Protecting farmers while starving people abroad
Reason: Just how desperate the situation is in sub-Saharan Africa is made clear by British demographer Angus Maddison's calculation that the average annual gross domestic product in the region is just $450 per person. Maddison points out that that was the average income of a citizen of the Roman Empire. In other words, sub-Saharan Africa has made essentially no economic progress in the past 2000 years.

One of the reasons for this is due to countries like the US, UK, etc. subsidising local farming. We subsidise our farmers, thus shutting the third world countries out of our market. Then we nail the little guy again by dumping our subsidised product on their shores at prices the local farmer can't match. Globalization is messy. Far messier than anyone probably ever thought. If you fix this particular problem, then you're going to see farmers in the US go ballistic (and possibly out of business.) It's not unlike what is happening in many other industries where jobs are being shipped to countries where the rates are much lower and the quality is as high, if not higher.

The irony in all of this is that you have environmentalist and other protestors (who seem to have a fondness for protesting with gigantic puppets on sticks) making all sorts of noise. They see the problem and come to the conclusion that farmers need to go old school and cut back on production — no lie. Then you have President George W. Bush raising subsidies for farmers, which only puts fuel on the fire of the problem. In this case, neither side of the political aisle wants to make the hard decision and cut out subsidies for local farmers.

We need third world countries to be able to sustain their own growth, their own survival. One important step for doing this is ensuring that those countries' governments are not abusing efforts to relieve third world debt and other programs setup to help the poorer nations get out of the hole. The other important step is to remove crutches like farming subsidies that protect local interests while literally starving people abroad. Neither step is easy. Each has its own set of problems. But, if we want third world countries to make progress, then these tough decisions need to be made.

[Note: Edited post 9-13-03 to change title (“and” to “while” and to add the link to the puppet protestors.]
Posted on 09/11/03 - Category: Politics

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