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WaPo on Farm Subsidies:
The front page of today's Washington Post has an interesting report on farm subsidies. An excerpt:
  The Post's nine-month investigation found farm subsidy programs that have become so all-encompassing and generous that they have taken much of the risk out of farming for the increasingly wealthy individuals who dominate it.
  The farm payments have also altered the landscape and culture of the Farm Belt, pushing up land prices and favoring large, wealthy operators.
  The system pays farmers a subsidy to protect against low prices even when they sell their crops at higher prices. It makes "emergency disaster payments" for crops that fail even as it provides subsidized insurance to protect against those failures.
  And it pays people such as Matthews for merely owning land that was once farmed.
Mark F. (mail):
How can anyone justify this? This is beyond "The Onion" parody.
7.2.2006 8:19pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Mark F., have you no respect for the sanctity of the business contract?
7.2.2006 8:37pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Sounds like a bad program I agree, but are the farmers supposed to give the money back? Food does seem really cheap, but I would always like to see it cheaper.
7.2.2006 9:02pm
Fishbane (mail):
But those are Red States, so corporate welfare is OK in that case.

More seriously, I lived in rural Tennessee in the 80's, and saw the ag welfare in action. There were several farms near my familie's home that were fallow because they were being paid *not* to grow tobacco, and the owners saw it as more profitable to do nothing than to trial alternate crops (soybeans were the suggestion, but that was too hippy and weird) until the subsidy ended.
7.2.2006 9:41pm
Fishbane (mail):
near my familie's home

Sorry. I don't switch languages as fast as I'd like sometimes, and was just writing a letter.
7.2.2006 9:43pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Karl Marx would have loved our farm subsidy program. There really isn't a better example of "false consciousness" in American politics; people support these programs because they sympathize with the plight of the family farmer, and what they are really doing is benefitting some very wealthy people who don't need the aid.
7.2.2006 9:52pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):
Dilan, I agree. I come from a family of small farmers (a couple of generations removed) and my cousins all had to give up farming for lack of profit. One is now a postal carrier; another is a landscaper. The subsidies obviously didn't eliminate their business risk in farming. Where is the money going? Abominable.
7.2.2006 10:48pm
Average Joe (mail):
Stephan Spruiell makes some interesting points about this story in a short post at The Corner, the National Review Online weblog, here
The title of the post, "Our Disastrous Farm Policy", gives the general sense of Spruiell's take. One point that he makes that I found particularly interesting was the way in which the refusal of the US and the European Union to reduce these subsidies has lead problems at the World Trade Federation talks.

A couple of comments above, comments that appear to be made by people who share my distaste for farm subsidies, seem to me to be gratuitiously mean-spirited. I find it interesting that this nastiness makes a comment less convincing to me, even if, upon reflection, I agree with its main point.
7.2.2006 11:31pm
Fishbane (mail):
I suspect Average Joe is referring to me. We do share a distaste for farm subsidies. We appear to differ in our senses of humour. As a libertarian, I do enjoy poking at those who support "conservative" measures like propping up large farm enterprises, only occasionally remembering what Federalism means, etc. (I'm certainly not accusing you of any of those things, by the way.)

I apologise if my humour annoyed you, but I'd ask that you think about the point behind my (really, relatively gentle and non-directed) joking.
7.3.2006 12:05am
Truth Seeker:
Actually, Fishbane, the un-American spelling is more annoying... ;-)
7.3.2006 12:17am
Questioner:
1. I'm amazed people are amazed. This is typical of government subsidies--the arbitrariness, the unintended consequences, the centralization of benefits in the hands of the politically connected (often the already wealthy)--and it is not new. Look at James Bovard's Farm Fiasco, 1989.

2. Regarding Frank's observation that food seems cheap, the question is "relative to what?". Because we live in an increasingly productive society, food is historically cheap, yet because of these subsidies, Americans pay, for example, more than twice the world price for sugar, and of course those products in our diet containing sugar. That's a lot of products.

3. Don't expect much to change while Iowa remains the first Presidential caucus state. Or did anyone think Congressmen voted for these subsidies based on their dispassionate analysis of the common good?
7.3.2006 12:29am
Lev:
And there is the analysis of PJ O'Rourkes magnum opus: A Parliament of Whores, in which the intrepid cigar smoking former dope smoking correspondent looked at government programs to see what could be cut.

He found only one that was so unjustified that it deserved being immediately taken out to the chopping block behind the barn and having it's head removed permanently.
7.3.2006 1:27am
Lev:
it's

my fingers went off on a frolic of their own
7.3.2006 1:29am
luagha:
"Americans pay, for example, more than twice the world price for sugar, and of course those products in our diet containing sugar. That's a lot of products."

