But when we have gone down the wrong road for so long, it is childish to refuse to join the right road because it will cause some discomfort.

Frédéric Bastiat
Economic Sophisms Third Series

The subsidies to the production of beet sugar constitute the opportunity to expose, higgeldy-piggledy, war, colonisation, slavery, taxes, subsidies and inertia. Starting with a dubious reasoning (“to guard against a possible war, they started a real one”) and shaky ethics (“as for the taxes, nothing has been lost since the money which leaves your pockets goes into ours”), Bastiat shows how logic can lead to an absurd situation where the costs of autarky are orders of magnitude higher than the supposed costs of free-trade.

The solution is then to reconsider applicable legislation but, because of vested interests in place, it cannot be done without pain, making the decisions politically difficult. This reminds me of the fable of the Three Municipal Magistrates.

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