Dateline: 13 February 2014
I can imagine, though, that “The Natural Family at Home” has been presented to a class as a lecture at Hillsdale college where Allan Carlson is a visiting professor. If it isn’t taught there, it should be. Better yet, this beginning chapter in the book could be adapted into a wonderful homeschool lesson.
“Humans instinctively understand that the strength of their community is dependent, in the end, on the strength of their marriages. If the marital institution weakens—or worse, if it is politicized and subordinated to ideology—then the social pathologies of suicide, crime, abuse, poor health, and crippling dependency surely follow. If continued over several generations, these pathologies, born from the decay of wedlock will consume the community itself.”
“Successful households are the natural reservoir of liberty. They aim at autonomy or independence, enabling their members to resist oppression, survive economic, social, and political turbulence, and renew the world after troubles have passed. Complete households must have the power to shelter, feed, and clothe their members in the absence of both state and corporate largesse. Such independence from outside agency is the true mark of liberty, making possible in turn the self-government of communities. Households functionally dependent on wages, benefits, and services provided by an outside agency or the state have surrendered a significant portion of their natural liberty, and have accepted a kind of dependency indistinguishable, at its roots, from servanthood. Independence requires that responsible adults in a household be able to forego these forms of support, if necessary, and still be able to ensure the survival of themselves and other household members.
The basic human need for functional independence in food, clothing, and shelter dictates the eternal importance both of a household’s bond to property in land and of husbandry skills. Full autonomy requires the capacity to produce a regular supply of food, and the ability to preserve a substantial share of this bounty for consumption during the adverse seasons. The keeping of grazing and meat-producing animals, supplemented by hunting and fishing, adds further to the independence of households and their ability to survive wars, famines, stock market crashes, depression, inflation, and bad government. In arable climates, intensive cultivation of even a few acres of land can provide the necessary bounty that delivers such autonomy; ten to a hundred acres of soil and timber offer an independence more sure and complete.”
Responsible patriarchy? Why, it was just a few days ago that I was quoting Liberty Hyde Bailey’s use (in his 1927 book) of the term, “independent patriarchal units” in a discussion about families on the land being a bulwark of freedom.
“This grounding in a small niche of the natural world is vital to the full development of the human personality, and necessary to the attachments which define and hold households and communities together. Deep affection for a place is normally the product of growing up there, whether it be the lake country of Michigan or the soaring mountains of Switzerland. Persons without this sense of native place are left incomplete. They often become perpetual nomads, given to grand visions and ideological constructs designed to fill the emptiness of their hearts.”
“The common characteristic of the corporation is the manner in which it transcends the natural social constructs of family, community, state, and nation, by claiming the direct and primal loyalty of individuals. Persons joining the corporation weaken, or in some cases even abandon their bonds to the tiers of natural family order, accepting a new master.”
To see these contra-industrial understandings clearly expressed in just the introductory chapter of Allan Carlson’s new book is a delight.
These understandings are critically important to those of us who are looking to restore agrarian-based "islands of freedom" (a term I've borrowed from Kevin Swanson). These islands of freedom consist of families on the land, developing productive, autonomous family economies, to the best of their ability, within the industrial culture we live in.
These understandings, and these agrarian families, represent a way of life that is not only "natural" but biblical. As I've stated many times, I believe the agrarian context is the proper paradigm for Christian life.
Beyond that, these understandings will be especially important in the aftermath of the collapse of the industrialized economic and social structures of Western civilization.
Thus far, I'm certainly enjoying Allan Carlson's new book, and I haven't even read Chapter 1 yet.
Click Here to read Part 2 of this book review