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An Open Letter to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow

11 June 2013

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Capitol Hill
Washington, DC

Dear Sen. Stabenow:

On NPR this morning you expressed support for taxpayer-subsidized “crop insurance,” which, as NPR reports, “insures not just against yield loss from storms or drought but also from revenue loss, if commodity prices drop” (“How The Senate Farm Bill Would Change Subsidies“).  This program, you assert, “is insurance – and the farmer gets a bill, not a check.”

But as NPR reporter Tamara Keith notes, “That bill that farmers get covers about a third of the actual cost” – a subsidy that you justify by saying that “It’s got to be a bill that they [farmers] can afford to be able to provide the coverage….  And then there is no payout unless you have a loss.”

I applaud your reasoning and ethics!  I hereby demand government-subsidized “lecture insurance.”

A substantial portion of my annual earnings comes from giving lectures.  Unfortunately, due to factors beyond my control, some years I get ill and produce fewer lectures than I otherwise would produce or the demand for my lectures falls, obliging me to lower my fees.  I want to be insured against the resulting income loss.  Like America’s farmers, however, I refuse to pay full price for this insurance.  Like farmers, I demand that you oblige taxpayers to subsidize two-thirds of the cost of my lecture insurance.  I, too, want to free ride on others.

Education and knowledge – no less than food – are essential for America’s prosperity, international competitiveness, and national defense.  Subsidized lecture insurance will be a prudent program – one that will surely pay for itself many times over – for protecting us educators and knowledge producers from intolerable swings in our annual incomes and, hence, for ensuring that we don’t abandon our knowledge-production trades and leave America at the mercy of unreliable foreign educators and lecturers.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


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