Rent Seeking

Robert Prather, building on articles by Walter Williams and George Will, makes an excellent point:

When people complain about corporate welfare you rarely hear them complaining of tariffs and quotas. I have to wonder why.

Steel tariffs help steel producers at the expense of steel consumers and sugar tariffs help sugar producers at the expense of sugar consumers.

Indeed. Says Williams,

“How come sugar’s cheaper in Canada? Are they a free trade country?” The answer is a big fat no. It’s just that they don’t have much, if any, of a sugar industry, and hence there’s little pressure on the Canadian Parliament to enact protectionist measures.

So what should Congress do? In the real world, when Congress enacts a miracle for one group of Americans, such as sugar producers, it creates a non-miracle for other Americans. Should Congress create a miracle for the sugar-using industry to offset the devastating effects of its miracle for sugar producers — like keeping imported candy out of the United States? I don’t know how that might work, but I’m betting they’lll run into the same problem God explained so aptly to the Angel Gabriel when He said, “Every time Ah passes a miracle, Ah has to pass fo’ or five mo’ to ketch up wid it.”

Surely, if Congress creates a miracle for candy manufacturers, that miracle is going to create a non-miracle for somebody else — at least those who eat candy or own candy retail stores.

It’s a vicious circle, indeed. And miracles seem to be in short supply.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. BigFire says:

    One of the most visible effect of sugar price contro/protection has been the discontinuing use of it in soft drink in America. That’s one of the major reason why Mexican bottled Coke tasted different from the one in Los Angeles. The ones in Mexico uses sugar, American bottler uses corn syrup.