Mises's dynamics of interventionism: Lessons from Indian agriculture

Originally published in Southern Economic Journal

Despite trade liberalization, industrial delicensing, and deregulation in other sectors of the Indian economy since 1991, the agricultural sector is stifled by arbitrary, complex, and ever-increasing regulation in both input and product markets. This article resolves this puzzle of the Indian economy and, using Mises's theory of interventionism, explains the growth of regulation and subsidies in Indian agriculture. I argue that each intervention in agriculture created distortions in the market, necessitating the subsequent intervention in agricultural inputs and/or outputs. Land ceiling policies led to a large number of farmers with small and marginal landholdings. Attempts to increase agricultural productivity and income on small holdings led to interventions, and consequent distortions, in factor markets for seeds, fertilizer, electricity, water, credit, insurance, as well as in output markets in the form of minimum support prices. Indian agriculture policy serves as a cautionary tale of interventionism and needs systematic and comprehensive reforms.

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