All posts by tegory

Quilt By Association

Marion, aka my father, became the wizard of Thompson Road when he brought home this monster metal box with a 7 inch TV screen and the whole neighborhood watched the 1948 Indianapolis 500. Child wise there was Nancy, Bud, Sis, Sue and me playing cowboys and Indians as seen on 7 inch TV.  Easter egg hunt and Halloween at the Society of Friends and sled riding down the only slope in the road. The quilting bee ladies added that Norman Rockwell ambiance to my childhood until June 1950 when Marion announced that we were all moving to the big city, Cincinnati.

Tocqueville believed that associations operating outside the sphere of government and economic life—what we now refer to as civil society—were essential bulwarks against any incipient democratic decay and despotism.

WHEN TOCQUEVILLE CAME TO CINCINNATI

Alexis and his buddy Beaumont arrived by steamship on a cold as hell 24th of November 1831. They talked with Cincinnati lawyer Salmon P. Chase, who was to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a Justice McLean and Dr. Drake. Alexis tried to test their faith in democracy. Chase, the fly in the ointment of Abe’s cabinet, was the Hillary Clinton elitist snob of his day and declared the deplorables messed with his rule of the righteous.

McLean however, saw  Andrew Jackson’s campaign against the Second Bank of the United States as the best example of the ordinary population defending itself against a privileged elite.

Cincinnati was, as Damrosch writes, what Tocqueville had been waiting for: “A city with hardly any past, in dizzying transition, inventing itself with ferocious energy.” Tocqueville himself spoke of encountering “a democracy devoid of limits and measures.” “What we encountered there,” he wrote, “is all the good and bad of American society set out in bold relief.”

Alexis was impressed with the industriousness of the city and asked why there was nothing but trees on the Kentucky side? Chase, the elite, McLean, the populist and Dr. Drake were in complete agreement that the Ohio River, the Mason-Dixon Line, clearly illustrated the differences in the South’s slave economy versus the North’s free enterprise system.

Woodward High School opened in 1831 just before Tocqueville’s arrival in Cincinnati.

WHAT MAKES A STRONG CIVIL SOCIETY?

Alexis got back on the boat to Louisville declaring that Democracy in America had shown him that the middle classes can govern the state and he regarded Cincinnati (pop. 25,000) as a place of ‘absolute social equality.’

While among us, government meddles in everything, here there is not, or appears not to be any government at all. Alike the virtues and defects of centralization are seemingly unknown; there is no mainspring regulating the machine’s moving parts.

One such association, known as the Grange, after the end of the Civil War in 1867, helped the farmer get his fresh start after the two centuries of unintended consequences, caused by the slavery form of agricultural subsidies. 

THE POWER OF COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS

Ever since Lincoln was shot, America’s farmers, manufacturers and merchants have tried to curry favor with the emperor and his entourage, by organizing themselves in associations. Alexis de Tocqueville, in 1835, came to the then 25 States, interviewed 200 business and political leaders, went back home and wrote his seminal work, “Democracy in America.” Tocqueville attributed America’s success in creating a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, to 1) associations of like-minded individuals, 2) a fresh start in the new world and 3) no interference from a powerful church. The United States and Mexico both were start-up constitutional democracies The Catholic Church divided the power with their colonial governments, whether they were democracies or dictatorships. Karl Rove’s Christian coalition is an example of the damage that can be done when religion is used to win an election. However, the power behind the Yankees, was their need to form associations of individuals united in a common cause. These networks of local citizens were then able to speak with one voice, on issues that were important to their members.

The farmers, after WWI, started abandoning the countryside for jobs in the cities, and formed associations of merchants and manufacturers, like Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, and Toastmasters. The first three organizations were formed to help the individual business man succeed through the contacts and social relationships formed while performing community service projects. Toastmasters started out as a self-improvement (public speaking) offering of the Anaheim, CA, YMCA.

A SECULAR SENSE of BELONGING

At age fifty, following my mid-life crisis I joined Kiwanis, Lions, Toastmasters, and the late ‘30’s self-help group Alcoholics Anonymous. The Follett Lions Club was the Chamber of Commerce and the only non-denominational group in population 459, Follett, TX. ‘Vernie’ Schoenhals was the only farmer member and he was retired. We had the Texas A&M, PhD economist – I billed him as ‘the Alan Greenspan of the Prairie” – do an analysis on what the community could do to save itself from extinction. His well thought out answer was that we had a good transportation system – we could leave town by US 15 or hop a freight train. I could have called in a priest to give us ‘last rights’ but the Baptist majority wouldn’t have gone for it.

Youth retention is the number one problem in rural America. After high school graduation they all run away to Dallas, Omaha, St.Louis, Amarillo, Kansas City or Denver in hopes of finding a living wage.

YUPPIES EXIT THE LOOP


Shelby Brown and her husband Teg Gregory admit to being former yuppies who gave up high-income careers — Brown as a systems analyst and Gregory as an architect — for life on the farm. Married for almost nine years, Brown, 48, and Gregory, 59, are owners of Anala Goat Co. in Beasley. The company is named after Brown’s nanny, Anala Hebert. They live without satellite television and cell phones in a trailer on 18 acres.

I joined Sugar Speaker Toastmasters when Shelby returned us back to Houston, to practice my, “why you should drive fifty miles out in the country for a $12 gallon of goat’s milk.” Maybe I should have joined the Optimist Club but as it turned out, talking out loud to your friends and fellow members has similar benefits to AA and group therapy that Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions and the Optimists can’t provide. Around midway in my stay at Sugar Speakers, Toastmasters International, began promoting itself as the world leader in both communications and leadership skills training.

WALKING THE TALK IN CHINA

My Toastmasters experience in China is different, no raised eyebrows, just a “what did he say look,” no matter what topic I was pontificating on at the time. But real leadership training, I got because I was the only Yankee Toastmaster in the club. The Marine Corps only taught me the dance steps but Toastmasters China I got to practice dancing in front of a live audience.

In China, I was not self-conscious about my dancing, communication and leadership skills because nobody from my cultural group was watching. There are 300 million young adults (80 percent women, average age 24) who hunger and thirst for the Toastmasters oral English communications and leadership opportunity. Why? So they can get a good job, make money and see the world.

Toastmasters China has grown from 10 clubs in 2006 to more than 500 today

The Grange Society is dead, domestically Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary are, ‘on the ropes’ only AA (recovery of self) and Toastmasters (self realization) are growing at home and abroad. At Sugar Speakers, the membership is comprised of merchants of service (engineers, consultants, accountants, insurance, etc.), while the membership of Beijing Advanced, Yellow River, On The Way and Middle Kingdom is primarily merchants of educational services and manufacturers of technology hardware and software.

The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) allowed Toastmasters to thrive and survive because of the Four Secular No’s. No Sex, No Race, No Religion & No Politics.

