Saturday, August 05, 2006

Our Insane Farm Policy

You have heard this before, but as Orwell put it, "we have now sunk to a depth where the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."

There are few issues for which the political consensus is so distant from both common sense and expert opinion. Right-wing economists, left-wing environmentalists and almost anybody in-between who doesn't receive a check from the Department of Agriculture or depend on a political donation from said recipients understand that Americans are spending billions to prop up the last of the horse-and-buggy industries.

At this nation's founding, nearly nine out of 10 workers were employed in agriculture. By 1900 that fell to fewer than four in 10. Today, fewer than one in every 100 workers is in agriculture, and less than 1% of gross domestic product is attributable to agriculture. Yet this country spends billions upon billions of dollars subsidizing a system that makes almost everyone in the world worse off....

Subsidies combined with trade barriers (another term for subsidy) prop up the price of food for consumers at home and hurt farmers abroad. This is repugnant because agriculture is a keystone industry for developing nations and a luxury for developed ones. This keeps Third World nations impoverished, economically dependent and politically unstable. Our farm subsidies alone — forget trade barriers — cost developing countries $24 billion every year, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis. Letting poor nations prosper would be worth a lot more than the equivalent amount in foreign aid.

From Jonah Goldberg at the LA Times.