Five years ago this past week the Supreme Court of the United States upheld what was one the worst decisions ever made in the American court system. That decision was in the Kelo vs. New London case, where eminent domain was used by the a private corporation to oust Susette Kelo and others from their private property. This particular case is one of the worse examples of government stepping on the individual civil liberties of a person that I can imagine.
A few days past the event, but did anyone watch it? I did of course, being a past junkie for such kinds of information, having only really trailed off during the last bit of the Bush (W) part of their deliveries. I found it interesting but came away with a general sense of dismay. As all are away I did not support Obama during his campaign, but once the American people had their say I started to buy into the idea of a dramatic change. A year into things and I see very much the status quo in Washington and to sum up in a few words, a president who now realizes dramatic change was to hard and to settle for subtle changes will be acceptable instead.
As I have identified myself with both, I felt it important to explain my thoughts, how I see both of them as being ideas that can co-exist, and maybe a little bit of how I arrived where I am. There are probably a lot of people who see those two things and think that they can not be the ideas of the same person. However, I will hold up Thomas Jefferson (a later blog posting coming – look for it) as an example that it can. Though he did not use the terminology, there is no question he was extremely libertarian. Perhaps one of the most libertarian idealists of our founding fathers – which in a general sense was a huge driving force for our American War of Independence from Britain when you get down to it. Further, Jefferson felt strongly that our country should largely be made up of yeomen farmers, who worked the land, in passionate ways.
Now some of you are probably already jumping to the idea that a large part of the agrarian movement has involved both agriculture and deep Christian religion believe and thinking that is not Jeffersonian in nature. I don’t necessarily hold that agrarianism has to have christian believes as some do. Further, a large number of folks who label themselves as agrarians do not believe that is required either. I tend to define agrarianism as being a good steward of the land, and through sustainable and natural practices, leaving land that is in better shape to the next steward of that land when your time is over. I do believe that there is a tendency, with that deeper connection with growing things, both animals and plants, as well as seeing the miracle of life happen all the time, for agrarians to move toward a deeper spirituality – but I don’t necessarily think that such spirituality necessarily has to be Christian in nature. That would hold well with Jeffersonian ideas of true freedom of religion incidentally.
The libertarian holds the view that individual freedoms and rights should basically trump those of everything and everyone else, until those individual freedoms and rights begin to interfere on someone’s ability to enjoy the same. In other words, in its most basic simplistic form, I can do whatever I want to do so long as I don’t keep you from doing what you want to do in the process. Now obviously, for the function of society and to keep it from being total chaos, there has to be some simple rules and agreements, or limits to define when my rights exercised begin to interfere with your ability to exercise yours. Hence the obvious ones – stealing and murder are bad. A few more are going to be required, but generally they should be limited in both scope and function to as simplistic an application as can conceivable be gotten away with. This of course leads to the idea of very small government being required, which is a good thing as well.
Now put the two together. Agrarians are by some definition farmers. Farmers have generally almost always been a go your own path and support yourself – take care of your own and live and let live basically. That fits in nicely with the idea of liberty above. Problem is that most farmers are so independently minded, and even more so the agrarians in my opinion, that we can’t ever agree on any one way of doing things. And if we ever did, there would be someone who would up and do it their own way anyway. Of course, having said that, I use that term farmer lightly given the nature of corporate scale farming that exist in a lot of places today – that are readily looking for the next support payment from the government in order to survive.
Working the other way, the individual freedoms that you can have on a farm that is truly your own is probably the one place in America you can still have such and extent to freedoms on how you want to do things. And if you just think in terms of not only those around today, but those that will be here on the morrow after you are gone, it is easy to see how the agrarian thoughts of sustainable (and hence likely) natural practices will be readily adopted.