29 Sep 2009

Good Subsidies?

(via JWT), Japanese rice farmers are strongly protected against competition from other, "unsuitable" farmers (more here). What do they do with prices that are about 6x world prices?

They do this (with rice paddies):


While very pretty, I am not sure that such art (the result of planting different colors of rice next to each other) is the best way to grow food or art.

Bottom Line: If you want to help farmers, pay them cash. If you want to help artists, pay them cash. Trade barriers cost more and deliver less money to the farmers. Of course, politicians are not going to end these inefficient programs because they are harder for citizens to understand and oppose. (Same for US programs on ethanol, sugar, steel, etc.)