Which has forced any number of foodmakers to switch from actual sugar to 'high fructose corn syrup.' Which, since it doesn't trigger the same hormone responses in humans as pure sugar, results in overeating and obesity.
7.3.2006 3:54am
steve (mail):
Yet another example of MSM blatant disregard
for our national security. Farm subsidies are
as American as apple pie -- in fact, if it
weren't for them, we wouldn't have apple pie.
If we have to start talking about, say,
shepherd's pie, the terrorists will have won.
The WAPO and it's ilk must be stopped.
7.3.2006 7:21am
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7.3.2006 8:55am
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
Couple comments:

Questioner—even if you double the price of sugar, you don't double the price of Twinkies or other products containing sugar. Typically the cost of raw materials is only a small portion of the price the consumer pays for a product.

Luagha—NYTimes Business sectionyesterday had an article questioning some of the high fructose sugar link to obesity. Science apparently doesn't support it. link here

Fishbane—USDA has never paid tobacco farmers to remove land from production, except through the long term land retirement program (which would prohibit soybeans). The tobacco program was essentially a cartel, like OPEC, limiting the pounds you could market.
7.3.2006 9:21am
MikeD:
The sugar subsidies are a case in point. How many jobs harvesting sugar cane are "saved" by these subsidies? Does the benefit to cane growers even compensate for the most obvious side effect, namely that the sugar refining industry has been destroyed by the food manufacturers switching to corn syrup? It has become impossible to make a profit refining sugar. I was at the Domino refinery in Brooklyn for three years and watched them struggle to keep the place open while the price of refined sugar actually went *below* raw sugar. I left six months before they closed the place and about 300 people lost their jobs, not that anyone was surprised. Can anyone point to a benefit to the cane harvesters that matches this, and all the other sugar refineries that have been closed?
7.3.2006 9:29am
Freder Frederson (mail):
I'd like to know why we are propping up sugar prices while in Russia they can apparently get Penthouse and Playboy for free.

Farm policy has gotten seriously out of whack. But don't blame government, that is way too easy. Farm policy in this country for the last fifteen years has been written by and for agri-business, especially ADM and Tyson and a few very rich niche crops like the sugar producers, rice growers and cotton producers (that we grow rice and cotton in California shows the complete insanity of our agricultural policy).

This is what happens when the government is run by a bunch of conservatives who hate "big government", love corporations and capitalism, and disdain regulation. These are the kind of policies that are the result of libertarin laissez faire policies, not the pure capitalist utopia so many of you dream of.
7.3.2006 10:16am
TJIT (mail):
Freder,

I can't figure out if you are ignorant, confused or just a run of the mill troll.

Your quote "These are the kind of policies that are the result of libertarin laissez faire policies" illustrates my quandry.

You are saying ag subsidies, which libertarians oppose, are the result of libertarian policies. Kind of tough to square that particular circular logic.
7.3.2006 10:51am
TJIT (mail):
The ongoing debacle with farm programs does provide a nice illustration of media failure. If the voters knew how farm programs actually operate they would not survive another year. However, the media rarely reports on how bad the ag subsidies are. Even worse when they do report on them the stories are often couched in terms of arguing that ag programs protecting the poor little family farmer.

The liberals have the same problem. When the republicans were proposing reducing ag subsidies in the past couple of years liberal opinion media (ed schultz show for example) and democrat politicians were screeching like mashed cats. Even though the ag programs benefit the large and wealthy at the expense of the poor and small.

The ag subsidies are not that big of a budget item so they do not get that much attention. This leads me to wonder just how messed up and inefficient the larger government programs are.
7.3.2006 11:03am
Freder Frederson (mail):
You are saying ag subsidies, which libertarians oppose, are the result of libertarian policies. Kind of tough to square that particular circular logic.

Yes I am. Libertarians also hate regulation and big government and love unfettered capitalism. Unfortunately, that will lead to easily corruptable government which will develop policies that shovel money into the coffers of those corporations that supposedly hate government.

Look at Grover Norquist, who talks about shrinking government so it can be drowned in a bathtub. What has he become but a tool of the lobbyists in Washington, steering corporate dollars into more extravagent pork barrel and corrupt earmarks. His citizens for tax justice is under FBI investigation for laundering money for Jack Abramoff and is caught up in the Indian Casino scandal.

Libertarianism is a utopian vision that just leads to Kleptocracy and corruption.
7.3.2006 11:06am
Freder Frederson (mail):
The liberals have the same problem. When the republicans were proposing reducing ag subsidies in the past couple of years liberal opinion media (ed schultz show for example) and democrat politicians were screeching like mashed cats. Even though the ag programs benefit the large and wealthy at the expense of the poor and small.

