Capitalism to Jeffersonian
So far, in my personal reformation from neo-con to Jeffersonian, I’ve began to realize how wrong I’ve been about crony, industrial, financial capitalism. I’ve been a faithful defender of the economic system. It’s been easy for me to grasp and apply the apologetic. It’s easy to follow the formula!
For Christians, Socialism isn’t an option, if we have a choice. Some of us were providentially placed under socialism. That may be unfortunate but it’s not a right to revolution. In the States though, we can still choose to avoid it, and we should. Regardless of the careless comments of some of our Christian talking heads, Socialism isn’t a moral option.
The problem with anti-capitalist ideas is that they’re socialist ideas, right? Isn’t that the alternative? If you’re not a capitalist, you’re a socialist! Well, not so fast…there is an excluded middle.
Local fix for a national ill
Agrarianism may be a local fix for a national ill. We don’t want to be socialists, but the kind of capitalism that is national has left whole groups of people behind. That’s undeniable. But, focusing on local strengths and local fixes is a better, more practical, place to begin helping those groups.
Agrarianism isn’t socialism. In fact, it’s a more liberating system for local people than a national system can ever be. I would make the case that agrarianism is morally preferable to financial or industrial capitalism. It’s inherently Southern too.
Many of us are hippie(ly) already participating in localism and creating agrarian economies, however accidentally. The organic, farmers market, buy local movement is no longer just a hippie grocery store thing. It’s a hit in the mainline stores such as Kroger, Bi-Lo, Ingles, and Food City in my region. So, what do you think that’s done for the farmers in the region?
I understand the intellectual hesitation, though. So, consider the testimony of Cicero…
Tradition and Progress
Cicero ends Book II by reminding us of what he sees as one of his distinctive contributions to the study of appropriate action, namely awareness that one may have to weigh different sorts of advantageous courses-for example healthy versus lucrative-against one another (11.88), as in Book I the same consideration applied to different sorts of honourable options (concern for country versus concern for family, and so on)…It’s main substance is the recounting of a story about the famously austere Roman statesman Cato the Elder…Stoic ethics in On Ends III and possessor of a similar reputation for severity, to the effect that form him the raising of cattle fills the first three places-in the ranks of advantageous occupations, followed by arable farming. When asked ‘What about money-lending? Cato is said to have replied ‘What about murder?’(11.89) (Woolf, pp. 192-193)
Translation-Cicero (and Cato the Elder) believed farming and agrarianism to be morally superior to financial and storekeeping as occupations.
Back to the future
Cato the Elder could’ve been a Cavalier gentleman, an antebellum Virginian or Carolinian. This is the difference between that solid way of life verses the New England version of America in which we have been fitted into and trained to defend. How appropriate are his words to help us distinguish agrarians from industrialists, Massachusetts from Virginia, Jeffersonian America from Hamiltonian? His answer would’ve been Jefferson’s, Taylor’s, Washington’s, or Calhoun’s. “What about money lending?” Cato replied, “What about murder?” I laughed out loud at this and my wife asked what I was doing while I attempted to read it silently.
The Father of our country a country gentleman
George Washington was an American agrarian who believed that rural life was a virtuous way, only trumped by duty. There were many others, but there is little doubt that the Cavalier Virginian who was Classically educated knew of these virtues from reading the likes of Columella.
George Washington acted upon his duty and looked forward to returning to the virtues of country living by relinquishing his sword upon the defeat of England and the winning of the independence of the 13 States. He repeated this after becoming President, even though he was so popular he could have remained President for life. If you’ve ever visited his home in Mount Vernon, you understand how she drew him back to that riverside, Virginia farm. Even today, if Critical Race Theor(ists) don’t attempt to teach away his humble attributes, Washington is revered as a virtuous man for his gesture of gentlemanly humility.
The Agrarians in print
“I’ll Take My Stand” and “Who Owns America” are two books that provide insight into agrarianism and its relationship to virtue. Also, Professor William Wilson of UVA has lectured and written on this connection between American Agrarianism and Classical Agrarianism. In one of his lectures he allowed Jefferson to make the connection in the following quote.
“Those that labor on the earth are the chosen people of God, if he ever had a chosen people.” (Jefferson, 1984, 2011)Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, T. (1984, 2011). Notes on the State of Virginia.New York: Library of America.
Woolf, R. (n.d.). Cicero: The Philosophy of a Roman Sceptic.