Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Gene Logsdon: Land Grabs, Now and Forever

In Gene Logsdon Blog - The Contrary Farmer on December 11, 2013 at 8:48 am


The Contrary Farmer

I am not sure of very much in this crazy old world, but one conviction I hold to firmly: the more people in a society who have the opportunity to own their own homes and a little land, the better the chance for democracy and individual freedom to flourish. So I am aghast at the way the Chinese government is forcing its farmers off their land and into tall apartment buildings that to me are nothing more than giant tombstones in what will become the cemeteries of another civilization. But what made China’s land grab so poignant to me was that at the same time I read about it, and totally by happenstance, I was also reading Oliver Goldsmith’s poem, “The Deserted Village,” written in the middle 1800s. I had not realized earlier in my education the historical background that prompted the poem. Goldsmith was not sentimentalizing the passage of time as represented by an abandoned village but was writing in outrage because this was the time of the Enclosure Acts when the wealthy oligarchs of England grabbed up the common land, driving off the people who lived there, and bought up the holdings of small farmers too. A little research showed that what England was doing then what China is doing now. More research showed that the same thing happened in Scotland. Read The History of the Highland Clearances by Alexander MacKensie if you want to get really angry. People were burned alive in their homes when they refused to vacate their land. No wonder you can find all those huge castle-like mansions in the English countryside today. The concentration of wealth that built them came from forcibly acquiring a monopoly on the land.

Some Chinese authorities are defending what I will henceforth call the Chinese Clearances by saying that they are only doing what capitalism did in the United States, only faster and more mercifully. Moreover, they say, some of the peasant farmers are glad to get a little money and live in the high-rise mausoleums into which they are being crammed. Yes, some poor American farmers thought that way too— better off to sell out and move to town. Facing a future where The Economy was making sure that no matter how hard they worked, they were not going to get out of debt, then living in town on a nine to five work schedule looked better than farm work from five to nine. But millions of other farmers in America, and I bet in China, stolidly opposed this kind of displacement and still do.

If you are a student of history, you know that land grabs have been endemic in almost every civilization. And when the small farmers lost out, decline inevitably set in. Study the Etruscans in Italy and what happened to their admirable small farm, small business economy when the great Roman Empire was coming to power. Russia in more modern times is a better (or should I say worse) example, more hideously violent than what is going on in China, at least so far. When Stalin didn’t know what else to do with his landless farmers, he just killed them.

I still want to hope that democracy will prevail because I see in America reasons to be hopeful.  But with farmland selling at $10,000 an acre and up, it looks to me that welfare capitalism is preventing poor and middle class people from owning land just as effectively as social and military force has done elsewhere.

But let Oliver Goldsmith say it so much better:

“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,

Where wealth accumulates and men decay;

Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade,

A breath can make them as a breath has made;

But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,

When once destroyed, can never be supplied.”

But who am I to point the finger of blame at anyone? My farm lies on land in Ohio from which the Wyandot Indians were forcibly removed in 1842.

  1. When you start looking at what we USers call “ownership” the definition used can be a very slippery one. From my view, it is mostly a matter of bending a knee to coercive authority and being rewarded with land. If you got thrust into the position of the late middle ages of being a “noble” you were essentially a client of a more powerful lord and “owned” your property because you stayed loyal to the Duke or petty monarch who “owned” everything. No matter how far you go back, or at least to the point where original indigenous peoples were not under threat yet, “owning” land has been a priviledge granted by whatever scary authority was willing to “give” land they had no claim to other than the promise to kill anyone who disagreed with their dispensation of land.

    The same process that began four and five thousand years ago continues apace with merely differently labeled players, lords then, banks now. Historically then, dominator cultures all do this as there is no place for a sense of justice in how we treat others in dominator cultures. Just a question of who wins in our free range gladiatorial experiences. Personally, I put no sanctity in the owning of land. Private property that you can keep with you, maybe, but private property that excludes others and prevents healthful and productive uses of land, including raising families, that allows for abominations like the spraying of toxins that float around and harm people, allowed because of “property rights,” and a thousand other outrages carried out blatantly because they are done on “private property,” is just another aspect of this abominable dominator culture. May it soon pass into obscurity and non-remembrance as a time of great folly that ALMOST did our species in by our own hands. Right now my species has a suicidal complex, an unfortunate loss of self compassion leading to overwhelming violence toward everybody and everything. Let’s get sane for the New Year. F__k private property the way we have been taught to understand it. Collective effort for a collective survival.


  2. Our native land stewards, who cared for this land for over 6,000 years and lived in continued abundance, could never even conceive of owning their ‘Mother’. Until white Euro man took the land, created ‘ownership’ and a legal system of “Just-us” and continued to break treaty after treaty forcing them to live on the least hospitable of habitats, all lived in harmony with source of Life.

    You do not own your property. If you did, you would not being paying taxes to someone else and if you don’t pay they, the government, will evict you by force. It is not ownership if you have to pay someone else for the ‘right’ to live and use the land.

    Additionally, usurious taxes and burdens are placed on family owned ranches and farms with onerous tax burdens and legalities to pass down the lands to their heirs.

    ‘A USDA 2010 economic survey revealed that 88 percent of all farm assets were illiquid. Moreover, most farms and ranches are family owned, and thus subject to estate taxes.
    Family farms and ranches are not only small businesses.

    ‘Family farmers are also the caretakers of one of our nation’s most important natural resources – farmland, soil and the capacity to grow food, fiber and fuel. Excessive estate tax bills almost assure the break-up of multi-generational family farms, and the eventual loss of valuable farmland to development.’

    If Congress allows the estate tax to increase as scheduled, it could cost America’s farmers and ranchers more than $3 billion in 2013 alone. Over the long term, it will cost many farmers their livelihoods, too.’

    Your land can be seized by eminent domain at the shear will of the government.
    ‘For half a century, unrestrained local and state governments have taken private property not for “public uses”—such as for bridges or public buildings—as permitted by the Constitution, but for private businesses in the name of “economic development.” Private homes and businesses have been bulldozed, replaced by newer businesses and homes owned not by the public, but by private, politically powerful individuals and corporations.’

    Most do not own the land beneath their feet or the air above them, as people across this country are finding out through the fracking movement and geo-engineering.

    ‘Denis and Barbara Prager fear the day that hydraulic fracturing takes place on their land in the Shields Valley of Montana. The threat of ‘fracking’ is real and there is nothing they can do. While the Prager’s own the surface rights to their property, the state owns the subsurface and mineral rights. The state has the right to use the land as is ‘reasonably necessary’ for drilling or can lease the mineral rights to a private company. Those rights are presently open for bid. –

    Agenda 21′s plans are to take individual property rights away ‘for the greater good of all’. This is called ‘Collectivism’ and is exactly what Lenin and Stalin implemented.

    Farmer’s provided the most resistance during the previous collectivist actions during the Bolshevik Revolution, where some 50 million Russians were slaughtered by Stalin, with full compliance of the U.S. government.

    Powers that be know that the single best currency has always been food produced from lands and unless they can control all farms, they cannot gain total control of its citizenry.

    Preserving and protecting every single small farm in this country is imperative now if we wish to remain free.

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