Archive for December, 2009

Some insights from Rushdoony

I’ve been rereading The Nature of the American System by RJ Rushdoony. The basic premise of the first chapter is that America was established as a Protestant Feudal Restoration, a culture built on localism. What I found interesting was that Rushdoony points to the change to the “winner takes all” approach to the electoral college as the first attack on localism. In the early days of the republic, electoral votes were divided somewhat on congressional district lines. This meant that a state could divide its electoral votes several ways, the rural districts had the same representation as the urban centers. When it changed to winner takes all, the urban areas controlled the election. More than that, the minority “swing votes” became the most important vote to get. A minority group could give you the 1 or 2% edge needed to get all the votes of a state. This of course is why the rural, productive land owners are ruled and tyrannized by the city folk living in a rented apartment. Perhaps a return to localism will require reform in the way electoral votes are counted.

Feminism and the Industrial Revolution

Its common for conservatives to imagine that the feminism came along because a bunch of God haters set out to destroy the Christian order. I believe that was true of those who promoted and financed the movement, but I also believe that the industrial revolution made it possible to convince rank and file females to join the movement. Without it, I don’t believe many would have given it serious consideration.

The destruction of the Christian family was well underway before feminism. The old time relationship of husband and wife as co-dominionist under God was pushed aside. The wife’s calling of being a helper in her husbands vocation and vision was reduced to that of a sexual partner once man left home to work for someone else. Add all the labor/time saving tools for house work, the absence of the family garden, store bought clothes and cheap entertainment and do you really have to wonder why women felt unsatisfied with their lives. Many downplay the charge of the feminists that women had become “sex objects”. But I think they had a bit more behind their charge than we think. Marriage had been reduced to two people who had dinner and sex together. What I find interesting is that as marriage became more about sex, children almost disappear from the family. Where the proper marriage relationship existed, children abounded. The farm was always full of children. Christianity had the answer to the problems feminism sought to address, in the biblical family, but the Christian church had already sold her soul to the industrialist. She could have resisted and refused to take part in the economy that would lead to her practical suicide, but instead she chose a darwinistic view of “progress”. Things have never been the same.

Agrarian Resistance

One thing that is amazing to me, is that our slavery to the Banker-Industrialist class is one of voluntary slavery (at least at present). We are, to a large extent, able to walk away with our freedom and choose a different path. I say “to a large extent” because the reality is that many are so far down the debt hole that they can not climb out, they can however set their children up to live outside the bondage of the moneychangers. In the future we might not be able to walk away as easy, the past couple of years we have seen the government try to make it illegal to do everything from growing food to buying it. Food is an important part of the new “control grid” they are setting up. Most of the anti-establishment groups in this country are of no great concern to Elite, only Agrarianism truly threatens the very foundation of their empire and I suspect we will become the real villains of the State in the not to distant future. This being said, we still have today the ability to step away and a build the foundations of an alternate order. The best advise on how to do this comes from Lytle’s great essay The Hind Tit, which is available to read online. Lytle is one of the few people who really understood how to best resist the moneychangers.

To avoid the dire consequences and to maintain
life in an industrial imperialism, there seems to
one thing left for the farmer to do, and particularly for
the small farmer. Until he and the agrarian West and all
the conservative communities throughout the United States
can unite on some common political action, he must deny
himself the articles the industrialists offer for sale. It is not
so impossible as it may seem at first, for, after all, the necessities
they machine-facture were once manufactured on the
land, and as for the bric-a-brac, let it rot on their hands.
Do what we did after the war and the Reconstruction:
return to our looms, our handcrafts, our reproducing stock.
Throw out the radio and take down the fiddle from the
wall. Forsake the movies for the play-parties and the square
dances. And turn away from the liberal capons who fill
the pulpits as preachers. Seek a priesthood that may manifest
the will and intelligence to renounce science and search
out the Word in the authorities.

So long as the industrialist remains in the saddle there
must be a money crop to pay him taxes, but let it occupy
second place. Any man who grows his own food, kills his
own meat, takes wool from his lambs and cotton from his
stalks and makes them into clothes, plants corn and hay for
his stock, shoes them at the crossroads blacksmith shop,
draws milk and butter from his cows, eggs from his pullets
water from the ground, and fuel from the woodlot, can
live in an industrial world without a great deai of ‘cash.
Let him diversify, but diversify so that he may live rather
than that he may grow rich. In this way he will escape by
far the heaviest form of taxation, and if the direct levies
grow too exorbitant, refuse to pay them. Make those who
rule the country bear the burdens of government.

Lytle’s advise is as true today as it was when he wrote it. If the “agrarian movement” fails to see the power and importance of the subsistence economy, it will become as feeble as the other anti-establishment movements. The money crop IS IMPORTANT, but is not the MOST IMPORTANT part of the farm. We can’t do without it and it is stupidity to try not to have one, but we must not let the tool become the ends. We must balance our “Salatin” with a healthy dose of “Logsdon”.

