Insidious

by Russ Roberts on March 8, 2010

in Environment, Politics

Daniel Kuehn comments on this post about how United States Sugar used environmentalism to exploit the taxpayer:

From a purely environmental perspective, the move does make a lot of sense. The location of the refinery is very damaging for the everglades. And my understanding is it has been talked about and planned since Jeb Bush was governor – so it’s not purely for the sake of U.S. Sugar during a tough time.

But the way that it has unfolded in the last year – particularly with Crist’s connections and the timing – obviously stinks.

That is the beauty (and the ugliness) of  public policy.

The “move does make a lot of sense.” So people who are sympathetic to the environment support the move to restore the Everglades by buying land currently owned privately. The sympathizers include economists who will argue that the Everglades is a public good so there is a justification for owning it publicly.

When the policy unfolds in practice, howerver, it isn’t done the way the economists or the environmentalists recommend. It is done to benefit the special interests. So when you look more closely and how the policy unfolds, it “obviously stinks.” Not only does the policy get shaped to profit the special interest. It sometimes does that in a way that voids the benefit that justified the policy originally.

The problem with intervention is that the special interest pays a lot more attention than the rest of us do when it comes time for the implementation.  That should give all of us pause when recommending a particular intervention.

How many fans of the Everglades knew that this was how it actually panned out? How many fans know now?

But United States Sugar is all over it.

There is always a bootlegger. The only question is how much of the benefit does he siphon away. Is it enough to offset potential benefits to others?

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