Monday, April 16, 2007

Two things that will do more to end poverty than foreign assistance

I keep coming back to two basic things that the United States can do to attack global poverty more effectively than we've been doing it for the last 60 years through foreign assistance. 

First, we need to buckle down and make our educational system from Kindergarten through PhD the inarguably best educational system in the world.  Graduates of the US educational system affect every part of the world system, and, by virtue of being graduates from the US system, have an inordinate amount of control over what they affect.  Therefore, if we want better results from the world in general, we need better input.

But that isn't the main subject of today's rant.  Rather, I'd like to touch on the second of my two things: agricultural reform.

I know that I'm a Democrat and that that would lead one to believe that I'm a supporter of farm subsidies, but I'm an economist and pragmatist first, which means that farm subsidies actually give me nightmares.

As this article in the Christian Science Monitor points out, those subsidies once meant to support small farmers are now going to large industrial farms, and skew the world agricultural market in such a way that farmers in the developing world are unable to compete, even though they need the money far more and have a significant comparative advantage in the production of many agricultural products. 

Subsidies in general are not good economic policy, but this one is beyond the pale. 

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