Saturday, February 27, 2016

We Need an Agrarian Party, or Why Not Trump

Watching Trump's election campaign I cannot shake the thought that the Republican party base has as much respect for the GOP elites as the Democratic Party base does.  It seems everyone knows the GOP is hopelessly corrupt and the only reason Hillary is doing as well as she is, is because Democratic Party voters aren't quite as convinced that the Democratic Party is hopelessly corrupt as Republican Party voters are regarding the GOP.

So the GOP has to go and it needs to be replaced by a real alternative to the Democratic Party, ideally based on a real alternative to liberalism (right now they represent a version of liberalism).  The Democrats want the GOP as it exists to go.  The Republican base wants the same and while the Democrats may want another liberal party, I think the time is long overdue to have a non-liberal party in the mix.

I hear some people say "At least Trump is not a Liberal" but the problem is that Trump is a Liberal.  He is for liberal capitalism.  He is for liberal democracy.  He is for the myth of the self-made man, for the myth of self-authorship and self-ownership.  If Trump seems illiberal, it is only because we have forgotten what liberalism used to mean.

The alternative to liberalism through the last few centuries has not come from Capitalism -- Capitalism was invented and justified by Liberals long before so-called Conservatives took up that cause.  In essence the problem with the Republican Party is that they are liberals when it comes to business, in the same way that Democrats are liberals when it comes to sexuality.  The same rhetoric, the same view of humanity basically applies to both.  The only difference is that what Protestant social conservatives actually try to conserve is the combination of Liberalism and Calvinism (it is worth noting that Liberalism arose from Calvinism).

The alternative to liberalism and the most conservative tradition in the US has long been agrarianism.  Agrarians tend to vote Republican not because they agree with the party but because the Republicans tend to, on the surface, leave just a little more room for agrarianism in American society than the Democrats do.  The Democratic Party prides itself on intellectualism, but it is one which systematically devalues rural America as poorly educated.  In this regard Trump's comments following his win in Nevada were brilliant -- a way to bait Democrats and at the same time mobilize his base.

But Trump is no agrarian.  Trump is a capitalist of the worst kind and no different, really, than Hillary. While he has proven quite politically adept, it is clear his heart isn't in the right place.  Sanders is perhaps a little closer but he too is basically a conservative liberal.

Major (illiberal) premises of agrarianism would be:

  1. Growing food should no be an industrial-scale endeavor but the activity of small family farms
  2. The family is the basis of society and the rest of the levels exist to serve the family.  The family should be restored to its rightful place as the seat of economic production, not relegated to consumption alone.
  3. Laws should favor small businesses over large ones.
  4. Free trade is bad, and self-employment is good.
  5. Employers have an obligation to ensure that capital is widely spread.  The emphasis on a living wage is misguided.
  6. Culture and community matter and are not things to liberate people from.
  7. Marriage exists to protect and cultivate the next generation, not for the mere temporary fulfillment of the spouses.  Decisions such as what forms of marriage are acceptable need to be subservient to that question.
  8. Participatory democracy is better than representative democracy
  9. Economic commons are more important than welfare payments.
Now this is by and large a platform that cuts across boundaries of right and left in this country, but it operates from a point of view that rejects liberalism.  Many left-wingers in California, right wingers in Utah, and "liberals" in the NE may in fact be able to get behind much more than they do either main political party today.  The only problem is funding....

Our political conversation in the US today is warped by our choices being limited to a party which believes liberalism is for business and religion is for the family, and the party that believes that liberalism is for the family and the state is for business.  If we get a real alternative, we can better discuss and tackle our problems.


  1. Agrarianism was Thomas Jefferson's vision, but it became obsolete when the population exploded and people moved to the cities. People could no longer farm and profit from it, because huge industrial farms have economy of scale and can sell at cheaper prices than the average co-op farm can.

    When industrialization came, working conditions in factories were terrible. Countless worker strikes took place, but these workers were beaten back by police who were directed to, by city governments whose hands were in the pockets of big business.

    Agrarianism will no longer work. There isn't enough arable land for as large a population that the US now has. In 1946, the entire world population was 1.7 billion people. Today, the world population is 7.67 billion people! There just isn't enough land to go around, so we rely on giant agriculture companies to supply us with food.

    And now, unions have disappeared. It was these unions that got busted up by big business with accusations of 'Communists' and worse. Child labor laws had to be enacted by our government to protect our children. Factory workers had no voice, and when they attempted to get one, they were beaten and even killed. So slowly, the unions have died off. But now, they're getting more attention, and it's my belief that they will rebound so that the workers can get a livable wage (not a minimum wage -- a livable wage). Trends are showing in various sectors including construction, health care, and teaching.

    Wnd who is the best employer in the U.S.? It is the United States Government. Government jobs always pay a livable wage. Government employees get paid sick leave, paid holidatys, and health insurance. And any company that bids on government contracts must provide these things to their employees, or they will not get the contract. That is U.S. law! But everyone is fair game in the open market. It's buyer beware. There's crooks of all kinds. Some workers work 60 hour weeks, and still don't get overtime pay. Some employers put factory workers on rotating shifts so that one month they work the day shift, then the next the swing shift, then the next, the night shift. Then the cycle starts again.

    Why do companies do this to the employee? Because they compete with other companies for the same dollars. There are multiple furniture companies. There a numerous automobile manufacturers. These big companies make their employees bear the pain. The corporate execs don't bear it. Instead, they flourish, while the worker can't be home with his wife and children, because it's in the companies' best interest to make a whole helluva lotta money, instead of making their employees happy.

    And now, robots take people's jobs. Where will it end? When will companies realiz that maximizing profits at the expense of the worker is the wrong approach? The only thing I can think of, is when they hear the word of God.

    Moses said "Let my people go!"

    Jesus said "It's easier to fit a camel through an eye of a needle than to get a rich man into heaven."
    Jesus said another very profound thing: "It's not what a man puts into his mouth that defiles him. It's what comes out of it." So when you hear someone trash talking about ANY group of people, you know immediately that this man's heart is in the wrong place. Do not work for him. Do not do any of his bidding. Do not wait his table. Do not pour his wine. Instead, tell him to work for it. Tell him to do it in 3 shifts - day shift, swing shift, and night shift.

    If everyone were to do that, there would be far fewer arrogant snobs.

    1. A key aspect of agrarianism though is the idea that the family farm is the model for the economy, not that everyone has to work on a family farm. A second part is the political empowerment of rural areas. In essence the question, as all political questions come down to is, how should power be divided.

      Also when I would identify with the idea of agrarianism, as set forth there, one important point that's worth noting is that I don't think that any philosophical tradition or stream of history has all answers to all questions. One thing I find very troubling about the US is the extent to which diversity of critique has narrowed in the last few decades. So one thing that is really important is that I think our political parties need to be real philosophical alternatives to eachother, not variations of the same Locke/Rousseau liberalism. It's fine to have a liberal party. It's not a good idea to have all our parties being variations on that theme.

      The end needs to be the democratization of capital, in my view. And the only way that works is if we stop talking about people as "workers" who need "jobs." But there are also huge tradeoffs there and in part because I believe those tradeoffs are positive I will fight for them. But because I know those tradeoffs are real and immeasurable, I want to also stress that alternative viewpoints need to be a part of the discussion of the future.