Protectionism redux

It’s a bit late to whine now

It's a cow!There was much outrage expressed here in New Zealand over the cynical, amoral European and American decisions to resurrect dairy subsidies in 2009. I feel sympathy for our dairy farmers and the industry they support, but they shouldn’t be surprised. President Obama never made any secret of the fact that he wasn’t a subsidy hard-liner. His much vaunted intelligence and integrity doesn’t seem to extend to acknowledging that subsidies paid by rich nations to inefficient agricultural producers are kicking efficient producers – particularly those in poor nations – in the teeth and contributing to third world poverty. Not to mention breaching their sworn international obligations. However, dairy producers are fairer game to these cynics than are most agri-producers.

Who is hurt most by dairy subsidies?

New Zealand.

Who else?

Ummm… errr.. Well hardly anybody if you ignore the fact that rich consumers in the first world are being forced to pay $100 billion or so more than they should to support incompetent agricultural producers. Poor countries aren’t big dairy exporters.

But it’s unfair!

Too right it’s unfair.

Why are they doing it then?

  1. Because we’ve pissed them off.
  2. Because we’re not starving Africans (although it may not help if we were).
  3. Because they owe us nothing.
  4. Because we’ve been greedy, short-sighted, and stupid.

“But,” I hear you cry, “we fought alongside them in two World Wars!”

Yeah, we fought against some of them too. So what? That was then, this is now. What have we done for them lately?

Bugger all.

  1. We’ve slashed our defence spending to a risible level. We’re international defence bludgers. It’s embarrassing. Remember the strike force?
  2. We opted out of ANZUS over 20 years ago and have done nothing to redress our erstwhile allies or compensate for that action. Quite the reverse.
  3. For decades we sheltered under the nuclear umbrella but were precious about it and refused to help to hold the brollie up.
  4. We’re holier than thou, but when it comes to carbon footprint and profligate use of the planet’s resources we’re right up there with the worst of them.
  5. We think the world owes us a living. The world thinks they owe us nothing. The world is right. We send a small busload of SAS troops to Afghanistan and we think that puts us in the box seats. Gimme a break.
  6. To an even greater extent than the US and Europe, we’ve spent beyond our means. Not so much our government, but with great enthusiasm as individual consumers. We’ve blown up a huge amount of debt on wasteful consumption instead of paying our way in the world and now we’re whining because the chickens have come home to roost.
  7. Through stupidity, ignorance, and myopia we’ve allowed our economic performance and productivity relative to to the rest of the world to fall from #2 to about #45 and still sinking.
  8. We’re pathetic. If it weren’t for global warming I’d bugger off to Australia.

America, Britain, Europe, Japan, China, India — none of them give a toss about New Zealand and why should they? It’s time for an attitude change. Time to stop whining and to pull our international weight. Checked our international aid contributions lately? Now that’s really embarrassing.