Jesus. Every time I think my disappointment with Bush has reached its apex, he sinks to a new low. Mere days after delivering a shockingly libertarian speech at a White House tribute to free-market economist Milton Friedman, he’s signed this absurd farm bill, which he defends so thinly that even he seems to be saying: “Hey, we all know this is an indefensible ploy to get me some key farm states, so let’s just move on.” There’s a halfhearted attempt to claim that this thing is there to “preserve the small American farm” — apparently by turning icons of self sufficiency into pathetic welfare queens sucking at the public teat — but ultimately the bulk of the benefits go to huge agribusiness firms already flush with cash, like Archer Daniels Midland. Yup, just when you thought “the era of big government” was over, the mohair subsidy is back. I may be critical of garden variety social welfare programs, but I understand their appeal. I don’t understand the appeal of spending almost twice as much as we spend on that to subsidize people who don’t need subsidies. Are there a few small farmers who might go under without these grants? Sure, just like people fail at any number of businesses every year. Usually, we expect these people to find a new line of work, rather than paying them to continue doing something they’re not good enough at to survive on the open market. What’s really outrageous is that nobody supports this thing — other than the beneficiaries, of course. The environmental left and the free-market right seem to be competing to hate it more. In other words, there’s just no principled reason to do this, and worse yet, everybody knows it. So not only does Bush not mind sacrificing the national interest, and billions in taxpayer money, to buy a few votes, he doesn’t even care if it’s blindingly obvious that that’s what he’s doing. Further proof that our fearless leader is neither especially compassionate nor particularly conservative.
That aside, let me observe that the Cato job is perfect for me, even for non-ideological reasons, because it allows me to work in constant fugue mode. That is to say, I don’t have one big project at a time, I have twenty little ones. That means I can mentally alt-tab between them every ten minutes or so, preventing me from ever getting bored. Not that there’s much chance of that anyway — hell, I was even riveted by the eminent domain policy forum we hosted today. Just don’t tell my superiors that I plan to frequent the Engels Diner and the (surprisingly hep seeming) Marx Cafe, both around the corner from my new place.