I can't log in to comment on the RBC. I don't know why.
Mark Kleiman proposed "A Populist Substitute for Farm Subsidies."
Through whatever mechanism, reduce the amount of subsidy paid (e.g., by finally putting an enforceable upper limit on how much any individual, family, firm, or group of firms can collect). For each county where subsidies were paid, total up the reduction and divide that amount by teh population of the county.
Pay out 125% of that amount to each resident of the county in the first year, 120% in the second year, 115% in the third year, and so on.
Andrew Sabl argues that Kleiman doesn't know what populism is writing
Mark proposes replacing agricultural subsidies with cash grants, of steadily decreasing amounts every year, to residents of rural areas. His plan sounds unimpeachable in terms of efficiency, equity, environmentalism, etc., and he wonders why nobody's discussed it.
Short answer: they haven't discussed it because it's un-American. Agricultural subsidies involve paying people for doing What Decent People Do: that is, work—and most particularly, work at growing stuff and raising sources of future barbecue. Cash payments given out regardless of the work done by their recipients involve, well, welfare.
Sabl is wrong about Agricultural subsidies. Subsidies have long been paid for Not working.
Mounting surpluses and increased costs of government programs led to the enactment of a flexible price support program (1954) and of the Soil Bank program (1956), which provided for direct payments to farmers in return for reducing their acreage of major supported crops and required that they leave fallow the land removed from production.
Now Sabl is certainly partly right. His main point is the following
When Mark calls his scheme "populist," he's falsely implying that populism has something to do with equity or distributive justice. But in fact, populism--wherever it has existed, though it's much stronger and louder in the U.S. than in, say, Western Europe--is, above all, producerism. It's grounded in a moral distinction between those who do Real Work (agricultural, or, grudgingly, urban but physical) and those who use their abstract intelligence to exploit the real workers through useless tasks like finance or politics.
This is, or once was, true. However, according to Sabl populists ought to hate Sarah Palin who increased the cash given to each citizen of Alaska for doing nothing.
While recognising that Sabl is absolutely right about the ideology of the original populists (the people's party in the USA) I think he over-estimates the extent to which current US self proclaimed populists really mean "give the money to me" and oppose say AFDC, because it is money going to others not to people like them. Taht is populists can and have been bought off.
That is, I think that Sabl is right and Kleiman is wrong about the best definition of the word "populist," the definition which applies to the most self declared populists in history, I don't think that populism as he correctly defines it is really such a strong force in the USA.
Frankly, I think that current self declared populists have more in common with the Democratic party pseudo populists like pitchfork Ben Tilmann (perfect name for a populist showing his ancestors were Northern European plowmen by the way) than the original populists. I believe that most of them use the rhetoric of populism to dress up interest group politics, regionalism, and racism. I'm sure they can be bought off.