Tocqueville attributed America’s success in creating a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, to 1) associations of like-minded individuals, 2) a fresh start in the new world and 3) no interference from a powerful church.

China Toastmasters brought Tocqueville’s American success story to 1) 300 million like-minded individuals who wanted to communicate in English, 2) a fresh start in a 1.4 billion communist country with no Civil Society. 3) no interference from a powerful church of any kind.

Akkaya Valley

“The Yanks are coming to Akkaya Gardens”

While Jane Marie was away her travailing spouse bought a house
Only seven units left, put it on your credit or debit card.
Treehouse Country Club dining April through November
Come visit Secret Valley, “we’ll leave the GPS on.”

“I Want My Mommy”

“If money were no object, I would be on a jet plane to Kathmandu!”

Three New Yorkers and a Kiwi

I love New Yorkers – the saying, “There is the United States of America and then there is New York City,” is true. It’s not that they are a bunch of arrogant you-know-what’s – it’s just their culture, it’s in their DNA to tell it like it is.  

Last week I made an extended visit to Hong Kong, to get a 30 day tourist visa, and in three days I attended seven AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings. Beijing visits are my only chance to go to AA meetings, so in my three Hong Kong days I got a whole year’s worth. 

After I had given my usual lengthy, meandering woe-is-me story about the relationship challenges of widowhood and my struggles to find the ideal love, marriage & life partner, under the title “I Want My Mommy,” One of my three New York City AA brothers immediately upstaged my ‘sharing,’ with the NYC direct translation, “Men want a mommy with sex privileges.” 

“Mr. Gregory, you no longer work here because your passport says you will be 67 when school starts in September.”

I first visited HK in 1970, aboard the USS Okinawa, which would have become famous if not for the fact that her sister ship, the USS Iwo Jima, rescued Tom Hanks and the Apollo 13 crew on April 17, 1970. My ten day stay in Hong Kong harbor came at the end of my US Marine Corps sponsored Vietnam tour, which included five months ashore in the Philippines, two months of camping on the side of Mt. Fuji and another harbor visit to Kaosheng, Taiwan. 

“Because God protects children, alcoholics and architects I was doubly blessed with three cruises in 12 months, to Mt. Fuji, Taiwan, Manila and Hong Kong.”

Fighting the Vietnam War from Hong Kong convinced me that the expatriate lifestyle was the way of my future and I should practice my ‘architecting’ overseas rather than in the boring ‘ole USA. A decade later, in ’81, my interior designer wife and I stopped off in HK on our way back from the zenith, the apogee, of my architectural career – designing Singapore Airlines’ computer center at Changi airport. 

Edificio Bretagne, Sao Paulo, Brazil, our home 1975 /78

At the time, I thought there might be many more expatriate opportunities to gad-about the orient, for several reasons. 1: three years of living beyond our means, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, had convinced me to return to my mommy’s religion; no drinking, no smoking.  Even my father decided to get on the bandwagon and join the church.  2: I got an EMBA in ’82, so prosperity and the yuppie lifestyle was just around the other side of a fully restored XKE convertible. 

“Our garden villa in ‘Blag Town‘, Ismalia, Egypt, 1985. The midpoint on the Suez Canal.”

But, No! As they say in NYC AA, or AA anywhere, “doing geography” like most alcoholic behaviors, eventually catches up with you. I had traded a leveraged trip down the Amazon for an attempt to navigate the Nile without a paddle. My Amex Gold card went through mummification, paying for a root canal by the US State Department approved dentist in Cairo.

In her book, Heal Your Body A-Z, Louise Hay, the Kongzi (Confucius) of metaphysics, who incidentally learned her stuff in New York City, labeled my tooth problem as “root beliefs being destroyed.”

On July 4th, ’93, at the Houston Post Oak AA club, and the nadir of my mid-life transition, (all mommies and daddies experience this phenomena, between the ages of 45 and 55) I got religion again, and a new mommy, a CPA Systems Analyst and a nine year veteran of AA. Now, I was confident that I was on the right path, and my mantra was the tenth AA promise, “Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.” 

The JACK of Diamonds and JACK of Clubs have a Karmic relationship; they mirror each other but the Diamond JACK is the boss.

Astrologically speaking, I was also on the right track, because my new mommy was a ‘Jack of Diamonds’ and as the ‘Jack of Clubs,‘ I was her karmic slave. I was, my mommy’s, good boy. I was living the New Yorkers dream, I had “a mommy with sex privileges.” 

Then, one late night the sheriff came out to our farm and told me that my mommy had been killed in a truck-trailer accident, on I-80, in western Pennsylvania. She had been on her way to New York to buy an emergency generator, so we could milk all the goats all the time, even in a hurricane. 

God as I understood him, or her, abhors a vacuum, especially when it comes to money and carbohydrates. After selling the farm and giving the goats, cows, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cat to a good home, I was financially independent for all of sixty days. Then, I had another religious experience: ‘vegetarianism,’ (not Vegan-vegetarianism, just vegetarianism), and of course, I got a new mommy, in Eugene, Oregon. 

Once again, I was certain that I had returned to ‘the way,’ after all, my new mommy and I had met each other 45 years before, on Spring break in Florida. And she had been led to Google me, six months after my mommy died. It was fate, it was destiny, I was sure that this was the ultimate Zodiacal relationship. Why, it even said right there on page 56, of Robert Camp’s Love Cards, “when the Jack of Clubs meets a Four of Diamonds, he has met the woman of his dreams.” 

However, after 13 months of spending $120,000 and losing sixty pounds, eating vegetables, Miss Eugene, said I wasn’t her idea of daddy. Rebuffed, I consulted the ‘Oracle from Frisco,’ Craig’s List, and received the divination: “teach ESL in China.” A month later, I was on my way to Zhengzhou Henan, China, to pursue my true karmic path:

Though Debrah may be the person of teg’s dreams, the opposite is probably not true. In fact, because so much of the Neptunian energy has been stimulated in teg, he may not be able to see Debrah as she really is at all. When under the influence of Neptune’s spell, we project many of our expectations, unfulfilled needs and fantasies onto our partner. 

“September Thirteenth – The Day of Passionate Care:” After separation, divorce or death of a mate, September 13 people may carry on the work shared with their original partner. September 13 people have intense physical drives and a great biological need to share their life with an understanding mate or partner who is capable of completely accepting them, along with all their foibles.

#43 The Way of Resolve: The life purpose of the individuals on the Way of Resolve is to learn how to face any challenge or problem without backing down. However, they tend to lack resolve and prefer to take the path of least resistance. Those on this path often pay too much attention to what others think, preventing them from cultivating their own beliefs. Without a more fully developed value system, they may lack a sense of self.

prefer to take the path of least resistance.

