GLEN COVE, NY —One of the primary functions of
society is to produce enough food to feed the people. Governments are
fairly skilled in producing famines, but not in producing food. Even
companies like Nestle, Kraft, and Heinz do not produce food; they only
put the finishing touches on it. Food is produced by farmers, ranchers,
shepherds, hunters, and fishers.
The contemporary world has lost sight of where food comes from. Chesterton said
that modern man prefers milk from a clean store than from a dirty cow.
In the Middle Ages, the lords hunted and fished, and the peasants and serfs farmed.
Peasants and serfs were quite different from each other. Both farmed land belonging
to a lord, but serfs were the bottom of society with no rights to what they farmed.
Peasants were conservative, proud, and industrious people who kept and sold the
greater part of what they farmed, paying only an annual rent to the lord. The
higher the proportion of peasants to serfs, the more healthy, productive, and
well-ordered the society was.
In some ways, the distinction between serfs and peasants
mirrors the distinction Our Lord made between shepherds and hirelings
in chapter 10 of Saint John’s
Gospel. The shepherd will die for his sheep; the hireling will run
away when the wolf comes. The old American custom by which the rancher
branded his own cattle but hired cowboys to herd them echoes this Biblical
message. Some things should not be trusted to hirelings.
In pre-industrial America, the tenants of the New York patrons and the sharecroppers
were peasants; the slaves were the serfs but with far more rights than serfs
both by law and by custom. Throughout American history, however, a class of independent
farmers running family farms kept growing until the family farmer became the
typical American. In addition, many who lived in cities had cows, roosters, hens,
and a fluctuating number of chickens behind their houses.
In the 1930s, the government became increasingly involved in agriculture and
increasingly alienated the people from the production of food. Today, many would
rather own an undivided 1 percent interest in a herd of 100 cows than own a cow.
One person can do the government paperwork for 100 cows, so why own a cow and
do your own paperwork? Furthermore, it is now possible to own a small interest
in an undivided herd without ever laying eyes on the herd. Those who live in
urban apartment houses can own 1 percent of a herd but have no place to keep
The success of a farm may depend as much on its unused land as on its used land
because total government entitlements to grow food depend on total land area.
The government allows farmers to grow more food on their good land if they own
some adjacent land that is totally unsuitable for agriculture. Huge corporations
designed to function in the bureaucratic state hire farmers to farm for them,
effectively returning farmers to serfdom.
Some people still hunt deer and game and shoot birds. More people still catch
a few trout, but by and large we are a society that is remote from the sources
of our food.
Huntington Hartford (1833-1917), the founder of A&P
stores, made several hundred million dollars after discovering that
a huge chain of all-purpose food stores was better positioned to succeed
in a bureaucratic state than butchers, bakers, pastry shops, and corner
grocery stores. So he put them out of business, and today we have giant
supermarkets controlled from the other side of the country. If there
is a butcher in the supermarket, he is a hireling.
Gone are the butcher, the baker, and the grocer who made a profit by knowing
their customers and knowing the farmers or ranchers from whom they bought. The
food instead is treated, processed, colored, and disguised in packages; children
no longer know what real food is.
During the British bombardment of Baltimore, Francis
Scott Key wrote, “No
refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight and the gloom
of the grave.” Let us abolish the U. S. Department of Agriculture
and its crushing rules and regulations. Let us free the hirelings and
slaves that produce our food from the giant bureaucracies that control
them. Let us turn them into farmers, ranchers, planters, shepherds,
hunters, fishers, grocers, butchers, bakers, and fishmongers again.
The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2012
by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com.
All rights reserved.
This column may be forwarded, posted, or published if credit is given
to Charles Mills and fgfBooks.com.
Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the
New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in
many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles
about the law.
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
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