Acton Institute Powerblog

Feeding the Poor, Bureaucracy Style

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From India comes this tragic headline:

As India’s kids starve, $1.5 billion worth of grain rots

How does a country have starving people while it is producing so much food that it is literally rotting from being left outside in the open? The depressing answer is that it’s the result of government intervention in the agricultural market. The article from MSNBC goes on to detail how government policies produce too much grain relative to other agricultural products such as fresh fruits or vegetables. Worst of all, the price supports that the country puts in place are a major contributor as well.  The natural outcome of a market subverted by the government to serve some groups interest, in this case the farmers, is too often a catastrophe. Sadly, India’s poor are often the target of someone’s “good” intentions, as Joe Carter pointed out a couple months ago.

When people consider our mandate to help the poor, let’s keep in mind what happens when we let the government subvert markets. It’s hard to think of a more morally outrageous proposition than having tons of grain rot while people are starving in the same country.

John MacDhubhain Recent alumnus of Michigan State, future student of George Mason


  • Uh, yeah. Or let us ponder what happens when we let corporations who own the government have control of the food supply… Not just a monopoly or something. A government supported mandate to make the entire country into malnourished obese, diabetic piggies. High fructose corn syrup. Not sure what that is? Check the rolls on your stomach or your butt cheeks. Then let us consider GMO products. I am not a conspiracy theorist—it is just GREED.

    • The key problem there is still the government though. I would completely agree that the agricultural policies in the United States are poor. But the problem is we essentially have mercantilism, where politically connected interests are also subverting the market. When I criticize government for messing with market processes, I do so whether it is some misguided attempt at doing some good or the result of regulatory capture.

      As for GMOs, I think the main problem with them is the way that the intellectual property is enforced at the expense of farmers who may not have wanted GMO pollination (though some really are guilty of trying to intentionally gain GMO pollination). Other than that, GMOs are a wonderful advance in agricultural science. As Jonathon Swift said, “Whoever makes two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before, deserves better of mankind, and does more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.”

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