Oh come on. Will you at present arguments that approach reality. Look at the big farm states, except for California, their congressional delegations are dominated by republicans, and the house districts are almost always Republican. The Republicans talk a good game, but in the end they throw more and more money at ag subsidies and agriculture is almost always left out of trade agreements. And of course ag subsidies are always tied to food stamps so urban democrats go along with the giveaways to farmers.

Yes, Ed Schultz is concerned about farm subsidies because he is from a farm state that depends heavily on sugar beet subsidies. And there are the Farm Aid (Willy Nelson, John Mellencamp, et. al.) group that really are concerned about the Family Farm and deplore the current state of Ag policy.
7.3.2006 11:19am
SeaLawyer:
except for California, their congressional delegations are dominated by republicans


Like WI and MN?
7.3.2006 11:26am
Freder Frederson (mail):
I can't figure out if you are ignorant, confused or just a run of the mill troll.

I am often accused of being a troll. I don't know why. I'm not even sure what a troll is. I assume it is someone who lurks around the site and makes outrageous comments just to make trouble. I certainly don't mean to do that.

I just see hardcore libertarians rather like the hardcore Marxists I used hang out with in college. Interesting but rather deluded utopians with equally unworkable and ridiculous visions of perfect societies.

I am just amazed that Libertarians have such a strong presence on the internet and apparently in our law schools, especially our public ones. I still don't understand how any self-respecting libertarian could accept a paycheck from a state institution.

So when you libertarians bring up ag policies as a perfect example of big bad government policies gone amuck, I like to point out that it can just as easily be be explained by the imperfect application of libertarian policies.

Of course in a perfect libertarian world there would be no ag subsidies. Problem is, there is never going to be a perfect libertarian world. ADM doesn't want a perfect libertarian world, they want a vertically integrated monopoly where the government makes it possible to grow food for less than the cost of production, as is the case for some commodities (e.g., corn) right now.
7.3.2006 11:33am
Positive Dennis:
I remember when I put my cows on Welfare years ago. I was told by the county agent that there was a limit but that I would not reach it. Of course I did as hay was very expensive.

Positive Dennis
7.3.2006 11:46am
frankcross (mail):
There are very few hardcore libertarians out there. Most have libertarian impulses in general, stronger on some issues than others.

Our society is nowhere near a true libertarian situation, so I don't see how one can blame their policies for ag subsidies, or anything else. I think libertarians do a service in arguing for and pulling society in the direction of more freedom and less statism at the margin, which is the most that can realistically occur. I think they would be better advised to spend less time on largely symbolic issues, though, and more on things like ag subsidies
7.3.2006 11:48am
ZZYZX (mail):
I worked as a translator at the Embassy of Brazil in Washington DC for a semester while going to school (unpaid, of course).

The big project we had was to translate into English a hundreds-pages annual document detailing the problems with the U.S. ag subsidy and ag tariff scheme.

Imagine the state we are in to be lectured on free trade by Brazil.
7.3.2006 12:31pm
Ken Arromdee:
Mark F., have you no respect for the sanctity of the business contract?

Why is it that people keep sarcastically suggesting that anything which has a business in it has to be free-market?

A farm subsidy comes from the government. Disliking them has nothing to do with disrespecting contracts and everything to do with disrespecting government interference in the market.
7.3.2006 12:37pm
Ken Arromdee:
even if you double the price of sugar, you don't double the price of Twinkies or other products containing sugar. Typically the cost of raw materials is only a small portion of the price the consumer pays for a product.

I'd expect the rest of the price to be affected by the price of the ingredients. To give a simplistic illustration, assume that Twinkies cost 10 cents to make (including advertising, manufacturing, etc.), sell for 50 cents, and produce a 40 cent profit.

Now assume the cost of the ingredients goes up to five dollars. I don't think Hostess will react by making the new price of a Twinkie $5.40, so they now cost $5 to make and still make a 40 cent profit. Fewer people will buy expensive Twinkies than cheap ones, so the per-Twinkie profit will have to go up along with the per-Twinkie materials cost.
7.3.2006 12:46pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
even if you double the price of sugar, you don't double the price of Twinkies or other products containing sugar. Typically the cost of raw materials is only a small portion of the price the consumer pays for a product.

