July 28

Ep. 0143: Rise of the Cane Kingdom, Part 1

Over the past century, large-scale sugar cane cultivation was developed in what became known as the Everglades Agricultural Area, the region just south of Lake Okeechobee, historically a part of the Everglades ecosystem which was drained in the early- to mid-twentieth century. However, making sugarcane cultivation in this area feasible & profitable has required massive amounts of government subsidization, including: draining the land in the first place & maintaining flood control infrastructure ever since; funding soil experiments; assisting sugar companies in finding cheap, controllable labor until the coming of mechanization in the 1990s; and keeping out foreign sugar & keeping the US sugar price artificially above the world price (usually 2-3x higher.) The sugar companies that receive all of this welfare often get to “profit” immensely, and up until a few decades ago were allowed to wreck havoc on South Florida’s ecosystem with impunity.

This is a fascinating story, and it’s also a very vivid real-world historical case study that illustrates a lot of concepts we’ve talked about on the DHP in the past, such as public choice economics, rent-seeking, the power elite, political entrepreneurship, etc.

Join CJ as he discusses:

  • Increasing US government policies designed to foster domestic sugar production (at the expense of consumers & taxpayers at large) in the late-nineteenth & early-twentieth century
  • Efforts by various people to create a ‘sugar bowl’ in South Florida during this time
  • The effects of the First World War on ‘the sugar question’
  • Renewed efforts to cultivate cane in South Florida in the 1920s & 30s, with increasing success
  • The creation of the United States Sugar Corporation (USSC) in the 1930s
  • The impact of World War II on sugar
  • Big Sugar’s shady labor practices, and their eventual turn towards highly controllable & exploitable foreign “H-2” laborers
  • The impact of the Cold War on Florida sugar, including the crucial impact of Fidel Castro’s 1959 Cuban Revolution

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Posted July 28, 2017 by profcj in category "American History", "Economic History", "Podcasts