Have you heard of Joseph Stiglitz? The former World Bank economist that turned into one of the major critics of big international organizations such as the IMF and WB, penning books such as “Globalization and Its Discontents“? He was one of the first people I started reading when I got into international economics, and he is still one of the economists whose work I love to read.
In yesterday’s New York Times, he wrote a great piece titled “The Insanity of Our Food Policy” that ties up many issues regarding the US Farm Bill that have come up on this blog, including the importance of food stamps, the recent Republican proposals tied to cutting it, and the traditional marriage of farmers’ subsidies and food aid. He goes farther than that, however, in tying the asymmetry between proposed cuts in food assistance and relatively small cuts in farmers’ subsidies to issues of wealth and inequality in the United States as a whole. Arguing that rent-seeking behavior is one of the root causes of the problem – in that a small minority with high political influence can influence and bias political decisions in their favor, and in fact benefit a lot individually through forcing small cuts on a lot of individuals in the general public. This is an effect that is often noticed in lobbying, but here is particularly dire because, as Stiglitz writes, “it takes real money, money that is necessary for bare survival, from the poorest Americans, and gives it to a small group of the undeserving rich, in return for their campaign contributions and political support. There is no economic justification: The bill actually distorts our economy by promoting the kind of production we don’t need and shrinking the consumption of those with the smallest incomes. There is no moral justification either: It actually increases misery and precariousness of daily life for millions of Americans.“
Overall, the op-ed gives a bird’s eye view on the day-to-day struggles over the Farm Bill while still summing up the details really well, and could be used as a basis of discussion in one of my classes with the wealth of ideas and theories worked into it. I just love Stiglitz. Give it a read!