The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Indefensible

Mr. Yousefzadeh (who like all sensible moties reads Marginal Revolution regularly) has picked up on the amazing milk heist. His resulting outrage is certainly justified.

[What I want is mostly to see what 1.4 billion pounds of milk looks like.]

The beneficiaries of this program are of two kinds. The first to mind are cynics who know they are ripping off the government (legally, of course) and simply don't care. They will not defend their subsidies in public debate, because there is no way to do so; they will just wait for the outrage to die, and resume their business.

There is another class of beneficiaries, those the lawmakers likely had in mind when writing this gruesome legislation. They are the unreconstructed New Deal farmers, kept in business for more than a lifetime now by selling to their only customer, the government. It is literally their way of life; it is the only business model they have ever known.

The right analogy here is welfare reform. Agriwelfare is actually even more abused than welfare ever was, because it is naturally scalable; no welfare queen ever made a hundredth of what the directors of Archer-Daniels-Midland have pocketed. Just as welfare reform required a mixture of righteous ire at the abusers with sympathy and some help for the truly dependent, agriwelfare reform will also.

[Cross-posted from Chequer-Board.]