Crumb Trail
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Friday, September 12, 2003

Michael Lind has an NYT Op-Ed today, The Cancún Delusion, that shows an uncommon grasp of agricultural subsidy issues.

These are the alternatives, then. If third world agriculture is industrialized, then much third world wilderness will be saved from the plow. But most farmers will be forced off the farm, and therefore may not profit from the access of southern agricultural exporters to northern markets. If, on the other hand, third world agriculture is not industrialized, then the effort to enrich developing countries by means of exports from labor-intensive farms will inspire a vast expansion of peasant farm acreage — at the expense of the environment.

What looked like a sweet deal that could satisfy everybody except for subsidized special interests, then, seems destined to fall apart on inspection. First world consumers and third world agribusiness (much of it foreign-owned) may profit from the opening of the agricultural markets of the United States and other rich nations. But the activist left is unlikely to get what it wants: an Arcadia of prosperous village farmers living in harmony with the land.

Lind is senior fellow with the New America Foundation (NAF), a 'radical center' think tank that has attracted a lot of attention for its fresher, less partisan ideas. The Atlantic Monthly seems to have a less than arm's length relationship with it and has done some collaborative publishing. Lind co-authored the book The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics with Ted Halstead.

It seems interesting that Lind and NAF have been able to achieve increased clarity about agricultural subsides by being political centrists even though they still seem to lack significant knowledge of the issues. There seems to be something about ideological commitment that lowers effective IQ, but this may be something that applies to selected topics.

posted by back40 | 9/12/2003 11:36:00 AM


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