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Economic awakening: Corn can’t grow like money grows

Judging by the large number of thoughtful comments that followed my claim two weeks ago that farming is not a capitalistic venture and never was, I’d say more and more people are realizing how that boring old subject of economics rules over us all. While that remark echoed my opinion, it was almost a direct quote from Dwayne Andreas. Mr. Andreas is not a socialist, not a wild-eyed occupier of Wall Street, not a Zen Buddhist mystic, not a far out, left wing liberal. Now retired, he was the head of Archers Daniel Midland for many years, one of the largest and most successful agribusiness companies in the world. He made that observation about a decade ago and was widely quoted because the press was totally taken aback that a successful businessman like him would say something like that. If anyone could claim to be both a genuine capitalist and an informed expert on industrial agriculture, it was Mr. Andreas. He was also in a unique position to make that statement because he was known as one of the biggest contributors to our two major political parties—mostly to the Republicans but also to Democrats. As all capitalists know, (or socialists or whatever), it is necessary to play both sides of the political aisle to assure favorable legislation no matter which way the wind blows.

As many of the respondents on this website have pointed out, the so-called civilized world stumbles along on economic theories and theorems that partake of both socialism and capitalism. There is just no way in the real world to avoid doing so because whether a country is considered to have a more socialistic economy, like say, Canada or Sweden, or a more capitalistic economy, like the United States, all of the industrial world today practices economies that function on the idea that money can grow in value by manipulative interest rates.

I don’t hear anyone explicitly suggesting that the culprit in our economic woes is money interest even though all of our major religions, particularly Christianity and Islam, insisted for centuries that interest on money was immoral. ALL interest on money was usury. And supporting that view, philosophers and writers from every culture and era cautioned over and over again the folly of borrowing money. Wrote John Ruskin in 1866: “Borrowers are nearly always ill-spenders, and it is with lent money that all evil is mainly done and all unjust war protracted.”

But the human race is incapable of resisting the allure of borrowed money or the wealth that can be piled up from lending the stuff. Money is an extremely handy invention. It is certainly convenient to be able to buy a car with money than to have to haul a semi load of corn to town to trade for one. But the very bulkiness of barter is the key to keeping trade honest. Once value is determined in terms of pieces of paper or instantaneous electronic impulses, rather than in terms of real goods, the mischief begins. We can vary the rate that money “grows” in a way that nature can’t match or accommodate. Corn grows at its own sweet natural pace, subject to the whims of the weather; money can be grown at any rate the moneychangers want it to grow or not grow. This strange foul brood never seems to die like real life in nature. With money, we have created a monster. That is the basic reason why agriculture in an economy based on money growth rather than natural growth will always have to be subsidized.

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