When I looked up my Karmic Path or what I had to do to be in Dharma, “prefer to take the path of least resistence” hit home.
CORE LESSON: Standing up for what they believe in or for those they love.

Last year when I turned 67 the Chinese government said they didn’t want to be my mommy any more, and I should go back home. I didn’t want to confuse them with the old Cortez, “burned my boats” idiomatic expression, so I have, quietly and expensively, been going to Hong Kong every ninety days, to re-enter China as a perpetual tourist. This is not a unique expatriate solution; my Houston farmers’ market friend, who lost his spouse a year after me, heads for the border every three months to maintain his residential status in Costa Rica.

I suupported myself as a poor man’s version of Bill Murray in “Lost in Translation.”

I was feeling quite proud of myself for going almost a whole year of living dangerously, in a foreign, non-English speaking country, without an employer and the accompanying free housing, free utilities, and almost free alien documentation. Then, on the third day in Hong Kong, after the three New Yorkers and the Kiwi had pointed out that I was certainly no emperor and  no longer had a mommy of any kind, I got really, really nervous.

What if, the Chinese embassy doesn’t renew my visa? Where am I going to live? How am I going to afford to stay even one more day in HK? My sister might love me but I don’t think she really wants to be my mommy and I’m sure my brother-in-law doesn’t want to be my daddy. Had my journey down the path of least resistence finally come to an end?

I wonder what those New Yorkers and their Kiwi brother would say. I’m afraid to ask.

tegory66@gmail.com

ENTREPRENEURISM

An entrepreneur is an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards. The entrepreneur is commonly seen as an innovator, a source of new ideas, goods, services, and business/or procedures.

Only 3% of the population in every nation on earth has enough money to qualify as an Elite. One third of that 3% were born Financially Independent, one third got there by hook or crook and the last third almost made it but needs government assistance to retire. That leaves 97% of the world’s people to fend for themselves.

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Marx The Communist Manifesto – Bourgeoisie 3% and Proletariat 97%

In Marxist theory, the proletariat is the social class that does not have ownership of the means of production and whose only means of subsistence is to sell their labor power for a wage or salary. 

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In Marxist theory, the bourgeoisie directly or indirectly control productive property: They might own factories, mills, workshops, or other businesses; they might own the land such business are built on, or own services (like railroads or power grids) that such businesses depend on; they might be shareholders in companies that own such things, or own banks or lending institutions that such businesses are indebted to. The bourgeoisie are anyone who can take control of some productive capacity and leverage that control to make a profit for themselves.

Smith’s Proletariat & Bourgeoisie

Smith states, explicitly and repeatedly, that the true measure of a nation’s wealth is not the size of its king’s treasury or the holdings of an affluent few but rather the wages of “the laboring poor.” In a passage that Obama quoted in his speech, Smith declares that it is a matter of simple “equity” that “they who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged.”

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Adam Smith’s three natural laws of economics? the law of selfinterest—People work for their own good. the law of competition—Competition forces people to make a better product. lowest possible price to meet demand in a market economy.

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Adam Smith “All money is a matter of belief. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.”

Welcome to the Age of Entrepreneurism

7 Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs

  • Self-Motivation. One of the most important traits of entrepreneurs is self-motivation. …
  • Understand What You Offer. As an entrepreneur, you need to know what you offer, and how it fits into the market. …
  • Take Risks. …
  • Know How to Network. …
  • Basic Money Management Skills and Knowledge. …
  • Flexibility. …
  • Passion.
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Entrepreneur Gallery

The February 24th DESIRE for MONEY and LOVE Card

ACE of Diamonds: Ambition is the key word for this card, and usually in form of cold, hard, cash. Contacts are very important to the Ace of Diamonds. They like secrecy in connection with their associations; both business and personal. The Ace of Diamonds can be incredibly charismatic, able to focus their magnetism to achieve success.  http://www.metasymbology.com/

Open Loop Limbic System

Jeff Bezos

The January 12th FRIENDSHIP Card

Adam Smith’s Four Factors of Destruction

Smith describes four factors that destroy and degrade “agriculture, the sole source of wealth and revenue of every nation.”

  • Soil Husbandry “the neglect of cultivation and improvement”
  • Subsidies & Tariffs “the fall in the real price of any part of the rude produce of land”
  • Equipment, Seeds & Fertilizer the rise in the real price of manufactures”
  • Devalued Dollar, the declension of the real wealth of the society

 all tend to lower the real rent of land, to reduce the real wealth of the landlord, to diminish his power of purchasing either the labor, or the produce of the labor of other people.

The first money was labor

Labour was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased.
Excerpt from The Wealth of Nations

It is our nature to accumulate money

The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition is so powerful, that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often encumbers its operations.
Excerpt from The Wealth of Nations

CAPITALISM

Farmers, Merchants or Manufacturers

“The Great Commerce of every Civilized Society is that carried on between the Inhabitants of the Town and those of the Country.– Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, 1776, (pg. 473)

By pursuing his own interest [the merchant] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it.

My wife, Shelby Ann Brown and I, discovered, by forsaking our lives as Inhabitants of the Town, to become farmers, goat farmers, but farmers none the less, and live lives, like those of the Country, that everything Adam Smith said about agriculture in his seminal work the “Wealth of Nations,” was just as applicable in 1998 and 2008 as it was in 1776.

As Oogwei said to Shifu, in Kung Fu Panda, “There are no accidents, only reasons,” and God, my higher power and most assuredly Shelby, hadn’t dragged us to the most eastern tip of the Texas Panhandle in the summer of ’98, for no good reason.

Follett, Texas, the home of Shelby’s ancestors, was at the crossroads of history, in the American West. The Spanish conquistador Coronado, in 1500 came north from Mexico, through New Mexico and West Texas, then hung a right at the Canadian River. Two hundred fifty miles later, after enduring 27 mph average daily wind velocities, ambushes by the Native American crowd and not spotting a single solitary bush or tree along the way, Coronado threw up his gauntlet, and declared the Texas-Oklahoma “High Plains” to be the “inland desert of the Americas.” He then turned his expedition around and marched back the same 1,500-mile way he had come.

After the Civil War, Colonel George Custer came to Follett and lost his scalp while trying to massacre those pesky Native Americans, the pioneer cowboy-farmers solved the problem themselves by setting the prairie grass on fire, starving the buffalo and forcing the Native Americans to follow their food chain farther west.

The pioneers then established their own food distribution system by retracing Coronado’s steps with huge cattle drives, from south Texas north to Abilene and Dodge City. The prairie grass had scratched the belly of Coronado’s horse, but after a few trips, the cowboys over grazed the prairie to the nub. The citizens of Dodge were forced to layoff, both Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, who later moved on to Tucson to make the original, “OK Corral.”

