Free trade and the food crisis

It’s not that often that I agree with anyone at the Corner, but I’ve got say that David Freddoso is making quite a lot of sense in his series of posts (one, two, three) about the current food crisis and it’s relationship to US agricultural subsidies.  The fact that we are subsidizing ethanol as a climate change measure when it does absolutely nothing to lower greenhouse gases and has all sorts of negative externalities is ludicrous.  Not to mention the unjustifiable sugar subsidies that drive food companies to use high-fructose corn syrup, which also raises corn prices.  It’s yet another example that protectionism is rarely anything but distorting and counterproductive.

Where Freddoso is wrong, however, is to cast the blame for our current situation on big government liberalism.   The fault lines on agricultural subsidies are regional, not partisan.  It’s not at all surprising that two men living in urban, east coast Washington, DC (which Freddoso and I are) would agree on this issue despite other political differences.

The real blame lies with farming states themselves.  Their over-representation in the Senate allows them far more power than they would have in the population-based House.  The primacy of the Iowa caucuses encouraged pandering on ethanol; it was inevitable that this chit would eventually be called in.  Florida’s status as a populous swing state ensures that sugar is more expensive in this country than any place else in the world.  The list goes on and on, and the protectionists (and their opponents, for that matter) come from both sides of the aisle.

Freddoso’s absolutely right that we could solve this problem without spending a dime, all we would need to do is abolish agriculture subsidies.  Unfortunately, urban liberals like me are not the people he needs to convince.

Incidentally, Freddoso and I also agree on another matter:  Capitol Lounge is the best bar in DC.


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