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Agrarian blogging

Now that I'm getting close to wrapping up my time in law school and moving on to an emergency medicine residency, I've been thinking about my blog and what I want to do with it. For one thing, I'll be blogging a lot more about medicine and health policy. But that's not the only thing I'd like to change.

I started this blog in part because I wanted to make arguments for agrarianism. I agree with Wendell Berry that that the contest between agrarianism and industrialism "defines the most important human difference, for it divides not just two nearly opposite concepts of agriculture and land use, but also two nearly opposite ways of understanding ourselves, our fellow creatures, and our world."* Looking back on what I've done so far, I don't think I've done enough of that. And I have no excuses! There's so much to say from an agrarian perspective about current events, and few people are saying it. There's no agrarian equivalent of the Daily Kos or Instapundit to steal my thunder. And the whole liberal/conservative argument is missing the most important questions entirely.

Despite my slovenly neglect of agrarian blogging, a few weeks ago Daniel Larison at Eunomia graciously linked to me as an "agrarian blog." Let me just say that I'm flattered, and in return I'm adding his superb blog to my blogroll. I'm sure my agrarian and paleo readers will love his blog (yes, that means you, Nick R.). I don't always agree with Mr. Larison, and he doesn't always agree with me, but that's OK. His consistently intelligent commentary and thoughtful responses to comments are a pleasure to read.

As a way of achieving my agrarian-blogging goals, I ask a favor of my readers: if you see a post that's indistinguishable from a typical conservative or (more likely) liberal rant (because I'm just bashing George W. Bush, for example), please don't hesitate to call me on it. Ask me in the comments: "why should we read this crap? Where's the agrarian beef?"** Thank you all in advance.

* "The Whole Horse" (1996). This essay is available here.
** An unintended and bad agrarian pun. Sorry...


One issue that I think the agrarian movement needs to tackle is globalization. I had a drunken debate with a fellow law student yesterday. His viewpoint essentially was the economic gospel of globalization. My point was that it is necessary for each nation's security to be as self-sufficient as possible regarding the most important things, such as food. My position is certainly within the umbrella of agrarianism as I understand it. It is unfortunate that the public face of anti-globalization seems to have been taken over by radical anarchists who just like to break stuff. We need more agrarian essays on this topic.

Could you do an agrarianism primer for those of us who only have a rough idea of what it entails? All I know about agrarianism I've learned from your blog.

I have to admit I'm inherently suspicious, but that's undoubtedly because both my husband and I were raised in rural/small country town environments and we both feel like we escaped. It is very unlikely that we'd ever want our son to grow up in a similar environment.

I've found that generally people who didn't grow up in the country tend to idealize that life, but I've never had that sense from your blog, and as far as I can tell, agrarianism isn't really about suburban/urban idealization of the country life. But does it require living in the country? It seems to me that one could accomplish some of the tenets of agrarianism (i.e., healthy eating, fresh-grown produce, etc.) in an urban environment.


How would you view the fit between agrarian and prevention, especially primary prevention? Agrarian, local agriculture, Slow Food, lifestyle and health. Maybe we could start an online carnival for blogs dedicated to those topics.

Where will you be doing your residency?


Marcus: if agrarianism implies any public health policies, I think it supports primary prevention by healthy living and eating. On the other hand, I think it would oppose any large-scale program that purported to impose any obligations to live healthily (as I'm sure some big insurers would love to try).

I think the agrarian would contend that eating locally tends to make people more aware of where their food comes from, and that most people would choose higher-quality food if they had this knowledge.

An agrarian wouldn't be opposed to exercise. He might point out the absurdity of trying so hard to eliminate physical exertion from every part of our work and leisure, and simultaneously trying so hard to "make time" in our schedules for "exercise." There's no reason why any agrarian would oppose gyms and working out, though -- that'd be the "dumb version" of agrarianism.

I'm interested in the carnival; I think that's a great idea. As for residency -- I'll find out in mid-March on Match Day!

transmogriflaw: I see where you're coming from. It's tough to promote the values of localism when so many small-town and rural communties today are, as you suggest, confining and unpleasant. Like it or not, people associate the word "local" with these kinds of places, and if they seem stifling, then they're not going to get too excited about agrarianism.

I think your last paragraph hits the nail on the head -- local can refer to your neighborhood in Chicago or New York City just as it can refer to your small town. The agrarian concern with localism is that we recognize an obligation to care for our neighborhoods (and to avoid despoiling someone else's neighborhood on the other side of the planet that we've never really imagined, much less visited).

The industrial economy, say the agrarians, prevents this by separating production and consumption to such an extent that consumers know nothing about the history of where their purchases came from. All they see is "made in China" on the box; they don't know how it was made, if the maker was underpaid, if the production process was wasteful, or if it caused toxins to be spilled in some lake in China that they've never seen before.

If you know so little about the things you purchase, how can you exercise your responsibility to care for the world around us? The agrarian answer is: you can't. And that's why industrialism almost always results in careless despoilation. People don't know what they're doing.

Note that this doesn't forbid global trade. It just recognizes its risks, and suggests ways of ameliorating the problem. The best way being, of course, to establish local self-sufficiency and then export the surpluses.

You can absolutely embrace agrarianism and still live in the city. The point is that a city-dweller no less than a farmer has to pay attention to the effects of his activities on his neighborhood. For example, that shopping at Wal-Mart sends money out of the community, eliminates local businesses and decreases self-sufficiency, and drives down wages.

We definitely need some urban agrarians to help break the assumption that agrarian = rural, because the relationship is more complicated than that.

Larry: I hope your argument was fun! Probably the single best thing about agrarianism is that it gives us a much more effective way to argue against globalization than either mainstream conservatism or liberalism. For that matter, it's more effective than either radical leftism or hard-right conservatism (aka fascism).

In fact, the biggest problem with agrarianism is convincing people that it doesn't equal fascism. See the interesting discussion and comments here, for example...

Carey, that is a great blog thanks for pointing it out. I thought I was the only one who followed the spats between Derb and JPod on The Corner.

Ah, yes, I almost forgot about Match Day. It was so long ago for me but I do recall the excitement and significance of the event. You will let us know where you are going after the big day.

Let's explore the idea of a carnival devoted to our interests and get back together. Exercise is nothing more than physical activity and agrarians cannot avoid hard labor, or can they?

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