I learned in my Japanese class today that there's debate over the rice industry and its workings with the government in Japan. In 1942, during WWII, the government began buying rice from growers and selling at cheap prices through the Japanese Agriculture cooperative Association (JA). This helped keep prices low for consumers, and I believe it was with the goal of keeping the nation with enough food.
Zoom to today, after the war; the number of people buying and eating rice in Japan has been cut in half. The government continues to buy rice from growers, but fewer people are buying, so more and more rice is being stored up by the JA. Growers are lobbying to keep the status quo--after all, they have a guaranteed customer (the gov't) and are protected by the roil and toil of the economy and consumer demand. Rice fields fill up the countryside, and the government keeps buying. Who loses? The government, and subsequently, the Japanese people. Who do you think has to pay to store up all the unused and unbought rice?
Meanwhile, the growers are having a ball, sheltered from the reality of economic demand. Land is wasted, and resources are wasted; and the rice market is skewed.
Then there's the whole deal of imports of rice from abroad. Lunch boxes (erg, that is, boxed lunch sets with rice and meat, etc., called bentou) are imported from California with California rice. Rice growers in Japan ain't happy campers with that. Usually, plain uncooked imported rice would cost 490% more than Japanese-grown rice; however, these boxed lunches come in un-tariffed. The rice growing lobbyists urge the government to help protect them against these "evil" imports that are taking away Japanese jobs.
Adam Smith is doing somarsaults in his grave.
Enough of this silly hand-holding; wasn't that what broke the Japanese economic boom in the 90's?