Resolved: That the U.S. Should end all agricultural subsidies.
Debate Rounds (3)
I would also like to precede my arguments by offering a couple of definitions:
"agricultural: of, relating to, used in, or concerned with agriculture" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
"subsidy: money that is paid usually by a government to keep the price of a product or service low or to help a business or organization to continue to function" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
I will argue in negation of this proposition on two main contentions - (1) subsidies stabilize the agricultural market and (2) agriculture accounts for a large portion of the U.S. economy.
To begin, subsidized farming stabilizes the agricultural commodity markets overall. Granting agricultural workers these funds ensures that there will not be price spikes in general necessities (food, clothing, etc.) because the subsidies can compensate for poor yields for reasons including poor weather (an uncontrollable force). Not only that, but this money would also make for a predictable farming system. Farmers would have the ability to stay up-to-date with farming systems and equipment, and, consequently, increase productivity.
What"s more, is that agriculture holds a large portion of the U.S. economy; therefore, ending these subsidies would only hinder the economy. Looking at the U.S., agriculture accounts for $789 billion of our GDP (but this isn't the entirety of agriculture's effect on the GDP because this number does not take relying industries - like forestry, fishing, food, apparel, leather, etc. - into account. Agriculture also accounts for 16.9 million jobs in the U.S. (9.2% of U.S. employment). This being said, removing the subsidies would deter and push workers away from the agriculture industry, increase the unemployment rate, and decrease the U.S. GDP.
In conclusion, ending agricultural subsidies only hinders people overall. Maintaining them, on the other hand, has the potential to maintain a stable market for necessities for both the farmers and the consumers, and to maintain (or perhaps benefit) the nation's economy.
Cool debate, thanks for posting. IMO, should be under economics, but it's definitely politics too.
I'll go over my affirmation of the resolution with contentions and some warranting, and then I'll rebut my opponent's arguments.
1. Pareto Efficiency
When designing public policy, a public economist attempts to achieve a world in which no one person may be made better off without making another worse off.
Subsidies create deadweight loss, or a reduction in overall welfare as a result of a shift from equilibrium. The welfare gained through giving money to agricultural companies is overwhelmed by the welfare lost by taxation. A subsidy is inherently less efficient than the free market, and unless con can show a compelling enough interest to overcome this, we ought recommend that a policymaker oppose the subsidies. (would cite source, but it's basic econ 101, simple search of "subsidies" & "deadweight loss" works). Getting rid of subsidies would place the market in its natural equilibrium and relieve a burden which is currently levied upon the taxpayers.
Whenever subsidies are granted, avenues through which lobbyists are able to influence the particular form of the subsidies are inevitable. This leads to both allocation of subsidies in an inefficient manner as well as conferring of benefits upon larger companies as a result of greater lobbying power.
When larger companies, such as Monsanto, gain more market power through selective subsidy allocation, competition decreases and the consumer suffers. Here's a link that talks about both the lobbying presence surrounding agricultural subsidies:
Here's one about the allocation of subsidies (they primarily go to a few big companies)
Not only does this damage competition and efficiency, but it also leads to environmental impacts. Intuitively, we can see that subsidies lead to increased production of goods, beyond equilibrium levels. However, while there are no positive externalities associated with agricultural production (all benefits are realized by either the producer or the consumer), there are negative externalities in the form of high levels of pollution. Subsidizing an industry with a large negative externality is simply bad economics. Such a subsidy pushes us far from private optimum, but even farther from social optimum.
Furthermore, the disproportionate meting of subsidies to larger corporations results in even greater levels of environmental degradation. These companies with access to more funding and resources are more likely to use things such as pesticides (damaging local ecosystems), overuse resources such as water, deplete resources in the soil, and emit pollutants at higher levels, as these companies will tend to operate at a more industrial, mechanized level. Here's a report from the NCPA about the harms associated with these subsidies:
3. International harms
Subsidies override principles of comparative advantage. Countries without large taxbases cannot compete, and thus we inefficiently drive those with a comparative advantage out of the market. Poorer countries become poorer and less stable, and this threatens US interests abroad and domestically. Subsidies lead to overproduction and dumping in countries like Mexico, killing their industries and leading to issues such as mass migrant worker movements and increased rates of crime.
1. A subsidy cannot help a low crop yield become larger. With or without subsidies, poor yields cause companies to fail to meet current goals, set with subsidies in mind. A simple alternative to equitably/efficiently solve this is insurance, not subsidies.
2nd one is simple. Yes, subsidies are big. The benefits conferred upon Americans aren't as big, however, as the tax dollars necessary to fund them. The opportunity cost of this money is ignored in con's analysis.
cbrophy forfeited this round.
Unfortunately, con didn't get back to us in R2. Was looking forward to a good debate. However, if con wants, I have no problem with some brand new lines of argument in the last round. I of course reserve the right to respond with new arguments as well (not brand new arguments, but new ones in response to anything new con brings up).
And just to clarify, my initial description of Pareto efficiency is a framework for discussion of subsidies. My point was that, if we could spend all the money that we currently spend on subsidies in a different manner (or preferably just not levy those taxes at all), social utility would be higher, and this is, other things equal, preferable when it comes to constructing public economic policy.
Thanks, and I hope to see con back for round 3.
cbrophy forfeited this round.
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