Friday, August 27, 2010

Transparency for Thee But Not for Me

In the Theory of Moral Sentiments and Economics of Sustainability classes, we try to stay tethered to the economics, but there's still a lot of room for passion about various issues, and some interesting debates. It is notable, however, how much the economics and the passions coincide on one particular issue: the insanity of U.S. agricultural market interventions: tariffs, quotas, cartels, incentives to over-farm, incentives to underfarm, and so forth. From almost any angle (market efficiency, domestic income concerns, justice, aid to developing economies, environmental concerns) these programs are deficient. From a Christian perspective, they are almost indefensible under any theological lens. (BTW, we don't let the Europeans' highly protectionist trade policies off the hook by any means). One of the things we do is to call up on the classroom projector screen the U.S.D.A.'s database of who receives various types of the direct subsidies. So, THIS IS NOT GOOD NEWS. The U.S.D.A. has decided to scale back its transparency and disclosure on subsidy payments, making it harder to follow the trail of taxpayer money redistributed to the already wealthy. (Again, a disclosure: I found out about this through an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, which I don't link to because their content becomes subscriber only after a short period of time.)

No comments: