Rebirth of Reason


$190 Billion of Evil
by Jeff Landauer

Yesterday, president Bush signed into law the biggest farm subsidy and price support bill in US history that will cost $190 billion dollars over 10 years. (see story.) This is larceny on a grand scale -- $190 billion stolen from American citizens via income taxes to pay for this atrocity.

As yet another example of government robbing Peter to pay off swing-state farmer Paul, we have the mixed economy in all of its glory. In a free market, where all interactions are voluntary, supply will meet demand. But here we have government meddling pushing the subsidized prices that farmers receive artificially high, creating too much supply for the demand. The result is to make farmers almost totally dependent on the government handouts due to the oversupply of food and low market prices that are a result of the interference.

There are two main lies that the politicians hand us explaining this policy of theft and payoff. First, we must protect farms and farmers from going bankrupt in these uncertain times of low prices and shaky economy. Second, all the other countries are subsidizing their farmers, so American farmers require subsidies to be competitive and try to export their mountains of excess food to international markets.

To the first, I will say that itís a good thing that the buggy whip manufacturers never formed a politically powerful coalition or else we would today still have a thriving, government-subsidized buggy whip industry. (Think of all the additional jobs!)

A measure of success of a civilization is what percentage of the population must farm in order to provide sufficient food. At the lowest level, you have subsistence farming where every last person is trying to scratch an existence out of the dirt. But as better farming techniques develop, more people are freed up to do specialized and more productive work. It is a sign of progress that market forces are trying to force farmers out of the farming business and into more advanced and profitable endeavors; but unfortunately our politicians are doing everything they can to keep us closer to the Middle Ages than the Information Age.

The American farmers who can only stay in business because of government supports and subsidies are providing more food than is wanted or needed. They are doing make-work when they could be doing something useful. They might as well be manufacturing buggy whips.

To the second, it should be noted that itís a good thing, not a bad thing that other countries are subsidizing their agriculture. If we buy EU subsidized wheat, weíre getting cheaper bread thanks to the European taxpayer. Good for us -- bad for the European taxpayer.

It was only recently that the United States had a policy of gradually weaning the American farmer off the teat of the federal hog and to work towards free trade, not protectionism. Finally, politicians were starting to understand some basic economics. Bush talked the good talk when he was campaigning, but with this new farm bill that he signed and his earlier steel protections, it has become clear that he is only interested in pandering to special interest groups and not doing what is right. Property rights mean nothing to the politicians in our mixed economy. When anything goes because rights are not treated as absolutes, what tends to go is our property to the friends of the politicians. This is the glory of a mixed economy.

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