Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Bard’s Book Reviews: The Quest of the Simple Life

The Quest of the Simple Life, by William J. Dawson is the story of one man’s journey from the urban world of early 20th century London to a life living off the land in the countryside. The book has a more unique topic than most such books, however. Rather than seeking to be a handbook of useful skills or a how to on sustainable living topics which, in my opinion, have been thoroughly covered elsewhere; it instead takes on the more difficult topic of the moral and philosophical motivations behind the back to the land movement. If you are looking for more of a homesteading handbook then my current recommendation is Abigail R. Gehring’s Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills.

Mr. Dawson takes on his topic in a way that most modern readers will find fascinating, since all of our modern knowledge about the consequences of an overly industrialized society is absent from the book. The author argues instead that the countryside is better suited towards men’s happiness than urban life, and that it represents a better stewardship of his economic and physiological resources. For my part I was often shocked by the authors deep understanding of his material, and in particular areas where he frequently anticipated the negative consequences of urbanization. For example, the author argues for the paying of all expenses in cash, lest the we forget just how much were spending on any given object. This topic of course has come more and more into the spotlight as our society gets more and more reckless in its spending.

The author proceeds to explain how it was that he finally managed to take his leave of London, and then in response to criticism from a friend gives a moral defense of his move. This may represent the most interesting part of the book for some as it works towards reconciling the happiness of the author with his country life with the collective good of his society. As noted above this particular section is particularly interesting since it is written well before we realized the environmental and sociological damage that industrial based urbanization would ultimately cause.

Particularly if you are day dreaming of one day escaping to the countryside yourself and living in a more traditional human relationship with the earth this book is for you. This book is also available as a free, public domain download for your e-reader.

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Will Regulations Solve Our Environmental Crisis?

I don’t really care what you think about climate change; to be honest I barely care what I think about climate change. My reasons are simple enough, we can easily document the massive amounts of smaller environmental damage that has been caused by industrialization. Even more importantly, if we fix the things that we can easily prove are happening we also fix the larger situation that theoretically is causing climate change.

The question then becomes, “What do we do about it?”. For my part I believe we have to go after our agricultural problems first. The entire world is currently tottering on the brink of starving to death, primarily because of dependency on industrial farming. The damage we have done to the world’s farmland is so extensive that we could easily see a massive downward movement in food production at any moment. We have only been able to keep production as high as we have by pumping in more and more artificial pesticides and fertilizers every year.

The good news is there is a farming revolution taking place. Farmers like Joel Salatin are taking back our nations food supply and reintroducing the idea of the family owned, sustainable farm. They have found a model that creates high quality, nutritious foods in a way that is good for the environment and provides for the farmer. In short this method is wholistic it takes care of the soil, the animals, the people, and pretty much all other involved parties. Many are concerned, however, that this change is not taking place fast enough. They are arguing that for the sake of human health, animal rights, soil erosion, etc. the government needs to step in and use regulation to force the issue in the right direction.

Those who advocate such changes have a fundamentally flawed understanding of the nature of government regulations. We have a top down, government lead agricultural infrastructure now and it isn’t taking us anywhere good! In other words, we are calling on those who created the problem to now take the lead in fixing the problem. The problem is that regulation is fundamentally unable to improve the situation, because to do so is in direct opposition to basic the nature of government.

There are 2 very fundamental problems with regulation that contribute to its failure to create the kind of positive change that we are looking for:

1. Regulations are ALWAYS created by the industries they regulate. Regulations go into effect when members of an industry use “the common good” as a pretense for keeping their competition out of the market. Look at the key policy makers in the USDA, FDA, etc. pretty much all of them are former employees of companies like Monsanto, ConAgra, Tyson, etc. They can’t regulate agriculture in a way that damages their former employers, otherwise they won’t have anywhere to go back to when they get tired of being in government. In addition they are in government, precisely to aid their employers interests. Think about it, who else could claim to be qualified to regulate the agriculture industry? What’s more, any legal change has to come from Congress. Congress likes to get re-elected which means that they like campaign donations. The result is that Congress only passes laws that favor large campaign donors. Since the multi-national agribusinesses are loaded with cash and the small farm movement has only small cash reserves, all regulation is going to favor the industrial agriculture model. These causes exist in pretty much all government agencies but the results are always the same, regulations are used pretty much exclusively by the industries they regulate to keep out undesired competition. For this reason, regulation cannot bring in substantial change to an industry.

2. The government always reflects the majority opinion. The government cannot causes substantial change because it always reflects the view of the majority. No politician can push for substantial changes, unless the majority of voters approve, because in doing so he risks his political future. This is a simple, inherit fact in all representative forms of government. As a result, when the government is entrusted with care for an area like agriculture regulation, the industry will remain unchanged until a large enough majority of the American people care enough to make things change. In fact, the government will fight to protect the status quo in the name of protecting “democracy”. Only in a free market are minor innovations constantly created and then tested based upon their success. The result is that only the best innovations are brought to the forefront and the system gradually becomes the best it can possibly be.

