting its own marketplace needs for beef. Yet, the 15-year long ban on European beef imports has stymied opportunities for advancing healthy international trade. In so many words, the prospect of promoting sustainable agriculture and international trade policies has been suppressed by the Hobbesian fear that is characterized by challenging others and fighting to ensure personal safety.

Other examples of costly agricultural trade disputes based on Hobbesian presuppositions include the closing of the European market to U.S. poultry meat and E.U. limitations on soybean imports from the United States. As a result of these actions, it is estimated that the annual value of trade lost by U.S. poultry exporters exceeds one-hundred million dollars while soybean industry losses are upwards of one-billion dollars annually (Grueff & Tangermann, 2013, p. 8). The underlying conflict is largely a function of EU elitism and economic fears about the dangers of reducing protectionist barriers (see appendix, Table 1 for tariff profiles of the United States and European Union). Even though opening EU markets to U.S. poultry and soybean markets would provide economic benefits for all parties, Europeans are generally afraid to challenge EU industrial moguls. A disparity in agriculture trade has, therefore, emerged between the U.S. and the EU. Figure 1 and Figure 3 in the appendix show that EU agricultural exports to the United States grew from US $6 billion in 1992 to over US $16 billion for the last ten years. However, Figure 2 and Figure 4 in the appendix show that U.S. agricultural exports to the EU have largely flat-lined (i.e., remained in the range of US $10 to $12 billion) for the past twenty years. Thus, Hobbes’ third premise for the necessity of sovereign appears to be rearing its ugly head in the agriculture and international policy-making process.

U.S. agricultural policy changes in recent years

In recent years, policymakers in the United States have attempted, at least in some ways, to shift away from Hobbesian, realist assumptions about agriculture and international trade. It would seem, however, that many decades of wearing Hobbesian blinders have left the government incapable of understanding and/or implementing even the most basic principles of sustainability. With the 1996 Farm Bill, for example, the government abandoned some of its typical supply-side strategies. Instead, the government chose to enact policies “to encourage farmers to increase the volume of production to compensate for lower prices, with a strong focus on creating new markets overseas for U.S. commodities” (Hansen-Kuhn, 2011, p. 3). Not surprisingly, the policy proved ineffective, even disastrous, for many American farmers. In the wake of the 1996 Farm Bill, in fact, the practice of dumping (i.e., exporting at below the cost of production) became commonplace. Even further, U.S. policies calling for production compensations for lower prices resulted in the following:

Wheat was exported at an average price of 28 percent below the cost of production, corn at 10 percent and rice at 26 percent below the cost of production. Today, recurring bouts of rising food prices have decreased the extent of dumping, but deregulated trade continues to present challenges for stable local food markets. (Hansen-Kuhn, 2011, p. 3)

Policies that leave American farmers subject to the ups and downs of the marketplace will never support sustainability. Sustainability is not an “every man for himself” Hobbesian proposition. If U.S. policymakers are going to create rules to support sustainability, they will need to advance their thinking far beyond such Hobbesian assumptions.

Summation of section

Over the past century, the influence of Hobbesian, realist thinking on U.S. agriculture and international trade policy is undeniable. Largely as a result of Hobbesian existential fears, Congress passed the Smooth-Hawley Tariff of 1930 that basically resulted in tariff wars between the United States and European nations. Also, during the Great Depression, the Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1933 enabled the U.S. government to not only pay farmers extra money for growing crops but also for not growing crops at all (Irwin, 2011). Hobbesian elites were wrong, in other words, to believe that such interventions were necessary for protecting the poor, helpless farmer.

More recently, trade agreements between the United States and the European Union have been characterized by protectionist policies in the beef market, poultry meats market, and soybean markets as industrial moguls dictate what they believe is best for everyone else in society. The U.S. agriculture and international trade policymaking process has only recently taken a turn in the direction of consideration for sustainability. Unfortunately, after so many years of Hobbesian, realist agriculture and international trade policy formulation, the U.S. government faces a steep learning curve. Learning how to support agricultural sustainability will not assume Hobbesian realities. For policymakers to learn how to support sustainability, a new agriculture and international trade paradigm is required – one that is based on belief in the ability of humankind to live in harmony with nature, belief in humankind's capacity for altruism and cooperation, and belief in mutual interdependence and the possibility of win-win outcomes in the international space.

