Gene Logsdon and Friends

Uprooting Independent Garden Farmers

In Gene Logsdon Blog on June 26, 2013 at 7:27 am

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From GENE LOGSDON

Millions, yes millions, of Chinese rural people (by definition, small scale farmers) are being uprooted from their land and moved to high-rise apartments. The smallholders are being paid to move and supposedly provision is being made to supply them with jobs and security in future years but when I see pictures of the forests of high rises that are going up for these country people to live in, I am horrified. I can’t imagine how the government can afford the cost of such fast-paced, large-scale urbanization and I definitely don’t believe it is sustainable, trading in self-sufficiency for utter dependency on urban economics and fossil fuel energy.

I quote from the NYTimes of June 16: “If half of China’s population starts consuming, growth is inevitable,” said Li Xiangyang, vice director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics, part of a government research institute. “Right now they are living in rural areas where they do not consume.”  To an old country boy, this is terrifyingly wrongheaded thinking. All the new high rises going up, and not just in China, are to me the modern version of the pyramids, an example of yet another society gone berserk with what it thinks is infinitely available cheap energy. The pyramids did it with cheap human labor, we do it today with cheap fossil fuel. 

One can argue that the Chinese are only trying to do in a few years, what it took the United States to do in a century with so-called capitalism. We saw our population shift from 90% rural to 90% urban. We saw government, influenced by books like Wheeler MacMillan’s 1929 book, “Too Many Farmers,” embrace the kind of economics that supports the uprooting of small landholders. At least with so-called capitalism, the change came more gradually so that people had a generation or two to adjust. But more and more people are saying that what has happened as a result is not good. We are learning that a nation of consumers, which China seems so anxious to establish in a great big hurry, is not sustainable. What wonderful books will eventually be written about this great irony.  While a revolution is going on to uproot independent farmers in China, a revolution is going on in the United States to root a viable local food and farmer society back in the ground again.

Why does rural society inevitably gravitate into the cities, either by force or by choice? It appears that in this case, some of the peasant farmers in China like the idea of moving into high rises. I can’t figure it out for sure. Can you? My best bet so far is that the lure of cash money is more powerful than the lure of independence when independence can only come with what seems to be unpleasant physical labor. Food independence means someone has to do the work and only a small portion of the human race seems genetically programmed to like that work. The rest choose money and the promises of ease that it seems to offer.  By the time the laboring classes figure out that it just ain’t so, they are trapped, often in jobs far more uncomfortable than hoeing corn rows. Yet parents and teachers continue to educate children to go to the city “to make something of themselves.” That is an awful mistake especially now when electronics brings the whole world to our doors. A landscape of high rises will become the new ghettoes. Or, with just a slight drop in the amount of electricity available, they will turn into high rise mausoleums.
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  1. Sorry about the late night work for you, but glad you don’t have a basement full of water!!

    Kristina

  2. Mankind’s inclination is to do the wrong thing. You can see it on the local level when the kid tries meth, and on the national level when our leaders lie when they should have just apologized, or global scale as we see in your post.
    Why we are drawn to self destruction I do not know. Perhaps I just listen to too much old country western music…

  3. Ironic I see this is morning as my Wife and I were talking about this very thing over breakfast. The rapid rise of the middle class in China and India is going to cause a sharp raise in food prices in this country all but putting the nail in the coffin of the middle class here. If you have any desire for freedom get some seeds and start learning how to grow food for yourself NOW!

  4. Has anyone seen the wonderful BBC series “White Horse Village”? It describes this process. Many of the villagers claimed in the end happy to be moved, but not all, and they had to FIGHT for a half decent settlement. The series spans some years. Highly recommended. The photo on top is my worst nightmare. There is also some evidence that this sort of housing brings out the worst in people. “Theodore Dalrymple”, pseudonym of British psychiatrist Anthony Daniels, poses this question in the essay “Do sties make pigs?” http://www.city-journal.org/html/5_3_a4.html

  5. Its all about control by bad Gov’ts here and in China and as you say about supplying cheap
    labor for businesses that are in lock step with the Gov’t.In the 60′s most of our farmer neighbors took the bait and moved ‘uptown’ sold the farm and laughed at those of us that stayed on the farm.But now their kids work at McDonald’s and Walmart if they can find a job at all and can’t aford 2 acres of their family’s old farms to build a house or even put a house trailer on.Owning a piece of the Earth has always meant a degree of independence that others don’t have and a way to pass independence and prosperity on down to the next generation IF they have sense enough to
    appreciate it.

  6. Didn’t Pearl S. Buck explore this idea in The Good Earth?

  7. I endorse Gary’s comment. It is all about control. The powers that be find it much easier to manipulate and manage people when they are all in a relatively small location rather than spread out over the landscape. Farmers and those on the land are also notoriously fiercely independent in their thinking and ways which is an anathema to big brother. David Korten’s book “The Great Turning” describes this process with frightening accuracy from the earliest historic times to today and beyond.

    Go for it farmers, go!!

  8. Logsdon,

    That NYTimes article gets me into a mental knot every time I’ve thought on it over the past week. The hubris of man is the only thing at bounded by physics. In this particular case, the sociopathy of some and the docility of the rest makes my stomach feel like a pack of stale dough.

    This is the exact same thing England did, taking their queue from Adam Smith, to the Irish to make them into a servile underclass to feed to the coal mines and finally make their factories and economies of scale economical –only to the 1% of course.
    And many of those poor b@$|@%&s trade into it for subsidized meals and work at a strawberry consortium.

    Equally dumbfounding is the uprooting of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands in Brazil to make room for their first Belo Monte mega-dam project, 18 others are in the works if this one succeeds. I quote word-or-word one of them now living in one of the newly built favelas (with staples such as overcrowding, raw sewage running down the middle of the main alley as found in favelas around Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo) when questioned by one of his friends on (1) how is the work, and (2) why would he choose to work for the construction companies: “The work is very hard, many times I work from dawn to dusk. But there’s nothing to do in the jungle, only fish and hunt. Here, I can buy stuff.” HAWHAWHAW, my uncle had to turn it off as it was affecting his blood pressure.

  9. This seems to be just one more way to control the people. Very sad and more than a little scary.

  10. I am staying in a rental unit it a city awaiting the birth of my grandchild. I miss my farm! Thankfully I am away for a happy reason and can go home again. The picture of the high-rises is so depressing!

  11. Logsdon,
    Your wrongheading attack on capitalism continues! It is a system of individual economic freedom. the individual chooses to enter into mercantile arrangements based on his own needs and abilities. It depends on a common law system, but it put the individual at the center. It’s a wonderful system if governments would stop subidising and meddling quite so much.

    China is not practicing anything remotely similar to capitalism. The economy is mostly centrally planned and it forces these people into these modern ‘communes’. The United States barely has any capitalism left either. Most of our markets are subsidized, over-regulated or manipulated. Natural market forces which would have long ago checked rampant speculation are suppressed. Savings and production are now dirty words and replaced with over-consumption and debt. The brillant lefties of American academia, the IIMF, World Bank and UN have led us into this brave new world. They are try to duplicate the process in China by launching consumerism.

    Good Luck to them. Maybe one farmer in china can feed 100 people, too.

    • Eddy, what do you think Mr. Logsdon meant by the “so-called” with which he prefaced each mention of American capitalism? Does your defense of capitalism extend to everything billed as capitalism, too? When you say capitalism is a system where individuals choose based on their “needs” isn’t that sugarcoating a system that’s completely blind to differences between needs on the one hand, and pure greed and vanity and envy (and other evils) on the other? (I don’t mean to imply that there’s a better system for governments to institute, but aren’t you sugarcoating capitalism?)

  12. Mr. Logsdon, Do you think the book you mentioned, Too Many Farmers, would be insightful reading today for the likes of those that follow your blog?

