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Why we march…

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.

9 comments to Why we march…

  • Will Allen

    I recently have been engaged in a debate in another forum regarding the the Bush Administration’s dishonest rhetoric on tax policy and budget forecasts. I explained that I supported any and all efforts to reduce the amount of property taken by the state, regardless of the motivation, because it had the effect of constraining far more evil activites by politicians of all stripes. I was promptly castigated for my “amoral” support of dishonesty. Of course, there is hardly anything done by the national government of the United States recently that could even begin to match the abject amorality of the recently passed (with wide bipartisan support) Farm Bill. When people harp on the every day lying of politicians regarding budget projections, but remain completely unable to even recognize the amorality of massive state-sanctioned violence for wholly illegitimate purposes, it is indicative of how far those who cherish liberty above all political values have to go before it can be stated that they have effectively communicated their position to the rest of the population. Many miles to go, I guess….

  • Jeremy

    While I don’t think farm subsidies are great, ask yourself this. What happens when a country is almost completely reliant on imports for food?

    Do you really think that is a good thing?

    What happens if trade is disrupted? What happens if countries decide to just cut off food supplies? Farming isn’t something that you can start up immediately after stopping.

    Completely free trade is a lot like communism, in that it requires humanity to be completely perfect, not warring with each other and such, for it to work properly.

  • Don

    Good Luck and Best of Success to You! It would be productive for everyone to eliminate farm subsidies. And I think that the proposed ban on hunting is abominable!

  • What happens if trade is disrupted? What happens if countries decide to just cut off food supplies?

    Trade disrupted, like, how? Who is going to suddenly decide to not trade with us? Or is it a major war that shuts down maritime trade? And who exactly would such a war be with? Get real.

    Completely free trade is a lot like communism, in that it requires humanity to be completely perfect, not warring with each other and such, for it to work properly.

    Quite the contrary actually. It is having an interventionist state that requires perfect humanity… or at least a perfect state, otherwise what you get is, well, what we have right now. Subsidies are theft pure and simple.

    All your remarks are also predicated upon the idea that unless a country subsidies agriculture, farming will disappear altogether, which implies farming is not actually economically viable at all on its own. That does not sound plausible to me.

  • A_t

    At current market prices, given the wage expectations of people in the UK, and the west in general, combined with western consumers’ demand for cheap goods, farming in the West *isn’t* economically viable. Now, we could just let the farming industry go the same way as shipbuilding etc., but as Jeremy points out, this is all very well in the situation we have at the moment; we can import all the food we need. However, should the global political/economic scene change, and imports become harder to get hold of, and our farms lie untended, what then?

    I’m by no means arguing that farm subsidies are a good thing, but can you come up with a better solution, which manages to avoid these hazards?

  • a richards

    This stuff about supporting livelihoods is special pleading. Relatively few people work in hunting. Most of the jobs that would be threatened by ending farming subsidies are in farming.

    There’s no such thing as a good subsidy!

  • a richards

    This stuff about supporting livelihoods is special pleading. Relatively few people work in hunting. Most of the jobs that would be threatened by ending farming subsidies are in farming.

    There’s no such thing as a good subsidy!

  • A Richards: Yes, there is indeed no such thing as a good subsidy. It is theft-by-proxy, pure and simple.

    A_t: However, should the global political/economic scene change, and imports become harder to get hold of, and our farms lie untended, what then?

    Ah, the dreaded precautionary principle… by that logic we should also protect our ‘essential industries’ and not just farming. In fact there is no area of ‘national’ production capability which should not be protected from possible future dislocation of trade. Yet further by that logic, world trade should halt all together as every nation protects their ‘essential industries’ and we return to 1950′s levels of international economic activity. This is voodoo economics indeed.

    Please give me a plausible scenario in which food producing nations (i.e. nations which profit from the selling of food) would decide to stop selling that food to Britain?

    Both Continental Europe and North America are massive over producers of food… which of these is suddenly going to stop being a source of grub? And under what believable scenario? Who exactly is going to be torpedoing British ships in the North Atlantic or Channel (not to mention blowing up the Channel Tunnel)? Is it the Iraqi navy who might do these things? Somehow I do not think so. If there is something I am missing here, please tell me!