Independent Patriarchal Units
Selection #6
From The Harvest
by Liberty Hyde Bailey

Dateline: 8 February 2014

When reading a book, it is my habit to underline or bracket pertinent passages and jot comments on the pages. I did this with Liberty Hyde Bailey’s book, The Harvest, when I read it a couple years back. The paragraph below is bracketed in my book, and next to it I wrote... “Wow!” 

Of course no man knows what will be the farming of the future. We need not try to foretell. But even with all the beautiful social schemes, we have not yet found a substitute for the family. The effort to let the school take the place of the family has failed. It is said that in the future we are to have corporation farms of 5,000 acres and more. Perhaps; this prophecy regards farming only as an industry. If so, the world will be ruled entirely by corporations, agricultural, industrial, commercial, professional, for the corporations would control the government: we shall have a government of corporations rather than of persons. Farm workers will then be operatives, and we shall extend the capital-and-labor problems into a new and limitless field. With no separate patriarchal units of importance there will be a benevolent urbanism and democracy, as we now conceive it, will be difficult or impossible.

—Liberty Hyde Bailey
   The Harvest of The Year To The Tiller of The Soil (1927)


Maybe it’s just me, but I had to carefully re-read that paragraph a few times to get a more solid grip on what Bailey was saying.

The combination of farming, families, failed social schemes, the corporate takeover of all areas of life and culture (including government), and the impossibility of a continuing democracy, in one paragraph, is a lot to consider. Are these things all connected? 

Well, they surely are connected, and Bailey’s understanding of the importance of independent families (“separate patriarchal units”), living on the land, as a bulwark of freedom, makes this man one of the most prescient social commentators of his time. 

Bailey continues...


This idea of corporationizing agriculture rests on the fallacious doctrine that we must have cheap food. The nearer the production approaches a surfeit or surplus the better it will be, under this conception, for the privileged and the industries. This is an ancient and hoary attitude toward farming, to the effect that the farmer must produce very cheaply in order that the town and industry may prosper; it runs through most of our thinking. Yet the farmer is entitled to as high a scale of living and to as much leisure as any other man. He should not be asked to receive a smaller part of the national earnings than other persons of equal ability and industry, particularly as he carries the obligation to maintain the productivity of the earth.


If this corporationism comes into existence, one wonders how long it will last and whether, after trial, there will be a backward swing toward separate independent family life. 


Do those prophets who would industrialize all production really wish to take the farm out of the family? Factories are essentially alike anywhere. Farms are as diverse as the valleys, hills, and plains. Shall we try to cast all farmers in the same mold?

—Liberty Hyde Bailey
    The Harvest of The Year To The Tiller of The Soil (1927)


Corporationism over farming has not only come into existence since 1927, it has prevailed, and family farms as  "separate patriarchal units of importance" are almost extinct.

However, I think Bailey was correct in thinking that, "after a trial," there will surely be a swing back to "separate independent family life."  

This swing back is part of the agrarian movement that we are now seeing. It is an agrarian reformation, or renaissance. It is currently in its infancy but it will, of necessity, become something much larger and more significant in the years ahead. And "patriarchal units" (traditional families) are fundamental to this reformation.


homemomto3 said...

Thank you for that post. It seems he was the one foretelling the future.

Matthew 6:33

Anonymous said...

I think Mr. Bailey nailed it! To me, all of this distills down to the idea that life and property rights are flipsides of the same coin: you really can't have one without the other. Certainly, farmers ideally provide for both their families and their communities, but as soon as you introduce what I call "corporacratic" entities into this mix, you have a creeping violation of these fundamental rights. Sure, we understand that under God, there is a hierarchy of government that, as long as it stays within its bounds, is a good and necessary thing. But those boundaries are being violated more and more now.

Exactly who are these corporacrats, often in the form of the Chamber of Commerce, the local zoning board, city councils, etc., in league with business, to determine what is efficient and what the "general welfare" should be? And then these power and profit "rent seekers" can make claims upon your property, saying how much it should be taxed and even whether or not you are the best, most profitable steward of that property, again, for "the common good". We all know that usually translates to meaning THEIR power and profits.

David Smith

Herrick Kimball said...

Yes, he was right on.

I would say that he understood very well the ramifications of what had happened in the late 1800's (in his lifetime) when the supreme court of the United States ruled that, according to the 14th Amendment, corporations could be defined as persons.

For those who would like to know more about how corporations became people, and why it's such a bad idea, I recommend The Dirty Little Secret of How Corporations Became People by Walter Prescott Webb. It's a story worth understanding.

From a biblical point of view, God created people. Then along comes the supreme court and it creates artificial personages called corporations. The corporations-as-people have grown to become powerful and oppressive entities.

I do think that LH Bailey realized this.

Herrick Kimball said...

A further point….

As the link I provided above explains, the fight by the big corporations in America (the railroads primarily) was a battle to free the corporations from state-government control. When the 14th Amendment was twisted to give personhood to corporations the result was…

."..they gained almost complete immunity from the control of the separate states and were taken under the protecting wing of the federal government. The states could no longer get at them; they could be neither controlled nor punished by local governments."

[quote from Walter Prescott Webb]

Thus began an "unholy alliance" between the federal government and corporations. An alliance that threatens to destroy the American form of government as it was designed to operate.