If you don't subscribe to The Economist I strongly encourage you to start. Newsweek and Time et al are trashy tabloids by comparison. While the Economist has a clear editorial bias in favor of libertarian policies, they are open about it and usually provide evidence where others rely entirely on rhetoric. This week's issue has a number of great stories!
The first is an article commemorating the 200th anniversary of Richard Cobden. "Who's he?" you ask? None other than the founder of the British Anti-Corn Law League. The Corn Laws were a series of agricultural subsidies and price supports in 19th century Britain that increased the cost of food for British (and Irish) poor and retarded the development of potential agricultural exporters in developing countries (like the then pre-industrial USA). The article includes a tally of how much the average household in Europe, the USA and Japan are currently OVERPAYING for food each year because of agricultural subsidies and price supports. Europeans pay $646/year extra; Americans pay $366/year extra; Japanese pay $1000/year extra. The total annual amount of subsidies being paid are astounding! Europe aprx. $100 billion; USA aprx. $40 billion; Japan aprx. $44 billion!
Removing these pernicious distortions of the market would simultaneously reduce budget deficits and the cost of living the developed world. It would also lead to increased wages and profits for the agricultural sector in the developing world. Since most people in the developing world work in the agricultural sector and since most of the world's poor are agricultural workers in developing countries, this would be a huge step towards alleviating world poverty. In the United States, these terrible examples of agri-corporate-welfare mainly benefit solidly Republican (allegedly conservative, pro-capitalist) states in the South and the Great Plains. California would also get hit badly - but the parts of California that would suffer are the Republican strongholds in the Central Valley where Mexican migrants are abused and exploited while farm owners get rich off Federally subsidized irrigation projects.
There is also a Special Report on the Copenhagen Consensus. The idea was to get a group of Nobel Prize winning egg heads (and Nobel prize winners to be) and ask them what are the developed world could do that would do the most good for the developing world and the world as a whole. This project was backed by the notorious anti-environmentalist, Bjorn Lomborg (presumably no relation to the boss from Office Space). However, don't throw out good ideas just because a jerk came up with them. The 8 people involved are a who's who of famous social scientists (well, famous among social scientists anyway): Robert Fogel (U. Chicago), Douglass North (Washington U., St. Louis), Vernon Smith (George Mason U.), Jagdish Bhagwati (Columbia U.), Bruno Frey (U. Zurich), Justin Yifu Lin (Beijing U.), Thomas Schelling (U. Maryland), Nancy Stokey (U. Chicago).
They came up with a list of 17 Very Good, Good, Fair and Bad projects based on a series of criteria based mostly on the cost of the project versus the benefit to society. The top project - the one that would do the most good for the least cost - is the control of HIV/AIDS. The rest of the "Very Good" projects are #2: malnutrition, #3: Opening trade and eliminating subsidies (see comments above), #4: Controlling Malaria.
The controversial part is that this group saw little profitable benefit to climate stuff like controlling greenhouse gases etc. They aren't saying we should never worry about that. They are saying we could help more people faster with less cost, by doing the "Very Good" projects first. I would add that successfully resolving any of the projects on the 17 project list would increase the resources of the world's population as a whole enabling us to afford to spend resources on the other projects.
Saturday, June 05, 2004
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 10:31 AM