Twinkies are a bad example, because even as sweet as they are, sugar is not their primary ingredient. The candy industry in this country has been devastated by the price of sugar. And remember, it is not the price of candy that matters but the cost that matters. If Brachs can manufacture hard candy in Canada or Mexico for considerably less cost than the U.S. because the cost of its primary ingredient, sugar, is 50% less, then it will do so. That is exactly what has happened to the candy industry in this country. A lot of people have been thrown out of good-paying jobs to save a very few rich farmers (and very poor cane cutters) in Florida, Louisiana and a few other states (and less well off beet farmers in the northern tier).
7.3.2006 1:00pm
Perseus:
This is what happens when the government is run by a bunch of conservatives who hate "big government", love corporations and capitalism, and disdain regulation.


The European Union (which disdains Anglo-American capitalism) has the same problem with farm subsidies, so a more extensive administrative state is hardly the solution to the problem.
7.3.2006 2:32pm
frankcross (mail):
From data I read, the candy industry has done quite well with substantial growth in the 1990s, when the economy was strong.

Ironically, this could be the best defense for sugar subsidies. Candy and sugar consumption is not good and undoubtedly creates externalities from obesity diseases, etc. Discouraging its consumption is probably a social good.
7.3.2006 2:36pm
juris imprudent (mail):
Freder-

You don't understand libertarian ideals. To accuse libertarians of 'supporting' the outcome of farm subsidies fundamentally fails to grasp the fact that libertarians OPPOSE farm subsidies regardless of whether those subsidies benefit the poor or the rich. You can of course argue that those heartless libertarian bastards don't care about the poor family farmer - but that misses the point as well. You are confused... very very confused. As long as you persist in this confused state you will be suspected of being a troll. Arguing about straw-men (e.g. libertarian utopianism) is a waste of bandwidth.
7.3.2006 2:51pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
The European Union (which disdains Anglo-American capitalism) has the same problem with farm subsidies, so a more extensive administrative state is hardly the solution to the problem.

Granted, the European Union has problems with Farm subsidies, but they are different than ours. European farm subsidies really do what we claim ours do--support the family farmer. That is why European farming is so inefficient but the European countryside is so quaint and village life so vibrant (and European produce, French cheeses and German sausage and Italian pasta so damn good).
7.3.2006 2:53pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
You don't understand libertarian ideals.

You miss my point. I understand libertarian ideals. Libertarians hate government and regulation more than they hate corporatism, business and capitalism. So they would rather see the reins of government regulation loosened than increased government oversight believing that the market is the best way to reduce inefficiency.

Of course it is almost impossible to reduce government oversight and regulation of the private sector without also reducing government oversight of itself and increasing corruption in both the private sector and government. So those large corporate interests that see an interest in influencing government programs that are beneficial to them will have more opportunity to use methods of questionable ethical, if not outright, illegal means to bend government policy to suit their ends.

This has been the sad legacy of the Gingrich "Contract with America" and the false promises of the Grover Norquists of the world. Government has not gotten smaller, more efficient, and spending has not gone down. Tax cuts have fueled more spending, most of it geared toward inefficient and ridiculously designed programs that benefit the powerful and wealthy.

That may not be what libertarian ideals are, but that is what happens when you apply libertarian ideals to the real world.
7.3.2006 3:08pm
juris imprudent (mail):
Freder-

It strains politeness to respond to your confusion.

So they would rather see the reins of government regulation loosened than increased government oversight believing that the market is the best way to reduce inefficiency.

And how exactly does the current system of farm subsidy comply with your statement? It doesn't - that is your seemingly insurmountable problem. You just blindly lash out at anything that doesn't comport with your compassionate sensibilities. The farm subsidies are not an indication of corruption, but of unintended (and undesirable) consequences. With a more libertarian govt, there wouldn't be such handouts - how could that be more corrupt then the current regime? Unless of course you are arguing that humans as a species are so inherently corrupt that they will leach until death.

You accuse libertarians of "utopianism", yet you wax sentimental for European charms. Romantic, heal thyself.

Government has not gotten smaller, more efficient, and spending has not gone down.

And yet when libertarians criticize this - you claim it is the fault of libertarian desires. Hellllllllo?!?
7.3.2006 3:46pm
PersonFromPorlock:

Why is it that people keep sarcastically suggesting that anything which has a business in it has to be free-market?

You missed the allusion; it's a favorite saying of Catch 22's Milo Minderbinder, who justifies every form of corruption as normal and even praiseworthy business dealings.
7.3.2006 3:55pm
joa (mail):
I don't have a link off hand, but I sugar prices are high in the US more because the embargo with Cuba than even the subsidies.
7.3.2006 4:03pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Freder,

I don't think libertarians dominate law schools. My impression was always the opposite. Law schools are ridiculously liberal (not necessarily the good kind). I've always thought VC was where the libertarian minority hung out.

Also, while I do think libertarianism is hopelessly idealistic (people just aren't rational enough) I'm totally unconvinced that libertarianism is somehow particularly susceptable to corruption. Liberal congressmen are totally willing to bend for special interest as well, though often they waste money for different special intersts than the conservatives. I've been particularly disappointed with some of Diane Feinstein's pandering to big corporations.

It's a reasonable argument that the lack of regulations favored by libertarians would lead to more pandering to special interests but you haven't given any good evidence for it. The examples you cite are conservative congressmen who were laboring under the same rules as democratic canidates. If there is any difference in special interest influence it is most likely explained by demographic differences in their supporters. Of course rich corporations and individuals give more to the party that is inclined to eliminate inconvient regulations/taxes. However, this hardly proves that a general shift toward libertarianism, say by encouraging the democrats to become more libertatian, would increase the influence of these groups.

While I personally favor expanded government in many areas (with carefully structured incentives to encourage efficency) a libertarian could easily dismiss the Gingrich tax cuts as more of a special interst giveaway than a serious libertarian effort. One can very well be a libertarian without believing that 'strangling the beast' is an efficent way to acheive that end or that cutting taxes without reforming the system is particularly useful. Identifying all libertarians with Gingrich seems a bit unfair.

Also I don't follow why it is so hard to reduce government oversight of the private sector without reducing government self-oversight.
7.3.2006 4:20pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
And how exactly does the current system of farm subsidy comply with your statement? It doesn't - that is your seemingly insurmountable problem.

The current system of farm subsidies has been wrenched away from what it was in the past--a system that really did help the family farmer, to one that now helps agribusiness (e.g., ADM and Tyson) and a few special interest and very rich speciality farmers (e.g., rice, cotton, and sugar cane). Ever since the "Freedom to Farm Act" backfired (or succeeded exactly as ADM hoped it would) farm subsidies have more and more helped the rich and destroyed the family farm.

Now you may have a philosophical objection to the purpose of farm subsidies twenty years ago, but at least we could honestly say they really did keep the family farmer in business. We didn't have to pretend we were helping the family farmer while we were really driving them off the farm and helping only a few corporations and ultra-rich mega-landowners. As it stands now, farm policy is written by and for the people who benefit from it. And why, because the lobbyists from agribusiness have so corrupted the system with the help of people like Grover Norquist, who is supposed hate taxes and big government, but is nothing but an enabler of government programs that benefit the rich.
7.3.2006 4:28pm
David Matthews (mail):
"I'd like to know why we are propping up sugar prices while in Russia they can apparently get Penthouse and Playboy for free."

Amen.

A widespread problem, as I see it, with the Republicans in Congress and the Administration, is that, while they may theoretically oppose "subsidies" and "programs," their top opposition is saved for any sort of "means test," ever. Consequently, once they decide to go along with a program, whether it's farm supports or prescription drugs, it ends up costing orders of magnitude more than were Democrats to implement the same program.

The cynical among the leftists here (and there are many, apparently) claim that the Republicans are intentionally looting the treasury to give money to their fatcat friends and supporters. Although the end result is similar, I don't know that the motivation is necessarily corruption or greed. And once we begin to argue motive, we quickly enter the realm of invective, and lose any opportunity to examine consequence and try to formulate policy that way.

Bad result does not necessarily imply evil intent, or even wrong ideology. But rather than focus on methods to improve the result, it's much more fun, and infinitely less productive, to use the opportunity to impugn intent or ideology....
7.3.2006 5:49pm
juris imprudent (mail):
Freder-

The current system of farm subsidies has been wrenched away from what it was in the past

Ah, the delusions of ideals past. Be very precise now - when did the farm subsidy accomplish exactly what was intended? And if it worked so well then, why has the "family farm" all but perished?

As it stands now, farm policy is written by and for the people who benefit from it.

Doh! Who would imagine that people suckling at the public teat would insure that they may continue to do so? I am shocked, shocked I say...

By the way, that same argument could be made against farm subsidies even if they went to the poor (as the policy would be written "by and for" them).

Now, the libertarian solution is to end ALL farm subsidies - not to direct them to one favored special interest. Can you grasp that Freder? Anyone who directs taxpayer money to a special interest is NOT advocating a libertarian approach - no matter how much they claim they hate govt.
7.3.2006 5:58pm
Perseus:
The EU CAP appears to have a similar, if smaller, bias towards the rich and large landowners:

The CAP is criticised even by those who want to protect Europe's countryside and its small farmers. As much as 80% of its subsidies go to the richest 20% of farmers, and—as recently published figures have shown in graphic detail—the biggest single recipients of CAP payments tend to be giant agribusinesses and big, wealthy landowners. ("Europe's Farm Follies," The Economist, 12/8/2005)
7.3.2006 6:04pm
David Matthews (mail):
3 more points:

1. I'm not related to the "Matthews" in the article, as far as I know.

2. There appears to be plenty of bipartisan blame to go around:

"The idea was to finally remove government limits on planting and phase out subsidies. But GOP leaders had to make a trade-off to get the votes: They offered farmers annual fixed cash payments as a way of weaning them off subsidies.

