Economist accused of treason

If Daniel Sumner’s actions be treason, as some of his critics contend, then he is glad the most has been made of it.

Sumner, an agricultural economist at the University of California at Davis, played a key role in an international trade case that is shaping up as one of the most significant defeats the United States has ever suffered on the trade front. An analysis that he wrote helped frame a preliminary decision issued two weeks ago by a World Trade Organization panel, which held that the federal subsidies paid to U.S. cotton farmers violate WTO rules because they cause overproduction, drive down world prices and impoverish farmers in developing countries.

Since Sumner served as a paid consultant for Brazil, which brought the case against Washington, he is being reviled as a traitor by some U.S. farmers. Leaders of some farm groups, furious at Sumner for helping a foreign government win a victory that could end agricultural subsidies in their current form, are vowing to retaliate by cutting off funding for other work that he does.

Here is the full story.

The cotton lobby has called the research “unethical,” noting that it was produced in a state university. Sumner’s Dean questioned his judgment in doing the work. And Sumner himself?

“What is this, the mafia or something? Think of it as a criminal case, and one side says, ‘We’ll put pressure on this guy not to participate.’ That’s not right, is it?”

Here is a brief bio of Sumner, to whom I offer my plaudits.