In defense of the (farmer’s) market

Markets work. We know they work because we see market forces used to make just about every decision by any person on a given day.

Whether you know it or not, your decisions are fueled by some economy of scale.

Furthermore, when we’re allowed to make choices for ourselves, not based on the interference of government, the consumer is able to dictate to the company what it wants, not the other way around.

I happen to know one of the key cogs in the Occupy movement. We speak relatively regularly on the subject. He insists that corporate interests and government disenfranchise your power in the markets because you can’t compete.

Your pockets are much smaller than theirs.

To some extent that’s true. The deeper your pockets, the bigger influence you have on the market place.

On the other hand, any producer of goods is beholden to his consumers. For instance, several years ago, Wal-Mart began selling organic dairy products like Stonyfield Farms yogurt and others.

It wasn’t because of some dramatic moral epiphany, but rather a reaction to market forces.

They admitted publicly that the reason they stopped carrying milk with certain hormones was because people weren’t buying it.

This is Wal-Mart we’re talking about. Not Whole Foods.

The people shopping at Wal-Mart don’t have deep pockets, yet a group of people, shaped by a growing movement in this country toward more local, responsible and organic companies caused even the poorest among us to shift the market.

If you haven’t read Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food, you ought to. In the book, Pollan, one of the country’s biggest advocates for decentralizing and desubsidizing our food supply, explains the dire need to remove the subsidies on corn in order to make healthy food more affordable than junk food.

Health shouldn’t be a political issue. Food, on the other hand, is big business.

As Pollan notes, the government spends billions of dollars to subsidize portions of our economy. That isn’t a shocking revelation, we knew that already.

But what is shocking is that the government has subsidized corn, for instance, to the point where producers can buy corn at below cost, essentially also subsidizing every product corn is used in.

The problem is that many of the products containing corn products are exceedingly bad for us. The average family though, can afford the McDonald’s cheeseburger with corn-fed beef more than it can a head of broccoli (If you’ve seen the movie Food Inc. you know exactly what I’m talking about).

The U.S. Government spent about $3.5 billion last year on corn subsidies.

For what? It doesn’t help growers keep the cost down. No, it helps McDonald’s and Tyson and the the multinational corporations who support our food industry, perpetuating and literally subsidizing the obesity epidemic in this country.

Without getting too high on my soapbox regarding healthy eating, this illustrates the government’s propensity to interfere with market forces.

Corn, in the market place, has an inherent value. If it weren’t subsidized, beef producers wouldn’t shovel into the mouths of their livestock (the biggest factor contributing to e coli in cows) and down our throats in just about every product we consume.

The same is true for oil companies, on whom the government spends about $10 billion.

If the government didn’t subsidize oil, we’d find alternatives because products like gas for our cars and machinery would just be too expensive.

The market, when left to the consumers, innovates. Subsidies encourage stagnation and waste.

That’s fine for Democrats, since waste is practically a platform of liberals, a byproduct of a system encouraging the selection of winners and losers.

But for people who care about sustaining this nation, this planet,  the government can’t spend $13 billion on corporate interests when they’re harming the vast majority of people.

A right to sustenance, to food, is a basic human right. The government has no reason to interfere with our ability as a people to dictate what we eat.

Sure, people have the right to eat at McDonald’s, but people choose to eat there because it’s fast and cheap. It wouldn’t be so cheap if the government weren’t making sure of it.

Democrats in Congress should be applauded for having the intestinal fortitude to try and end oil subsidies (a group of Democratic Representatives brought forward the bill). On the other hand, the bill passed the Republican-controlled House, yet failed in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

While it may be true that the end of subsidies would raise gas prices, that is the point. The price of gas in other countries is significantly higher because they don’t subsidize it like we do.

Legislators (particularly conservative Republicans), who opposed that bill to protect the consumers, are either disingenuous about their reasons for voting or ignorant to the reality of power consumers have.

None of us, no matter how rich, have enough money to work against the market forces of government coffers (Congress borrows the money to pay for those subsidies because, as you may have heard, we’re broke).

By removing subsidies, the government would be giving to each of us additional freedom, offering more power to even the poorest of our citizens.

Stop using so much gas and either the price will drop or oil companies will find another way to make money. Without government interference, each of us gains power because there aren’t billions in government dollars (which were taken from you anyway) to suppress our voice.

Our power.

Every day you exercise that power. We all vote with our wallets, not matter how much or how little we have in them.

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