Cover of MoneyWeek magazine issue number 415

Grow your profits

19 December 2008 / Issue 415

The money to be made from trees... PLUS: 

  • Profit from the fight against cyber-criminals
  • Is it time to buy into corporate bonds?
  • Bill Bonner sees the funny side of Madoff's rip-off

Excerpt

Pity the Mozzarella makers

Forget the banks, forget the car makers. The biggest bail-out story of last week – or the most entertaining, at least – has to be the news that Italy will spend €50m buying up 200,000 rolls of cheese. The cheese will be given ‘to the needy’, which I’m sure the needy are very happy to hear. But this isn’t about helping the poor – it’s about propping up northern Italy’s cheese-making industry. The problem the cheese makers face is clear: there are too many of them. There are more than 400 makers of Parmigiano Reggano around the city of Parma. The cheese costs more to make than they can sell it for.

But rather than let a few manufacturers go to the wall, or at least join forces to cut production costs, the Italian government would rather subsidise their way of life. Now, maybe Italian taxpayers don’t mind being forced to pay to keep someone else’s family business open. But this is more than just a burden on the taxpayer. It gives the subsidised firms an unfair advantage – for example, the makers of Buffalo Mozzarella (sales of which have been hit by Naples’ refuse problems) aren’t included in the bail-out, and are now complaining bitterly.

We could dismiss all this as Italy just being, well, Italy. But government intervention is all the rage these days – even in the home of capitalism…

• Read the full editor’s letter here: Pity the Mozzarella makers