I don’t care about the Live 8 show. But others seem to, and make some pretty good babble.

For example, somewhat popular blogger Tim Bray opines that western agricultural policy is guilty of

deliberately, and as a matter of policy, promoting poverty and starvation in the world’s poorest countries […] What’s happening now is evil, just evil.

The argument for this indictment consists of admitted speculation that, in the absence of subsidies for one’s nation’s farmers, African farmers might be competitive. Yes, he even admits the tenuous connection:

What would happen if the rich part of the world abolished agricultural subsidies and trade barriers tomorrow? There’s only one sane answer: we don’t know.

So, on one hand, he claims that starvation of some ethiopian peasant woman is an explicit goal of western governments, as if that was a specific and desired effect of agricultural subsidies. On the same page, he says removing the subsidies may or may not have a beneficial effect. That implies that the western governments are being misguided about their weapon of choice: killing said ethiopian would be more effectively achieved by bombs than subsidies. Oops, don’t give them any ideas!!!

I predict that these subsidies will stay for a long time. They’re of course not a good thing for free market capitalism, in the same way that compulsory “wheat pools” distort the market, but there is an element of national security that might excuse their existence. I don’t know. But the chance of all the major nations will concurrently drop them is teeny. Dropping subsidies unilaterally is suicidal, so its likelihood is even smaller.