Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Corn Syrup and Electoral Votes

On the chance that people are still checking this blog out occasionally and hoping someone's posted something new I thought I'd post something new.

This is a re-post of something I just posted in another IHS blog, for the the folks at the Liberty, Art, and Culture seminar this past summer. It's my own crazy theory and I'd be interested to see what some of you economist think about it. The state of farming in the U.S. is something I plan on doing a lot of further research on.

I've just spent the last week camping, (post on the national parks system possibly coming eventually), with a group of friends of mine from England. At some point they asked me why so much of our food has corn syrup listed as the first ingredient.

Here's my theory:

Presidential electoral math.

First, of course, I had to explain how the electoral vote system works, with each state getting a group of electoral votes bases on the number of Representatives plus two for each of their senators and whatever candidate wins most of the votes within the state wins all of the state's electoral votes and therefore they only focus on the swing states. (Then I went off on a tangent about how California is a tenth of the population of the US but only gets attention when the candidates want money, this is worthy of it's own post, but I'll hold off until later).

The problem with this is that because of the two senator electoral votes it's the less populated states that matter more. Additionally it's those less populated states that are easier to put into swing from one election to another.

And it just so happens that many of those less populated swing states are ones where farming is one of the major industries, Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania.

Add farming's historical importance in American history and the theory that's it's better to have too much food than too little and you come up with a situation in which farmers are given so much attention, subsidies and assistance that we end up with more corn than we know what to do with. This drives down the price of corn, making it easily accessible for food manufacturers to throw it in to nearly everything we eat without raising the cost of the food they're making.

This is all of course, all too straight forward to be completely true, but I'm sticking with it for now, despite the fact that I don't have any immediate data accessible to back it up. Eventually I'm planning on doing a bunch of research into the American farming industry, but in the meantime I'd love to hear the IHS collective's views on this theory.

**As a side note I'll just point out that New Mexico and Vermont(?) don't award all their electoral votes to just one candidate. I wish California would follow their lead although I disagree with the way they do decide who gets how many votes. I'll probably post something about this as we get closer to the election and I get more and more frustrated by politicking.


Blogger Brandon said...


I like your thoughts. Our farming system is messed up for the most part and I am glad that you will bring sound reasoning to the distortions that exist.

That being said, and being born and raised in Ohio and currently living in Columbus, I think religion and manufacturing have as much to do with our votes as does farming. The big thing a few years ago was the state constitutional ban on gay marriage. This year I have yet to see any adverstisements (the key races are for the state governor and one U.S. Senate position) that directly address farming; most of the ads discuss tax policy, jobs, and oil. To be sure, agriculture is important, but I think it matters more in a few of the other swing states you mentioned, like Iowa and Minnesota.

I think it should also be acknowledged that English food is awful so maybe your friends across the pond could actually use a little more corn syrup. And don't forget to visit my relevant but sorely neglected blog,

9:21 AM  
Blogger Jessica Spaulding said...

I think religion and manufacturing have as much to do with our votes as does farming.

True. But I'm arguing more the opposite, blaming the corn syrup situation on the voting system and not voting on corn itself.

In short my point is that because of our voting system small states get more attention and more policies in their favor, (be them about farming, manufacturing or gay marriage), than they would if our voting system better reflected the actual desires/interests of the country as a whole.

I enjoy blaming everything bad in this country on our electoral vote counting system.

I will pass along your comment about English food.

They will probably agree, but then point to McDonalds.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

I love McDonalds. There is no way I can ever resist a Big Mac.

Thanks for your clarification, I understand your point better. Perhaps the fact that there is significant pork-barrel spending on West Virginia and Alaska illustrates your point.

Correct me if I am wrong, but from my understanding certain smaller states would not have joined the union if not for the skewed voting system.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Jessica Spaulding said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but from my understanding certain smaller states would not have joined the union if not for the skewed voting system.

I think that's what the senate is for. States have the option of dividing up their electoral votes however they choose. Turns out I was completely wrong, it's not NM and VT, but Maine and Nebraska who select their electoral reps differently. I'm not sure the founding fathers could have predicted the vast differences in the size of states that exist today.

A quick look on Wikipedia shows that Los Angeles, (just the city, not the county), is almost exactly the size in area as Rhode Island, but it has nearly four times the population.**

While I'm quite happy to vote in local elections this is why I refuse to spend time deciding who to vote for as president. California's electoral votes are going to go to the democrats, and that's really all there is to it. Because I live in California my vote doesn't matter. Democrats in CA don't need it and Republicans don't have a chance. I'd rather spend my vote on a random third party in protest.

If I lived in Rhode Island however it would take a smaller group people to sway the results. RI, of course has less of an effect on the results than CA, but at least they have more of an oppotunity to voice their opinion.

**Aproximately. Wikipedia lists 2000 data for Rhode Island and 2006 data for Los Angeles

5:01 PM  
Blogger See Jay run said...

I read with interest and appreciation. There are still a few of us who stop by Cafe Liberty, at least every few years or so.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Jessica Spaulding said...

Excellent. Glad to know there's at least a couple of us checking it. Now we just got to get back to posting again.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

I promise to post later this week if you promise to post . . .

2:57 PM  
Blogger Jessica Spaulding said...

You got yourself a deal.

5:40 PM  

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