Approximately forty centuries later the farmers of America were faced with an economic disability of proportions. In this case the hurt was not caused by nature but by the law of the land. There was a great disparity between their income and their cost of living, caused by the fact that while they were compelled to accept for their product the price set in the competitive world market they were concurrently compelled to pay tariff-laden prices for their manufactured needs. Equity demanded the abolition of tariffs, but this would have weakened the power of the State, which would not do at all. So, some reformer came up with the idea that the farmer’s income be augmented with taxes levied on the rest of the population (even as the income of protected manufacturers is improved by tariffs) to the indefinable point where farm income would equal farm outgo. This was called “parity.” The politicians took to it not because they either understood the terms of the proposed law or foresaw its effects, but because advocacy of it promised them the preferment to which their lives were dedicated.
The bonanza promised the farmers turned out to be largely promise; since most of the farms of the country are owned on mortgage or are operated on a tenancy arrangement, a considerable portion of the subsidy goes to the mortgagees or real owners; more important, the artificial price which the State sets on crops puts them out of the world market while the domestic market is constricted by the tax-reduced purchasing power of consumers. As with all subsidies, some people do get something for nothing out of “farm relief” the rest of Society pay the bill, and the net profit is an augmentation of State power. For the reform measure, in operation, produced a multitude of unforeseen problems, each of which called for a remedial law and more enforcement agents, until at long last the farmer of America finds himself controlled, regulated, and otherwise harassed by the authorities. The dream of reform always portends a profit for Pharaoh.
Frank Chodorov was an advocate of the free market, individualism, and peace. He began as a supporter of Henry George and edited the Georgist paper the Freeman before founding his own journal which became the influential Human Events. He later founded another version of the Freeman for the Foundation for Economic Education and lectured at the Freedom School in Colorado.