Saturday, May 27, 2006

What is a local ecomony

A good friend (and Ordinary Gentleman) called me this morning, asking about what a local economy was and if it was even possible in this day and age. I told him I would be happy to provide him with a Wendell Berry essay that would explain it, but after having to cut our discussion short upon the arrival of a fellow who was going to relieve me of some old truck parts cluttering my shop, I sat down and decided to pen a few thoughts of my own rather than let Mr. Berry speak for me.
First off, I think a bit of the confusion about the new path James and I are tenatively turning towards is making the discussion difficult. Agrarianism is less a political statement or a "program" so much as a philosophy of life. As such I don't have a good answer for what should be done about deforestation in China, since despite the interconnectedness of osciety, that still remains a problem for the Chinese to solve (in much the same fashion as I would not want the Chinese trying to solve our problems here). Agrarianism teaches that all matters are best dealt with locally, by those who will have to live with the consequences.
The idea of a local economy in simple terms means that self-sufficiency should be the goal of every level of the economy. So each house-hold should strive to be as self sufficient as possible, each town should be as self-sufficient as possible, each region, state, nation, and so on. This self-sufficiency accomplishes several things. First off it keeps the profits from any business enterprise closer to their source of origen. It would go a long way to eliminate the "economic colonialism" that exemplifies most extractive businesses. After all, when was the last time someone saw a wealthy or prosperous mining or logging town? The second advantage is related to the first. When businesses are local in scale, they have an incentive to be good stewards. A locally owned logging operation would understand the need to manage the forests it cuts, to ensure its continued existence. Large scale industrial logging operations can come in and clear cut an area and move on, as they have no loyalty to a place, and once the forests in one area are logged those who live there are of little use or concern.
Of course the only practical objection to all of this (objections based on ideas that "you can't stop progress" and "this way of doing things is inevitable" being entirely metaphysical) is that such an economy would cause most consumer goods to drasticly increase in cost. To this I would point out, that in a way this would be a good thing, as it might cause us to spend our money more wisely. But more importantly, the increased costs would more fully reflect the true cost of an item. Modern business practices only focus on what is quantifiable here and now, there is little or no consideration for the hidden costs of industrial consumerism, both in those costs that cannot be measured in concrete numbers, as well as those costs that are being deferred to future generations. It is this cost that will be payed (with interest) by future generations that a local economy is most concerned with.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The "Simple" Life

Many people seem to think the whole idea of moving out to the country and becoming more self-sufficient, is somehow part of a desire for a simple life. This whole idea of the "simple life" is exactly the opposite of what an agrarian life is. Nothing could be simpler than working 9-5, buying all your food pre-packaged (or even pre-cooked, having someone else supply you with power, water, and garbage and sewage disposal, and have all your entertainment piped to you electronicly. The art (in the older, fuller sense of the term) of raising food, raising livestock, and managing the cycle of growth, death, and rebirth involved in an agrarian enterprise is anything but simple. If you want a simple life, work a mindless job, eat frozen dinners, and watch TV, not much this side of a coma is simpler than that. The whole reason for escaping modern society and it conveniences is that it is too simple, nothing is connected, or if things are connected they aer on a scale so vast as to render the connection invisible. In reading Wendell Berry he speaks frequently about the fact that someone can make something, and someone else can buy it, and neither party has any idea about the existence of the other. He also points out that those who make the decisions about what forest to clear cut, what mountain to strip mine, and what plant to close, are alost never those who live in the place that decision affects. Part of the point of personal self-sufficiency, and a local economic self-sufficiency is that the people who make the decisions are those who will be affected by the consequences, and this is the essence of proper stewardship.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pretty much the entirely wrong idea

These people appear to be serious. I don't know what to say aside from hoping it is all a bad joke...

What a farm is

Here is an excellent quote from the quirky, but emminently readable Reactionary Radicals blog. I confess to having never heard of Whittacre Chambers, but after reading the piece below, I certainly want to learn more.
Pipe Creek Farm is not simply a few hundred acres of dirt, some clusters of old barns and outbuildings, power machines, a herd of cattle, a few hogs or a flock of sheep. Our farm is our home. It is our altar. To it each day we bring our faith, our love for one another as a family, our working hands, our prayers. In its soil and the care of its creatures, we bury each day a part of our lives in the form of labor. The yield of our daily dying, from which each night in part restores us, springs around us in the seasons of harvest, in the produce of animals, in incalculable content. A farmer is not everyone who farms. A farmer is the man who, in a ploughed field, stoops without thinking to let its soil run through his fingers, to try its tilth. A farmer is always half buried in his soil. The farmer who is not is not a farmer; he is a businessman who farms. But the farmer who is completes the arc between the soil and God and joins their mighty impulses. We believe that laborare est orare—to labor is to pray. In that sense, the farm is our witness. It is a witness against the world. By deliberately choosing this life of hardship and immense satisfaction, we say in effect: The modern world has nothing better than this to give us. Its vision of comfort without effort, pleasure without the pain of creation, life sterilized against even the thought of death, rationalized so that every intrusion of mystery is felt as a betrayal of the mind, life mechanized and standardized—that is not for us. We do not believe that it makes for happiness from day to day. We fear that it means catastrophe in the end.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The New Relic

It is rather difficult to write the first post of a new blog, so bear with me. For those of you who have found me from my old blog, I say welcome. Most of what you read here is going to be in a slightly different vein than my previous attempt at blogging. For those of you who were readers of my blog from Serbia, has been a growth from my experiences there. Last, but not least, for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about let me simply say that in the last two years I've finally decided that to live my life in fidelity to my faith, the traditions of my family, and the sense of moral purpose my parents instilled in me, I could no longer participate in modern consumerist society. As a result I'm beginning to take the tenative, and frequently difficult and confusing steps, and building a life for myself, and eventually my family, that will be, as much as is possible, in greater harmony with God, His creation, and my fellow humans.
My ultimate dream would be to live in a community of like-minded individuals (though the idea of an "intentional community" has baggage attached to it that makes me uneasy), an organic- in the broadest sense of the word- community that finds strength in shared values and shared lives, and that while not turning its back on modern society, at least is in a position to address modern society from a position of strength.