Wendell’s Wisdom

Wendell Berry is one of my most favorite writers and thinkers alive today. His book The Unsettling of America had a large part to do with my conversion to organic farming from conventional. I always enjoy reading Berry, and while he may be a bit of a theological liberal at times, I believe that all people who consider themselves “conservative” and Christian could learn a great deal from this man. Berry is the most eloquent defender of Agrarianism in our time. I recently came across an interview from Sojourners magazine, a magazine I am not at all familiar with. It was a very good interview and I thought I would share some of it with you.

On subsistence economies

When you take away the subsistence economy, then your farm population is seriously exposed to the vagaries of the larger economy. As it used to be, the subsistence economy carried people through the hard times, and what you might call the housewife’s economy of cream and eggs often held these farms and their families together. The wives would go to town with eggs and cream once a week, buy groceries with the proceeds, and sometimes come home with money. Or they’d sell a few old hens, that sort of thing. So that’s the first lesson to learn about agriculture, as far as I’m concerned: It needs a sound subsistence basis. People need to feed themselves, next they need to feed their own communities. That’s what we’re working for now. We want to develop a local food economy that local producers will supply and that the local consumers will support. It’s ridiculous that we should be importing food into this state while our farmers are suffering.

On GMOs and economics

I think that the real reason for genetic engineering is to put absolute control of the food system into corporate hands. They don’t want anybody – farmer or urban consumer or anybody else – to have anything whatsoever that they don’t buy from a corporation at the corporation’s price. In other words, economic totalitarianism is the goal. And I don’t think the difference between political totalitarianism and economic totalitarianism is worth lingering over. If you’re not economically free, if you don’t have economic choices, you’re not free.

On economic choice

BERGER: It seems like it always comes back eventually to the individual’s choice. Does one choose to live in an economy of grace, based on generosity, or in an economy of scarcity based on acquisition?

BERRY: You have to realize that people are working very hard to remove that choice, to make it impossible to make such a choice. And they can do that simply by putting the land entirely under corporate control. It can happen. We’re pretty well advanced into a corporate or capitalist totalitarianism. And it’s a very strange thing to see happen, because we were lately so much afraid of communist totalitarianism. You can remove that choice we were talking about simply by making it impossible for small economic enterprises to survive.

You can use Wal-Mart as a weapon, for instance, to destroy the economic centers of small towns and small cities.

On the practice of faith

Any religion has to have a practice. When you let it go so far from practice that it just becomes a matter of talk something bad happens. If you don’t have an economic practice, you don’t have a practice. Christians conventionally think they’ve done enough when they’ve gone to the store and shopped. But that isn’t an economic life. It isn’t an economic practice. If you take seriously those passages in the scripture that say that we live by God’s spirit and his breath, that we live, move, and have our being in God, the implications for the present economy are just devastating. Those passages call for an entirely generous and careful economic life.

The bible and usury

There’s a fairly explicit attempt back there in the early books of the Old Testament to see that property doesn’t accumulate into too few hands. There’s a real attempt at economic democracy. The idea of the Jubilee year is a deliberate affront to what we now call capitalism. There’s a lot that’s been said, not just in the Bible, but in the biblical tradition in literature, on the subject of usury. Dante was pretty explicit about it. It would put you in hell because it implied, among other things, a contempt for nature. It’s an attempt to go around the natural world and human work and make money grow out of itself. It’s an attempt to make value grow in the abstract, without work, without a real product. As lots of people have said, this goes against the real economy of the world. Ezra Pound has a great canto on usury, two of them as a matter of fact. “With usura hath no man a house of good stone.” Nobody can have good things when you let money become its own value.

The whole interview is Here.

Industrialist, Environmentalist or Agrarian?

It should often be noted that Agrarianism does not view the Created order as does Modern Industrialism. Industrialism sees value in Creation only as raw material to be harvested and given a monetary price by the market. The vast handiwork of God’s Creation is thus reduced to its mining potential for monetary profit.

This shortsighted vision of the industrialist fails to see less readily tangible value in land as secure homesteads, much less comprehend intangible values to the family or community. Here is where farms are seen and become homes, dwelling Places of independent security and love — where animals, trees, food and families are carefully nurtured within a balanced complexity for generations. The same can be said concerning ponds, streams and lakes. Here is an important and recurring reality which highlights the distinction between Industrial Modernism and Agrarianism: Agrarianism acknowledges a broad and complex balance-sheet in calculating Net Values — while Industrialism focuses almost exclusively upon tangibles, readily reduced to monetary values on quarterly statements yielded to market price valuations.

As sympathetic as Agrarians might be, his long-view of sustainability and the conservation of Creation does not, however, make him a modern environmentalist. Granted, a typical environmentalist is a generalisation which is unfair to many sincere and careful people willing to accept the label. Agrarians and Environmentalists might often be advocates for the same side of an issue — but likely for very different reasons. Be this as it may, Modern environmentalism has generally granted far too many concessions to Modern Industrialism for the Agrarian. This is especially so in two important areas: Science and Government.

