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Why do we throw away perfectly good food and goods, and how can we share what we have with those that don't?

Currently there's an on-going debate in Sweden on child poverty. While child poverty in Sweden would look like child luxury to many other countries, the problem is that families are struggling to have food on the table, reading glasses for children in school and so on.

Different figues exist, but they all speak of meat in -tens of thousands of tonnes- being thrown away each year due to the meat expiring in the grocery stores, tens of thousands of cattle being slaughtered even though no one buys the meat. At the same time, we're throwing away clothing, reading glasses and lots and lots of other things - that are all perfectly good and needed.

I imagine that in an ideal world, we would be able to share these resources freely rather than throwing them away. One of the first obstacles would probably be the greed and thoughts of the people that do have the money to pay: "Why should I pay for a pound of meat, when a person without money will get it for free?"

The question applies to pretty much any resources we have on this planet, but especially to resources that have an expiration date and that are thrown away though being perfectly good.

I'm convinced that the day we invent clean and cheap energy (perhaps we'll see this in October already?), we won't have the problems with resources at all, at least not the way we have them today, but until then - why are we not sharing the resources we have in abundancy with the people that need them?

The question applies to meat about to be expired, to that extra pair of glasses you never wear because it's out of fashion, but can also be applied on a global scale. Military budgets of the largest nations would easily help - if not sustain - developing countries, for instance.

Is it possible to do such a thing, or will the greed of those that have always make sure the people that need don't get?

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  • Jun 21 2011: "Why do we throw away perfectly good food and goods, and how can we share what we have with those that don't?"

    Well of course, the distribution of products was one of Karl Marx's criticisms of the then-current understanding of the requirements and goals of capitalism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surplus_product#Criticism (last part of the section, starting from The Wealth of Nations)

    First part of Wikipedia's summary of Marx's critique: "From the fact that a division of labour existed between producers, no particular method of distributing different products among producers necessarily followed. In principle, given a division of labour, products could be distributed in all kinds of ways - market trade being only one way - and how it was done just depended on how claims to property happened to be organised and enforced using the available technologies."

    In any case, the solution is to popularize a goal that conflicts with total income, which will allow more people to state that the reason they do not purchase goods is that they had no interest in doing the additional work which would allow the purchase of those products, and not because there was no way for them to earn that additional money: http://pastebin.com/Q86Zhgs9

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