The Rise of the Agricultural Welfare State: Institutions and Interest Group Power in the United States, France, and Japan
By Adam D. Sheingate
Princeton University Press, 2001, 279 pp.
The number of farmers in rich countries has declined to less than ten percent of the labor force. Yet U.S. farmers received $38 billion from taxpayers last year and even more from consumers who paid above-market prices for food. And the support for U.S. farmers is modest compared with what their counterparts in the European Union get, which in turn is modest compared with the help given to Japanese farmers. This interesting book grew out of a political science dissertation that focused on how a government's structure influences interest-group success. It is nonetheless a good read on the origin, evolution, and contemporary politics of agricultural-support policies in the United States, France, and Japan. The author concludes that the relatively fragmented system of American government has in fact made it more difficult for interest groups to capture government policy. Farmers have been far more successful in centralized France and Japan, where they have outmaneuvered powerful ministries of finance by forming political alliances with conservative parties that depend on the rural vote.