Read the rest of David Rockett’s fine article Here.

You may also enjoy another article of his, The Prima Facie Credibility of Covenantal Agrarianism

Agrarianism Reborn and the Question of Property and Rent

I recently came across this article by Allan Carlson called Agrarianism Reborn: On the Curious Return of the Small Family Farm. It is a very interesting read, Carlson begins with simple observation.

The farming future may not lie
with the consolidators, speculators, and
agribusinesses. Rather, it may lie with the
resurrection of a family-centered agriculture.
On the surface, this would seem to
be among the least likely of twenty-firstcentury
possibilities. All the same, as the
land-use expert Eric Freyfogle enthuses,
“agrarianism is again on the rise” and
“agrarian ways and virtues are resurging
in American culture.” Oddly enough,
there is evidence to back up these claims.

There is a lot of good stuff in this article and I hope you will take the time to read it. At the end Carlson points out a few problems he see’s with the new agrarian movement. Readers of this blog are Christian agrarians, so we can share his worries about some of the kooky pagan religions that can be found in some “new agrarians”. I think we need to be more vocal about the relationship of true Christianity and agrarianism. We still don’t have any major writings available to the masses by any of “our wing” of the agrarian movement. The question that really got me thinking however was the question of how we could have any kind of wide distribution of property today, something vital to any meaningful movement back towards agrarian culture. This topic is widely ignored because it always brings controversy. My next paragraph will give some of my thoughts on how we could fix the property problem.

Abolish the practice if renting. This simple act would, in time, return us to a nation of small landholders. By removing the prime reason many consolidate property, we could discourage that consolidation of property. If people could not rent the land to poor people, who through the practice of renting will never have the assets to purchase land, they may choose to sell it. This would increase the amount of land for sale, driving down the prices. People could spend the money they were spending on rent and put it into land ownership. Now I know this sounds crazy and America is not ready for a ban on rent, but what if…. What if we as Christians decided that renting property to people and trapping them into this wicked form of slavery was wrong? What if we refused to take advantage of or neighbors, but instead helped them become property owners. I have a friend who the Lord has greatly blessed financially. This man is one of the few christian men I know who manages the assets God has entrusted him with with fear and trembling. A few years ago he paid cash for a house in PA and recently moved to another part of the country. He wanted to keep the property since it was better than holding a pile of worthless FRNs. He had this house that he could easily have rented out to someone for a good monthly income. He refused to do this however, because as he saw it, having someone living in the house was in his best interest anyway. The pipes wouldn’t freeze, rats wouldn’t move in, it wouldn’t be vandalized, and so on. The thought of charging someone for doing him a service seemed wrong. He also thinks the concept of renting is as wrong as the charging of interest because of its oppressive nature. My friend decided that he would find a Christian family who didn’t have the money to buy their own house and let them live there rent free. These people could now take the money they would have been using for rent and instead put it away towards a down payment on their own land. This man would rather use his wealth to bless other believers rather than oppress them. What a concept! Can you imagine what kind of future we could build for our people if only a small percentage of Christians acted like this. You see, at the end of the day, we wouldn’t even need to have a nation wide ban on renting. If we Christians only had the desire to truly love our neighbors and treat them lawfully, we could change the culture in a few generations.

Early Morning Thoughts on the Agrarian Life

There are many reasons why Agriculture is such a enjoyable calling and occupation. One of these reasons is variety, what some would call the spice of life. Yes, the farming life is very spicy. There are few occupations that require such a broad list of skills as the farmer. The list is so expansive that no one farmer ever masters them all and he spends his whole life as a steward of creation, learning. The farmer is a student first and foremost, always learning and observing, searching out the complexities of God’s creation. It is a lifelong pursuit. If our city cousins put this much time and effort into their “jobs” it would destroy their lives, but the farmer has not a “job” but only a life. Agriculture is way of life and everything the farmers does is done with those he loves, his family and the creatures placed in his care. Yesterday my second oldest son Noah and I were working together catching up on some extra work that needed to be done before his brother John and I started milking. Noah is five and that day he learned how to put a tire on the skidsteer, how to properly tighten lug nuts and what could happen if you do the wrong way. After that we worked on a plumbing project, installing new drinking cups and water lines in the part of tiestall barn we are remodeling. By milking time I felt confident that Noah could do the job himself if he needed to. This is where farmers learn their skills, at their daddy’s side. Generation after generation, farmers learn to be good welders, veterinarians, electricians, soil scientists, plumbers, mechanics, breeders and so on, at their daddy’s side. They learn to read the sky, judge the yield of standing crop, check the dryness of a windrow and know when an animal is becoming sick by the look in her eye, all by living life with their family every day. The farmer dose not understand his city cousin and feels uneasy talking with him. The city cousin has traded a full and abundant life for a dull and compartmentalized one. This, to the farmer, would be worse than death.