Thursday, September 29, 2011

Little Poor Farmers and the Big Bad Sprawl

The blog by John Paul Maxfeild called the Economics of Urban Sprawl is flawed. Maxfeild is extremely worried about the effects of urban sprawl, or outward expansion, on American farmland. His major points are as follows: “Every single minute of every day, America loses two acres of farmland. We lost farm and ranch land 51 percent faster in the 1990s than in the 1980s. We’re losing our best land—most fertile and productive—the fastest. Our food is increasingly in the path of development.” Although Maxfeild claims to be addressing these matters on an economic level, he does not bring up any economic reasoning proving why these points are a bad thing. Instead he comments, “As one farmer put it, ‘we’ve gone from growin’ corn to growin’ houses.’” An economist is likely to assume Maxfeild wishes for government involvement to stop sprawl. Maxfeild’s reasons against urban expansion are erred for several reasons. First, Maxfeild fails to realize many farms are currently run inefficiently. In fact, the current farming system is a good example of government failure and redistribution of wealth. Let us remember that government is force. Government currently uses this force to IDLE millions of acres of farmland. The government uses 3 million taxpayer dollars in programs that pay farmers to NOT USE their farm land. The government is redistributing wealth by using taxpayer’s money to pay off farmers. Redistribution of wealth by the government is never efficient. When the federal government tries to limit urban growth to protect farmers, it attempts to correct a government failure with another government failure. If government would try a hands off policy, the correct balance between urban development and farms would emerge. In a free market, markets conglomerate and become interrelated to satisfy consumer’s wants and needs. “The irony of vast corn fields and pastures surrounded by construction sites and tract housing,” may actually be exactly what consumers want. If this is true, there is no negative externality or problem to be fixed after all.



Larry Eubanks said...

I think you probably miss one potentially crucial criticism. How can we know that we are losing "our" best farmland the fastest?

An additional criticism to explore might be why he considers the farmlands that are being lost "ours" rather than "theirs?"

Charmayne Marchuk said...

Subsidies primarily go to large agribusinesses, not "little poor farmers."

Anonymous said...

I think everyone is missing the most crucial problem here: the effects on the environement. If people were less worried about little short-term problems such as the economy and were more focused about the future of our planet, the world would be a better place.