Saturday, April 3, 2010

Agricultural Tyranny

Tyranny requires people to sustain the system that exploits them. The 'system' may be the brainchild of a person, a government (military or political), or an infrastructure. But regardless of the source of the tyranny it can only be managed through intimidation and deceit. Where people are afraid they invariably yield to exploitation. Where people are deceived they tolerate tyranny (whatever its ilk) for as long as they remain deceived about the alleged benefits of the tyrannical system.

Whether intentional or not, the tyranny against local agricultural autonomy has two forms -- urbanization and industrialization. Where house is joined to house, so that the land can no longer sustain its inhabitants, agriculture becomes the slave of luxury. Everyone needs to eat but not everyone wants to work to grow the food they need to survive. That 'odious' task is relegated to those seen as 'less sophisticated laborers' -- in other words, to family farmers. By default, urbanization tyrannizes local agriculture.

To avoid the distasteful stigma of human agricultural exploitation (and to turn a healthy tax-profit in the process), governments usually promote agricultural industrialization. In this way, rather than exploiting their fellow man, they are able to exploit the efficiency of machines and the fertility of the land. However, the long-term productivity of the land is better served when tended personally by the smallholder rather than by industry. Of course, it may be legitimately argued, this effort neither makes one extravagantly wealthy nor is it industrially efficient. But is that really important in the epic scheme of things?

It is true that more men will have to sacrifice more time and personal effort to make the smallholder's land 'fruitful' than under the management of a centralized industrial regime. Yet, at the very least, these personal efforts at local cultivation will feed one's family if not the nation, resulting in one less family on the government dole. Farming will also keep one's children out of trouble while engaging them in meaningful labor that promotes a healthy work ethic, good nutrition, and strong bodies (assets to any nation).

Where there are many houses, there is no land left to tend and land that is no longer tended cannot sustain the luxury of the people living on it. For, ultimately, the rich are sustained by the fruitfulness of the land and even the wealthy perish where the land is made barren. But the industrial solution, since it wears out the land through its relentless exploitation, offers little long-term hope for resolving this dilemma. For where the land is cultivated more by industry than by families it quickly loses its long-term fertility.

What is the lesson to be learned here? Agriculture cannot sustain industry. It was never meant to. It cannot sustain that which exploits it to death and all industry (in some measure) exploits agriculture as reliably as the wealthy exploit the poor. Poverty is always the wholesale price of extravagance and greed. Luxury both causes and becomes the eventual victim of its own exploitation.

Thus, the tyranny of luxury that further impoverishes the poor also eventually erodes the foundations of a nation's health and wealth. This is the fruit of agricultural tyranny -- that a people who can no longer provide for themselves bankrupt the nanny state they've created to serve them. Under such duress, the government's options are few -- revolution, repentance, or war. In the current social venue, where an expedient solution will only compound the problem, the right choice rests on the courage and humility of a nation's leaders.

Michael Hennen