"It's happening in Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, Bosnia, Syria, and beyond. Revolutions, unrest, and riots are sweeping the globe. The near-simultaneous eruption of violent protest can seem random and chaotic; inevitable symptoms of an unstable world. But there's at least one common thread between the disparate nations, cultures, and people in conflict, one element that has demonstrably proven to make these uprisings more likely: high global food prices.
Just over a year ago, complex systems theorists at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned us that if food prices continued to climb, so too would the likelihood that there would be riots across the globe. Sure enough, we're seeing them now. The paper's author, Yaneer Bar-Yam, charted the rise in the FAO food price index—a measure the UN uses to map the cost of food over time—and found that whenever it rose above 210, riots broke out worldwide. It happened in 2008 after the economic collapse, and again in 2011, when a Tunisian street vendor who could no longer feed his family set himself on fire in protest. "
Here is another link from Conversable Economist discussing the possibility that staples are Giffen Goods to the poor.
I first talked about these issues in the third post of my blog when I predicted more riots and cited research between the link between growing inequality and revolution (Although my predictions were that we would have more "revolution" in developed countries and that hasn't yet materialized on the scale I might of imagined).
I often wonder when most people look at Argentina, do they draw the wrong conclusions? Its rising inequality in the face of discredited market reforms that causes knee jerk populism. Inclusive market reforms that limit inequality are what is needed to put Argentina, Venezuela, etc on a stable economic growth path. Knee jerk populism is worse than crony capitalism but the poor often don't see it that way.