June 02, 2003
Apples and oranges

Andrew Sullivan links to a Peter Beinart article in The New Republic, one which makes a common error. In discussing the huge (and appalling) subsidies that American cotton farmers receive from the government, Beinart compares the net worth of American cotton farmers with the yearly wage of farmers in Burkina Faso. The two concepts are related, but they are not the same thing. One can have a relatively high net worth with virtually no income, or make lots of money and still be teetering on the edge of poverty. I agree with Beinart about the need to end subsidies (on cotton and on other goods), but I would have preferred that he compare apples to apples when discussing the merits of Burkina Faso's farming industry in relation to ours.

That quibble aside, read the article. It provides a look at how subsidies can literally kill people. Burkina Faso and Mali have lost a tremendous amount of their exports since the Bush administration raised its subsidies on cotton by an astonishing 80 percent. The money the countries earned was allotted to new clinics and medical facilities; these facilities no longer have the money to operate due to the loss of export revenue.

posted on June 02, 2003 05:31 AM


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