A Small Medium at Large

Still Flopping on the Bank– Part Two –  We’re continuing a discussion on moral alignment in our society.  A recent survey proved that most of us admit to being “all for it” just as long as other people make any necessary adjustments.   Some 34% of participants claimed the reason why grassroots solutions “won’t work” is because “most other people are too lazy to lift a finger.”  The remainder, who left the box unchecked, were tallied as having “no opinion.”

As things stand, we find ourselves constantly interrupting Congress for solutions to life’s big challenges.  This very day, for instance, has been variously dedicated to celebrating National Velociraptor Awareness Day, National Lineman Appreciation Day, National Animal Crackers Day and National Columnists Day, a perennial favorite.  A velociraptor, for those who missed the Jurassic Park movies, is a fast, birdlike dinosaur who runs down supporting actors and eats them alive.

Voters are searching for a high fiber, pro biotic supplement to our zero-calorie diet of press-release politics. This comment from a Hunter Creek resident is typical: “It’s not like Congress’s being asked to imitate that fruit vendor who set himself on fire because he couldn’t feed his family!  It’s horrible and tragic, but how does just one unelected person, with no donor base whatsoever, start an entire Arab Spring?”  

Good question.  Billions are spent on American political campaigns just to elect people that shouldn’t be trusted with a box of matches.  Actually, I’m kidding.  Most office seekers are often decent and highly motivated people who want to do good things.  Idealism has its limits, however, when they discover the realities of a rigged system. 

So here’s a populist idea:  maximize restorative agriculture for an economic renaissance in the Ozarks.  Re-create the wildly diverse production we once enjoyed and bring smart design processing plants here.  Rural folks will be doing the heavy lifting so in return, a modicum of decision-making authority will be instituted in watershed communities.   Democratic management and scientific conservation protections would be decentralized back to the watershed community level and which operates with its own staff and citizen-government liaison.  

In this way, our government recognizes that after 145 years of public education, it’s time to return a semblance of adult-level, self-determination to the masses.    This is like putting training wheels on your kid’s first bike.   Instead of hogging the bike by the administrative state, I suggest we examine the three-tier Swiss type model of accommodative governance as detailed in last Nov. 29th and Dec. 6th episodes, “The Benefits of Economic Decentralization, Part I and II.”  

In that country, people ride around “no hands,” speak four languages, farm kids learn calculus at the high school level, and the Second Amendment’s unnecessary because every household’s armed to the teeth.  Not even Hitler tried to invade the Swiss in WW II.  A cynic might point out that “terrorists don’t blow up their own banks,” but my larger argument is that a high degree of civility results when government respects the educational, moral and ethical maturation of its people. 

The Swiss state retains riparian control at larger levels (subsidiary principle); it can always step in when the cows run amuck.   An All-American arrangement, founded at the watershed (bioregional) scale, would institute a new and more equitable level of democratization in the US.  Without this refinement our elected officials will only perpetuate 17th and 18th century ways of political and economic thinking. 

Better, healthier and more democratic alternatives have a tough time getting through the system because our political, legal and academic freedoms are highly conditional.  In Iowa, for example, the Aldo Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, after 30 years of research into alternative methods of agriculture, was deprived of state funds in the state budget bill of 2017 because of Big Ag industry pressure.  This was signed off by former Governor Terry Branstad whose campaign received $88 K from the Iowa Farm Bureau, an industry lobby that sits on $1. 4 billion in total assets, and works tirelessly to suppress research that undermines the chase for unfettered growth on behalf of industry priorities. 

Individuals, university deans, and state legislatures are pressured to follow an agenda that prioritizes business over human health and the environment.  What the voting public is not allowed to see is the industry’s invisible reach and the golden handcuffs that compromise both our political and academic freedoms.  Some of Missouri’s dedicated ag professionals tell about fear of reprisal for non-conformity.  

Scientists at public universities work for the taxpayers, or once did.  Their research is supposed to advance the public interest, but hasn’t for decades.  Nobody wants to lose their jobs for taking a public stand against the politically powerful pork industry (Smithfield Farms is Chinese-owned), Farm Bureau, Bayer-Monsanto, Cargill, Walmart, or the Missouri Agribusiness Association to name but a few.  Politicians are in the same boat.  The following is typical: 

In 2013, former Iowa State senator Tom Harkin revoked plans to donate his papers from 40 years of public service to a namesake public policy institute to his alma matter, Iowa State.  As Politico reported at the time, he said he was backing out after it “became clear he could not trust university leaders to allow unrestricted academic freedom at the institute.”

Jim Merchant, the former Dean of Iowa’s University’s School of Public Health, was barred from completing his funded research as an emeritus professor.  He said “Ultimately, agribusiness has tremendous influence on their research . . . as a result of that, the administrators and faculty at these land-grant universities are heavily influenced, if not beholden, to agricultural interests.”  

Big Ag has a similar stranglehold over the University of Missouri, our land grant research school located in Columbia, and Missouri State University, (formerly Southwest Missouri State University), a public university centered in Springfield.  Administrators’ success is measured by the money they bring in, and the Pew Commission (funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts) found they’ve been forced to rely more and more on industry money to keep their institutions afloat. 

The modus operandi in Missouri politics is to use the redistribution powers of the state to fund, aid, and promote those who are willing to cooperate with the ambitions and agendas of the party in power.  Citizens are left to develop an integrated, healthy and food-diverse economy by default because our “representative” government’s got no interest in it.  The good news is that we’ll all die sooner or later, and, because of this, can self-direct over a trillion-dollar asset exchange in the coming 50 years.  We have the money, we have them surrounded, and we’d still have a self-governing future if only we had the eyes to see.

I say food independence is possible.  We only need to agree upon a roadmap, using charitable foundations, to get there.  A step-by-step procedure can start through a modest transfer of wealth provision (in our private will) to our own Watershed Charitable Foundations, which are to prime the food security pump over a 20-year span, as I’ve previously outlined.  It will take a large scale and coordinated menu of incentives to attract young settlers in the numbers that food independence requires.

This discussion on social moral alignment, otherwise absent from the public’s thinking, is significant because each citizen will have to take on increased measure of moral and ethical self-policing to weather the coming changes.   Regaining our food and energy freedom will come with real costs.  Equally, the pressures and temptations that accompany the boom-times of economic decentralization, after a century of governmental consolidation of power, may prove to be intense.   

So, if advancing food freedom were a top qualification for public office, how far would they have to diverge from the flock-mentality operating on now? 

Meanwhile people are free to rally to the Farm Resettlement Congress cause or not.  Just like voting or lifting a finger.