We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
That guys has no idea, other than what he sees from the interstate. Modern agriculture has to feed 7 billion people going to 9 billion in 20 years. He thinks it can be done with mules?
I'm a 4 th generation delta farmer. My daddy saw agriculture change more during his career than in the history of mankind, and it's changed as much since he died as before.
Modern farmers know, from technology what every row yields. The amount spent on seed would astonish most people, not to mention other inputs. And that tractor the he belittles the farmer, probably runs around the clock during planting and harvest season, and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Longest rant I've had in a long time, but that guy needs to spend some time on a modern farm.
I didn't see him suggest that it be done with mules - or even that it be done differently at all, for that matter. In fact, I don't recall him saying anything about the way things should be. His observations seem to be limited to the way things are.
Farming IS such and such a way - that is a fact. He doesn't say it shouldn't be that way, but he does say that what follows from that fact is more than just improved yields. In addition to feeding seven billion, the modern farm has other effects - including less conection to specific places and less understanding of how those places are changing over time.
He also does not say that everyone suffers the disconnection. As a 4th generation farmer, you may retain your connection to the place you farm, but the hollowing out of rural communities that he desgribes IS definitely happening, even as the farms around those communities make more money than ever before.
We can be glad for Farming's accomplishments while still recognizing that change has cost us some things that we will miss, can we not?
An additional consequence of the changes in American life in the last 100, but especially in the last 50, years has been to create an environment, a lifestyle, a way of life, a culture which is incompatible with traditional American values and ideals. The modern American urban world can afford a lot of cheap food, and a lot of cheap entertainment, and therefore feels itself to be wealthy. What it can no longer afford, and Berry -- in this essay -- hints at the reasons why, is liberty, individuality, personal responsibility, or limited government.
Agreed. And it's not just America, but every capitalist economy. Schumpeter observed that any capitalist society -- in order to function as a capitalist system -- depends on its citizens sharing certain values. He also pointed out that capitalism, by its very nature, is incapable of inculcating those values in its participants. Even worse, the values capitalism does teach are corrosive of its function. That is: in order for capitalism to work, it needs participants who believe things that capitalism cannot teach them -- and what it does teach poisons its own health.
Curiously, the American Founders made similar observations about liberty and government. Free societies need citizens who voluntarily think and act in law-abiding, honorable ways. If the government were to take it upon itself to teach those things, it would be acting outside the scope of what a free society would/should tolerate. In other words, a limited government cannot train its citizens to desire their own freedom. Consequently, governments will always trend towards less liberty over time and any attempt by the government to halt the decline only serves to hasten it.
I could go on about this at some length, but the bottom line is that the cards have been stacked against traditional American values and ideals from the very beginning. The true miracle of the American Experiment is that those ideals survived as long as they did.
Capitalism, free markets, and liberty itself do not give us what we should have, or what is best or most honorable, etc. They give us what we believe we want and leave us to deal with the consequences. Fortunately they also give us the tools to do so if we do not abandon them. Like all powerful tools they require respectful and thoughtful use. I have great respect for Wendell Berry's attempts to persuade, rather than coerce, us to use these tools in the pursuit of better things. The price, as always is eternal vigilance.