04 December 2010

What's Wrong with Our Agriculture Policy

Wrapped up in a neat little six minute interview.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tom Vilsack
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

"Trying to make sure that folks continue to have affordable food in this country."*

"Americans spend less of their disposable income for groceries than just about anybody else on the face of the earth which means we have more discretionary income to spend on other things like cars, nicer homes, vacations."**

After Colbert asks why we subsidize foods and then tell kids not to eat them (meaning high fructose corn syrup, I guess), Vilsack replies "The reality is we have to have a safety net for our farmers because its a tough business. You have no control over weather, you have no control over markets. You need to know that probably 90% of America's farmers are just barely making it, 10% are doing pretty well, but there are a lot of farmers out there who struggle, so it is important to have a strong safety net. At the same time it is important that we have affordable food for folks in this country and the programs at the USDA are designed to help that."***

*The law of unintended consequences and about 23 seconds of critical thinking shows that any effort the federal government exerts to make sure folks have affordable food does the exact opposite; not to mention the moral repugnance of assuming that people cannot fend for themselves and help their neighbors of their own volition. It is a religious mission to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, not a political one.

**the money that is spent by the government comes through taxes causing dead-weight loss and lost productivity or deficit spending reducing the market for loanable funds and distorting the time preference for money, skewing short- and long-term interest rates. Meaning that, contrary to the best efforts of socialists, we all have less money for cars, nicer homes and vacations.

***Farmers used to be respected because theirs was a difficult lot. Hence the phrase "yeoman's job." Now, apparently, they are to be given money by the government on top of what they manage to produce and sell because it's a tough job. By prohibiting the most efficient allocation of resources (and as far as the government is concerned, this is entirely made up of other people's money) we reward unproductive work, stunt innovation and further the cause of dependence on government. Market uncertainty encourages innovation, thrift and the most efficient allocation of resources which all boost production and productivity. Which helps everyone. These assertions are self-evident and, as Mises would say, "apodictically certain." No econometric models are necessary. No calculus. The only group that would suffer more than the farmers (and some farmers would definitely suffer, but this only means that we have too many farmers) would be the politicians who would lose campaign contributions and lobbying gigs for when they leave office.

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