That sweetener was needed to win over wheat-state Democrats -- led by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.) -- and GOP House members from rice and cotton districts. Wheat growers alone stood to receive $1.4 billion in the first year. The payments for rice growers were increased by $52 million at the last minute in an effort to win support from Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.)."

3. Although there are plenty of problems with the farm bill that involve agribusiness, the particular excesses discussed in this article have very little to do with agribusiness. They involve upwardly-mobile suburbanites, and wealthier investors, collecting thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars off of apparent congressional ineptitude. These beneficiaries may well be Republican, or Democrat, or even Taiwanese Canadian.
7.3.2006 6:09pm
BT:
This argument strikes me a similar to the one many liberals make regarding federal income tax payments. We continually hear screaming over "tax breaks for the wealthy!!" Yet (my numbers may not be exact) something like the top 20% of income earners pay 40% to 60% of all federal income taxes with the bottom third paying next to nothing. So any new tax break is more than likely going to go to the group that pays the most taxes. It stands to reason that if there are fewer smaller family farms today and larger and more plentiful corporate farms, these farms, and hense their owners, are going to benefit from these programs. It doesn't make the programs right (I too would like to see them elminated) but it makes sense just from a statistical stand point as to who benefits.
7.3.2006 6:48pm
BT:
Freder, here is a definition of troll from Wikipedia:

"In Internet terminology, a troll is someone who comes into an established community such as an online discussion forum, and posts inflammatory, rude, repetitive or offensive messages designed intentionally to annoy and antagonize the existing members or disrupt the flow of discussion."

I don't happen to think you are a troll and I think it's unfair to acuse you of this. However, there are times when you can be unnecesarily antagonistic. One of the reasons I like VC is that the vast majority of people who post here are a whole lot brighter than I am (you included) and I learn a great deal. How others react to you is up to them. Just figured you would want to know. Peace.
7.3.2006 7:00pm
TJIT (mail):
Freder is a troll, and this thread provides a pretty good illustration of it.

We have a short one paragraph article on farm programs and what a disaster they have been. It would have been nice to have a discussion about farm programs and politics.

And it would have been nice to see some discussion of proposed policy solutions.

Thanks to Freder the troll we end up with multiple posts on libertarian philosophy. Not particularly interesting and having no relationship to the post on ag programs.
7.3.2006 7:22pm
TJIT (mail):
A few thoughts.

Farm programs provide a classic illustratiton of the biggest problem with most government programs of all types, concentrated benefits and diffuse costs. Does not matter who is in charge the programs always end up helping program users at the expense of everyone else.

Big farm does not necessarily mean corporate farm.

The real ADM / agribusiness subsidies are the sugar tariffs (ADM produces a lot of corn syrup), and the ethanol subsidy (ADM manufactures a lot of ethanol).

Ag subsidies are why the Doha round has failed.

It would be nice to see more reporting like the washington post did. Most people have no idea what a negative impact farm programs have on non subsidized ag commodities. Or the lethal impact they have on third world countries where US and EU ag programs and tariffs impede development of a productive ag sector in the developing nations. This results in people starving because the ag sector in the developing nations has been strangle in the crib by the combination of tariffs and ag subsidies.

Farm programs have killed more small farms then any other factor. By keeping land prices artificially high they have made it impossible for new / young farmers to get a start in ag production.

Farm programs have caused an immense amount of environmental destruction. The sierra club, and other mainline environmental groups have either ignored the problem or suggested solutions that would cause more environmental destruction.

I'm amazed at how long the ag subsidies have lasted. Their continued existence represents a failure in education, in government responsibility and in media oversight.
7.3.2006 7:43pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
We have a short one paragraph article on farm programs and what a disaster they have been. It would have been nice to have a discussion about farm programs and politics.

I brought up libertarian philosophy because commentors here were all too willing to place all the blame for our disasterous agricultural policy solely on the shoulders of the government, particularly liberals, and the media. That was absolutely ridiculous. So I pointed out that Republicans, and especially many people who claim to love the free market, are responsible for the debacle of farm subsidies. And yes, Libertarians who insist that everything the government does is evil and contribute to the idea that no government is the best government allow themselves to be used by more cynical conservatives who use the lack of oversight to funnel more money to those who need it least.
7.3.2006 8:15pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Johnny-one-note (Freder),

No one put the blame on liberals. You also brought up ADM (which was a red herring with respect to this article/program) and Grover Norquist (a liberal shibboleth). You slammed libertarians who would AGREE with you about Republican hypocrisy on small govt and corporate welfare.

