A Better Economy

This post was initially a letter to my brother about this book.

The book, The Unsettling of America, is one man’s take on the road that agriculture has taken in the United States and the governmental policies that have led us down that road and the cultural effect it has had and is having on the citizens of the United States. Here is the email:

The book is about the farm and economic policies
of the United States and where they have taken us and
where they are taking us. Just a quick excerpt:

The first principle of the exploitative mind is to
divide and conquer. And surely there has never been a
people more ominously and painfully divided than we
(Americans) are--both against each other and within
ourselves. Once the revolution of exploitation is
under way, statesmanship and craftsmanship are
gradually replaced by salesmanship [which he defines
as: the craft of persuading people to buy what they do
not need, and do not want, for more than it is worth].
Its stock in trade in politics is to sell despotism
and avarice as freedom and democracy. In business it
sells sham and frustration as luxury and satisfaction.
The "constantly expanding market" first opened in the
New World by the fur traders is still expanding--no
longer so much by expansions of territory or
population, but by the calculated outdating,
outmoding, and degradation of goods and by they
hysterical self-dissatisfaction of consumers that is
indigenous to an exploitative economy. This gluttonous
enterprise of ugliness, waste, and fraud thrives in
the disastrous breach it has helped to make between
our bodies and our souls.

He then talks about his idea for solution:
"I believe that the answers are to be found in our history: in
its until now subordinate tendency of settlement, of
domestic permanence. This was the ambition of
thousands of immigrants; it is formulated eloquently
in some of the letters of Thomas Jefferson; it was the
dream of the freed slaves; it was written into the
Homestead Act of 1862...I am talking about the idea
that as many as possible should share in the ownership
of the land and thus be bound to it by economic
interest, by the investment of love and work, by
family loyalty, by memory and tradition...[This] old
idea is still full of promise. It is potent with
healing and with health. It has the power to turn each
person away from the big-time promising and planning
of the government, to confront in himself, in the
immediacy of his own circumstances and whereabouts,
the question of what methods and ways are best. It
proposes an economy of necessities rather than an
economy based on anxiety, fantasy, luxury, and idle
wishing. It proposes the independent, free-standing
citizenry that Jefferson though to be the surest
safeguard of democratic liberty."

Those are just a few excerpts from the first chapter.
I 'm sure you will love the book.


One Reply to “A Better Economy”

  1. This, from Thomas Jefferson, is important to consider:

    “You may ask what I think on the expediency of encouraging our States to be commercial? Were I to indulge my own theory, I should wish them to practice neither commerce nor navigation, but to stand, with respect to Europe, precisely on the footing of China. We should thus avoid wars, and all our citizens would be husbandmen. Whenever, indeed, our numbers should so increase as that our produce would overstock the markets of those nations who should come to seek it, the farmers must either employ the surplus of their time in manufactures, or the surplus of our hands must be employed in manufactures or in navigation. But that day would, I think, be distant, and we should long keep our workmen in Europe, while Europe should be drawing rough materials, and even subsistence from America.”

    Berry would likely agree emphatically with this statement. An agrarian culture is much less likely to go to war, much less likely to become greed-driven. Jefferson, however, recognized his ideas as “theory” and as fighting against the following: “But this is only a theory, and a theory which the servants of America are not at liberty to follow. Our people have a decided taste for navigation and commerce. They take this from their mother country.”

    Britain had to develop industrially and navigationally. The U.S. had plenty of land for agrarian development, but Washington chose to listen to Hamilton’s ideas regarding commerce and banking instead of Jefferson’s ideas regarding preserving the agrarian heritage of the U.S. This created a powerful economy, but one that concentrates wealth and doesn’t promote prosperity.

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