The political economy of sugar legislation

Journal Article (Journal Article)

The findings of this paper are a rather straightforward account of the political economy of senatorial voting on the sugar program. In the spirit of Stigler and Peltzman's accounts of interest group activity, voting on sugar is indeed related to the concentration of economic interests in the Senators' states. States with high concentrations of sugar growers and processing tend to vote for the program, those with high concentration of users tend to vote against it. The emergence of corn syrup as a sugar substitute and its subsequent interests in the program further supports this perspective. These concentrated interests are associated with conditions ripe for overcoming the collective action problem and, we infer, use their organizations to influence senatorial behavior. The political variables suggest countervailing forces which can be interpreted, at least in part, as further examples of organized (here, politically organized) influences on the interests of Senators. Thus, while the model is one of opposing interests, those of producers and users tend to influence different Senators. The major group-interest trade-off, then, is between the pull of organized interests in the constituency with that of party organization at the national (or national institutional level), at least for those for whom the pull is in opposite directions. It is clear, then, that variables representing (concentrated) consumer interests as well as variables representing grower and processor interests as well as variables representing grower and processor interests are significant in determining voting patterns on sugar legislation in the Senate. This model, therefore, is not one in which one-sided organizational interests operate politically uncontested. That, even so, consumer interests are not powerful enough to prevent sugar programs from passing is clear at one level, due to the existence of the program over most of this period. The existing level of the transfers from consumers to producers and of deadweight losses must be reflective of the magnitude of their respective free rider problems. Yet voting on the program to renew or alter those benefits at any level clearly reflects these interests and their interplay. © 1991 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Harper, RK; Aldrich, J

Published Date

  • June 1, 1991

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 70 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 299 - 314

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1573-7101

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0048-5829

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/BF00156237

Citation Source

  • Scopus