Media Blog

Man Bites Dog

Or in this case, “liberal teaches Republican about free markets“:

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) is so liberal that we disagree with him about 99% of the time on fiscal issues. However, he gave a GREAT speech yesterday on the House floor that I’ve republished below.
Let me set up the speech this way — on Tuesday, the House debated the Agriculture Appropriations bill. Several Republicans were offering amendments to subsidize and protect various industries. Or they were publicly voicing their opposition to proposals that cut protectionist programs (i.e. an amendment that sought to cut sugar subsidies by 6%). This prompted Barney Frank to stand up and say:

Mr. Chairman, I am here to confess my reading incomprehension. I have listened to many of my conservative friends talk about the wonders of the free market, of the importance of letting the consumers make their best choices, of keeping government out of economic activity, of the virtues of free trade, but then I look at various agricultural programs like this one. Now, it violates every principle of free market economics known to man and two or three not yet discovered.

So I have been forced to conclude that in all of those great free market texts by Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and all the others that there is a footnote that says, by the way, none of this applies to agriculture. Now, it may be written in high German, and that may be why I have not been able to discern it, but there is no greater contrast in America today than between the free enterprise rhetoric of so many conservatives and the statist, subsidized, inflationary, protectionist, anti-consumer agricultural policies, and this is one of them.

In particular, I have listened to people, and some of us have said let us protect workers and the environment in trade; let us not have unrestricted free trade; but let us have trade that respects worker rights and environmental rights. And we have been excoriated for our lack of concern for poor countries.

There is no greater obstacle, as it is now clear in the Doha round, to the completion of a comprehensive trade policy than the American agricultural policy, with one exception, European agricultural policy, which is much worse and just as phony.

Sugar is an example. This program is an interference with the legitimate efforts at economic self-help in many foreign nations. So I appreciate the leadership of the gentleman from Arizona [Jeff Flake] and the gentleman from Oregon [Roy Blumenauer]. Here is a chance for some of my free-enterprise-professing friends to get honest with themselves, and now maybe we will see some born-again free enterprisers in the agricultural field.


Brilliant AND newsworthy. Both the NYT and WaPo editorial pages oppose lavish farm spending that wastes money and impedes progress in the global trade talks. Here’s a story that their newsrooms can package in an interesting way.