Donkeys and People

Miranda donkeys found in the north east corner of Portugal receive $230.00 each from the EU annual agricultural budget of $78 billion.  Like 52 other species of European donkey, there are not many Miranda donkeys left.  Nevertheless, continuing to subsidize these animals which today are maintained out of long-standing caring by farmer owners is controversial.  The socialist mayor of the region says, “You need to subsidize to keep the donkeys and the farming tradition.  But, the result is also that everybody here has become completely dependent on them, so that there is no spirit of innovation and no desire to modernize, or even to produce more.”

Wow!  The mayor’s statement is a loaded one, especially applied to subsidies in this country.  Over the last 50 years or so, agricultural subsidies have practically wiped out the small, independent farmer.  However, grain and beef production has increased substantially.  If so, that means that the Portuguese mayor’s assessment of the donkey problem is wrong. However, if we apply the mayor’s logic to programs in the US that subsidies human beings, the analogy may be accurate. The application of subsidizing donkeys to subsidizing humans may sound abhorrent.  In reality, the mayor was not casting aspirations at the donkeys, but at those humans who use the subsidies in a very limited way.  Many people who receive subsidies use them productively, e.g. agro-business men.  Perhaps the mayor and other politicians should think of ways and means of creating a kind of environment in which public money spent in humane and good faith dignifies and inspires the recipients to achieve personal and societal achievement.  The profit motive does not always work.

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