FARM SUBSIDY FREE FOR ALL. There's something very odd about the way the Doha Round of WTO talks have collapsed in an orgy of recriminations over agricultural protectionism. The essence of the issue is that poor countries were demanding that rich countries reduce their level of farm subsidies if they wanted poor countries to make any policy changes. Then the United States said it thought said subsidies should be reduced, but only if the Europeans reduced theirs too. The Europeans agreed with this position, but in reverse. Now both the United States and the E.U. are saying the other side wouldn't make enough concessions.

The issue here is that these aren't really concessions at all. High levels of agricultural tariffs and production-subsidies are bad policies -- a classic case of interest-group capture. The Europeans really should reduce their own subsidies from their current high level, but our own lower levels of subsidies aren't doing us any good. There's no reason to make changing our misguided farm policy contingent on the E.U. altering its even more misguided farm policy. Nor is there really any reason to link our farm policy to these Third World intellectual property and investment issues -- we should just make our policy better and we'd reap the benefits of doing so. Let the rest of the world do what it wants.

--Matthew Yglesias

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