You really are a troll.
7.3.2006 8:53pm
Josh_Jasper (mail):

libertarians OPPOSE farm subsidies regardless of whether those subsidies benefit the poor or the rich.


Probably true in the specific, but I've seen far mroe libertarians go off on subsidies that benefit the poor than those that benefit the rich.

You'd think that they'd go after the ones that benefited the rich first. I mean, if you want a smaller government, go after the factors that corrupt it the most - subsidies for the eralthy, and politicians who were bought by rich donors.

Really. Who do you think scammed more tax dollars? Military contrators with ties to Duke Cunningham, or small time hustlers who faked being Katrina victims? Yet who gets pilloried more in 'libertarian' blogs? By 'libertarian' talk show hosts, journalists, pundits, etc...

I'd love to meet a *real* influential libertarian. But there aren't any. The pay is better being a fake one.
7.3.2006 9:26pm
HLSbertarian (mail):
Josh_Jasper said: You'd think that they'd go after the ones that benefited the rich first. I mean, if you want a smaller government, go after the factors that corrupt it the most - subsidies for the eralthy, and politicians who were bought by rich donors.

To a libertarian (though, of course, I'm only speaking for myself), the "factors that corrupt [gov't] the most" are the powers to provide handouts in the first place. Once the power exists, it's unrealistic to expect that people won't lobby for its uneven application.

You might hear libertarian voices louder on handouts to the poor because, in principle, most people are already against the corruption of gov't powers to help the rich. Libertarians are against the existence of said power in the first place - their voices are far more lonely and far more provocative when arguing against handouts to the poor, and so it's no surprise that you think this is where they place their focus.
7.3.2006 10:42pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
No one put the blame on liberals.

Oh yeah, well I didn't say this:


The liberals have the same problem. When the republicans were proposing reducing ag subsidies in the past couple of years liberal opinion media (ed schultz show for example) and democrat politicians were screeching like mashed cats.


And as for Grover Norquist. He may not act like a Libertarian. But everything that comes out of his mouth sure sounds libertarian to me. What on earth about his philosophy or policies that he advocates are not libertarian?
7.3.2006 11:36pm
HLSbertarian (mail):
Freder said: "And as for Grover Norquist. He may not act like a Libertarian. But everything that comes out of his mouth sure sounds libertarian to me. What on earth about his philosophy or policies that he advocates are not libertarian?"

The parts about getting with his corrupt Republican friends to provide gov't handouts. Interestingly enough, the same parts you're trying so hard to attribute to spacey libertarian utopians. Hmm.
7.4.2006 1:01am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I brought up libertarian philosophy because commentors here were all too willing to place all the blame for our disasterous agricultural policy solely on the shoulders of the government, particularly liberals, and the media.
This is precisely why some people call you a troll, Freder. Not a single person mentioned liberals or the media until you did. (Except for a mention by Steve of the MSM as a parody.)

As for blaming government, of course people blame government for government policies. The problem is that you exhibit the same blind spot all liberals do with respect to government. You think the problem is the way the government is run, and if we could just get the right people into office, then government would run smoothly. Libertarians know the problem is government itself.

ADM isn't benefiting from farm subsidies because of "lack of oversight." ADM is benefiting from farm subsidies because that's what always happens with any government program. You can't solve that problem by electing Democrats or liberals.

You can only solve that problem by eliminating the government program. That is what libertarians propose.

This is what happens when the government is run by a bunch of conservatives who hate "big government", love corporations and capitalism, and disdain regulation.
No. This is the antithesis of what happens when the government is run by a bunch of people who hate big government, love capitalism, and disdain regulation. (Those three things are independent of "loving corporations.") This is what happens when the government is run by people who like big government. Republicans are not libertarians. They don't hate big government; they just want to use it for different purposes.
These are the kind of policies that are the result of libertarin laissez faire policies, not the pure capitalist utopia so many of you dream of.
No. These are the opposite of the kind of policies that are the result of libertarian laissez faire policies, by definition.

You don't seem to grasp the difference between "laissez faire" and "pro-business", between libertarian and conservative.
7.4.2006 1:13am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Oh yeah, well I didn't say this:

[Snip quote about ed schulz]
Nice try, Freder. But that comment was posted after you claimed that people were blaming liberals.