Understanding the Root of the Problem: Thomas Hobbes

As suggested in previous analysis, Hobbesian thinking (i.e., the belief in Hobbesian realities) is the root cause of the U.S. agriculture and international trade policy failures to support sustainability. As for the man himself, Thomas Hobbes was anything but an optimist. He believed that people could expect little or no happiness living together in a state of nature. According to Hobbes’ pessimistic view of the state of nature, in fact, the “natural condition of mankind,” is a state of violence, insecurity and constant threat (Martinich, 2013, p. 4). If one accepts Hobbes’ worldview, then the proper and necessary role of the government is to serve as sovereign ruler over the people and their economic activities. In the absence of sovereign rule, Hobbesian realities go unchecked and the rule of order becomes self-preservation. But even further, the Hobbesian mindset implies more than just natural rights to self-preservation. Human beings have the right to judge what will ensure self-protection; yet, “human beings rarely judge wisely” (Williams, n.d.). People need sovereign rulers to tell them what to do. Therefore, U.S. and EU agriculture and international trade policies are designed to control farmers and other industry players.

Beyond Hobbesian Realities: U.S. Policy to Support Sustainability

Hobbesian assumptions about reality represent a complete contradiction to sustainable outcomes. The Hobbesian worldview is predicated on the belief that people are largely incapable of making good judgments. Sustainability, on the other hand, assumes that people can cooperate and build economic systems based on mutual interdependence and shared interest. Despite such optimism, a world economic order characterized by sustainability will require a profound change in the way policymakers and citizens of the world think. Sustainability is not, however, beyond reach. It is still possible.

Trade and investment agreements for sustainability

A growing number of researchers and policymakers believe that the United States and EU are now more ready than ever before to start working towards the establishment of trade and investment agreements for sustainability. Decades of globalization and the emergence of new markets around the world have helped many policymakers rethink their Hobbesian assumptions. The emergence of China as a global economic superpower, for example, suggests to some policymakers that the United States and the EU do not need to posture themselves in adversarial, protectionist stances. The United States and the EU can work together in order to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities in China. At the same time, economic activities do not need to be based on Hobbesian realities – models of exploitation, zero-sum outcomes, and cutthroat competition. To the contrary, the opportunity now exists “to negotiate a comprehensive trade and investment agreement between the EU and U.S. […with] the possibility of changing the agricultural dynamic between the two trading partners for the first time in decades” (Grueff & Tangermann, 2013, p. 22). Not only are policymakers hopeful that the majority of U.S. and EU tariffs will be removed, but many policymakers also believe that the U.S. and EU are ready to take significant steps to improve market structures and open doors to international trade in unprecedented ways. Most promisingly, “the most significant benefit would be a paradigm shift in the trade-related approaches to protecting human, animal, or plant life or health” (Grueff & Tangermann, 2013, p. 22). As such, Hobbesian realities do not limit the U.S. in restructuring agriculture and international trade policy in ways that would support sustainability. Therefore, sustainability is still possible.

Sustainability and the opportunity to address food waste

As the global population continues to expand, many agriculture and international trade policymakers have focused their attention on ways to increase production and improve the distribution of food. However, policymakers must keep in mind that the global food security equation not only involves advancements in food production and distribution, but it also demands improvements in the management and reduction of waste. In this area, the data reveals that significant opportunities exist for improving food security in the world by means of policies that support sustainability.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines food waste as: “uneaten food and food preparation wastes from residences and commercial establishments such as grocery stores, restaurants, and produce stands, institutional cafeterias and kitchens, and industrial sources like employee lunchrooms” (Morawicki, 2012, p. 227). In both the United States and the world, food waste is a significant and even alarming problem. Not only does food waste represent the single largest source of material waste in the United States, but on a global basis between 30 and 40 percent of all food from all stages of the food cycle (i.e., production, packaging, distribution, and consumption) is wasted (Giovannucci et al., 2012, p. iv). To put these figures into perspective, the people and nations of the world waste enough food each day to feed every person on the planet. Obviously, reducing food waste during production, packaging, and transport would represent a great start for creating agriculture and international trade policies that better support sustainability.

