Let me suppose that the English Crown, while it was the legal owner of vast tracts in interior America, gave away an estate ten miles square to some British subject, who succeeded in planting colonists on it, from whom he received some trifling rent. This rent they are willing to pay, in order to get security from molestation. Time goes on, and a political revolution overthrows all power of England in those districts. The increase of population and the industry of the farmers has gradually improved the farms; a new generation has succeeded; and now the representative of the first grantee, calling himself the owner of the soil by gift of the King of England, claims to raise the rents of the farmers, because of the increased value of the farms. Is this conceivable? In England, undoubtedly such things are done: but if not enacted by a most peculiar state of law, it certainly would never suggest itself as right. In America such a claim would be a signal to the farmers to pay no more rent. They would say, this man, who calls himself landowner, has done nothing for the soil. By favour of an old king, his predecessor was once invested with a nominal right over it; that right was worth something at the time, and it was paid for: it is worth nothing now, and we will pay no longer.
The landed yeomanry, insignificant in number and a nullity in political power, are steadily disappearing altogether; the tenant-farmers have lost the security of tenure, the political , and the prospect of one day farming their own estate, which they formerly enjoyed; and lastly, the inferior peasantry not only have lost ground in the literal sense, and have rarely any other connection with the soil than a pauper’s claim, but have sunk deplorably in other below their condition in former centuries. Thus a soil eminently adapted by natural gifts to sustain a numerous and flourishing rural population of every grade, has almost the thinnest and absolutely the most joyless peasantry in the civilised world, and its chief end as regards human beings seems only to be a nursery of over-population and misery in cities. (P. 163.)
Who with any good-will and reflection will not see how much the want of coherence—the disorder, the want of combination, the parcelling out of labour and leaving it wholly to individual action without any organization, without any large or general views—are causes which limit the possibilities of production and destroy, or at least waste, our means of action? Does not disorder give birth to poverty, as order and good management give birth to riches? Is not want of combination a source of weakness, as combination is a source of strength? And who can say that industry, whether agricultural, domestic, manufacturing, scientific, artistic, or commercial, is organized at the present day either in the state or in municipalities? Who can say that all the work which is carried on in any of these departments is executed in subordination to any general views, or with foresight, economy, and order? Or, again, who can say that it is possible in our present state of society to develop, by a good education, all the faculties bestowed by nature on each of its members; to employ each one in functions which he would like, which he would be the most capable of, and which, therefore, he could carry on with the greatest advantage to himself and to others? Has it even been so much as attempted to solve the problems presented by varieties of character so as to regulate and harmonize the varieties of employments in accordance with natural aptitudes? Alas! The Utopia of the most ardent philanthropists is to teach reading and writing to twenty-five millions of the French people! And in the present state of things we may defy them to succeed even in that!
This timely appreciation is particularly easy in respect to the tendencies of the change made in our institutions by the Reform Act of 1867. The great increase of electoral power which the Act places within the reach of the working classes is permanent. The circumstances which have caused them, thus far, to make a very limited use of that power, are essentially temporary. It is known even to the most inobservant, that the working classes have, and are likely to have, political objects which concern them as working classes, and on which they believe, rightly or wrongly, that the interests and opinions of the other powerful classes are opposed to theirs. However much their pursuit of these objects may be for the present retarded by want of electoral organization, by dissensions among themselves, or by their not having reduced as yet their wishes into a sufficiently definite practical shape, it is as certain as anything in politics can be, that they will before long find the means of making their collective electoral power effectively instrumental to the promotion of their collective objects. And when they do so, it will not be in the disorderly and ineffective way which belongs to a people not habituated to the use of legal and constitutional machinery, nor will it be by the impulse of a mere instinct of levelling. The instruments will be the press, public meetings and associations, and the return to Parliament of the greatest possible number of persons pledged to the political aims of the working classes. The political aims will themselves be determined by definite political doctrines; for politics are now scientifically studied from the point of view of the working classes, and opinions conceived in the special interest of those classes are organized into systems and creeds which lay claim to a place on the platform of political philosophy, by the same right as the systems elaborated by previous thinkers. It is of the utmost importance that all reflecting persons should take into early consideration what these popular political creeds are likely to be, and that every single article of them should be brought under the fullest light of investigation and discussion, so that, if possible, when the time shall be ripe, whatever is right in them may be adopted, and what is wrong rejected by general consent, and that instead of a hostile conflict, physical or only moral, between the old and the new, the best parts of both may be combined in a renovated social fabric. At the ordinary pace of those great social changes which are not effected by physical violence, we have before us an interval of about a generation, on the due employment of which it depends whether the accommodation of social institutions to the altered state of human society, shall be the work of wise foresight, or of a conflict of opposite prejudices. The future of mankind will be gravely imperilled, if great questions are left to be fought over between ignorant change and ignorant opposition to change.