Shelby’s mom, dad, aunts and uncles had long ago abandoned the place, haunted by childhood memories, of being at ground zero, for the 1937 ‘Dust Bowl.’ Therefore, in the summer of ’98, Shelby and I pretty much had the place to ourselves. There was circumstantial evidence, with Christian radio, heard on all FM/AM frequencies, as well as in the grocery store, that not everybody’s higher power had left town.

Our game plan was to raise Black Boer Goat breeding stock and sell the goats for an average price of $500 apiece. This contrasted with the market price of $60 for an ordinary meat goat. The theory was, selling each of the two kids, from 120 adult nanny goats, would get us a $10,000 monthly income and achieve our goal of replacing our former urban professional salaries.

“The inhabitants of the town draw from the country the rude produce which constitutes both the materials of their work and the fund of their subsistence: and they pay for this rude produce by sending back to the country a certain portion of it manufactured and prepared for immediate use.”

After two years, we former inhabitants of the town had received less than a $1,000 portion of it manufactured and prepared for immediate use,” from the sale of our rude produce, Black Boer Goat breeding stock. I therefore dusted off Ted Levitt, the Father of Marketing’s Market Myopia axiom, “know what business you are in,” showed it to Shelby and she moved the goats and us back to Houston. Coronado’s past life regression chant of, “I told you so,” was audibly visible in the extended side mirrors of our, dually-diesel, F-350, crew-cab, truck.

Shelby went back to work to support the 15-acre homestead in Follett, 650 miles from our new 18-acre, farm-to-market, location, 50 miles southwest of Houston. I laid around the ratty old trailer-house all day, reading Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” and rethinking just how farmers were supposed to make money in the food business.

Goat Farming 101: Urban Income, Rural Lifestyle

Adopting the philosophy – “if you want to learn something, teach it,” – I taught Goat Farming 101: Urban Income, Rural Lifestyle, six times a year for six years, averaging 25 farmer ‘wannabes’ each session. BUT! It wasn’t until the sixth year, May 2006 to be exact, that I could stand in front of the class and honestly say, that yes; it is possible to have a rural lifestyle and earn an urban income of $10,000/month, from only fifty goats on five acres. AND! It took two years in Follett, plus six more years in Houston, Shelby’s $300,000 net worth, another $100,000 on MasterCard to figure out how those of the Country could make money selling rude produce to the inhabitants of the Town.

Architects are trained to use the iterative process (a fancy way to say, try and try again) for problem-solving, and once again I took Shelby’s money, to this time, buy 44 Nubian billy goats, for ‘Eid,’ the Moslem holiday, where traditional ‘Allah fearing’ families sacrifice a lamb or goat. This time was supposed to be different and it was, this time Shelby bought dinner for the entire Palestinian community of Houston. BUT, the silver-lining behind this iteration of “The Great Commerce of every Civilized Society carried on between the Inhabitants of the Town and those of the Country,was the discovery that Mrs. Kettler, the owner of those Nubian bad boys, had been selling raw goat’s milk to David Keresh’s Branch Davidians, in Waco as well as the citizens of Dallas, a two-hour drive away, for $7 a gallon.

The apple had fallen from the tree, the way for those of the Country to make a six-figure income was to sell their rude produce to the Inhabitants of the town for at least $12 a gallon. Shelby liked that idea and went all the way to Tennessee to bring back four pregnant Saanen nannies, built a $30,000 dairy, TB tested our 100 ruminants to comply with every Texas Department of Health regulation to obtain the Grade ‘A’ raw dairy license, that Mrs.Kettler and others sold their raw milk without. No sooner than we were up and running, we noticed that the Houstonians were not coming to the farm for milk more than three times, at most. Why? Too far. Mother Necessity made us take our rude produce to the farmers’ markets in Houston and thus, we became farmers, manufacturers and merchants. The parking lot of 2100 Richmond Avenue became our friend because we could sell everything we had to sell in two hours, while educating the public on why they had to pay ten times as much money for our rude produce as the store-bought milk.

You can raise six lambs, six goats or one cow; on one acreofgood pasture land. You can raise the lambs, the goats, the cow plus 100 chickens on an organically composted acre using multi-species and rotational intensive grazing techniques. That four-legged Nubian maiden can produce 2,000 pounds of milk in a years’ worth of ruminating around that little old acreof a pasture. At an average per pound price of say $2.50 a pound, the farmer if he sells direct to the consumer, gets to take $5,000/yr back home, to his wife and kids.

Now, I know what you are saying, “tegory, that can’t be true, you are just making that, up.” I know it is difficult, and if I threw in the additional 2,000lbs. of sheep’s milk Greek feta, another 2,100 lbs. of cow’s milk at $1.19/lb and 100 chickens at $4/lb, the total $15,700 per acre, per year, would be just too big a number, for you to swallow, but it’s true.

When I showed my proposal to Prof. Jefferson Wang’s Zhengzhou University MBA class they were more than somewhat skeptical that any Chinese mother would pay a jin more than 2.5RMB (35 cents) for a liter of milk and there wasn’t a snowballs chance in Hainan they were going to pay anywhere near my suggested price of 40RMB ($5.85) per liter. I told them that there wasn’t a snowballs chance, even in Detroit, that Americans were going to pay $30,000 for a fully loaded, Buick sedan (the most popular car in China).

How do you get the Chinese mother to pay 40 RMB/liter for milk, when she currently would not give you a ‘jin’ more than 2.5 RMB/liter? Easy, repair the link between the dairy and the single child mother. An internet billionaire (Netease) is raising 10,000 hogs on webcam because China consumes 55% of the world’s pork but they don’t trust the local supplier. The mother will buy the milk from New Zealand for her baby and drink made in China for herself.

The Chinese mother will pay, once she sees the quality in what she is buying. 2009 was also the year that China passed up Japan as the world buying leader in the luxury goods market. I experienced the buying power of the Chinese when I offered to buy lunch at the best restaurant in Gong Yi, a small city west of Zhengzhou. I changed my tune when the taxi driver told us that the BEST restaurant in this small burgh would cost 5,000 RMB. I asked my friend, now who would pay $750 for lunch in Beijing or Shanghai, let alone Gong Yi. “Rich Chinese don’t care about money,” was his reply. We don’t need to sell all the mothers in China on the health benefits of raw goat’s milk, only the well educated 1%. The mother of a newborn, in Houston, who raided our refrigerator at 3am couldn’t afford to buy a $75 lunch, let alone a $750 one, but she left a $10 bill in the fridge door, for a half gallon of milk for her baby.

Exactly as Adam Smith said in 1776, “The Great Commerce of every Civilized Society Is that carried on between the Inhabitants of the Town and those of the Country,and by visiting eight markets a week, holding cheese-making and goat farming classes, that included farm visits, were we able to restore the customer relationship between the farmer and his community.”  America’s agricultural system is a complete failure, fiscally and morally bankrupt. Farming no longer provides revenue and wealth creation for the individual farmer, and he is forced to turn to crime, industrialized agriculture, which depletes soil quality and ends up being complicit in poisoning the nation’s food supply.

