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Not-So-Sweet Sugar ‘Program’

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Here’s a letter, sent last week, to the New York Times:

American Sugar Alliance economist Jack Roney asserts that “Sugar policy operates at no cost to taxpayers” (Letters [2], Jan. 23).  This assertion is true only if taxpayers never use sugar or sugar substitutes: sugar tariffs force Americans to pay an extra $2.5 billion annually for cane sugar, plus more for sugar substitutes, such as corn syrup, whose prices are driven up by the artificially high demand that sugar tariffs create for these substitutes.

Mr. Roney is correct that the higher prices caused by these tariffs don’t appear in Uncle Sam’s budget.  But so what?  It’s as ludicrous to imply that these tariffs are costless as it would be to imply that a government policy forcing persons whose home addresses end in an odd number to write checks for $10 to their neighbors directly across the street is costless.  In both cases, the benefits that government commandeers for some are paid for by others.

Donald J. Boudreaux

Carpe Diem’s Mark Perry finds [3] that the cost to U.S. consumers of Uncle Sam’s sugar ‘program’ are even higher than I report above