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A Small Medium @ Large

In 1995, Bass Pro creator John L. Morris gave the commencement speech for the University of Missouri’s graduating class, School of Natural Resources. He gifted the assembly with a copy of the famous communique from Chief Seattle to the “Great White Chief” in Washington who’d made an offer for a large area of Indian land and promised a “reservation” for the Indian People. 

Seattle’s words ring true to this very day: “Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” 

Bioregionalism, as I frequently call it in this column, is the belief that human activity and rewards should be oriented to distinct ecological and geographical regions. A watershed based approach will open new ways to address the obstacles to restoring food freedom economics to the Ozarks. The chief obstacle is neither politics nor the lack of education, but the isolation of everyday people from powerful economic tools that would advance the cause of self-government. 

Decentralization, as an economic consequence of bioregional autarchy, is the answer to the urban vs. rural divide. We need to decentralize because the system is rigged, our heritage of Liberty forfeit, and when we finally discover our voice, food freedom will become our great unifying focus. 

The important book Owning the Earth by Andro Linklater, spans the global history and politics of possessing land from Hobbes to Greenspan. For today’s episode, I’ve employed a lot of the words and ideas from reviewer Jerry Botton’s excellent review in The Telegraph, 02/2014. 

Linklater, he says, wants to calculate the profit and loss of what he calls the “revolution” that has taken place since 1800 when much of the world’s grassland was still owned by indigenous people who shared the productivity and still believed the earth belonged to its Creator. 

Most American do not know that the history of private ownership of land is a relatively recent development that began in British colonial America. Our “special relationship” with England began in the 16th century with the carving up of the New World and the hitherto novel idea that ordinary persons could exclusively own a piece of the Earth. 

Linklater argues that the idea has destroyed traditional systems of rights and responsibilities binding communities to the land, promoting instead a hyper individualistic culture of “greed and selfishness.” What if owning land, he asks, is not the mark of advanced, modern societies, but a “bizarre mutation alien to most of humanity?” Time will tell as to how much Mr. Morris really agrees with him. 

The central character in Tolstoy’s story “How Much Land does a man Need?” is a Russian peasant called Pathom. He meets a nomadic tribe that offers him as much land as he can walk around in a day for 1,000 rubles. Consumed with greed, Pathom runs for miles, dropping dead just as the sun sets. The story ends and Pathom’s servant answers the question as he buries his master: “Six feet from head to toe was all he needed.” 

The Walking Purchase of 1637,as performed by John Penn and other upstanding colonial grifters, introduced a nasty twist to Tolstoy’s theme. Penn didn’t die from his “walk around” theft of 1200 square miles of the Delaware Indians heartland. But those most cordial and reasonable of Native Americans surely did. 

The pre-existing ownership rights of the Native Americans were dismissed by the claim of “right of discovery” and “right of conquest,” concepts that now include “intellectual property” and every kind of fraud against nature that the US Supreme Court allows. But, “Even the white man,” said Seattle “whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny.” 

The English Crown though, starting in 1607 in Virginia, made a good run at exemption by asserting that it, not God, owned the land. During the colonial period, individual colonists acquired real property through grants by the Virginia Company, head rights, treasury rights, and military warrants. 

This is not so long after 1531, when Henry VIII’s brand-new Church of England required, without a hint of irony, that its clergy read to their congregations a special prayer inveighing against rip-off landlords: “The earth, O Lord is thine and all that is contained therein; we heartily pray thee to send thy Holy Spirit into the hearts of them that possess the grounds, pastures and dwelling places of the earth that they, remembering themselves to be Thy tenants, may not rack and stretch out the rents of their houses and lands … after the manner of covetous worldlings …” 

By colonial times, covetous worldlings had refined the “legal” process of converting a head right or treasury right into the chain of private title for parcels in Virginia. This involved several steps, each of which allowed land speculators a straight shot at the acquisition of wealth and power. 

“OK, so life’s tough” we say. But really, how much return could I get for this kind of leverage in today’s terms? Well, take the Bankster engineered bubble and “collapse” of 2018-09. A fraction of our ripped-off trillions bought 110 million acres of farmland, mostly in Africa, by corporate speculators and absentee foreign landlords who have zero interest in the soil or people beyond its capital value. “Gov. Mike Parson held a ceremony signing of Senate Bill 391 (05/31/2019) eliminating local control removing the statutory right of counties to protect their citizens through health ordinances and putting power in the hands of state government.” News of this breakdown of our contractual assumptions about land ownership will soon hit voters along with the stench of each Chinese CAFO coming to Missouri. 

My, how the covetous worldings prosper. All but five of Missouri’s flag-spangled politicians are the living refutation of Locke’s argument that individuals can accept the sale of their land if they believe that its buyers will bring to them benefits. Our “representatives” convey our food and water commonwealth to their “sponsors,” because , like the trusting Delaware, we cannot imagine them capable of it. 

Anyhow, the “Great Charter” was a set of instructions from investors in London that gave greater responsibility for local government to the colonists. This authorized the first General Assembly, which met in 1619, to grant land and freedoms to colonists in order to increase the population enough so investors could finally make a profit. Just like today, it’s “open boarders” time when cheap labor is suddenly important to our ruling elites. 

The award of 50 acres for everyone imported to Virginia incentivized people in England to sign as indentured servants for the trip. Within 50 years, 70,000 people came to the Chesapeake region, an astonishing number for the time. The Native Americans never had a chance. 

Treaties were negotiated for the sole purpose of extinguishing Native American claims, but land was seized rather than purchased from the original inhabitants. Call me insensitive, but why don’t we laugh hysterically every time a politician pounds their chest and bellows “No one’s above the law!”(?) 

But, if you read the fine print, there was no automatic grant of land to immigrants because the headright was often claimed by the investor. Virginia planters who imported slave labor were awarded 50 acres per slave, just as they were awarded 50 acres for each indentured servant. Variants of this scam persisted until the watershed 1860’s with the abolition of slavery in the US and the emancipation of Russia’s serfs. 

More than 50 million people were released from bondage, a real high point in the history of individual liberty. But the moneymen already understood that once labor needed to be paid for, it was necessary to give the soil itself a capital value. 

Therefore, if the peasants now owned this capital, then the next step was to take it all away from them. It’s just what the moneymen do. Enter the Second Reich and state coerced, tax-payer funded public “education” as the method of choice. Result: The capital vultures needed but one century to achieve their objective and now we, the next-in-line Indians, are riding our private little stashes into oblivion. 

“You look on in horror, helpless and desperate. You have nowhere to go. You’re trapped on a ship of fools.” From the intro to Tucker Carlson’s Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class is Dragging America to the Brink of Revolution.” 

The appropriation and localization of charitable foundation tools by rural producers is freedom’s last chance. But, dear reader, until freedom means actually democratizing the earth’s resources, and not how much you pass down to your heirs, then we’ll suffer greatly because, as the chief said, “The white man is not interested in our ways.” Jonny, can we talk?