The best course of action for the government to take, if we want to restore America’s ecological resources and food security, is to get out of the way.

Let me give some examples of how the government is currently contributing to America’s failed industrial model of agriculture:

Farm subsidies are used to coerce farmers to pursue certain courses of action. Money is a powerful tool, and it is frequently given with strong stipulations. In many cases these stipulations force the farmer to pursue an ecologically flawed method of agriculture because of the need for government money. They also create an economically flawed method, by encouraging farmers to put large amounts of capital into single use, capital heavy equipment.

Zoning and food safety laws are being used to keep American’s from growing their own food. The government has consistently used “food safety” and zoning laws to keep people from providing food for themselves, or from making food choices for themselves. It has become extremely common recently for homeowners to have food gardens removed by force in the name of zoning. It has also become difficult to buy, sell, or even grow food that doesn’t have government approval. In the recent food safety act, even home canning equipment got defined as “food processing equipment”, with the government giving itself regulatory control over all “food processing equipment”.

Regulations are used to make it prohibitively expensive to be small, local producer. The mandatory purchase of $20,000 piece of equipment in the name of “food safety” is much more manageable for a producer that produces millions of chickens every year than it is for one who produces hundreds. This clever type of legislation appears to create innovative food safety solutions, but it is actually being used to lock small operators out of the marketplace.

This is just a small sampling of how regulations are used directly to benefit the large agribusinesses that have created the crisis we face today. Only a return to an individually run, small scale, grass based system will bring us back to where we need to be. This will only happen if thousands of people begin making small decisions for themselves that push us back from the edge of the cliff and towards a more sustainable future.

One final objection rebutted: Don’t subsidies make food cheaper? Some have advocated the need for farm subsidies in the name of keeping food prices lower for those who have lower incomes. As a the head of a single income family of 4, I certainly understand this sentiment; however subsidies are making your food more expensive. Those who, like myself, have to keep up with grocery prices will have noted a substantial increase in the price of food every year for quite some time. The cause of this increase is inflation, inflation caused by the government printing more money to keep up with its growing debt burden. Since subsidies are one heavy contributor to Federal spending, you could say they are responsible for the inflation that is driving the prices up.

Beyond this, it should be noted that American’s spend a much smaller percentage of their income on food than has been historically noted, and instead spend a great deal more on healthcare. If American’s were actually spending as much as they should on food, perhaps they wouldn’t have such high healthcare costs. In addition, it has been historically normal for most of society to produce some of their own food. A better price control would be to teach those who are not financially well off how to produce their own food, rather than trying to artificially reduce the price of food.

At the end of the day the ultimate problem with any argument that we need a top down, centralized, government run food system is that we already have one. Any attempts at advocating for such a system are going to have to explain why over the last 100 years the system they are advocating for has done more extensive damage to our environment and the farming culture of America than any other farming method ever tried.

Stop Demanding Change!

Over the last few years, more and more Americans have begin to demand that things be changed. Change the government, change the environment, change the education system, change the church, change our moral values, change everything! In particular it has grown more and more common to demand that our political leaders or other national figures propose some kind of plan or solution for the problems we now face.

There is just one problem with all this demanding of solutions, our various representatives, those in government, the figures we look up to, etc. are all just reflections of ourselves. Their values are our values. If we are unwilling to take the steps necessary for real change to occur, they will be too. With the exception of a very specific type of people, a type of people we today don’t have much appreciation for; no leader can make substantial changes against the will of the people he leads. For this reason, we and not our leaders must take the blame for the difficult position we are now in.

If you want things to be different, stop demanding change and BE THE CHANGE!

Happy Birthday George Washington!

While American’s officially celebrate Washington’s Birthday on “Presidents Day”, today marks his actual birthday on the Gregorian Calendar. There is perhaps no man Americans needs to know more about today than Washington. For several years now the Founding Fathers, and Washington in particular have been under constant attack from certain corners with all kinds of wild accusations. One of the principle charges against Washington is that he was pompous and had an insatiable desire for wealth, power, and influence. As one who primarily gets his American history from source documents, I find these lies quite amusing. Anyone who met Washington personally, even those most critical of some of his policies such as the Anti-Federalists, spoke of his great humility and patriotism. From these accounts it becomes quite clear that Washington didn’t want to be commander of the Army during the Revolution or the nation’s first president. He took these jobs out of duty to protect the country through hard times.

