Jun 13

The Political Economy of Agricultural Policy

Hot on the heels of Monday’s post, in which I discussed my latest working paper “Why Do Members of Congress Support Agricultural Protection?,” here is the abstract of a very nice new article (a link to an ungated working paper version can be found here) by Kym Anderson, Gordon Rausser, and Jo Swinnen in the latest issue of the Journal of Economic Literature:

The agricultural and food sector is an ideal case for investigating the political economy of public policies. Many of the policy developments in this sector since the 1950s have been sudden and transformational, while others have been gradual but persistent. This article reviews and synthesizes the literature on trends and fluctuations in market distortions and the political-economy explanations that have been advanced. Based on a rich global data set covering a half-century of evidence on commodities, countries, and policy instruments, we identify hypotheses that have been explored in the literature on the extent of market distortions and the conditions under which reform may be feasible.

Jun 13

New Working Paper: Why Do Members of Congress Support Agricultural Protection?

That’s the title of my latest working paper (here and there), written with my Duke colleague Nick Carnes. Just in time for the latest farm bill debacle, here is the abstract:

It seems paradoxical that developed countries continue subsidizing agriculture even though their agricultural sectors have been declining in relative importance since the middle of the 20th century. What drives support for agricultural protection in developed countries? We answer this question by testing three competing hypotheses about what drives support for agricultural protection in the US: (i) legislator preferences, (ii) electoral incentives, or (iii) lobbying. Using data on the roll call votes of the members of the 106th through the 110th Congresses (1999-2009) and the scores given to each legislator by the Farm Bureau, our findings suggest electoral incentives explain a great deal of the variation in support for agricultural protection, but that legislator preferences and lobbying play a role, too. Moreover, legislator preferences and electoral incentives appear to be substitutes for one another. Why does Congress support agricultural protection? Because many members have electoral incentives to — and because many of those who do not still have other personal or strategic interests at stake. Continue reading →

Jun 13

The Developmental Paradox

I have been working on a paper on the political economy of agricultural protection in the United States with my colleague Nick Carnes. For his dissertation (and forthcoming book White-Collar Government, which you should go pre-order now if you haven’t already done so), Nick has assembled a nice data set on the legislators of the 106th to the 110th US Congresses (i.e., for the period 1999 to 2009) which, with a little bit of research assistance, allows us to look at the roll-call votes of US legislators on the 2002 and 2008 farm bills, among other outcomes.

I will dedicate a post to that paper when we have a manuscript that is presentable, but I wanted to talk about the “developmental paradox,” since this is something that has been coming up frequently in my research and teaching, and because most readers of this blog are probably unaware of the paradox. Continue reading →