In economic and statistical terms, the food waste problem becomes perhaps even more palpable. In a recent study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), for example, it was estimated the total value of food waste/loss in the United States is approximately 165.6 billion annually (respectively, 41.3% meat, poultry, and fish; 17.1% vegetables; and 14% dairy products) (Dietrich, 2012). As a matter of further highlighting the unsustainability of the food waste problem in the United States, USDA researchers also estimated the various costs of food waste with respect to landfill, waste transportation, and environmental impacts. Beyond the estimated 165.6 billion lost annually in the retail value of foods, it was also found that food waste costs Americans close to $200 billion each year. The calculations include approximately $1.3 billion to put food waste in landfills, the cost of some 300 million barrels of oil used in the process of transporting food waste, and more than $190 billion in environmental effects – most notably, water supply contamination (Venkat, 2011).

EPA recommendations for reducing food waste

In the name of advancing sustainable agricultural policies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a stepwise process for preventing food waste. The recommendation is presented in the order of the most effective, prioritized steps. As little or no surprise, step one is all about the prevention and reduction of food waste at the source(s) of the problem. Food waste needs to be reduced and/or eliminated during production, packaging, and distribution (Morawicki, 2012, p. 233). The next step or level of priority for reducing food waste and promoting sustainable agriculture policy is to support reclamation. Simply put, the EPA’s idea for reclamation standard is based on the prospect of finding legitimate uses for food that would otherwise be categorized as waste. Potential uses of food include:

Feeding hungry people in the world; distributing food scraps to farmers and zoos for the feeding of livestock and animals; supplying industries with food waste as a source of fuel and energy; using compound found in food to produce industrial chemicals and compound; and using stock material to make products like soap; using food waste to make compost for farmers (Morawicki, 2012, p. 233).

Summarily, the EPA recommendations do not, of course, represent a total solution to the problem of food waste. The EPA framework does, however, demonstrate how a perceived problem like food waste can be reinterpreted as an economic opportunity to meet the needs of people, farmers, animals, and more. Thus, despite the claims of those who believe that Hobbesian realities limit the U.S. in restructuring agriculture and international trade policy in ways that would support sustainability, the EPA case shows that such a claim is not true at all. Sustainability can be supported by U.S. agricultural and international trade policies. Therefore, sustainability is still possible.

Advancing science and technology-based policies

In recent years, the United States and the EU have framed trade agreements in terms that require scientific foundations and support. Specifically, both political entities (i.e., the United States and the EU) are interested in using science to inform and instruct policymaking. Of notable interest, Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues have come to the forefront of concern. SPS takes aim at supporting food safety in terms of preventing problems like bacterial contamination and other potential health problems (Grueff & Tangermann, 2013, p. 4). For the future, advancing science-based policies could help address a broader spectrum of issues related to sustainability. Science can be used to support virtually every facet of the food security equation – production, packaging, and distribution. In the area of production, for instance, scientists are already making significant progress in genetics and the creation of more productive hybrid species. Improved packing methods based on scientific principles can help reduce food waste. Also, scientific advancements in logistics and distribution can help ensure that food products get delivered to the right place at the right time. Thus, those who believe that Hobbesian realities limit the U.S. in restructuring agriculture and international trade policy in ways that would support sustainability are simply underestimating the power and potential of science. Sustainability can be supported by U.S. agricultural and international trade policies that take advantage of science and technology. Therefore, sustainability is still possible.

Integrating nutrition in agriculture and international trade

Rising obesity rates and food safety are two issues that have caused people to be concerned about nutritional values in the foods available. While the U.S. trade policy sets its sights on keeping food safe by supporting standards that create new incentives for companies to create safe food markets, the U.S. government’s policies too often do not focus on the nutritional needs of the people (Hansen-Kuhn, 2011, p. 7). For example, low-cost corn, soy, wheat, and rice are used in cheaply processed foods with added salt and sugar. Moreover, little to no vitamins and minerals are included in these products. The combined effect of added salt and sugar causes the average non-active human body to store those foods eaten in high quantities. Similarly, processed meat used in fast food chains is cooked in fat and doused with salt and additives to increase its shelf life. Summarily, these types of practices do not support health and sustainability.

U.S. policymakers could learn from the NAFTA experience and consequent food safety problems. Researchers believe that NAFTA has contributed to the growing obesity problem in Mexico - one that now rivals the obesity problem in the United States. Although NAFTA helped increase consumer food options in Mexico, the options do not seem to be conducive to better health for Mexican citizens. To support world health and sustainability, food safety for consumers should fall under the aegis of more trade agreements. The trade agreements should include requirements for using local food sources to bring the cost of fresh foods down. In fact, fresh foods not only offer a healthier alternative to processed foods, but the proposed policy could also help reduce obesity in low-income populations. As a case example, nutritious fresh foods for low-income communities are being offered by local farm cooperatives in Brazil (Hansen-Kuhn, 2011, p. 8). Cases like this show that Hobbesian realities do not limit the U.S. in restructuring agriculture and international trade policy in ways that would support sustainability. Therefore, sustainability is still possible.