I think the difficulty we have with Washington, the difficulty that must be overcome if we ever intend for this nation to return to its founding principles, is that he is such a giant our cynical modern minds have trouble grasping him. George Washington rose up from a relatively humble life to become one of the nations largest landholders, even by age 16 he had been appointed the county surveyor and was gaining influence among several prominent citizens of Virginia. His ultimate success both as a general and a president stemmed from his patience and willingness to put the good of the country ahead of his personal honor. General Washington faced constant accusations that he was a failure because he recognized that his army could not afford a direct confrontation with the British through much of the first part of the war. He waited patiently and struck only when opportunities for victory presented themselves, such as the Christmas Day attack on the Hessians. As President both of the Constitutional convention and these United States it was much the same. George Washington showed constant restraint, patience, and fairness in his dealings with members of fiercely divided parties. As a nation founded on checks and balances developed from multiple viewpoints, only the guidance of a perfectly honest man, driven only by love of his country could have carried us through such strenuous times. In addition to all of this, Washington (in contrast I might add to our modern political class) refused to give into the pomp of political office. In fact, he was terrified that the President might gain celebrity status and thus degenerate into a more monarchical role. So, as President, Washington refused to live excessively and even tried (though unsuccessfully) to slip out of town unnoticed when he retired.

One of the greatest troubles facing out nation today is compromise. Everyone seems to feel compelled to vote for the lesser of two evils so they can “win”. Trouble is, that guarantees we lose. It is time those who claim love for the Constitution stopped looking for the next Ronald Reagan and started looking for the next George Washington.

Freedom Isn’t Free, And Neither Are You

A brief look at the subtle seizure of American liberty

As a general rule, I avoid talking about what is going wrong without talking about what to do about it. In this case though, the awareness alone is part of the “what to do”. It is a tragic day when your nation gradually slides into tyranny and most of her citizens stand by and cheer, never recognizing the imminent danger. Many American’s delusionaly believe that they live in a free nation, they recognize that we were founded as the most liberty oriented nation on earth and fail to recognize the changes that have taken place.

In order for any action to take place, people have to realize that action is necessary. For this reason I will now summarize some of the most grievous offenses committed against American liberty.

Permits and Licenses

If you have to have a permit or license to do something, then the government does not recognize your right to do it. Rather they believe that it is sometimes necessary that you engage in certain activities and give you special permission to do so, provided that you do it the way that they want you to. So then for specific examples:

You cannot do as you please with your own property. Building codes, supposedly put in place for our “protection” actually serve to keep you from using your own property as you see fit. If you don’t believe me, try getting permission to put non-traditional buildings on your property.

You cannot bear arms. While there has been a great deal of emphasis recently on the right to keep arms, as guaranteed by the second amendment, most American’s fail to realize that except in a handful of states their right to bear arms has been completely infringed. If you have to obtain a permit to possess a firearm for your defense in public, then you have no right to do so and are simply being allowed to do so by the governments good graces. Only the “Constitutional Carry” states actually recognize that your right to bear arms is self possessed and cannot be infringed.

You cannot drive. Despite the governments constant reminders that you own the highways, you are not allowed to drive unless the government gives you approval to do so.

This list can go on, just look at the plethora of licenses required to do just about anything in this country anymore, and as you look remember that each one represents a right the government believe you don’t have.

Regulations

This is another sneaky way that liberties have been seized from the American people. The creative use of regulation has forced us down certain pathways, the only alternative to which is to commit civil disobedience.

Zoning laws might be the most dangerous laws we have as a nation today. Supposedly these laws are put in place to keep big corporations from moving in and ruining the neighborhood, of course this doesn’t matter because when they want to move in the government just seizes the whole neighborhood and gives it to them to “improve the local economy”. What zoning laws actually do is make sure that for, example, I cannot grow to much of my own food on my own property. This is done by limiting whether or not I can have chickens and how many, or in some recent cases by refusing to allow the presence of gardens in the front yard. These laws also prevent me from “setting up a retail center” on my property, which is generally interpreted to go so far as a child’s lemonade stand.

Speaking of food, regulations are also destroying our local farmers. When congress passes a “food safety bill” that requires the purchase of forty thousand dollars worth of equipment, a large scale producer simply adds this minor cost in to each of the millions of items it produces. A local producer, however, can choose to either go out of business (you can’t sell fresh eggs for $100 a piece after all) or refuse to comply with regulations. The government also tells farmers what they can and can’t sell, raw milk being the most well known example today.

In one case I recently read about, a man has had his free speech regulated away. All because he is teaching nutritionally choices and options that the local medical community is unhappy about. So, rather than having a logical discussion and disproving what he had to say, they chose to use creative regulations to prevent anyone who isn’t a licensed nutritionist from giving health advice.

