Friday, August 06, 2004

Why My Uncle Owes Me Money

I have an uncle that hunts. Whenever he’s in Iowa, he sets aside time to go out into the wilderness and kill things. He even brings his hunting dog. Shooting animals is not something that catches my fancy but I never had a problem with it until I learned I was paying for it.

The Conservation Reserve Program is a federal program that pays farms not to farm on land the government thinks is environmentally sensitive. This land is then used as natural habitat for various animals, including the popular game bird, the northern bobwhite quail. Not only that, President Bush is looking to add to the acreage eligible for the program.

This policy is so twisted, so backward, so ridiculous, it’s almost overwhelming to even list why. First, I’m told subsidizing farmers is a good thing because people should have cheap food (a tortuous argument itself because the food is actually more expensive; it’s just paid for twice). Then, more taxpayer money is spent to pay farmers not to produce which, of course, makes food even more costly. The eligible lands for this program are determined by the Department of Agriculture, an apparently omnipresent part of our government that knows which tracks of land are the most environmentally valuable (whatever that means). Finally, the whole program is justified by protecting wildlife which the government then charges people to kill. At least they aren’t being paid. Not yet, anyway.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to pull away so individuals have an incentive to buy this land and then charge hunters to hunt on it? Not only would taxpayers not be charged for an activity only a handful of Americans participate in, these entrepreneurs and farmers would be in a far better position to assess the value of this land. Of course, the twisted bureaucracy and backward incentives the government offers makes this solution highly unlikely. It’s enough to make me wish I owned a gun, but not one for hunting.

1 comment:

Erin said...

So, the government is giving out land to hunt on, land that can't be touched save for trapsing around in bright, blinding, neon colors and shooting the usually highly artificially placed inhabitants of said land, but our vice president--as well as the big, stupid guy--is upset because we don't drill for oil on the east coast, the west coast parts of Alaska and others? Wow. While I'm not saying that we should be drilling, I'm simply amazed that this administration wants to put any land off the 'no-touchy' list.
Huh, kinda does make arming yourself sound good.