Protectionist Racket

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New at Reason: Ron Bailey's maledizione on ag subsidies for farmers in rich countries.

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  1. I applaud the NYTimes for their moral outrage about the ‘moral depravity’ of these agricultural subsidies, but I’d be a lot more respectful if they had not fought so long and hard for the mixed economy and the market for government favors that make these specific evils possible.

    I also suspect that the NYTimes definition of ‘moral’ here is that the policy of the rich countries is not sufficiently altruistic, and that the behavior of the subsidizing governments and those who are subsidized is in some sense ‘selfish’. Why doesn’t the NYTimes simply defend a sensible morality here: let the rational selfishness of consumers in the rich countries and producers in the poor countries rule. Answer: because if they defend such a principle here, they would have to do it in pharmaceuticals, the labor market…and on and on…

  2. “Such high subsidies mean that the average European cow earns its owner $2.50 per day. By contrast, some 2 billion people still live on less than $2 per day.”

    Another one of those silly comparisons some journalists are so fond of. Kinda depends on what you can buy with $2,doesn’t it? “Eat your dinner kid, in Africa people are starving.”

    So, if we just force the oh-so-rich masses in the US and Europe to give up some of their obsecene and ill-gotten wealth, the world would be a better place and the poor countries’ leaders would have more to squirrel away, dole out to their cronies and invest in AK47s.
    I suppose that’s not really morally depraved, because as we all know it’s just a result of their just anger at the rigged trade game. Jeez! After 3 decades of that kind of idiotic scribbling, it’s no wonder Liberalism has a bad name.

  3. The administration also appealed the WTO’s ruling on the US’ steel tariffs. Whudaya know?

  4. The fact that the government takes my money to pay some farmer to continue on with a failed business model never sat very well with me. If I was to branch out as a web development consultant would the gov’t subsidize me to stay in business? nope.

    If ag is such a bad business, get out. If it is seasonal and each season’s crop has a risk of being destroyed, I’d say you better have some cash reserves or get out. Either way, someone who does it better domestically will continue to stock my grocer’s shelves, or the produce will be imported.

    I’ve yet to understand the nostalgia of the ag industry. Willie, why didn’t you put on a festival for all of us programmers in Austin and Dallas after the .bomb?! Oh well, you are still the man.

  5. Up is down. Cats are lying with dogs. I generally agree with Ron Bailey’s take on something. What’s next?

    The devil is in the details, of course, as it always is when dealing with policy stances springing from reductive political philosophies. I don’t think egregious water pollution and damage to the surrounding environment with impunity are okay any more than permanent subsidies, and as such there needs to be some mechanism for dealing with the fact that some countries take steps to abate and repair these things–the imperiled Everglades restoration project, for one–and other countries don’t.

    If one sugar producer has to be careful about dumping fertilizer- and pesticide-heavy runoff into surrounding wetlands and another doesn’t, all other things being equal, how can the former compete effectively?

    One possibility–which I suspect wouldn’t sit well with Mr. Bailey or anyone else at Reason–is to require that trade partners adhere to comparable environmental standards. In practical terms, this would preserve the existing mess or send things right back to the WTO for arbitration: one need only look at Japan’s produce aesthetic standards that kept foreign apples out of their market to see that such rules end up being used as sticks to beat back imports across the board.

  6. If you’re a free market fanatic, which I am for the most part, it’s easy to bash ag subsidies. But I do see some logic behind having them. After all, absent ag subsidies, we would be relying on 3rd world countries for food. Just as we currently rely on 3rd world countries for our oil needs. I submit that food is something that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to rely on someone else to provide for you.

  7. All together now: Our tariffs – good
    Your tariffs – bad.

    Get rid of them all and let’s get the economies of the world in gear. Please note that, “getting rid of them all,” could also be beneficial when applied to our elected representatives.

  8. martin, they’re not talking about giving checks to African dictators. They’re talking about giving checks to African farmers – as payment for goods rendered. In addition to not going to hell, we will also reap the benefit of watching tht emerging middle class boot the dictators out of office.

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