So why is our system of agriculture, the sole or the principal source of the revenue and wealth of every country,”broken? Why are we the most malnourished developed nation on earth? Why hasn’t the family farmer made any real money since WWI? Why are two-thirds of Americans obese? Why are Romney’s 47% poor in health and wealth? Because 99% of USA farmers      left the country to be merchant-manufacturer inhabitants of the Town. They took the town with them on their way to the big city. 

Adam Smith: the Farmers’ Market Economist

“Agriculture, the Produce of the Land, is the SOLE or the PRINCIPAL Source of the Revenue and Wealth of every Country.”Adam Smith’s 1776 Econ 101 text book, Wealth of Nations

Henry Ford’s Farmall tractor put 100 farmers out-of-business.

RUDE PRODUCE versus MANUFACTURED PRODUCE

“whatever tends in any country to raise the price of manufactured produce, tends too lower that of the rude produce of the land, and thereby to discourage agriculture.” pg. 873, The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith

SHOW ME THE MONEY

Teddy Roosevelt bans the sale of raw milk in 1912 with FDA act

Smith’s quotation above explains why the only time the American farmer ever made money, was from the end of the Civil War to just after WWI. When Lincoln freed the slaves, the white plantation owner had to get up out of his rocker, abandon his porch and go to work for a living, which he was not willing to do. The former slaves were then free to get paid for picking cotton and raising the rude produce of the land by themselves. After 1865, the trade balance shifted to the farmer because “The inhabitants of the town…including the former plantation owner, had to pay the market price or grow their own. The town of Kendleton, Texas, was named for the former plantation owner, who sold his land to the newly freed, for 50 cents an acre. The same land that my wife Shelby bought 150 years later for $5,000 an acre.

Pasteurization put an end to local small – less than a dozen cows – dairy farms and the beginning of Fctory Farmer

The good times lasted until the day after WWI ended, and Henry Ford started making tractors instead of tanks, with the unintended consequence of raising the price of manufactured produce, which lowered the price of the rude produce of the land, and thereby discouraged agriculture.”

” Whatever tends in any country…” in post WWI the advent of mechanization increased the cost of doing business, separated the farmer from his customer and steadily lowered the price of his rude $produce and thereby discouraged agriculture. The mothers and housewives, “the inhabitants of the town…lost touch with the individual farmer, started dating the milkman and making sure their butcher’s thumb wasn’t on the scale.

Well, didn’t the farmers who could afford to buy tractors make any money? Nope! Not any real money, they mortgaged their farms to chase after the slim profit margins of commodity row crops. Smith called this “the rent value of the land.” Shelby called it the cost of capital. Our farm, rented for $750/month or $500/acre because it had a nice barn, a tested well, it was fenced and had both road and river frontage. The white farmer/ranchers from surrounding communities rented adjacent undeveloped land for only $14/acre per year. Shelby, the CPA Systems Analyst and creative financial genius, had her work cut out for her to come up with some “rude produce” that was going to pay that kind of rent. Not my problem, I was just the salesman.

The U.S. farmer uses machines, chemicals, and government subsidized mechanized irrigation systems, to grow 200 bushels of corn per acre, which at today’s, also subsidized Ethanol gas prices, works out to be $800/acre (931 RMB/mu) or double the pre-ethanol price. In China and North America, it takes a sixth of an acre or one mu to raise one goat. A Nubian nanny goat can produce 225 gallons of milk in her ten-month cycle. The Lone Star Cheese Company (the food manufacturer), in Conroe, Texas, 50 miles north of Houston was paying $3.40/gal, for grade ‘B’ raw milk, pasteurizing it at their plant, and selling the finished, artificially flavored goat cheese, to Whole Foods for $0.50/ounce. Whole Foods in turn, sold it to their ‘cusinely correct’ customers for $1.00/ounce. Prairie View A & M, gladly supplied half of Lone Star’s needs, because their $million ‘creamery,’ was bought and paid for with federal government grant money, and the students did all the work. Therefore, the future commodity price of goat’s milk, in the Metro Houston area, wasn’t going to change in our favor, anytime soon.

Shelby had to decide whether $3.40/gal, would pay the $9,000 a year rent of the land. If, all fifty girls gave 225 gallons each, we could sell their “rude produce”to Lone Star for $38,000. As our ‘bubba’ neighbors would say, it “penciled-out.”

However, our goal was an urban income, with a rural lifestyle, and $38, 000 fell a little short, of our $10,000/month or $120,000 a year, master plan. After all, as possible former descendents of plantation owners, requiring copious amounts of psychotherapy, we needed to get at least $12/gallon for our “rude produce” to make our emotional ends meet.

Shelby’s idea was to be the manufacturer, the merchant and the farmer. She made Anala Inc. the parent company with the dba (doing business as): Anala Goat Company, as the farmer, Earth Mother Farms, as the food manufacturer and when we set-up our tent, at the farmers’ market, we were Earth Mother Farms, the merchant. We sold the milk at $15/gal, the cheese at $25/gal and the kefir at $40/gal, with a 55-30-15, ratio of milk, cheese and kefir. Since it takes a gallon of milk to make a pound of cheese, our average price for our 55-30-15 mix of rude produce dairy, was $25 a gallon. This equated to $1,300 an acre and gross revenue of $23,000 a month. The good business or added value practice of selling the milk as cheese, was later reinforced when I wanted to buy milk in, Eugene, Oregon, to make kefir. The goat dairy farmers wouldn’t sell me their $12 milk, unless I paid the $25/gal cheese price.

Our customers had to pay our price or do without because they couldn’t buy raw milk, cheese or kefir in the store. Whole Foods, a block away, was getting $1/ounce for goat cheese, made by Lone Star with pasteurized milk, while I was standing in the parking lot, of 2100 Richmond Avenue, enduring Houston’s 98% humidity controlled outdoor environment, selling grade ‘A’ raw goat cheese for $1.50 an ounce. We as Earth Mother Farms, the manufacturer, got to keep Lone Star’s 50 cents, Whole Foods’ 50 cents, as Earth Mother Farms, the merchant, and an additional 50 cents, for the drive in from the country to serve the inhabitants of the town.

