There are further areas for worthwhile political discussion within the remit of the Druidgeld. The Common Agricultural Policy has distorted both markets and social systems.
CAP could be re-distributed as a basic farm income available equally to all farmers – or it could be abolished and funds re-channelled as a contribution to a basic income for all citizens. Actually CAP contribution to basic income would be small relative to re-channelled social security payments – but every little helps… In any case, farm subsidy should be unnecessary in a just economic system and a universal basic income would provide a good security for the young setting out on small perhaps horticultural acreages. Such enterprises could be the lifeblood of the dramatic changes necessary to face a world without oil.
Tradable rights to agricultural subsidy were introduced with livestock quota systems as a bribe to farmers & their short-sighted, populist farming unions. Farmers became suddenly rich by the lucrative enclosure of the once-common possibility of farming.
Today, anyone with a mind to farm must have a lot of money to buy her right (her enclosure) to what has now mutated into the Single Farm Payment. Even with no major reform of CAP, It would need the simplest of arrangements to remove a tradable value from those rights.
Removal of tradable right to subsidy could be a simple first step to wider reform.
When subsidy was moved from production to acreage – from quantity of livestock, for instance, to an area payment, farmers were bribed with an “historical entitlement.” Farmers received the same subsidy as they’d received before. Those with a lower stocking rate received a similarly low acreage payment, while those with a high rate, or who had deliberately farmed for subsidy, received a high acreage payment. Today, UK farmers still receive subsidies based on their historical subsidies – based not on what their fields are, or might become but on what stock those fields once held in the designated “reference year”!
Anyway, it is plain that originally-altruistic (post-war) cheap food policies have bequeathed legacies of distorted and dysfunctional markets.
It is a crazy thought that farmers on whom all towns and all trades are utterly dependent, trade at a loss. Their income is the subsidy.
This is not a measure of the inefficiency of agriculture, but on the contrary, of the insufficiency of current economic tools to value what is important.
Market systems can be devised to facilitate trade. Adam Smith’s capitalism sought to value labour and commodity on a scale of social scarcity and surplus to bring both into balance. Indeed his conception was for the needs of the social good to undermine the frivolity of kings.
Considerations of capital value have been progressively abandoned since the Nineteen Eighties, so that we live stripped of capital (and value) in an entirely monetary casino. Moreover that money has been further stripped of any relationship with the physics of the world, (such as a gold standard) and is debt-created. Now money is simply spent into being.
Commodity prices have been driven to historically lowest of low levels by the nasty truth of a handful of corporate buyers – with a mutual interest in low prices – bidding in a casino market-place of many millions of farmers.
Probity, worth, husbandry, the common good, scarcity, abundance, the future – and even simple laws of physics and biology play no part in the market’s fluctuations. What’s more, produce sold below the cost of its production is marketed as “virtuous” value for money and a consumer’s right.
As we’ve seen, such virtue led to the sack of the monasteries in the Sixteenth Century and to the sack of the sceptical sciences in the late twentieth and most rampantly in this century.
Consumerism has defeated all arguments about management of resources and the pending catastrophe of anthropogenic climate change. Corporations are allied with a consumerist mass of people and consumer-rights groups – all suiting for low price without regard for its consequence.
What’s more, governments have used cheap food policies to release spending for mostly unnecessary and ephemeral retail goods – presented as their measure of success – GDP.
Subsidy can extend farming methods to where they are inappropriate. Wildlife organisations are right to question the extent of the “woolly maggot”. True economies must enmesh with the ecologies which feed them. Fossilised biomass has distorted that necessity and subsidy has distorted it still further.
Consider this: horticulture has provided large quantities of food from small acreages and without subsidy. On the other hand, low commodity prices, combined with a cheap food culture, have forced a perverse and shameful labour market. The dispossessed and desperate are herded and organised by gangsters and gang masters. Illegally-imported slave-labour has become essential to a “modern” large-scale horticulture.
A market which does not respond to the ecology which supplies it is bound to collapse. Similarly, a culture which does not respond to the labour which creates it cannot be a happy one – and will also eventually collapse. Inequality and resource depletion are the binary classical causes of collapsed civilizations. Together, they will collapse ours.
Modern markets relate directly to oil prices. Those prices are manipulated by governments whose economic forecasts depend on oil to be cheap.
Cultures built on the powers of millions of years of fossilised photosynthesis become dehumanised. The vertiginous descent to puny human labour seems impossible to those in (oil) power.
However, the period of easy oil extraction is gone. Fossil fuels remain in more difficult, previously-uneconomic strata. Of course, oil and gas companies will sell what they can find until it is entirely gone. It is not in their interest to advertise scarcity. George Monbiot reminds us that oil culture is masculine – big business, big engineering and big machines. It will resist emasculation. Though wind, solar and hydro energy will soon be generating electricity at a similar cost to coal and gas, they continue to be regarded as not serious – because they are green and feminine.
