Deregulation

'How much would a gallon of milk cost tomorrow, in Chicago, if the dairy subsidies were eliminated today?'

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This hat cost more than your house, city slicker

The readers of the Freakonomics blog conducted a Q&A with agricultural economist Daniel Sumner, and all I can say is, Where was this guy when the daughter of a sugar cane farmer bludgeoned me to tears for questioning sugar subsidies?

Q: Are there any good arguments that support farm subsidies? If so, to what extent and in what manner may they be justified?

A: No.

My longer answer is here.

I look at a dozen suggested rationales for farm programs and reject them all except the last one—which is we have farm programs because we have had them for 75 years and people are afraid of even thinking about a world without subsidies.

Read the whole thing here.

You can check out reason's farm subsidy archive here.

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  1. Mike got beat up by a chick!

  2. Unless I skipped over it, not a single question about the country’s most profitable crop.

  3. eric, we don’t subsidize marijuana

  4. eric, we don’t subsidize marijuana

    Sure we do. It’s called “law enforcement”. Drives prices up, and benefits large organized operations at the expense of freelancers.

  5. Thank you LMNOP

  6. For God’s sakes, would someone please explain to the American people that $4/Gallon milk is the result of artificially limited competition specifically created to benefit greedy farmers?

  7. For God’s sakes, would someone please explain to the American people that $4/Gallon milk is the result of artificially limited competition specifically created to benefit greedy farmers?

    Heck, even Josiah Bartlett came out against milk subsidies!

  8. the daughter of a sugar cane farmer bludgeoned me to tears for questioning sugar subsidies

    Really? lol more details please.

  9. I think cheap milk is racism against Native Americans.

    I think the existence of white people in America is racism against Native Americans.

    You can’t win ’em all.

  10. So, since farm subsidies have no standing in economic efficiency or “public interest”, that leaves the primary reason we have farm subsidies: politics.

    You know what that means? Someone somewhere is going to have to be bribed to end this. Since the farm lobby seems pretty well-organized to have kept things going this long, the bribe is probably going to have to go to farmers.

    How much are non-farmers willing to pay to end payments to farmers?

  11. Another good read from the freakonomics blog. Some of the comments are rather depressing in their general ignorance and stupidity however.

  12. Comments on the Times site that is. I also liked the guy from Montreal who used a reference to a statistical study conducted in that beef market as an excuse to rant about how much better than America Quebec is.

  13. Another good read from the freakonomics blog. Some of the comments are rather depressing in their general ignorance and stupidity however.

    I guess, but that whole abortion lowered crime rates thing was easily disproved.

  14. dbcooper,

    Quebec is sort of America’s fat goth daughter. Occasionally she has to get a new tattoo or talk about a particularly chunky period at the dinner table in order to get attention.

  15. Mandating gardens? Sweet Zombie Obama, some of my fellow Americans scare me.

  16. I strongly suggest people take the ‘locavore’ link from the blogpost page. Interesting stuff.

    Tease:

    It took a pretty long time and it didn’t taste very good but the worst part was how expensive it was. We spent about $12 on heavy cream, half-and-half, orange juice, and food coloring – the only ingredient we already had was sugar – to make a quart of ice cream. For the same price, we could have bought at least a gallon (four times the amount) of much better orange sherbet. In the end, we wound up throwing away about three-quarters of what we made. Which means we spent $12, not counting labor or electricity or capital costs (somebody bought the machine, even if we didn’t) for roughly three scoops of lousy ice cream.

  17. How much are non-farmers willing to pay to end payments to farmers?

    Practically nobody remembers it now, but several years ago farm subsidies were put on a phase-out schedule. They are still around, of course, bigger and badder than ever.

    The problem with bribing politicians and rent-seekers alike is that they don’t stay bought.

  18. I strongly suggest people take the ‘locavore’ link from the blogpost page. Interesting stuff.

    They certainly look like they’re from Berkeley. Those pants …

    http://www.locavores.com/founders.jpg

  19. ‘How much would a gallon of milk cost tomorrow, in Chicago, if the dairy subsidies were eliminated today’

    $1.50.

    Plus a 90000% bottled milk tax.

  20. Locavore thread

    First Comment = EPIC FAIL

    I was thinking about a similar problem this weekend. If I wanted to grow enough food to feed my family I could never do it. There are many reasons, climate, available land, know-how, time, etc. For those reasons, I don’t so much mind that the government subsidizes farming. It’s one of the compromises that make our modern society sustainable. We have to have food, so let’s subsidize the people who make the food so they keep making the food. But what happens when the government effs up the whole deal by encouraging the food producers to produce ethanol instead? I still can’t produce my own food and soon I may not be able to buy food either.

    – Posted by TyrantKing

    Because, of course, people would never produce food so they could sell it to other people. Icky old profit motive! Yuck! Let the government get their hands dirty with the filthy lucre.

  21. That’s pretty amazingly, surrealistically woeful, SugarFree, and it blows my Jacques Renault find out of the water.

  22. I had to stop reading the thread, I could’ve pulled mind-blowingly clueless quotes out of it all day.

    As for grow-it yourselfer and locavores… I grow a little food myself, but does everything have to become a fucking religion with these people? The farmer’s market doesn’t have to become hippie church, for fuck’s sake.

  23. The NYT has the least intelligent commenters I’ve ever seen. Even a blog like freakanomics, which you would imagine would get read mostly by those with any economic knowledge, is loaded with idiots. Last week there was a post about how to fix the economy. The first commenter’s suggestion was to triple the minimum wage. And that may have been an above average suggestion.

  24. Don’t forget to check out the comment from the guy that thinks the government should mandate we all have backyard gardens!

  25. After reading those comments I learned one thing: The free market in VOTES sure doesn’t work.

  26. Don’t forget to check out the comment from the guy that thinks the government should mandate we all have backyard gardens!

    I had a friend like that in college. He also claimed that we were poisoning third-world countries with soy-based products, and that soy would be the next asbestos.

    Ass…

  27. The farmer’s market doesn’t have to become hippie church, for fuck’s sake.

    But how else does one meet hippie chicks in Houston? The problem with most of the hippies at the farmer’s market is they take this fantastic produce and turn it into some nightmarish vegetarian disaster that tastes worse than just eating the original vegetables raw.

  28. The problem with most of the hippies at the farmer’s market is they take this fantastic produce and turn it into some nightmarish vegetarian disaster that tastes worse than just eating the original vegetables raw.

    All the hippy food fed to me by hippie women in Portland was delicious. I think Huston has a hippy quality problem not that the world has a quality hippy problem.

  29. @sugarfree: the point is that subsidies allow poor people to get food

  30. @sugarfree: the point is that subsidies allow poor people to get food at higher prices than they’d have paid otherwise.

    Fixed.

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