Friday, April 25, 2008

Why �News�papers Have Lost Former Subscribers Like Us 

Hunger Stalks Millions of Poor Americans blares the headline in the Financial Times of London. The article itself, however, turns out to be a combination of rank speculation and advocacy journalism for more welfare spending, triggered by pending congressional consideration of the farm bill.

The real story behind the farm bill, of course, is this astonishing observation by Ronald Bailey:
The amount of food being burned because of government mandates and subsidies for biofuels would feed nearly 450 million people. [My paraphrase]
That�s right, folks. We could feed every person on the entire North American continent with the food we burn because of well-intentioned but foolish government intervention in agricultural markets.

Over at National Review Online, Deroy Murdock notes the resulting Global Food Riots: Made in Washington, DC occurring in such places as Haiti, Mexico, Egypt, Pakistan and the Ivory Coast. His excellent article pulls together a wide range of relevant factual information on the biofuels mess, linked to the sources.

Contrast the opening sentences of the FT story:
An escalating global food crisis could bring the problem of hunger home to the US and other developed countries. Millions of poor Americans risk going hungry if food prices continue to rise and food agencies struggle to cope with rising costs, dwindling resources and a huge increase in demand. Already more and more poor people in the US are turning to charity and government assistance as they struggle with rising food costs and soaring fuel bills.
The only factual information here is that the US has a social safety net, consisting of a variety of government programs and private charities that help poor people with food, fuel bills and similar problems. Food prices are up, and the social safety net appears to be doing what it is supposed to do. The rest is speculation.

All of the remainder of the FT article consists of quotes from �campaigners� who seek �to broaden eligibility for food stamps and increase emergency food provision�: the California Women Infants and Children Program Association, the Food Research and Action Center, the Cleveland Food Bank, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, America�s Second Harvest, and Martha�s Table.

It is neither news nor interesting analyis that such organizations want more of our tax dollars devoted to their government rent-seeking activities.

We used to subscribe to the Financial Times, the Economist, Scientific American and National Geographic, all of which once consistently published excellent material with analysis based on well-sourced facts. We watched with dismay as each began to devote more and more of their limited resources to shallow advocacy pieces like this. We canceled our subscriptions, one by one, with regret.

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