Looking at the per capita CO2 emissions of nations we find that Australia presents the worst problem, followed by Canada and the USA. European countries are profligate emitters, but far behind those three. I wonder – would white South Africans have proved as crazy as Australians? Head West young man – Drill baby, drill!
Of course the particular tragedy of these masculine cultures (masculine as Sarah Palin?) is that they have vast resources for renewable energy – Both Australia and Canada (and Alaska) could easily turn to exclusively wind, hydro and/or solar energy within five years – on a sixpence.
With regards to fuel for transport, we are truly stuck. Nothing can replace the fuel in Jeremy Clarkson’s cars. He must change his way of life – and won’t. European countries can generate sufficient renewable electricity for domestic and industrial uses, but will struggle to provide what today’s coal and gas don’t provide – electricity for transport.
Of course, economies and their ecological effects are ultimately one. Diminish the diversity or mass of an ecology and we diminish the potential yield of diversity and mass for economic harvest. Cultures synchronised with their ecologic effects will flow to and from that ecology at an optimum speed to achieve an optimum harvest. If we harvest more from an ecology than we return to it, then symbioses will be broken and subsequent economic mass will fall. The biomass of people, their foods and materials is their economic mass. Economic consequence ripples through a far larger and more complex pool which again sits within the still far larger sea of living Earth. Those tides can bring changes unrelated to our actions. Nevertheless the rule of return which has judged the decline and fall of city states throughout history, says simply – We cannot harvest without an equivalent return.
We have explored that thought in the passing-on of an inherited common good to our descendants.
So, we must radically change the focus of economic management from the growth achieved by fossilised biomass, to a trial and error integration of economic effects on living biomass with their economic causes.
That is – the re-integration of economy with ecology.
This is not a new process, but an ancient one. The rule of return is an easily-understood agricultural first principle. Good husbandry does not end in the field, but travels the length of its economic cycles by road, river and sea; through towns, markets and workshops and back to the common good of the ecology where it began.
Behaviour which does, or does not achieve that flow of the common good from hand to hand through generations is the basis of law. Constitutions begin with it. Again it is easily understood. Complexities of modern law should be anchored to it. Instead, they’ve been overwhelmingly anchored to the static and defensive demands of property. The manner to which the propertied have grown accustomed is fiercely defended against the simplest evidence of the senses. Scarcity, flood, storm, drought and the increasing frequency of these things have caused the opposite of a proper response. The response has been to tighten borders and to increasingly assert that ways of life must be maintained at all costs. Our properties are our castles! Those responses have been both populist and elitist. Rich and poor unite to the same end, which is control for the one and dependency for the other. The poor have reverted to hunter-gathering the provisions of the super market aisle, while the rich have carelessly accumulated the rapidly inflating site values of their properties.
I speculate that we have assumed a hunter-gatherer role so easily and carelessly, because we have not yet evolved an agricultural mutation. Agricultures are a trial and error necessity devised in a variety of ingenious compromises. As stories of The Fall describe, they require both constant ingenuity in the devising of tools and a constant misadventure in the pursuit of knowledge. Innocence lies in savannah and forest – or in a substituted super market aisle.
My folk movement is a replication of The Fall, in which we volunteer to evacuate the Super-Marketed Gardens of Sainsbury’s Tesco and other cos and migrate outside their Edens to a land of self-determined toil.
And it is a reversion that returns us to first principles – What shall I do next? How shall I do it? My curiosity can be infinite, because each question creates another. Every tool I devise, or adopt will be inappropriate in some way. When we pick up tools, life gets interesting. Adapting tools is a process which recalls our inner-child to play and likewise, the new roles we find may bring pleasures similar to the role-playing of children. Incidentally, children are precisely as “unnatural” as their parents are. Even though much behaviour follows inherited patterns, social play imitates and learns from adult behaviour.
I suggest that escaping the maze of post modernity involves a simple return to ordinary history. My reversion to ordinary first principles sees power where it has always been – strutting, striking attitudes and imposing itself. I cannot see a way of removing it without becoming it.
Here is a simple, old-fashioned truth – It is not what we have that makes us happy, but what we do. So if we simply and ordinarily set to work, leaving power in its property, then power has the worst of that bargain. I’ve hope that my folk movement may swell by a contagion of that very thought – The pursuit of happiness.
Towns, villages, roads, harbours and a diversity of trades are not only emergent properties of agriculture, they are agriculture.
If you eat, then you are involved in agriculture.