Friday, August 22, 2003

Absurd subsidies, and how to get rid of them

One of the most important causes and political sites out there, Kick All Agricultural Subsidies lays it on the line. We don't screw poor countries over with our free trade. We screw poor countries over with the many ways that the US violates free trade. Join their campaign for one of the many ways to relieve ourselves of the burdens our system of government sticks us with.

Look, agricultural subsidies are idiotic. We spend taxpayer money, (over $300 billion across the western world, that's $200 a person a year at least), to fund uneconomic farms, most of which does not go to the small farmers who are poster children for them, and they breaks the market so that unindustrialized third world countries can't develop their own farming economy. If you don't believe this is absurd, then 1) you receive such subsidies yourself probably, and 2) you really should read what every single economist has to say on this matter, before the next time you believe someone who says that one more corporate tax cut that will save our economy. Every academic and media outlet agrees that such subsidiesare a big swindle, supporting one special interest group (agricultural states), and says they should be done away with post haste. That we haven't, is just a sad sign of "how hard it is to get things done in Washington."

Well really, why do we have them? One answer is the Senate, which far over represents small farm states relative to their actual population. They won't let a budget pass without this pork to their constituents (and these over-representend but still a minority senators have many ways to stop it). But the problem goes deeper. Yes, it's those thrice-cursed committees.

No subsidy is voted on independently by all of Congress. They're in budget bills that are written up in committees. The Armed Services Committee writes the military provisions, the agricultural committee writes the amount of farm subsidies. So who sits on the Agricultural Committees? Would you imagine a Senator from New Jersey, or a Congressman from LA? Of course not, they don't have time for that. The Senator from Iowa or Congressman from Boise are the ones desperate to get on those committees. So we have the most absurd case of the wolf guarding the henhouse ever. All of America pays its taxes, but only the people who get farm subsidies decide on the size of the farm subsidies.

Our "commitee system" is often commented as one of the chief protectors of minorities in our government. It creates deliberative procedures among the representatives who know the most about issues. Ha! This log rolling is one of the most striking pieces of evidence that any system that dilutes the direct majority of the people, only creates huge inefficiences for everyone.

PS: Ok, so the version I gave is a little simplistic. The Appropriations Committee comes in their somewhere. Well there's an Agricultural Sub-Committee of the Appropriations Committee, so we still get screwed.

PPS: For more on how this system is horrible for third world countries (and thus, how by cutting spending we also help them), see the award winning documentary on free trade and Jamaica, Life and Debt. American subsidizing of white chicken meat, and thus non-competitive exports of dark chicken meat,have killed the once thriving yeoman farm industry in Jamaica.


Post a Comment

<< Home