Along the Tracks

Thursday, January 02, 2003

One out of three ain’t bad

The New York Times presents its three public policy wishes for the new year on today’s editorial page. Considering the Times’ leftward drift, the fact that one of the three is a pretty good idea is surprising, and encouraging.

After the typical blather about government-set fuel mileage increases and demanding a democracy (Israel) reverse a controversial policy (settlements) while ignoring the monstrous threats of terrorism and rogue states, the Times tosses in a real winner: the elimination of agriculture subsidies worldwide. A large portion of our foreign aid would become unnecessary (and the rest much more effective) if we gave Third World farmers a fair playing field. This would have real consequences in the United States and Europe, but probably not what you’d think. Crop prices would rise, not fall, on average, although they would become more volatile in the short term as supply and demand balance out. And the large corporate farms would be pushed off the public dole, forcing them to compete on an even playing field with small farmers. Ultimately, acreage in production would likely drop, as the corporations running many of the monster operations got out of that business. This, in turn, would raise prices further.

Now, I’m not against the super-dooper-megafarms as a principle; I’m just against giving them a ridiculously unfair advantage against small and medium sized operations. Meanwhile, production in Third World countries remains at the subsistence level because world prices are depressed by subsidies. It’s not advantageous for the United States in the long term, and it’s not right.

I hope this Times’ wish comes true.

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