We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Large-scale deployment of synthetic fertilisers enabled the expansion and intensification of agricultural production, resulting in hitherto unprecedented surpluses and a steep decline in food prices that have made agricultural producers in the global North dependent on government subsidies.

Dr Heike Schroeder, senior lecturer in climate change and international development at the School of International Development, University of East Anglia, whose revealing drivel is currently being ridiculed over at Bishop Hill. (Warning, contains the word “governance”.)

22 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Only somebody who has completely lost all sense of proportion could possibly spout such drivel. At least she’s open about it.

  • My head hurts, damn you Fisher 😛

  • (Warning, contains the word “governance”.)

    Thank you Rob for minding our safety :-O

  • Paul Marks

    Then abolish the subsidies (and the vast web of regulations).

    But sadly the “intellectual” would then assume that all farming would vanish.

    Just as it did NOT in New Zealand.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Let’s try that with a few other things:

    The introduction of the motor car made horses dependent on government subsidy
    The introduction of the computer made clerks dependent on government subsidy
    The introduction of the iPhone made Nokias dependent on government subsidy.

    That’s the correct analogy isn’t it?

  • John B

    Keep the peasantry starving and beholden to the clever intellectual coves who will determine what they eat and how much. They’ll be wanting to vote next!

  • llamas

    A better way to describe ag subsidies (in the USDA model at least) is to say that ‘ a tiny minority of agricultural producers have managed to lobby the Congress so successfully that the US taxpayer both subsidizes their surpluses and carries their losses in a complete perversion of any sort of normal market process.’

    US farmers don’t ‘require’ subsidies – they’ve just managed to find a way to continue to extract 1930’s-era subsidies and other ‘support’ programs from a compliant Congress. This is due entirely to the inordinate influence that farm-state votes have on the US political process. It has nothing to do with farming.

    “Progressives” truly are a remarkable bunch, able to decry both famine and surplus in the same breath, and always able to find a way to blame both on evil capitalists, global warming and a lack of ‘social justice’ – take your pick.



  • resulting in hitherto unprecedented surpluses and a steep decline in food prices

    They’ve made food cheap and plentiful. The bastards!!

  • Michael Jennings

    Truly, that’s a breathtakingly stupid remark. Dazzlingly so.

  • Midwesterner

    I’ve said it here before, but not in a very long time. Most of the farmers I know (or at least knew back when I was farming) hate the subsidies. The way it worked then (I doubt is has changed much) is, farmers are doing a good job growing a crop that is in demand. The national authorities want to micromanage farming and compel them to do irrational things. Rather than assume control of farming outright, the authorities subsidized whatever crops are popular in order to create a surplus and drive down the market price. At that point, farmers have two choices. Either quit farming (the subsidies cover just about all economically viable crops) and sell the land to somebody who will take the subsidies (or alternatively, a huge amount of land is being pulled out of production and left fallow), or accept the subsidies to counteract the surplus induced unprofitable prices and let the national authorities run your farm. I had one field that, while I cropped it as a single field, had probably a dozen different regions on it that each had different cropping histories and therefore different rules governing it. I was allotted say 8.7 acres for planting corn in a 12 acre field so the remaining 3.3 acres starts a new history and rules governing it. A few iterations of this and your cropping rule boundaries looked like modern ‘art’. While the specifics have probably changed in the last 30 years, I doubt the underlying pattern has.

    Thumbnail summary, the purpose of subsidies is to deliberately make crops unprofitable and the compel active farmers to accept the subsidies and all of the absurd micromanagement that comes with them.

    If you check, I think you will find that very little of the lobbying for farm subsidies comes from small-business scale farmers. The vast majority of lobbying comes not from farmers at all, but from the ADMs and Cargills and others like the fuel ethanol distillers. Also some subsidy lobbying probably comes from professionally managed farms owned by diversified holdings funds.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    It may be useful to point out that ag subsidies simply move the cost of food from the grocery checkout to the tax bill, while adding regulations that themselves increase the cost of food production. And that’s assuming they’re entirely cost neutral in other respects.

