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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 11, 2005 / 30 Adar I, 5765

A world gone by

By Victor Davis Hanson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | America was created by rural people. Perhaps 95 percent of its first citizens were farmers when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. Now, despite all the talk of a "rural renaissance," less than 1 percent are — even as we are awash in food and next year will become a net food importer for the first time in our history.

Industrialization, mechanization and suburbanization did away with the agrarian culture of the traditional family farm. The latest "-zation" comes as globalization. Almost every acre of our farmland — due to instant communications, easy transportation and free trade — is in competition with its counterpart abroad.

Yet, a rice producer in Asia or a grape grower in Chile does not assume the same costs. Few abroad pay sky-high liability insurance, worker's compensation premiums, minimum wages — or much less deal with government restrictions that regulate everything from burning brush to disposing used fertilizer sacks. These are all necessary for an ethical society such as our own, but costly nonetheless.

By the 1980s it had become impossible for most of the last American farmers to continue on the land without assorted subsidies. The very few who survived found them in three forms.

Big cotton, wheat, dairy and growers of a few other targeted staples garnered government money — even though they hardly fit our romantic notion of "families" or even "farmers."

Others less fortunate sought relief on their own and so went to town to work — diverting money into their money-losing fields from what they made teaching or selling insurance. Perhaps the romance of agrarianism or hope of a turnaround explains such an economically unsound practice of actually paying to grow food. All the same, the sweat subsidies of these quasi-farmers also meant land stayed in production that usually did not itself earn a profit.

A final source of money was vertical integration. Prices climb yearly for the poor consumer, even as they decline for the poorer farmer. In between the two, shippers, distributors, packagers, advertisers and brokers expropriated an always larger share of the farm dollar. Those who had the capital or the savvy to tap into lucrative middleman profiteering could use that gain to subsidize their actual losses of growing food.

Wise tax-planning, the desire to have steady supplies or long-term land speculation kept the conglomerates in the food-growing side of their new layered operations. A few small entrepreneurial sorts resisted the big guys by going straight to farmers markets (10 percent of all fresh food in many states is purchased through such direct sales). In any case, once more land stayed in production that itself did not produce profits.

The government mostly kept out of this revolution in American agriculture. True, worried about electoral votes in small farm states, both parties granted billions to a few thousand larger "family" farmers. Usually, however, administrations felt that unfettered imports enrich us all, granting the consumer more choices at cheaper prices, while pressuring squeezed food producers to stay lean by always shaving their costs of production.

That the United States promotes consumer capitalism abroad and democratic government in emerging countries often meant that free trade is not strictly fair. Cheap food is allowed in without reciprocity, as part of the larger aim of jump-starting the Third World and formerly communist states to enter the commercial world of civilized nations.

So here we are in 2005 with most traditional farmers gone and our cropland either vertically integrated or subsidized by commuting part-timers. Are there any dangers in our postmodern agriculture?

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At first glance, no. Shoppers have more food, all season round, at cheaper prices than ever before. Obesity, not famine, is America's problem. Despite questionable farming practices abroad and fears of agro-terrorism, so far our imported food supply is surprisingly safe. Dependency on foreign food has not yet meant that a hungry America — in the manner of its oil addiction — is at the mercy of illiberal producers.

Yet there is an insidious cultural cost to the end of agrarianism that we hardly appreciate. The family on its own land, using craft to work with nature, was a model practical steward of the environment.

Anyone who loses a crop to rain or hail hours before harvest can offer a needed tragic perspective to an increasingly therapeutic society. Public shame, not easy private guilt, was the agrarians' benchmark — and why not when they were rooted for life among wide-eyed neighbors?

Words meant little if not backed by action — as if anyone cared to listen to grand talk of profits to come from an orchard never quite planted. In short, sober American farmers were a calming antidote to almost everything that makes us uneasy with popular culture, from gangsta rap and Martha Stewart to Enron and the hyped trial of Scott Peterson.

No, we will not starve without these crusty farmers, but we will sure miss them.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and military historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Comment by clicking here.


03/04/05: Blood for oil?
02/24/05: Common ground
02/17/05: California: Last action state?
02/10/05: Nuclear Poker
02/03/05: Barbara Boxer's metaphor moment
01/27/05: The hard road to democracy
01/20/05: Illegal immigration is a moral issue
01/13/05: Islamicists hate us for who we are, not what we do
01/06/05: Pledging blood and treasure for popular reform in a death struggle with Islamic fascism






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