The essence of the regulations issue, is that they consistently force market forces in a certain directions. If you want to know why we have such expensive health care costs, look at the regulations. No one with any real business since wants to get involved in healthcare, because it is to difficult to create a niche and be entrepreneurial. The same can be said for hundreds of other industries, regulations are literally controlling which companies succeed and which ones fail. As you might expect, of course, the government only grants its favor to large business that spend large amounts of money on campaign contributors.

Summing Up

These are just a handful of areas that are currently under assault right in front of the American people, and yet most people obstinately believe that they still live in a free nation. The facts speak otherwise.

The statement that freedom isn’t free is quite true, we must pay dearly to keep our liberties. In many cases this means we have to trade our security for liberty. I am convinced that many people really want the government telling them what food is safe, which doctor to use, and who can and can’t be trusted to own a firearm. The trouble is, government will always expand every single power the people give to it and ultimately full scale tyranny will result.

Daily Scripture Meditation

1 Samuel 2:17 NKJV “Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before The Lord, for men abhorred the offering of The Lord.”

1 Samuel 2:24 NKJV “No, my sons! For it not a good report that I hear. You make the Lord’s people transgress”

The sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were using their ministry before the Lord for their own sinful gain. They were skimming unlawfully from the offering and living wild lives. Yet ultimately, the judgment that comes on them is for something far more serious. These two young men were causing all of Israel to turn away from God in disgust. By their actions, they were blaspheming the name of God, causing men to abhor the offering of The Lord.

God is gracious and merciful, and desires that all men no Him; but He will not allow those who claim to be His priests and ministers to lead His people into sin. Those who practice such things will face sure judgment, and soon. Hophni and Phinehas were led to death by The Lord only a short time later in 1 Samuel 4. God’s people, and particularly ministers are held to a much higher level of accountability than those who as of yet do not know God. When they continue in sin, such that the name of God is scorned in the world, He will not wait long before judgment.

Because of our nation, many who have never heard the Gospel scorn our faith. They see the sins of our nation, and automatically associate such things with the name of Christ. As a result, every Sunday when all across the nation we repeat the first line of the Lord’s Prayer, which is best interpreted “Father, sanctify your name”; we are praying down swift judgment on our nation. God will not allow His name to be blasphemed on our account, let us repent now for the sins of our nation and take strong steps to reverse the blasphemy that has been comitted.

Almost Love

Why is it that I want to do the right thing,
Yet seem always drawn to do the wrong?
Why is it I know to say words that will heal,
But curses always come off my tongue?
I know how to do the things that are loving,
Yet I find myself consumed with selfish blackness,
And self-righteous judgment,
Here I am in the place of almost love,
I can almost work to heal your broken heart,
And almost say the words you long to hear,
I can almost trade my life for yours,
And shed my blood to show you the love,
That you so desperately need to see,
But almost is never actually real,
And halfway still isn’t there,
In the end my good intentions don’t matter at all,
You need true love,
But all I have to offer is almost.

Abba take me to the fountain,
Where love drips down,
From the bloody man on the cross,
Where love to the uttermost burst forth,
Into this sad planet of almost love,
Wash away my selfishness with that bloody love,
Teach me the way of sacrifice,
Jesus teach me how to love!

The church stands before the world,
And tries to hold out the hope,
For a new way filled with life,
But it seems like for all our efforts,
All of our good ideas,
Our well planned training,
Our organizations and small groups and out reaches,
Something lacks among us,
Why are we so quick to attack and devour each other?
Why can we not maintain the purity of the word,
Must we always twist it to our own gain?
Will we always seek to be more righteous than one another?
As if our righteousness even counted for something?
We are filled with almost love,
Almost reaching out to heal and save,
Almost interceding for the hopeless and defenseless,
Almost laying down our lives for something bigger,
But almost doesn’t really count for anything,
Because almost still never happened,
Halfway still isn’t there,
The world needs true love,
But all we offer is almost love.

Abba take us to the fountain,
Where love drips down,
From the bloody man on the cross,
Where love to the uttermost burst forth,
Into this sad church of almost love,
Wash away our selfishness and pride with that bloody love,
Teach us the way of sacrifice,
Jesus teach us how to love!

In the end only one stands,
With true love in His hands,
Jesus alone is the healer,
He alone can save and offer truest love,
From His hands on Calvary,
Dripped the only sacrificial love,
That history will ever know,
We may never fully overcome,
Our selfishness and almost love,
But Christ our King proved once for all,
That His love was enough!
We have nothing to offer but almost love,
But if His blood fills up our veins,
Then we will have the healing love of His,
Which alone can transform the nations!

Abba take us to the fountain,
Where love drips down,
From the bloody man on the cross,
Where love to the uttermost burst forth,
Into this sad church of almost love,
Wash away our selfishness and pride with that bloody love,
Teach us the way of sacrifice,
Jesus teach us how to love!