What Price Cabbage?

I’ve been reading stories about the skyrocketing cost of kimchee—given by rising prices for napa cabbage—for a couple of weeks now. And I think it’s a sign of how screwy policies toward agricultural trade are that it’s only as of yesterday that “the government has suspended tariffs on imported cabbage and radishes from China.”

Of course the good people of South Korea might want to reconsider the whole idea of sales taxes on Chinese vegetables on a permanent basis. This is a regressive tax on the poorest South Koreans, it disadvantages super-poor Chinese farmers relative to their richer South Korean counterparts, it promotes an inefficient allocation of labor and land resources in South Korea, does nothing for public health, etc.

Meanwhile, though America’s sales taxes on foreign-grown food are lower than those prevailing in most of the developing world we’re not entirely free of this kind of bone-headed policymaking ourselves.