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Thinking Carefully

A letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Michael Mirmak rightly opposes farm subsidies and tariffs (Letters, April 30).  But in doing so he commits a common error that insults sub-Saharan Africans.  That error is to assume that, if rich-nations’ policies artificially take agricultural markets away from Africans, then Africans are thereby condemned to poverty.

In fact, though, agriculture is only one of many possible paths out of poverty.  The people of Hong Kong, for example, did not begin their spectacular climb from poverty to affluence through farming but, rather, through small-scale manufacturing.

Are Africans fundamentally different than the Chinese?  Are Africans robots programmed only to grow crops?  Are Africans so bereft of talent, ingenuity, ambition, and flexibility that the only task at which they can possibly succeed is farming?  Of course not.  So let’s drop these insulting assumptions.

Donald J. Boudreaux