We have had a few e-mails (plus a couple comment entries) asking how is it that whilst numerous articles on Samizdata.net have bitterly decried farm subsidies of any sort, we are also writing articles in support of tomorrows Countryside Alliance March in London.
The answer is to be found in the slogan of the Countryside Alliance March itself: for Liberty & Livelihood.
Supporting ‘Liberty’ is not exactly unusual for us: we are libertarians! The liberty in question is the right of country people to hunt in Britain as they have done for centuries, without bigoted class warriors using the violence of law to criminalise their way of life. Hunting is an activity not of ‘state’ but of civil society… and the state simply has no business intruding into what goes on across privately owned land (and of course as libertarians, we believe that the only ownership of land that is legitimate is private ownership). That is why we support the Countryside Alliance’s March.
As for ‘Livelihood’… Hunting is also a significant source of jobs in many areas and in that respect we are all in favour of the state not putting those people on the dole queue. The most vexed issue however is that of farm subsidies. It must be clear to all who regularly read Samizdata.net that all of our contributing writers are in favour of true laissez-faire capitalism and therefore resolutely opposed to subsidising any businesses (i.e. farm subsidies or industrial subsidies)… and the great granddaddy of all market distorting, theft based systems of redistribution-by-subsidy is the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
What CAP means is that efficient farms (and by European standards, British farms are indeed efficient) are made to subsidise inefficient farms, and other sectors of the economy are forced to prop up agriculture generally. Moreover, even the way efficient farms are run is distorted by subsidies and directives that have the effect of addicting even the stoutest souls to state handouts like so many heroin addicts. One major result of this being massive overproduction of food and agricultural overcapacity on a truly epic scale.
So for a farmer to remain in business when competing within the massively subsidised and mind-bogglingly regulated British and European agricultural market, clearly just cutting all subsidies to the UK would mean capital intensive UK agriculture more or less drops dead over night.
Thus clearly the most rational solution is a complete Europe-wide ban on all farm subsidies in any form… with no exceptions whatsoever. No doubt many farms would indeed go bust as there is simply no rational economic reason for their existence when detached from the fantasy world of state planning… and that is just too damn bad. Yet business go bust all the time, so why should farms be any different? Food is a colossal interlinked global market and so there is no reason at all for the great trading nations of the world to protect indigenous food production on non-economic grounds.
The fact is socialist and paleo-conservative farm policies are the reason food is so damn expensive in the developed world. The so called ‘friends to the poor’ in the Labour Party in Britain and their friends in the dominant statist wing of the Conservative Party are the self same people who are responsible for poor working men and women in Britain paying vastly more for food, the very stuff of life, than would be the case if free markets decided what things would cost. Not only that, these are the self same people who claim to care about poverty in the Third World whilst at the same time denying the First World consumer access to their cheap agricultural products whose sale would actually improve the economic situation in the Third World.
Of course the situation in the United States is only slightly less subsidy distorted than the EU, so one would hope that eventually taxpayers over there will also decide it is time for some ‘tough love’.
Therefore when we go to the march tomorrow, we will be supporting the liberty of entire communities to not be beggared and persecuted by state sponsored bigots regardless of the sanctification of such tyrannous acts by democratic politics… and we will also be reminding the country folk that if they want to insist the state stop interfering in countryside pursuits, that should logically also mean an end to interference by subsidy and regulation. British agriculture is more than capable of looking after itself, if only it is allowed to play on a level playing, field rather than a CAP distorted one.