Consummate dilettantism!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Agricultural Subsidies

The New York Times has been delivering a series of attacks on agricultural subsidies, with this opinion piece only the latest iteration. Thankfully, the paper has managed to stir debate on Capitol Hill, and not soon enough; the subsidies have to go. This is one issue on which both environmentalists and business conservatives can agree.

Here are all the reasons I can think of for trashing the subsidies.

1. They cost money.
And lots of it. The latest bill demands $288 billion for America's needy super-farmers. At a time when we're fighting two wars, this is absolutely unacceptable.

2. They bankrupt third-world farmers.
This is really a shame. What basically happens is that our surplus subsidized corn goes over the border into Mexico. Mexican farmers can't compete, so they're driven out of business, increasing third-world poverty. This wouldn't happen to the degree that it now does in the absence of subsidies.

3. They increase obesity.
When grains are so stunningly cheap, it makes economic sense for the poor to prefer high fructose corn syrup over healthier foods.

4. They kill family farms.
I couldn't care less about this, but some environmentalists apparently do. (What's more "environmental" than food produced by a family on a small farm?) Apparently, large farms aren't very good environmentally. (I'm not persuaded either.)

The only good argument in defense of agricultural subsidies is that as they make food so cheap and readily available, they basically eliminate hunger in the Unites States. This is partially valid, but I'm sure that as competition is restored (and governmentally created monopolies fall), farming companies will have to work harder to keep prices low. If we simultaneously remove free trade barriers, third world farmers will be able to send their crops into the Unites States more readily, and prices will naturally decrease.

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