Theory of comparative advantage = monoculture
Should have occured to me, but the idea is very clearly expressed here:
Essentially the problem is that the people on the [Davos] panel have internalized the principles of comparative advantage and free trade to the point at which they are more or less incapable of thinking any other way. In a Ricardian world it makes sense for Ohio to overwhelmingly grow corn and soy, since growing corn and soy is what it does best. And because of economies of scale, it makes sense to grow just one type of each, on farms of mind-boggling size. Ohio can then trade all that corn and soy for the food it wants to eat, and everybody is better off.
Except when the Irish potato famine hits, of course.
Except in reality it doesn’t work like that. Monocultures are naturally prone to disastrous outbreaks of disease, which can wipe out an entire crop. The panel at Davos has a favored method of dealing with such things: the development of disease-resistant crop strains, often through high-tech and patentable genetic modification.
Which is a feature, not a bug, if you're a corporatist.
NOTE Big hat tip to Atrios, who seems to have recovered his inner old school-ness recently -- maybe because of all the high-traffic bloggers, he's got the same professional training as the econobloggers, who can see the shit train coming.