The HAU ‘Hamlet for Humanity,’ sheep and goat dairy, could earn 1,500 RMB from the milk production of one goat, on one mu of land or the equivalent of a Chinese farmer’s total annual income, in just 30 days, that’s my kind of “Cultural Revolution.” As Deng Xiaoping allegedly said, “making money is exhilarating.” And all that therapy paid off too, because it was my ‘breath integration’ therapist, who told Shelby, she had to give up her $175,000/yr day job, if she was to realize her dream. When Shelby followed her advice, like Cortez ‘burning his boats It focused our attention on making it work. Maybe if she had quit earlier we would have reached our goal in six years instead of eight. It was scary enough in eight

Since selling the farm in June 2007, coming to Zhengzhou in September 2008 and reading Wealth of Nations once again, I have learned – no let’s say, I have had almost three years to reflect on the macro economics of agriculture, from a farmer’s perspective. On the micro level, there are many, many success stories. My favorite is the guy who grossed $250,000/year by selling organic specialty vegetable and salad makings, grown on a 1/2-acre vacant lot in Berkley. Now, I understand – no, let me say that, I think that I have a much better understanding of what Smith was talking about on page 873, when he wrote, “whatever tends in any country to raise the price of manufactured produce, tends to lower that of the rude produce of the land, and thereby to discourage agriculture.

Henry Ford’s unintended consequence was compounded with more well-intentioned subsidies from the politicians in Washington D.C. The corn farmer in west Kansas could grow 50 bushels of corn per acre on ‘dry land’ but with federal government largess, he could install mechanized, center pivot circle irrigation systems and reap 250 bushels per acre. The unintended harvest of consequences included 1) additional subsidies to keep the market price of corn equal to the farmer’s increased cost of production (second mortgage on the farm to pay for the well, pumps and circle machinery); 2) permanently depleting the depth of the Ogallala Aquifer (the underground water source for the central plains) by two meters a year and 3) exporting (dumping) the excess corn on developing countries in Africa and Asia at a price below their farmer’s cost of production.

I did not escape these same economic principles of “the invisible hand” by trading my career in new home sales for the gypsy life of a traveling ‘cabrito’ huckster on Wyatt Earp Boulevard, in Dodge City, Kansas. 1998, the same year we left Houston for Follett, the Republican controlled U.S. Congress decided it was going to eliminate those evil farm subsidies or bounties, as Adam Smith called them. However, the only subsidy they could agree on was mohair. Since Texas had only two senators and almost all the Angora goats in the country, the constituents of the other 98 senators wouldn’t get hurt, whereas nearly all the ag-states shared in growing, wheat, rice, corn, and cotton. The resulting legislation caused “The invisible hand” to pick up a knife and fork and eat over two million Angora goats in less than three years.

The unintended consequence of slaughtering 9/10ths of the Angora goat, mohair producing, population became my problem after I convinced Shelby to buy 88 goats from Floyd Thompson, in Higgins, for 80 cents a pound that I sold one by one and in batches from Dodge to Goldthwaite for 70 cents a pound. When I put the costs of transportation, meals and a minimum wage salary for time spent, into my little old EMBA case-study calculator, Shelby had paid for the single biggest ‘cabrito’ BBQ in panhandle history.

Is it any wonder why the Chinese refer to us as “foreign devils?” Or why Africa, the developing and third world nations look at Uncle Sam and say, “Aren’t you being a little two faced, as the most industrialized country, to dump government subsidized grain exports on the non-industrialized, agrarian only societies, of the world, for the sole purpose of propping-up your rural welfare program, for 3 million, over sixty-five, white heavy equipment operators? We don’t eat, soybeans, corn, rice or cotton, but like Madoff we must keep the cash flowing even though U.S. agriculture is not a legitimate economic enterprise.

The debate on the elimination of agricultural subsidies has gone on since Adam Smith first warned of such foolishness, but now the ‘soil geeks’ have linked them to climate change. The American farmer left the farm in the ‘50’s, the American manufacturer left town in the NAFTA ‘90’s. The G-20 met in Pittsburgh and found only a few Amish, “always was, and always will be organic,” farmers and zippo, nada manufacturers. The bulk of CO2 emissions, for the event, came from those ‘too big to fail’ gems from Detroit. No rural community in America has escaped abandonment. Eugene, Oregon, the home to third generation hippies’ whose ancestors migrated up from Berkley, used to source 95% of its food from farmers in the surrounding Willamette Valley but today only 5%. What changed? The price the farmers received for their rude produce”dropped below their cost to produce it. Thefew farmers, that remained, turned to industrialized grass seed farming because the inhabitants of towns, as far away as, NYC, were willing to pay the farmer a living wage for his rude produce.

Grass seed, like hay, alfalfa and marijuana is a cash crop, no subsidies, and subject to the law of supply and demand. But the unintended consequence is, the cuisinely correct citizens of Eugene don’t eat grass seed and are forced to import 95% of their food from outside the Willamette Valley. In addition to abandoning their backyard gold mine, much of the inhabitants have discovered their intolerance to grass seed pollen.

The U.S. doesn’t have a monopoly on these stupid, “whatever tends in any country,” consequences. China’s farmers have all gone to the cities to earn $200/month, rather than stay down on the farm and work like dogs for $200 a year. China’s 950 million, registered peasant-farmer, population after 30 years of ‘opening up’ has sent the youthful third of their number to the coastal mainland cities, leaving only the elderly, infirm and children behind. Why? For the same reason, we left or sold the farm – there was no money in farming. On 3/4ths of an acre, that is technically owned by the government, without machinery and a negligible subsidy, the Chinese farmer grows soybeans that he must sell for 20 cents a pound in the China market, against the heavily subsidized imported US GM soybeans selling for 11 cents a pound. Monsanto the merchant raised the price to manufacture soybeans, thereby lowering the price of the rude produce of the land. The tragically, China has followed this tail chasing strategy by advocating GM rice production.

Genetically Modified Wheat is a Threat to the Economy

  • GM wheat is a mortal threat to the U.S. wheat market. It is estimated that the loss of markets for GM corn, soy and canola has reached over 300 million dollars per year because the European Union will not purchase GM crops. The U.S. is the world’s leading wheat exporter. Many foreign companies have stated that they will not purchase GM wheat or any wheat if GM wheat is grown in the region. Korea is the fifth largest purchaser of U.S. wheat exports. The Korean Flour Mills Industrial Association has stated that they want GM-free certification of any hard-red spring wheat they purchase. The price of spring wheat could drop by one-third if a GM variety is introduced commercially into Montana or North Dakota, per agricultural economist Dr. Robert Wisner of Iowa State University. This will spell doom for North American wheat growers even if they decide to not plant GM wheat themselves.
  • GM crops are not required to go through any type of independent safety peer review to determine if they are safe for either human consumption or the environment.

Economically independent – GM seeds are the latest example of raising the price of manufactured produce making the poor farmer shell out more money that he doesn’t have for machinery, chemicals, fertilizers and now even the seeds. Organic or eco-farming eliminates, the chemicals, purchased fertilizers, patented one time use only seeds and nearly all the machinery and the petrol to power it. The organic farmer works for himself, free from costly manufactured inputs.

