Saturday, May 31, 2008

The NYT preaches to the choir

The NYT has an editorial today about industrial farming called "The Worst Way of Farming." While I generally agree with the gist of the editorial – that industrial farming is not efficient and is a bad idea – I think the way they authors go about making their point is a bit bizarre. Since the NYT is a liberal paper, and its readers are generally wont to agree with calls for regulation, centering the editorial around a call for environmental regulations and heavy-handed mandates seems too much like preaching to the choir. The editors ought to be promoting, first and foremost, market-enhancing reforms before encouraging further regulations. While the article suggests that government distortions in the markets for water and animal feed encourage this type of farming, the editors don't mention it more than once, and don't make it explicitly clear that a part of solving the problem is to reintroduce market competition into the farm sector. This would be much more palatable to the general public, which is (I would suppose) much less warm to the statist policies that the NYT concludes at the end are necessary. Rather than backing an idea that only statist liberals could get behind, why not center the piece on a call for dismantling the barriers to free enterprise that currently exist? That way, neither Democrats nor Republicans could credibly disagree.

This is something that's relevant not just to the issue of farming, but to every issue: an issue whose main constituency is the left would do itself huge favors by focusing on arguments that appeal to right-wingers.

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