Historical Patterns of
Peter H. Lindert
The governments of today's industrial countries distort their economies by protecting their farmers. Governments of developing countries, by taxing their farmers heavily, distort their economics even more. The explanation for this apparent tendency is just emerging. Since comparative analysis of agricultural pricing began in the 1970s, analysts using postwar data have revealed two patterns: the developmental pattern—the more advanced the nation, the more its government favors agriculture—and the anti-trade pattern—governments tend to tax exportable-good agriculture and protect import‐ competing agriculture.
The developmental pattern implies that successfully developing nations will drift toward subsidizing agriculture, although the record does not point to an obvious ending point in the most advanced nations. The anti-trade bias implies that policy will dampen comparative advantages the world over, cutting dependence on and gains from international trade in agricultural products. Both patterns seem to conflict directly with economists' models of efficient resource allocation. But research on this issue is relatively new and cuts across several disciplines, not just economics, extending well beyond traditional agricultural policy analysis. 1____________________