  • Erik

    “Large-scale deployment of synthetic fertilisers enabled the expansion and intensification of agricultural production, resulting in hitherto unprecedented surpluses and a steep decline in food prices”

    Well, they got that much right. And it’s wonderful.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    Erik: that’s what I love about this quote. When I first read it I was thinking, “Yes, right, agreed, ok, hang on….What???”

  • llamas

    +1 what Midwesterner said. Only to add that I doubt the effect of making commodity crops unprofitable was intentional on the part of the USDA – that’s attributing malice to what can be adequately explained by common-or-garden stupidity. If you want to see the law of unintended consequences at work, look no further than the USDA. It is truly known as Moscow-on-the-Hudson, a collectivist throwback to the 1930s which has now become an entirely-political organization that also does a little extension work on the side. Between the food-stamp program, the school-lunch programs, and the various ag subsidy programs, USDA is one of the biggest vote-delivering agencies that there is. Whole systems of doing business have grown up around its Byzantine bureaucracies, and legion is the number of rent-seekers and vote-buyers that depend on it for their advancements.



  • john

    I’ve been involved with small scale farming off and on and in various ways for most of my life and Midwesterner has got it pretty much exactly right.

    It is a mistake to see agribiz corps and the feds as somehow balancing forces. They are so tangled up together it is impossible to distinguish one from the other. They both want the same thing for the small farmer, dependency at minimum, non-existence for preference.

    I am a farmer (among other things) and I definitely support the abolition of all subsidies.

  • jimmy dublin

    As a former small scale farmer, conagra fiancial executive and political advisor to the USDA, i agree with most of the aforementioned as true

  • Regional

    Farmers in Britain receive massive subsidies like the rest of Europe and America to provide cheap food to the peasants so they don’t overthrow the ruling class like the French Revolution.
    A university professor whinging about subsidies, ironic or what?

  • Laird

    FWIW, the USDA is also a large residential mortgage lender. That’s right, in addition to the HUD and VA loan programs (and the government-controlled behemoths Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) we have the Department of Agriculture financing home purchases. Not just for farms (which perhaps could be justified as part of its mandate) but on ordinary houses as long as they’re in “rural” areas. As you can imagine, “rural” is very generously defined, and covers pretty much anything outside a city limits. Remarkable.

  • Jim

    Well there’s the water melon mentality, hidden in plain sight. Food is too plentiful and cheap, it must be made scarcer and more expensive, and presumably the masses will be suitably starved into submission. I suspect in Dr Schroeder’s ideal world there’s not much likelihood of the likes of her going hungry, just the broad mass of population she wishes to remove from the globe.

    They really are evil sh*ts. It should amaze me that someone like this can effectively call for mass genocide of a large proportion of the worlds population and no-one in the MSM bats an eyelid, but sadly it doesn’t.

  • Mr Ed

    Bio of the author.

    A political scientist, or, as the Soviets used to call them, a ‘theoretician‘, but adapting to modern modes.

    The entire article is remarkable for condensing more drivel than an intelligent and decent person could reasonably be expected to bear without ranting. No science, just borrowed grudges and basically a call to tread back to the Stone Age.

  • Nick (Blame FrenchMEN) Gray

    Soon she’ll be saying we should do something for the farming ‘children’. Is there a parallel to Godwin’s Law? I recently read someone saying that the Australian Budget should be passed for the sake of FUTURE children! Is this the ultimate absurdity, or can anyone give a better example?
    And who should it be named for? How about Poppins’ Law? Mary Poppins was always concerned about the kidlings, so any time someone tries to justify any government policy as being ‘for the (past/present/future) kids’, we should call out ‘Poppins!’, or ‘the Poppins principle’.
    If only someone had done this for us when we were kids! Did someone just yell ‘Poppins!’?

  • Tedd

    I’m talking through my hat here, since this is not even remotely an area of expertise for me. But it seems to me that two things coincided that made farm subsidies so ubiquitous, at least in the U.S. First was micromanaging of the economy by the government that became such a rage during the 30s. It was quite a shock to me when I began to learn of the scope of this activity, and it forced me to realize that the U.S. had not been even remotely a free-market economy for a very long time, if it ever was. And second is that farming as an industry is tied to farming as a sub-culture in a way that no other industry is (at least in the public’s imagination). Granted, mining and fishing come close, but they don’t involve the whole family the way traditional farming does, so they don’t have the same emotive power.