Conclusions/Summary

In conclusion, the current report has provided an analytical argument based on responses to two basic research questions:

1. Do Hobbesian realities limit the U.S. in restructuring agriculture and international trade policy in ways that would support sustainability?

2. Is sustainability still possible?

With respect to question one, it has been argued that Hobbesian realities do not limit the U.S. in restructuring agriculture and international trade policy in ways that would support sustainability. Secondly, sustainability is still possible in the world even though Hobbesian presuppositions remain a part of the mindset of many agriculture and international trade policymakers.

The Hobbesian worldview is nothing more than a set of political views and assumptions about reality. History has shown that Hobbesian assumptions can lead to bad agriculture and international trade policy decisions. While the Smoot-Hawley Tariff did reduce the number of European agricultural products in the U.S. marketplace, it also resulted in a similar response from many European nations. As a result of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, thousands of U.S. farmers lost access to vital European markets. Thus, many historians and economists believe that tariff policies in the United States and Europe during the 1930s hurt global trade and lengthened the Great Depression. Similarly, the Agricultural Adjustment Act enabled the U.S. government to not only pay farmers extra money for growing crops but also for not growing crops at all. In sum, history shows that Hobbesian policy formats do not solve economic problems. Often, Hobbesian agriculture and international policies are the problem.

Agriculture and international trade policies can be based on consideration for variables that are critical to the sustainability formula – most notably, social and environmental impacts. Unfortunately, a closer examination of U.S. and EU trade relations shows that Hobbesian assumptions about reality appear to be influencing the agriculture and international trade policymaking process for the United States and the European Union. Trade agreements between the United States and the European Union have been characterized by protectionist policies in the beef market, poultry meats market, and soybean markets. However, Hobbesian realities do not limit the U.S. in restructuring the way we deal with agriculture to support sustainability in international trade. Sustainability is possible. Hobbesian realities are illusory, dystopian-like descriptions of the world. People are far more altruistic than Hobbes understood or wanted to believe.

Alternative worldviews exist that can support an international trade environment capable of advancing sustainability. These include trade and investment agreements, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendations for reducing food waste, advancing science and technology-based policies, and integrating nutrition in agriculture and international trade. With respect to trade and investment agreements, the most significant benefit would be a paradigm shift in the trade-related approaches to protecting human, animal, or plant life or health” (Grueff & Tangermann, 2013, p. 22). This benefit of this option is that it almost represents the very definition of sustainability itself. The EPA recommendations do not, of course, represent a total solution to the problem of food waste. However, the EPA has shown that agriculture policies can be changed in significant ways to support sustainability. Science and technology have driven change and improvement throughout history. Humankind only needs to decide whether to use science and technology for good (i.e., to support sustainability) or bad (i.e., continue wearing Hobbesian blinders). Finally, nutrition in fresh foods is a better alternative to processed foods. Nutritious and fresh foods offered by local farm cooperatives to low-income communities are an immediate remedy that is already working in other parts of the world such as in Brazil.

In the final comment, under the influence of the moral collective of global citizens (not Hobbesian elites), Hobbesian realities do not limit the U.S. in restructuring agriculture and international trade policy in ways that would support sustainability. Therefore, sustainability is still possible. Ultimately, however, it must be kept in mind that sustainability is all about living in ways that do not jeopardize the sustainability of natural systems and the environment. Therefore, for sustainability to become reality in the world all nations must be on the same page. In other words, the people of the world must be ready to live in complete harmony with Moth Nature.

References

Brauch, H.G. (n.d.). The three worldviews of Hobbes, Grotius, and Kant: Foundations of modern thinking on peace and security-Contextual Change and Reconceptualization of Security.

Dietrich, S. (2012). The economic impact of food waste. The Food Industry Center of the University of Minnesota. Retrieved from http://blog.lib.umn.edu/tfic/foodthought/2012/12/the-economic-impact-of-food-waste.html

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(Appendices A-E omitted for preview. Available via download)