March 19, 1V54
Dr. Norman Cousins The Saturday xieview 25 West i5th Street Hew York 36, New York
Dear Dr. Cousins,
I cannot but protest the fact that Mr. Vogt would be asked to review Dr. Bennett's "The World's Food," it being a foregone conclusion that it would not be impartial. I must say this is even 'foregoner' than I expected. In his own writing Mr. Vogt is usually clear and succinct, and that makes it all themore unfortunate that in-this denigrating review he should lean so heavily on parentheses, exclamation points, italics and obscure allusions. Allow me an exclamation point of my own. Mr. Vogt claims to understand the "climatic, edaphic, topographic, demographic and cultural intricacies" of the world's food problem! Please, sometirae give a "Utopian" a chance to review a scholarly work of this kind, before throwing it to the Malthusian wolves, the modern prophets of Doom.
, Raymond K. Crist -
P.S. I was, .Just about to send this off when I read the long favorable review of Dr. Brown's "The Challenge of Man's Future". Unfortunately no' mention is made of Professor Earl P. Hanson's stimulating "New 'World's Emerging."
Food Research Institute
March 29, 195^
VIA A IE MAIL
Dr. Raymond 1. Crist, Department of Geography, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
.Dear Dr. Crist:
I am indeed appreciative of your note and the copy of your letter to Dr. Cousins about the reviewing of my book. It does seem that the current attitude toward food and population in literary circles is to condemn whatever writing-fails to point to calamity just around the corner unless the international organizations forestall it. Mr. Vogt would have had to produce a review in some sense adverse (I have not read it, for i prefer to let reviews collect and read them without the names of writers attached, so that can focus on ideas rather than people), and he will not be alone in his views; other people, perhaps demographers and I'AO staff particularly, are committed similarly. I shall be interested especially to see if my interpretation of evidence makes any impact on FaO philosophy.
It would be a pleasure to meet you, and 1 hope it can happen. Somehow 1 do not get to Florida, or it would have occurred earlier.
M. K. Bennett, By / Director.
25 West 45th Street New York 36, N. Y.
Norman Cousins, April 2, 1954
Mr. Raymond E. Crist Department of Geography University of Florida Gainesville, Florida
Dear Mr. Crist J
Your point is well
made and well taken. 1 am
sorry that The Saturday Review
gave the impression that it was
stacking the cards against Dr.
Bennett. If you oare to write
a letter in an effort to provide
a better balance, we should be
glad to publish it.
May 6, 1954
Dr. Norman Cousins, Editor The Saturday xieview 25 West 45th Street New York 36, New York
Dear Dr. Cousins,
It is regrettable that Dr. M. K. Bennett's "The World's Food" should be damned with the faint praise of "it is a valuable contribution, if read with discrimination," after a vigorously unfavorable review. The author warns the reader early in the volume: "Above all one must avoid the intellectual trap into which Malthus fell: that of often forgetting that man is unlike animals and insects in that he produces food for himself by his own efforts, and is not merely a gatherer of what nature puts before him." P 52.
To be sure Dr. Bennett writes as an economist but he writes as a conscientious, careful, and scholarly economist. Where physical and cultural factors are pertinent to his discussion he takes them into consideration in arriving at sound conclusions. Unlike the reviewer of his book, he does not claim, even by implication, to understand the "climatic, edaphic, topographic, demographic, and cultural" intricacies of the world's food problem. He has been successful in bringing the problem from cloudland to earth, and in clearing off a place where he can come to grips with realities.
It is difficult to see how the statement can be made that Dr. Bennett leans too heavily on statistics. Indeed he is able to pull the weak props from under many shaky statistical structures. For instance, he quotes two sets of FAO data, and then asks "Who really knows of Brazil that per capita consumption there in 1934-38 was really 2,150 calorics as against 2,450 required, when the FAO itself had once (in 1949) estimated the consumption as 2,552 calories?"- P. 197. And again, "It is more likely that the statistics are erroneous than that either per capita consumption of calories or per capita ingestion of calories really increased between prewar and late postwar years to anything like the extent suggested. Nobody's opinion can settle the questionj but neither can the statistics presently current and availabe." P 247. This kind of I'm-from-Missouri attitude vis-a-vis certain mountains of meaningless statistics is refreshing*
The authdr believes that it is reasonable to contemplate, as an event which possibly may be witnessed between 1953 and 2000, rising consumption levels everywhere, including improved economic composition of diets, "to the e. tent that impacts of war can be minimized and tendencies toward economic autarky weakened." P $7. Activity on a wide front is suggested: "encouragement of innovation, of domestic capital accumulation and investment and inflow of capital from abroad, of education including access to information about
Dr. Norman Cousins
May 6, 1954
birth control along with access to information about death control and about agricultural and inoustrial techniques." P 56. Dr. Bennett warns against identifying "a single bottleneck to economic advancement", as in the oversimplified, "cut the birth rate or starve." If war and economic autarky not inevitable, economic progress lies within general grasp. It remains to be seen how g nerally the nations will choose to grasp it. It is unfortunate that in some quarters it has come to bo considered Utopian merely to hope that human beings will become increasingly more rational and cooperative.
This is a thoughtful, reasoned piece of research, recommended to all those who believe in and work toward tie cultural improvement and economic betterment of mankind,
Rayiaond E. Crist
cc-Dr. M. K. Bennett