Sowing the Seeds of Truth
Karl Zinsmeister's article, "Plowing Under Subsidies" (Oct.), is exactly what's needed if our ridiculous farm programs to be corrected. The nonfarm populace must become educated through articles like his in journals like yours. The farm lobby will never discipline itself; the corrective needs to come from the outside.
West Lafayette, IN
The writer is a former assistant secretary of agriculture. —Eds.
Mr. Zinsmeister's farm subsidy article in your October issue is the best one on the subject that I have read in a non-farm publication. The government got involved in farming in 1905 with the Agricultural Extension Act and things have been bad for farmers ever since.
It is not the purpose of the farm program to fatten farmer returns but to maintain a plentiful supply of cheap food. The scam is to subsidize a few large farmers by paying them not to produce as long as there are surpluses and to flood the market when supply and demand are in balance. Admittedly, this is oversimplified, but large farm operations benefit more from government programs than small ones do.
Furthermore, subsidized farmers see little or no additional benefit when the government decides to increase farm payments. Instead, equipment, seed, and feed suppliers simply jack up their prices to offset the difference. The unsubsidized guy really gets screwed.
That "the federal government paid for the slaughter of a million cows to support milk prices for the benefit of dairy farmers" is only partly true. A good chunk of that money came from dairy farmers who paid producer assessments. The assessments I had to pay really hurt when I was financially strapped.
The Leo Zilik-Loy Sneary comparison contradicts the article's purpose. Mr. Sneary is subsidized, Mr. Zilik is not. I'm sure Zilik would dance his heart out if the government upped his gross income by 50 percent with subsidies. If subsidies were eliminated, Mr. Sneary would do very well in the paving business.
After reading Mr. Zinsmeister's four articles, I hope readers will conclude that all government agencies and programs dealing with farming should be eliminated.
Black and White Comments
Virginia Postrel's editorial, "Black and White Issues" (Nov.), is one of the finest pieces of political analysis I have read since Ayn Rand was at her peak. Ms. Rand wrote masterful essays which were morally resolute and highly compelling in their tone of condemnation of those responsible for the general low state of American morals. As Rand probably would have agreed, racist scum are pretty low on the political and evolutionary food chains, especially racists who ride around in limousines and sanctimoniously deny their outlook. At least Billy Bob Buzzard-breath is up front about it.
Salt Lake City, UT
Virginia Postrel's editorial on race relations offered not a penny of insight or new interpretation. Yet she criticized the failure of people like Pat Buchanan and George Will to comment on the Bensonhurst atrocity.
Perhaps the reason Buchanan, Will, and others did not jump on the bandwagon is not because they don't deplore the incident and others like it, but because they saw no need to recite the obvious cliches and join the ranks of those who, like Postrel, are compelled to add to the escalating rhetoric yet another testament of personal indignation.
Editor, Issues & Views
New York. NY
I am disappointed to find Virginia Postrel still continuing the adoration of blacks and wishing to give them special privilege over other races. She should have the experience to live or work with them so she can have a factual background for her emotional fantasies.
Such ignorance of reality is depressing to me, and I do not want my associates or children to be exposed to biased and one-sided propaganda. So do me the favor to cancel my subscription and refund my money.
Robert L. Gonderman, Ph.D.
Think Privately, Act Locally
Don Boudreaux's review of my book The Vermont Papers, coauthored with Frank Bryan ("Elbow Room for Ordinary Folks," Nov.), was an able and fair-minded piece of work. We are proud to be described as writers who side with ordinary people against "the rampaging presumptions of their 'betters.'
I'd like to emphasize that the book is even more libertarian than your reviewer conveyed. We were, in fact, blasted by The Nation because of our anachronistic dedication to private property ownership as a necessary ingredient for democracy. We also expressed strong libertarian loathing for compulsory service and gun control schemes.
We excoriate "confiscation of the fruits of enterprise through over-burdensome taxation or expropriation." We urge "a sense of public approval and honor for the enterprising souls who create wealth, jobs, profits and philanthropy." We kick hell out of Vermont's land-use control process.
More scholarly readers will recognize in much of our work the influence of libertarian economists such as Wilhelm Roepke, Leopold Kohr, and Henry Calvert Simons. We do recognize that relying on local democracy can sometimes lead to tyranny, but it is a tyranny far more manageable and correctable than that of large centralized institution like state government, even in a small state like ours.
A More Hazardous Waste
As bad as RCRA is ("A Hazardous Waste," Nov.), New Jersey businesses must contend with the equally evil (if not more so) Environmental Cleanup Responsibility Act (ECRA).
Its purpose was to ensure that when a property was sold it would be "clean," despite a 200-year history of manufacturing in the state. Just about any transfer of ownership, including a minority partner's sale of stock, the death of an owner, even foreclosure on a contractually liened property, will trigger an ECRA review. Worse, you need not be the polluter to be named the "responsible party." You just have to own the land.
One company had the misfortune to purchase land the U.S. Army had used to make napalm during World War II. All sorts of hazardous wastes were buried on this property, but the current owner is liable for its cleanup. The state Department of Environmental Protection intends to sue the owner for more than $10 million because it has refused to pay some $3 million in fines.
Owners are being harassed and hounded by environmental zealots who don't comprehend the concept of individual responsibility. The state has responded merely by saying that companies affected by ECRA can sue the real polluters later on—if they can find them!
Advocating a clean environment is one thing. The willy-nilly persecution of innocent parties, however, is quite another. New Jersey, and the country as a whole, need major reforms of their environmental protection laws immediately.
Richard L. Duprey
The writer is director of government relations for the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey. —Eds.
Not All It's Cracked Up to Be
I liked Charles Oliver's editorial about the War on Drugs ("An Unwinnable War," Nov.) until I read the third section. Mr. Oliver repeats two myths: that every puff of crack is life-threatening and that gangs of heavily armed teenagers rule the streets of many large cities.
If crack is dangerous, yet millions use it, why do fewer than 2,000 persons die of cocaine-related causes each year? Alcohol and cigarettes kill over 150 times that many addicts each year.
The second proposition, that all gangs fight each other for control of the market, is untrue. The gangs do not war against competitors but retaliate against informants and rip-off artists. Some gangs have only recently started dealing drugs and are territorial against their historical rivals (the Crips and the Bloods in Los Angeles are examples). But New York's Dominican gangs have plenty of teenage dealers and little violence over turf.
New York, Nl
Correction: The title of Robert Kuttner's new liberal magazine was reported incorrectly in the October Magazines column. It is called The American Prospect. REASON regrets the error.