Doug Gollin

Recent Articles

Dubious Crusade: The Push for Agricultural Laissez Faire

The Bush administration is pushing an international agreement to do away with agricultural subsidies. But we have never practiced—for good reason—the policies we are preaching to others.

Drive along any rural road in the United States. Take Arkansas Highway 9, for example, between the quiet villages of Williams Junction and Oppelo. As you wind through the cattle pastures, sod farms, and soybean fields, it is easy to feel that the land is bursting forth with natural fertility and abundance. Now drive along a rural road in West Africa. To be more precise, start walking; many farms lie more than a day's walk from a vehicle-accessible road. As you wade through the first mudhole of your journey, you will notice that although soils are adequate and rainfall is plentiful the fields along the road seem to produce more weeds than crops. By the time you reach the second mudhole, you will have grasped an important truth about global agriculture: Productivity depends on more than the innate quality of the soil or the richness of the environment. The proverbial amber waves of America's grain harvest have not just spontaneously sprouted forth from fruited plains and purple...