Economics, Politics and the Law

It’s often been said that Enlightened Agriculture is “unrealistic”: that small, low-input farms cannot feed the world; that labour-intensive farming is impossible because no-one wants to work on the land.

All of this is the precise opposite of the truth. What is true, is that Enlightened Agriculture does not accord with the economic and political status quo. It does not seek to maximize wealth. More: it does not concentrate wealth or power in the hands of elites. On the contrary — it restores wealth and autonomy to people at large. Within the food chain, farmers regain their proper status; and the food chain as a whole again becomes a part of all society. All this is anathema to an economy controlled by banks and corporates, and to governments, including those called “democratic”, who like to feel that have complete control. In short, Enlightened Agriculture is “unrealistic” not because it could not work, but because those in power would feel threatened.

The law is made by people in power, and in general tends to favour the status quo. Present laws and regulations militate against small farms in a hundred ways — preventing some desirable practices and protecting many that are less desirable; and although Britain urgently needs a new generation of farmers, and a tenfold increase in numbers, a host of laws and rules, besides the huge obstacle of money, make it extremely difficult for newcomers to gain a foothold.

Many groups that aspire to be radical, including many charities and NGOs, seek to make deals with the powers-that-be – persuading supermarkets to stock some local produce; seeking audience with MPs. But if we really want farming that can feed us all properly then we have to create conditions in which Enlightened Agriculture is not seen simply to be “unrealistic”, at best to be condescended to. We need to challenge the status quo – the economy, the way we govern ourselves, and the law. Even as things stand, however, there are laws and economic mechanisms that could abet the kinds of changes that need to be made. Surprisingly often, indeed, we find that it’s the powers-that-be that are operating on the edge of the law, rather than the protestors. In short, on the positive side, we need to identify and proper use of the legal and economic structures that could be very much on side.

So there’s a huge amount to be thought about and made explicit. Here, too, are obvious opportunities to work with a wide range of existing organizations – some obviously radical, but also some in the main stream.

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