And as for Grover Norquist. He may not act like a Libertarian. But everything that comes out of his mouth sure sounds libertarian to me. What on earth about his philosophy or policies that he advocates are not libertarian?
The part where he lobbies for corporations, rather than for smaller government. If we judged politicians by what "comes out of their mouth" rather than what they "act like," then the Libertarian Party would be the majority party in Congress.
7.4.2006 1:25am
juris_imprudent (mail):
Josh,

but I've seen far mroe libertarians go off on subsidies that benefit the poor than those that benefit the rich.

Shall we discuss the extortion by sports teams for ever newer, fancier stadiums? I can rant on that a helluva lot harder then on anything benefiting some poor individual.
7.4.2006 2:14am
juris_imprudent (mail):
Freder,

You poor pathethic troll.

No one put the blame on liberals.

Oh yeah, well I didn't say this:

The liberals have the same problem.

I shudder to think what your reading comprehension scores must have been. Not to mention that that comment came AFTER you made your libertarian/Republican slam. You should stick to playing with the KOS kids.
7.4.2006 2:22am
johnt (mail):
A pox on both parties for spending and the inherent corruption it creates. But I must say that it's like entering the fun house to read some liberal comments on this. It's capitalism, big business, the Republicans, etc &blah.
If the Dems were in control they would be doing their best to spend more and wasn't it FDR who gave agri-spending it's big send off. That and control of Congress, and especially the House, for most of sixty years.
Switch control of parties in Washington and these complaints on spending would blow away like leaves in autumm, to be replaced by cries we're not spending enough.
7.4.2006 9:46am
Josh_Jasper (mail):
HLSbertarian


You might hear libertarian voices louder on handouts to the poor because, in principle, most people are already against the corruption of gov't powers to help the rich.



In that case, it becomes a question of priorities - why are libertarians (the ones most seen in media, and in this blog, for example) possessed of priorities that speak out more against social welfare programs than corporate welfare programs?

I think it's at least in part because there's a benefit to the existing power structure they'd rather not give up, and it costs nothing for them to speak against welfare programs.

If libertarian spokespeople were taking a principled stand and risking something, I'd be impressed. For the most part, it's the most egregious violations like the farm subsidies that get any attention, while vast realms of corporate plunder go unremarked upon in favor of targets that don't have wealthy sponsors.

It's too convenient not to be suspicious.
7.4.2006 12:11pm
HLSbertarian (mail):
Josh_Jasper said: "In that case, it becomes a question of priorities - why are libertarians (the ones most seen in media, and in this blog, for example) possessed of priorities that speak out more against social welfare programs than corporate welfare programs?"

Most of the libertarians on this blog are quite principled and consistent. As for the media, you'll have to give some names, as I have trouble thinking of prominent libertarians allowed to speak in the MSM (unless you're pulling Freder's 'liking business = being a libertarian' trick).

Most of the programs which become corrupted to help the rich are enacted, in concept, to help the poor. Many people oppose the corruption of these programs when to help the rich. Libertarians oppose the programs in principle (partly, but only partly, because of the belief that they will inevitably become corrupt).

That's why the libertarian voices you hear seem to come down harder on the poor than the rich. Libertarians attack the foundations of government programs, instead of seeking to tweak their execution, and these foundations are most often tied to the desire to help the poor.

Additionally, like I said above, when libertarians argue against handouts to the poor, they're largely doing so in an otherwise empty room. It's no wonder that, on those issues, you would hear them better.

And one more point: At least some (and I stress, only some) of what's commonly called "corporate welfare" is, to a libertarian, simply the government deciding to steal less from corporations. I imagine that this kind of program is harder for many libertarians to get angry about, even when it may be applied unevenly.
7.4.2006 12:43pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Josh_Jasper:
In that case, it becomes a question of priorities - why are libertarians (the ones most seen in media, and in this blog, for example) possessed of priorities that speak out more against social welfare programs than corporate welfare programs?
Asked and answered, in the very statement you quoted.

In addition, the "Social welfare" programs provide the intellectual (or at least emotional) underpinnings for the "corporate welfare programs." All of the "corporate welfare programs" are, at heart, purportedly to benefit the social welfare, not to benefit the corporate recipients of the funds.

When libertarians talk about shrinking government, nobody jumps up and says, "What about the poor agribusiness owners?" or "What about the poor steel manufacturers?" They say, "What about the farmers?" or "What about the steel workers?" It's the idea that the government is supposed to help people by interfering in the economy that needs to be attacked and defeated. If that happens, libertarians win. We don't need to prove that ADM or U.S. Steel is undeserving; everybody already knows that.
7.4.2006 5:31pm
cxmmc (mail):
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