Professor Jiang estimates, “that since the late ‘70’s the income disparity between China’s urban wage earners and farmers has increased 44-fold.” In another words the unintended “whatever tends in any country consequence of Deng Xiaoping letting the cat out of the bag was the merchants and manufacturers made money while the farmers were left with a bag, no cats, and no money, to buy any. Why? Because the price of manufactured produce,went from a $30 bicycle to a $30,000 Bee-eh-KEH, while China’s rude producegrain, onlyquintupled in price

History didn’t leave a record of organic soil management, success stories. Name a civilization that left the soil in better condition, than when they found it. The Romans turned North Africa into the Sahara Desert, because they used slaves to do the plowing, until there was nothing left to plow. On the positive side of the farm ledger, FDR, the Bryan College-Station and Stillwater Aggies did plant trees and introduced terraced farming along contour lines. This was after the top ten inches of Oklahoma-Texas Panhandle blew halfway to NYC at 27mph in 1937. The ‘bestest’ thing they did for the soil, was pay farmers $40 an acre to plant prairie grass. When my in-laws moved to the Monterey Peninsula, they had 400 acres in $40 CRP (prairie grass) and 350 acres in $7/acre rent of the land to their cowman neighbor. They could have sold it all, for $200 an acre or stayed on the farm and joined the old geezers at the Quick Stop and bitch that the only way a farmer-rancher could afford the ‘rent of the land,’ was if his father owned the bank.

Well let’s see. How about Eisenhower’s Interstate highway system?

No, that put all those 18 wheelers on the road so the rude produce” of organic ‘arugula’ from Chile, sold at Wal-Mart in Chickasaw, OK for less than the local farm family could grow in their side yard. Cheap arugula didn’t hurt the farmer but Tyson, Perdue, Murphy, Pilgrim and Iowa Beef Packers and their manufactured pigs, chickens, and cows did him in. Before I-40 when Todd and Buzz were Vetting down U.S. 66, twelve million farmers each took 200 pigs to market in their pickups. Now, Wal-Mart semis haul 240 million pigs past Ike’s house on I-70 from four major, ‘bred, fed, & bled chop-shops’ in Western Kansas and the Texas-Oklahoma Panhandle.

Maybe Adam Smith should have said, whatever tempts man to manufacture food, genetically modify seeds and in any way, subsidize the rude produce of the land discourages agriculture. When the carbon content in Illinois gets down to less than 1%. When the price of 100% grass-fed beef, makes the farmer–manufacturer- merchant rich. When the Surgeon General declares cheap food hazardous to your health and three-thirds of Americans are overweight and unable to find healthcare at any price, then Congress will pass a trillion-dollar stimulus package to encourage the inhabitants of the town to turn to eco-farming because they can make money. The returning old Yuppie geezers, will gather at the Quick Stop and brag about sending their sons and daughters to UC Davis, Kansas State, even Texas A & M for their PhD in Microbiology.

That stimulus package, even the awareness of the near and present danger, needs some grass roots, bottom up help. Not everyone has $400,000 and a burning desire to succeed in organic farming. How can we green shoots save the world, when we do not have Bill and Melinda Gates money to spend?

Marx Was Right

A college undergrad at Liyang’s Crazy English said he was studying marketing. What he really said was Mǎ Kè Sī 马克思 Marxism. At the time my Chinglish vocabulary was limited to Mai Dang Lao (McDonald’s) and Xin Be Ke (Starbucks). Being a recovering Yankee trying to find expat gold in China, I dropped the Q&A right there, not because Communism was a taboo subject but I didn’t really know anything other than the usual refrain Commie-Pinko-Bastard.

I started my seventh year in China with bi-monthly sojourns to South Korea where I proceed directly to the Itaewon bookstore for three weekly issues of the Economist. The store lacks the ambitious selection of Page One in Hong Kong but it did have four choices for Marx. I came away with The Communist Manifesto and The Essential Marx edited by Leon Trotsky and two hours later I was in complete agreement on Marx’s theory of Capitalism.

C – M – C  

M – C – M1

M1 = M + ∆M = surplus value

The disagreement with Marx comes about with his Communist philosophy but his 150 year old Econ 101 course is equally valid today.

“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine tenths of the population.” Karl Marx

New York Times on July 22, 2014, the “richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent”

Like Marx, Thomas Piketty, the economic North Star of a new generation, has proscribed an international wealth tax of 80% to do away with private property.

Marx’s C – M – C equation from the dairy goat farmer’s perspective:

(C) Stands for a COMMODITY in our case a gallon of goat milk.

(M) Means MONEY, $15 at the farmers’ market.

(C) The new COMMODITY, whatever the buyer turns it into; most people drink it but others make kefir, cheese or soap.

M – C – M1

(M)  MONEY is needed to produce the (COMMODITY) in our example it costs us $5 to produce one gallon which begat $15 of new (M1) MONEY. Marx calls this transaction exchange value.” The next step in the process is defined as “surplus value” where:

M1 = M + ∆M = $10 of “surplus value”

Bill Gates, the bourgeoisiest guy on the planet, thinks philanthropy is the answer but he wants to give it away, his way. In 1998, Gates’ net worth was valued at $50 billion. By October 2014, that number had increased nearly 60 percent to $79.3 billion, despite his having given away tens of billions of dollars.

Adam Smith’s 1776 Econ 101 text book, Wealth of Nations declares that “Agriculture, the Produce of the Land, is the SOLE or the PRINCIPAL Source of the Revenue and Wealth of every Country.”

In the 500 years of American farming, the individual farmer only made M1 MONEY from 1865 when Lincoln freed the slaves, ending subsidized agriculture to the end of WWI when Henry Ford’s ‘Farmall’ tractor forced the self-sustaining bourgeoisie agrarian entrepreneur off the land and into the cities to become a labor-power slave proletarian.

Marx was right, Piketty proved that Marx was right but Gates put his (M1) MONEY where it was needed SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP in the support of agriculture in Africa and India. I observed the Agricultural Cooperative Development International’s ‘Small Farmer Production Project’ in Egypt in 1985, I know a millennia ago, but it was a USAID sponsored form of Social Entrepreneurship. Last year in Ethiopia, while Jane Marie climbed a mountain to view the falls of Bahir Dar, I interrogated a USAID dairy coop farmer and the collection station boss. The farmer got a buck a gallon which is similar to the $1.10 the US proletarian farmer, only a buck in Ethiopia makes the farmer a member of the “bourgeois” class.

Marx Was Right

A college undergrad at Liyang’s Crazy English said he was studying marketing. What he really said was Mǎ Kè Sī 马克思 Marxism. At the time my Chinglish vocabulary was limited to Mai Dang Lao (McDonald’s) and Xin Be Ke (Starbucks). Being a recovering Yankee trying to find expat gold in China, I dropped the Q&A right there, not because Communism was a taboo subject but I didn’t really know anything other than the usual refrain Commie-Pinko-Bastard.