    • Eric B. There was a lot of hell raised about Too Many Farmers (by people like me) but Wheeler MacMillan was someone I knew personally (he lived to be 100) and I wrote a long interview with him, I think in New Farm magazine which no longer exists except online but it might have been Lawnowner. (I’ve written so many things I’ve lost track of it all.) I liked him even though I disagreed with him a lot. He was a clear thinker and I liked the way he wrote, concise and to the point and often contrary. You will find a lot of forward thinking in his book (he wrote several others) and he was editor of Farm Journal magazine before I went to work there. But he was still around sometimes. As a very young man milking 100 cows with my father, I read him in Farm Journal because of his humor and common sense and I was surprised to find out that he had written Too Many Farmers. I would say it is a good book to read from an historical point of view (being published in 1929). I would also say, as more or less a liberal, that he was the kind of conservative I had no trouble getting along with. He also knew farming intimately from doing it himself, so in that sense I think he is worthwhile reading. His faith in so called capitalism and his idolizing and idealizing the “free” market system was in my opinion naive. But he was an okay guy and I think you would find him entertaining reading even if, like me, you disagree with him. And thank you for replying to Eddy exactly as I would have replied. I try not to get argumentative or defend myself in this blog. Let everyone have his or her say I say. We all suffer from what I call over-idealization. We have in our minds such firm, clear convictions to which we give names (“capitalism” “socialism” “God” that we are sure they exist outside our minds the way they exist inside our minds.
      Thank you and all the others who make this blog interesting. Gene

      • Oh dear, Eric, I said ‘Lawnowner’ above when I meant Landowner. Gene

  13. It IS all about control – and don’t think it can’t happen here. Because the UN’s Agenda 21 has not disappeared. The idea being to force the masses to live in the cities so that the land could be controlled by the gov’t – food production would be in the form of forced labor. Yep they were spouting that stuff in the 70′s but no one liked it and they pushed back. But they’ve been patient so instead of cramming it down your throat they wrap it in flowery language…sustainability, a better world, green living. Those aren’t necessarily Bad words in and of themselves but when you look at it in the context of the Agenda21 plan – well then that sustainability and green living means less freedom for you because you can’t be trusted to be a good steward of the land.
    If you think this sounds like a paranoid/conspiracy theorist rant – check it out for yourself. It is spelled out clearly and unapologetically on the United Nations website.

  14. I just read an article this morning describing how manufacturing is moving from China to Mexico now, as Mexican labor is cheaper and more productive that Chinese. The article (in Business Week) says this increase in Mexican manufacturing is good for America because as Mexican incomes increase we’ll export more beef to them. It’s like a game of musical chairs, it seems to me.

    Here in southern Virginia we’ve already been down this road. After the Civil War industrialists built cotton mills and lured farmers off their land with wage paying jobs and little houses that were the 19th century equivalent of those Chinese high-rises. Once it became profitable to find cheap labor elsewhere the mills started closing. Now they’re all gone and we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. And the descendants of those small farmers fill the welfare lines, slums and prisons.

  15. The only mistake here is to confuse capitalism and a free market with the feudalistic policies engendered by big business and governments in the business of running or running for big business. Free societies need free and educated farmers who don’t need the government or a feudal owner to feed them. Stay on your land and support free markets. Not large feudal economies whether they call themselves a government or a corporation.

  16. Mr Logsdon:

    You might be interested in this quote from Eliot Coleman:

    “The small organic farm greatly discomforts the corporate/industrial mind because the small organic farm is one of the most relentlessly subversive forces on the planet. Over centuries both the communist and the capitalist systems have tried to destroy small farms because small farmers are a threat to the consolidation of absolute power. Thomas Jefferson said he didn’t think we could have democracy unless at least 20% of the population was self-supporting on small farms so they were independent enough to be able to tell an oppressive government to stuff it.

    “It is very difficult to control people who can create products without purchasing inputs from the system, who can market their products directly thus avoiding the involvement of mercenary middlemen, who can butcher animals and preserve foods without reliance on industrial conglomerates, and who can’t be bullied because they can feed their own faces.”

    • J.D. Clark, oh yes, very good. Gene Logsdon

    • J D you nailed it and apparently TJ was right,USDA has been trying and has been very successful at running small farmers out of business since WWII

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