17th August 2013: Food; Speculation, Accumulation and Starvation by Alex Dunedin

Alex Dunedin Portrait

Come along to The Mezzanine level in Edinburgh Central Library on George IV bridge at 2pm for a talk by Alex Dunedin. It is one floor down from the front entrance and in the conference room.

Name of speaker:

Alex Dunedin

Title of talk:

Food: Speculation, Accumulation, and Starvation

Bullet points of what you would like to cover:

  • A short history of the Stockmarket
  • The rise of off shore business
  • What are futures and derivatives
  • How financial speculation is artificially inflating staple food prices
  • The protection of the market
  • The rise of monopolies and regulatory capture
  • The history of the Corn Laws


Speculation on food stuffs by investors now exists in a scale never before encountered. The effect has been the artificial inflation of basic food prices, keeping many people in poverty whilst letting sustenance spoil. The question is asked are futures and derivatives markets recreating the repealed Corn Laws ?
The way we live and work has changed with technology. Stockmarkets now behave autonomously and affect the futures of whole countries. Prior to Adam Smith, the protectionism of the mercantilists manifested the Corn Laws which were repealed after lengthy debate. The idea of monopoly became questioned as impoverishing economies, states and peoples. The question is asked whether futures and derivatives markets are recreating the repealed Corn Laws ?
This exploratory talk tracks the learning journey I have been on in attempting to understand the economics of food, and the economic ideas at work in these huge areas of discussion.  You are invited on a whistle stop tour through the territories which factor into food speculation and scarcity.

Websites and / or texts where further information may be found:


A few words about you and your passion:

I am intrigued by the development of economics and the systems we have developed to exchange.  Inspired by a friend who taught economics and her introduction to this world, I have been on a learning trajectory which has changed my view of the effects of my actions.  Having intended to invest in shares, some years back, I realised that it was not a simple practice from a morally responsible perspective.  Leaving behind the decision to ‘make my money’ on the stocks, I now work towards synthesising a greater understanding of economics and the effects of my actions in the world in which I live.  Inspired by the work of Adam Smith, I am keen to examine the interplay between individual, group, system and society to yield a pragmatic vision of ‘healthy, sustainable’ economies.

A few lines about the history of your subject:

Economics is a subject which could be argued as a fundamental pilar of human society.  Umberto Eco places it in his anthropological view, as one of the four common elements found in all advanced societies.  Examples of economic practice can be taken back to Mesopotamian times, with the development of Urukagina’s codification of law and system of exchange and distribution. This subject was elementary and fragmentary until, with the glut of mercantilist thought, the thinking was brought into systematic schemes by Richard Cantilon and Dr Adam Smith (who was a moral philosopher).
Through the influence of the physiocrats of France, the classical economists developed their thinking around the ideas of observing the inherent patterns of nature rather than attempting to dictate how nature occured.  The period following this would be Neoclassical economists who could be seen to attempt to apply the machinations of mathematics moving the study from that of functional relationships to that of measureable predictions.
Into the 20th century, we find thinkers like John Maynard Keynes becoming a powerful influence as the financial landscape changes massively while internationalism is ushered in with blurring of geographic boundaries of action. Currently we are in a situation where economics as a subject is well established and evolving to account for the new cultural phenomena that have grown in societies. This is a very brief and deficient insight into a subject which spans ages and all human activity.  In the talk, and some written articles, I hope to give a more articulate insights into this fascinating and practical study that we would all benefit from engaging more in.

Edinburgh Central Library

7-9 George IV Bridge

Edinburgh, EH1 1EG