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The Confederate Lawyer
September 7, 2012

Feeding the People
by Charles G. Mills
fitzgerald griffin foundation

“No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave.” – Francis Scott Key

GLEN COVE, NY —One of the primary functions of society is to produce enough food to feed the people. Governments are fairly skilled in producing famines, but not in producing food. Even companies like Nestle, Kraft, and Heinz do not produce food; they only put the finishing touches on it. Food is produced by farmers, ranchers, shepherds, hunters, and fishers.

The contemporary world has lost sight of where food comes from. Chesterton said that modern man prefers milk from a clean store than from a dirty cow.

In the Middle Ages, the lords hunted and fished, and the peasants and serfs farmed. Peasants and serfs were quite different from each other. Both farmed land belonging to a lord, but serfs were the bottom of society with no rights to what they farmed. Peasants were conservative, proud, and industrious people who kept and sold the greater part of what they farmed, paying only an annual rent to the lord. The higher the proportion of peasants to serfs, the more healthy, productive, and well-ordered the society was.

In some ways, the distinction between serfs and peasants mirrors the distinction Our Lord made between shepherds and hirelings in chapter 10 of Saint John’s Gospel. The shepherd will die for his sheep; the hireling will run away when the wolf comes. The old American custom by which the rancher branded his own cattle but hired cowboys to herd them echoes this Biblical message. Some things should not be trusted to hirelings.

In pre-industrial America, the tenants of the New York patrons and the sharecroppers were peasants; the slaves were the serfs but with far more rights than serfs both by law and by custom. Throughout American history, however, a class of independent farmers running family farms kept growing until the family farmer became the typical American. In addition, many who lived in cities had cows, roosters, hens, and a fluctuating number of chickens behind their houses.

In the 1930s, the government became increasingly involved in agriculture and increasingly alienated the people from the production of food. Today, many would rather own an undivided 1 percent interest in a herd of 100 cows than own a cow. One person can do the government paperwork for 100 cows, so why own a cow and do your own paperwork? Furthermore, it is now possible to own a small interest in an undivided herd without ever laying eyes on the herd. Those who live in urban apartment houses can own 1 percent of a herd but have no place to keep a cow.

The success of a farm may depend as much on its unused land as on its used land because total government entitlements to grow food depend on total land area. The government allows farmers to grow more food on their good land if they own some adjacent land that is totally unsuitable for agriculture. Huge corporations designed to function in the bureaucratic state hire farmers to farm for them, effectively returning farmers to serfdom.

Some people still hunt deer and game and shoot birds. More people still catch a few trout, but by and large we are a society that is remote from the sources of our food.

Huntington Hartford (1833-1917), the founder of A&P stores, made several hundred million dollars after discovering that a huge chain of all-purpose food stores was better positioned to succeed in a bureaucratic state than butchers, bakers, pastry shops, and corner grocery stores. So he put them out of business, and today we have giant supermarkets controlled from the other side of the country. If there is a butcher in the supermarket, he is a hireling.

Gone are the butcher, the baker, and the grocer who made a profit by knowing their customers and knowing the farmers or ranchers from whom they bought. The food instead is treated, processed, colored, and disguised in packages; children no longer know what real food is.

During the British bombardment of Baltimore, Francis Scott Key wrote, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave.” Let us abolish the U. S. Department of Agriculture and its crushing rules and regulations. Let us free the hirelings and slaves that produce our food from the giant bureaucracies that control them. Let us turn them into farmers, ranchers, planters, shepherds, hunters, fishers, grocers, butchers, bakers, and fishmongers again.

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The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2012 by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com. All rights reserved.

This column may be forwarded, posted, or published if credit is given to Charles Mills and fgfBooks.com.

Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles about the law.

See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.

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