Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Crap Economics

The fertilizer crisis is as sure a sign as any that our overlords have no idea what they’re doing.


America, with conservatives’ blessing, has become utterly dependent on big corporations. We rely on the global supply chain and its left-wing gatekeepers for everything from food to clothes to medicine. Hell, the United States imports more than $7 billion in fertilizer each year.

That’s from my book The Reactionary Mind. (My editor, a paragon of good taste, removed the next sentence:  “We don’t even make our own cowshit.”) I chose the fertilizer example because it was self-evidently ridiculous. And yet, lo and behold, we’re now hurtling towards a food crisis thanks to the global fertilizer shortage


Why is there a fertilizer shortage, you ask?  Because the United States imports 93 percent of our potash, a key nutrient used in making fertilizer, while Russia and Belarus are responsible for 40 percent of the global potash supply.

Naturally, the folks who decided to make us dependent on fertilizer imports are the same people who decided to blockade Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. That should tell you everything you need to know about our ruling class.

But it gets worse. The same Very Smart People who orchestrated the fertilizer shortage are also working hard to blacklist the cattle industry. Cow farts are tearing a hole in the ozone, they argue, which is why they have to cripple our ranchers with new methane taxes. It’s getting so bad in the Netherlands that cattle farmers are in open revolt against the Dutch government. 

No cows, no cowshit.

These Very Smart People are poised to upend the global economy. And they don’t care. Many of them, like Bill Gates, publicly fantasize about switching the developed world to synthetic beef. They want to drive all those ranchers—about 500 million around the world—out of business. They would gladly force us all to eat their nasty Impossible Whoppers. For them, this isn’t an unfortunate side-effect of saving the planet. It’s the reason they get out of bed in the morning. 


This is evil. More than that, it’s unbelievably stupid. By sanctioning Russia, the people who want us all to eat plant-based meat substitutes are also making it harder to grow the plants used to make those plant-based meat substitutes. Bill Gates and his fellow oligarchs are attacking meat farmers and vegetable farmers at the same time.

You can’t make this up.

By the way, whenever you mention Bill Gates, people assume you’re talking about progressives. Yet conservatives also deserve credit for this catastrophe. They’re the ones who are constantly going on about the blessings of capitalism and free trade. 

To be fair, a trained economist could probably tell you how we save eight cents per ton by making our Illuminati Burgers out of soy grown with fake Russian dung—assuming stable global markets, of course. But, as everyone without an economics degree knows, global markets aren’t stable. 

To you and me, it’s obviously a bad idea to become dependent on fertilizer imports. It’s obviously a bad idea to become dependent on any import that your people literally can’t live without. Obviously, it’s an especially bad idea when that industry is dominated by a hostile power. Obviously. To you and me, this is all clear as day. But that’s because we’ve never studied economics.

“Aha!” the economists cry. “It would have been fine, though, if we’d only kept up peaceful relations with Russia.” Well, I doubt that. But let’s say they’re right, just for the sake of argument. Haven’t those economists been feeding from the same trough as the foreign-policy hawks—the ones who’ve been urging the United States to invade Russia since 1947?

Neoliberals argue that, the more dependent nations become on a global supply chain, the less likely we are to start World War III. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you; so, as long as we’re all feeding each other, we should be fine. Yet not only did that fail in practice, it wasn’t even our working theory.

For decades, the elites of both parties been advocating for both “free trade” and “wars of democracy.”  We became more dependent on the nations we intended to invade. We fed the crocodile, hoping it wouldn't eat us next. Honestly, the Gateses and the Kochs and the Clintons and the Bushes might as well have walked around Indiana setting wheat fields on fire, for all the good they did us.

This is why I say all conspiracy theories are nonsense. There’s no secret cabal of the rich and powerful controlling human affairs. There is a cabal, of course, and they do control human affairs. But it’s not a secret. They go on TV and brag about it.

We invent these fantasies about an omniscient, omnipotent elite because the truth is so much more terrible: our rulers have no earthly idea what they’re doing. There are no satanic pedophiles, no chemtrails, no alien overlords. There’s no false flag, no second gunman. There’s just Bill Gates standing in an empty warehouse holding a Tofurky sandwich going, “C’mon, try it. You’ll like it. Honestly.”

The good news is that, while the food crisis may squeeze us, we’ll get through it all right. Most of our fertilizer imports come from Canada. Bear these two things in mind, though.

First, because there’s a global fertilizer deficit, we’ll be competing with every other country for the remaining supply. For instance, Brazil imports over 40 percent of its potash directly from Russia. American farmers are now going to be locked in a bidding war with Brazilian farmers for Canada’s exports. We may not starve, but they might go broke.

Second, American farmers will win. But that means millions of hungry families in Brazil and other developing countries. Our neoliberal empire is bad for Americans; for the Third World, it’s absolutely devastating—and not for the first time. Remember this every time some big-brain says we need to trust “the experts” (or, better yet, “the adults”). The experts are wrong. In fact, they’re not even experts. They understand economics even less than we benighted laymen. And there’s the rub. You can read a whole library’s worth of books on Newton and Einstein and Hawking, but you’ll never be a physicist if you can’t grasp the first principle: what goes up must come down.