20 December 2005

Markets and 'markets', continued

For all the grandiloquence, however, there is no hiding that last week’s meeting did little to promote free trade. The Economist
You'd almost always be safe, if you've fallen asleep at a meeting and woken up to find yourself being looked at expectantly, to say something like there are arguments on both sides, or it's not black or white, it's a continuum. But when it comes to agricultural subsidies these statements would be wrong. There is only one side, and it is black not grey: agricultural subsidies are economic nonsense, and socially inequitable, and environmentally catastrophic. We knew this 30 years ago, but the subsidies continue. Right now, they are threatening to undermine, yet again, the international trading system. Still their proponents - step forward France - keep them going. They continue to put up high barriers to imports from food-rich developing countries, raising food prices for their own consumers and making it impossible for people in the poorer countries to prosper. The main beneficiaries of these absurd policies are wealthy landowners, large agribusiness corporates, the bureaucrats who administer them, and their political friends.

For those who preach 'markets' but are anti-market in everything except rhetoric, the interests of these wealthy, selfish bodies outweigh the millions of ordinary people, some of them desperately poor, who would benefit from the removal of barriers to agricultural trade.

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