If an example is desired, one will be found in the work before us, the production of a distinguished Italian political economist. Political economy, it is true, is no new subject to Italian intellect; the study of it may almost be said to have originated in Italy: its early cultivators who have left a reputation behind them were generally Italians, and chiefly (we leave the explanation to historians) Southern Italians; indeed, the speculative movement of Italy had for centuries its chief seat in the southern portion of the peninsula, as the political, commercial, and artistic had theirs in the northern. Owing, however, to the general slackening of the intellectual movement in Italy, caused by her unfortunate political situation in the last three centuries, she was outstripped in this as in other departments by more fortunate nations, and it was left to them to originate all the great improvements in this branch of knowledge. But, since restored to freedom, active minds in Italy have not only revived the study of scientific economics, but have placed themselves at once at the most advanced point which that study has yet reached. The work of Mr. Constantine Baer on “Property and Taxation” shows not only a familiar knowledge of the best English, French, and German authorities, but a mastery of their most improved doctrines not often met with even in England; and along with it, no ordinary degree of the ability required for what is a very different thing from a knowledge of economic truths—the power of applying them. We say this, although we have to add that as regards the specific proposal which the book is written to recommend—a matter not of principle, but of application—we do not consider it to be successful. But we have seldom seen a greater amount of sound practical argument brought to the support of a conclusion that we think practically unsound. Like everything written on such subjects by a person thoroughly competent in knowledge and ability, whether right or wrong on the particular point in question, the discussion is highly instructive.
Today, oxen have replaced the tractors, and farmers have adopted organic methods, mixing maize with beans and cassava and doubling yields in the process, helping average calorie intake per person rise back to pre-1990 levels.
Nature 396, 262265.) Acrobat file, 239 kb:
A Rodale study found that organic farm yields equal factory farm yields after four years using organic techniques.
"In the USA, for example, the top quarter sustainable agriculture farmers now have higher yields than conventional farmers, as well as a much lower negative impact on the environment," says Jules Pretty, Director of the Centre for Environment and Society at the University of Essex,
on Political Economy, whether professedly scientific, or, like the one before us, discursive and popular, is now opened and read with very different expectations from what would have been felt even a few years ago. At that time, however polemical might be the performance, and however great the author’s notion of the importance of what he had to say, the reader might feel certain beforehand that all the leading principles of the existing structure of European and even of English society would be assumed, not discussed: or if occasionally a writer, to satisfy his ideas of scientific completeness or didactic symmetry, gave a place in his book to a few remarks in justification, for example, of the institution of private property, there was a slightness in the texture of his argument—an air of carelessness and in the and treatment of his topics, showing plainly that the contest was but a sham fight, with no serious adversary. Now, however, in this, as in many other respects, there is a change perceptible, at least in the higher regions of political and moral discussion. The days of taking for granted are passing away: doctrines and principles, which were lately deemed an infallible standard for the decision of disputed questions, are now required to produce their own credentials. The minds of thinkers and readers have become unsettled, and there is a growing conviction that they have to be disturbed still more before they can be again settled on any firm basis. The value of a treatise on social subjects now principally depends on the worth of its treatment of precisely those topics which, but recently, were not even made subjects of discussion.
A fair number of agribusiness executives, agricultural and ecological scientists, and international agriculture experts believe that a large-scale shift to organic farming would not only increase the world's food supply, but might be the only way to eradicate hunger." Concise but thorough outline and analysis, 4,400 words, 800kb pdf:
After all, God made the signs in the heavens, and the Bible says He put them there to tell us the appropriate times to do things on earth.
When a farmer waits for the next waxing of the moon right before fullness after the has passed, he's not making any revelatory predictions as he prepares to plant his crop.
The operation of tithes is discussed (pp. 165-175) without any apparent knowledge of the view taken of it by the best writers since Ricardo—namely, that a tax of a fixed proportion of the gross produce raises the price of the produce in that proportion. The author displays, with the minuteness of numerical examples, what he supposes to be the effect of a tithe in discouraging improvement; tacitly supposing, that when the farmer is taxed one-tenth of his produce, he obtains no higher price than before for the remaining nine-tenths. If the price rises in proportion to the tithe, all his conclusions are vitiated. A tithe undoubtedly prevents many improvements, which would be made if there were the same price without any tithe to pay; but all those which would be profitable if there were no tithe, and the price of produce were a tenth lower, will be profitable in spite of the tithe.