Are Sugar Tariffs Good Policy or Cronyism?

Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida wrote an op-ed in the Daily Caller defending sugar tariffs, and claiming they are a necessary policy.

Economist Art Carden isn’t buying this argument. He wrote a rebuttal to Rep. Rooney’s piece, also published in the Daily Caller:

Congressman Rooney would do well to heed the wisdom of 19th-century economist Frederic Bastiat. In the words of one of my students, “Restricting trade is using force with the intent to increase production, but it is costly. In What is Seen and What is Not Seen, the economist Frederic Bastiat writes, ‘To use force is not to produce, but to destroy.’ Destruction takes away opportunities for innovation and growth, and it leads to a static society.”

Tariffs benefit special interests, but the losses to consumers are larger than the gains to domestic producers and the government. As a country, we would be better off without sugar tariffs.

Academic Veronique De Rugy also disagrees with Rep. Rooney, and wrote that these policies are nothing more than cronyism:

Unfortunately, lawmakers from Florida such as Marco Rubio and Tom Rooney continue to ignore the incredible cost this presents to Americans, and vote in favor of these protections. I have made the case before that we need to end this cronyism, and obviously we need to continue making it.

Economist Don Boudreaux went farther, authoring a letter to Rep. Rooney countering his claims and furthering the point that these policies are really just special interest favors:

The world price of sugar today…is about half of the price of sugar in the U.S. This fact reveals that the sugar producers with genuine OPEC-like monopoly power are not the ones that Uncle Sam must forcibly prevent us from patronizing (foreign growers), but, rather, American growers whose gluttonous special privileges are created by the very program that you seek to justify with your Orwellian sophistry.