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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

27 October 2005

Cow politics?

The New York Times has an editorial today lambasting the lavish agricultural subsidies that developed countries bestow to their farmers. It writes, “The Australian trade minister, Mark Vaile, pointed out the other day that a typical cow in the European Union receives a government subsidy of $2.20 a day - more than what 1.2 billion of the world’s poorest people live on every day. Some experts say the developed world could lift 140 million people out of that mire of poverty if it really reformed the way it managed agricultural trade” (1).

Here’s my problem with this line of thinking: it converts what is a domestic political issue into an issue of international morality. It makes more sense to me to be having a different dialogue: to ask whether it is right for urban areas to be subjected to the triple tax of agricultural subsidies—one is the subsidy itself, the second comes from the higher prices consumers have to pay for foodstuffs, and the third comes from the foreign aid to support farmers in the developing world whose produce is crowded out.

The audience to win over is those in the developed world who pay directly for the subsidies, not the 140 million people in the developing world whose lives can be improved with freer traded.

Reference:
(1) “Cow politics,” New York Times, 27 Oct 05 (link)

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