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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Human Farms?

Are states and countries just human farms?

Throughout history, a ruling class has existed in almost every civilisation from the ancient Chinese and Egyptians, to our present day governments.  Some argue that this ruling class exists only once societies get to a certain size and agricultural innovation makes it possible for an individual to produce more than they need to survive (consume).


Prior to this point, the ratio of workers to production is close to 1:1, but once it reaches 1:2, meaning one worker produces enough food for 2 people, then the worker themselves becomes a commodity.  It is at this point that someone comes up with the idea of having others work for them.  Sometimes, the workers will be paid, but at other times, as with the examples above and throughout many nations, slavery becomes seen as a viable business enterprise.

In the US in particular, initially landowners relied on indentured labourers, often Europeans paying for their passage to the colonies.  As the waves of migration from Europe waned, those landowners opted to use slaves, many of whom had been tricked or forcibly taken from their homelands.  Owning slaves, which were a commodity able to be used, sold and traded as desired, allowed wealthy landowners to become richer on the profits of cotton, sugarcane and other crops.

As a bonus to these landowners, slaves could give you back your initial investment multiple times over, particular when considered chattels (property) of their owner.  This system allowed a landowner to profit not only from the labour of the original slave, but also gave them ownership over that slaves dependants, which could then be sold for a profit.

These days our ruling classes are our governments and state powers.  They may not keep the population as 'slaves' but we do provide them with labour and income.  In exchange, they provide us with the means to survive when times are tough, health care, education and a whole raft of benefits.  These rights and liberties allow us to be more productive.  Some believe that in effect we are still indentured labourers - we are most productive when we believe that we are free.

As productivity increases, taxes and regulations rise, the bureaucratic system swells, state debt increases the rich get richer and the poor are stuck with inflation.  Your money is worth less, so everything suddenly seems too expensive and living standards decrease.  Workers become cautious and we spend less.  Some would say that we become aware that we are simply slaves in the machine and are unhappy with our lot.

In the past, slaves who cost their owners too much would have been violently disciplined, or even killed.  Hardly acceptable in a modern society, so instead the methods of control are far more subtle.

Governments, the media and supporting organisations and individuals begin to promote a culture of fear.  Moral campaigns fill the media (drugs is a favourite); the creation of 'enemies' begins, encouraging and preying on fears of 'outsiders', immigrants, 'boat people'.  If you're really lucky, your government might decide to enact a small campaign against a particular nation because, after all, war is good for the economy.  It also encourages patriotism and deters us from questioning what is really going on - after all, patriots don't ask questions.

Now, I want to make it clear that this is NOT MY VIEWPOINT.  This is a libertarian viewpoint, in particular that of Stefan Molyneux.  Whilst I do in part agree with some of what he says, (particularly in the past when I'd worked 14 hours in the office because someone with way more money was retiring in a couple of days and I needed to make sure that they received a lump sum payment that was large enough for me to purchase several acres of land, a house and never have to work again!!), I certainly don't agree with everything.


Here I'd like to point out that some of the most outspoken libertarians are those who have accumulated large amounts of wealth...  by arguing to reduce government involvement in our lives, collective regulation, control and of course taxation, they could be seen as simply wishing to protect their own wealth.

I'd also like to point out that libertarians tend to concentrate on arguing for reducing government control in their country, generally western countries, perhaps because that's where they pay taxes.  There seems to be little consideration given to those countries who are under dictatorships or where the system of government does not provide individuals with the basic rights to food, water, shelter and medical treatment.  The skeptic in me finds that that might be because there's no benefit in it to the libertarian.


I don't believe that we need to do away with bureaucracy and government.  I believe that they have their place in ensuring that we have the right to food, water and medical treatment for all, rather than as the case would be for only those with the money to pay for it.  I believe that our governments have a place in ensuring that we all have a right to education, whereas again education was once only a right of the privileged classes.

(I am aware that in many countries people do not have access to these fundamental rights and I believe that it is the responsibility of those of us who do, to assist in providing these.  That does not mean forcing a foreign government to bow to us, to give up resources or allow us to place a strategic military base there, in exchange.  It does not mean threatening them with war, or invading them.  There are other ways to ensure people have the same rights as us, and guess what, they tend to be cheaper, more affective and involve less death and destruction.  But I digress...)

And yes, I believe that we need to pay taxes in order to fund the programs and infrastructure necessary to ensure that these rights are available to all.  And within this required funding I would include funding for agriculture, water and power supplies.

And by 'all' I do mean residents, citizens, immigrants and 'boat people'.

I do not however believe that we should be providing our governments with all the extra money they seem to need to fund new weapons programmes, luxurious parliamentary buildings, second homes, private cars and air travel.

Haven't they heard of video conferencing?!

I also don't like the fact that many of us work for other individuals or organisations that receive far more in return profit wise than we receive in salaries.  Working for a living means less time at home with our families.

I don't like that we are encouraged to purchase products that we are told are must-haves, even when it means getting into debt to do so.  I don't like the fact that those products so often have the effect of isolating us from our families, neighbours and communities by removing the need for face to face interaction.  Then we're encouraged to 'upgrade' and the superseded products are sent to landfill, even though in many cases we've not yet paid for them.

Nor do I like the fact that most of us no longer have the means, space, or knowledge, to grow our own food and thus have to rely on food grown on the other side of the world being transported thousands of miles, burning up fuel and polluting the environment in the process.

I guess where I really disagree though is that I do not believe countries are human farms.  I believe that countries are collectives of individuals, with individual rights and responsibilities, to themselves and each other.

To me that does not mean grabbing what I can and upping sticks to move to the back of cooee in an attempt at becoming totally self-sufficient, whilst protecting my existing wealth.

It means remaining with my community.  It means working with them to make our local area productive, sustainable, welcoming and, above all, a community.

Countries are NOT farms, they are larger communities, and I am not just a cow waiting to be milked or slaughtered.  I am an individual with the will, knowledge and desire to lead a good life.

I am free

3 comments:

  1. And some of those libertarian websites are all about making money! They only share their info with people prepared to pay for it. How is that about giving power to the people - ALL the people?

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  2. Yeah, I found that out myself when I visited Steve Keen's Debunking Economics site.

    He is a very, very well respected economist and appeared on HardTalk in the UK last year to suggest that governments gave payments to the public that must be put towards reducing their debts, rather than directly to the banks to bail them out. I'd been thinking the same thing myself for a while after the Australian Govt gave payments to families to encourage their spending in order to boost the economy. Would have been better asking them to spend it on debt.

    Anyway, I thought I could find out more about his views their only to discover that it was subscription only... $40USD a month.

    Another site, peakprosperity.com, does have some great free info, but again you need to subscribe for more info. It was founded by Chris Martenson of the Post Carbon Institute.

    There's a 20 part video crash course that is worth watching so you can understand how the economy, oil production and the environment become linked in government policy etc and how they affect each other.

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  3. Refreshing read Kerry.

    ReplyDelete