I have started my seventh year in China with bi-monthly sojourns to South Korea where I proceed directly to the Itaewon bookstore for three weekly issues of the Economist. The store lacks the ambitious selection of Page One in Hong Kong but it did have four choices for Marx. I came away with The Communist Manifesto and The Essential Marx edited by Leon Trotsky and two hours later I was in complete agreement on Marx’s theory of Capitalism.

C – M – C  

M – C – M1

M1 = M + ∆M = surplus value

The disagreement with Marx comes about with his Communist philosophy but his 150 year old Econ 101 course is equally valid today.

“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine tenths of the population.” Karl Marx

New York Times on July 22, 2014, the “richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent”

Like Marx, Thomas Piketty, the economic North Star of a new generation, has proscribed an international wealth tax of 80% to do away with private property.

Marx’s C – M – C equation from the dairy goat farmer’s perspective:

(C) Stands for a COMMODITY in our case a gallon of goat milk.

(M) Means MONEY, $15 at the farmers’ market.

(C) The new COMMODITY, whatever the buyer turns it into; most people drink it but others make kefir, cheese or soap.

M – C – M1

(M)  MONEY is needed to produce the (COMMODITY) in our example it costs us $5 to produce one gallon which begat $15 of new (M1) MONEY. Marx calls this transaction exchange value.” The next step in the process is defined as “surplus value” where:

M1 = M + ∆M = $10 of “surplus value”

Bill Gates, the bourgeoisiest guy on the planet, thinks philanthropy is the answer but he wants to give it away, his way. In 1998, Gates’ net worth was valued at $50 billion. By October 2014, that number had increased nearly 60 percent to $79.3 billion, despite his having given away tens of billions of dollars.

Marx Comes to the High Plains

MARXISM

Then the Great Depression transformed what was an extremely hard life into an impossible one. With prices for crops, in real terms, falling below what they’d been in colonial times, financial disaster began to overwhelm rural America. By the end of 1931, 20,000 farms a month were being foreclosed, with even greater numbers on the horizon. Farmers’ pleas for relief – among them, a moratorium on foreclosures – were rejected by President Hoover, who in effect told America to quit whining and go chew on its moral fiber. Hoover seemed ignorant of a basic fact of human nature: people tend not to be models of obedience when they’re starving to death. “They had put their faith in government,” as one contemporary reporter said of the farmers, “and government had failed … they reached a point where they could stand the strain no longer and moved toward open rebellion.”

No one under the age of ninety has any first hand knowledge of the Great Depression. However, my mother-in-law, now 93, pictured here with Ken Burns, was at ground zero for the Dust Bowl in 1937.

You are not likely to find this episode of American history in the schoolbooks. In Iowa, the Farmers’ Holiday Association organized a strike in which farmers refused to bring food to market for 30 days. The strike soon spread to the Dakotas, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and beyond. Roads were picketed, then blockaded to enforce the strike. Telephone operators coordinated with striking farmers to warn them when soldiers or lawmen were headed their way. When 60 strikers were arrested in Council Bluffs, Iowa, a thousand farmers marched on the jail and forced their release. Four thousand men occupied the Lincoln, Nebraska, statehouse, and another 7,000 marched on the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio with the intention of establishing a “workers’ and farmers’ republic”. Across the Midwest, farmers began to band together in armed groups to stop foreclosures; lawyers and judges were threatened with hanging, stripped and beaten, and in at least one case, murdered. “Rebellion in the Corn belt: American Farmers Beat Their Ploughshares into Swords” was the title of a December 1932 article in Harper’s that described the farmers’ increasing desperation and militancy.

Jan, Bob, Dugie and Trixie January 15th  BIRTHDAYS: Martin Luther King Jr. 1929, Aristotle Onassis 1906, Joan of ArcGamal Abdul Nasser 1918, Moliere, Edward Teller 1908,  Drew Brees 1979, Lloyd Bridges 1913, Trixie Brown 1927, Charo, Ben Shapiro 1984, Gene Krupa 1909. 
 

Roosevelt gave it a name, the New Deal, and it transformed American life so thoroughly that it’s become invisible to us, as taken for granted as the air we breathe and the ground beneath our feet. Or as, for instance: electricity. As Caro shows in The Path to Power, 30 million farmers and their families lived in the preindustrial dark not because of technological obstacles – many lived within sight of power lines – or prohibitive cost to the utility company – plenty of farmers offered to pay the expense of running a line out to their homes – or that utility companies couldn’t make a profit on rural lines – studies in Minnesota and Alabama showed that rural lines were profitable – but because rural electric service wouldn’t be as profitable for utility companies as the urban market. The companies based their decision, as companies do, on capital risk and rate of return. Considerations of fairness, fellow feeling, or the greater social good simply didn’t factor into the corporate calculus.

This is known among economists as “market failure”. Sam Rayburn, the Texas congressman who led the legislative fight to bring electricity to rural America, stated it plainly during debate on the House floor: “When free enterprise had the opportunity to electrify farm homes – after 50 years, they had electrified 3%.” The Public Utilities Act of 1935 and the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 – crucial New Deal legislation – “brought the lights” to rural America over the strenuous opposition of the utility lobby, which put out fake “spontaneous” mass mailings to members of Congress (one of the first instances of astroturfing in American politics) and pushed a whisper campaign alleging that President Roosevelt was insane. John Carpenter, president of Texas Power & Light – there’s a freeway named after him in Dallas – so loathed Sam Rayburn that he offered to spend any amount of money to defeat him in the next election. Rayburn won. The lights went on.

Another example: banks. When Roosevelt took office, the banking industry was in freefall, a “market failure” that threatened to finish off what was left of the US economy. The system of government support and regulation established by the New Deal over banks – deposit insurance, capital requirements, the Glass-Steagall Act (separating commercial and investment banks) – and over the financial industry in general – such as the Securities Act of 1933, AKA the “Truth-in-Securities Act”, and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (if you think Wall Street is a rigged game these days, it’s a seminary compared with the fraud-fest of the Roaring Twenties) – made bank panics and market crashes a thing of the past. From the mid-1930s into the early 1980s, the US financial industry enjoyed remarkable stability. Bank failures were rare, isolated events. The bipolar booms and busts of laissez-faire capitalism became the much more manageable phenomenon of the business cycle. This began to change with deregulation, starting with the bipartisan overhaul of the savings and loan industry in the early 1980s. “All in all, I think we hit the jackpot,” said President Reagan as he signed the Garn-St Germain Act into law. Not quite. Within a few short years, there was no savings and loan industry, thanks to the frenzy of speculation and self-dealing that followed passage of Garn-St Germain. The biggest bank crisis since the Great Depression had erased an entire sector of American finance, leaving the American taxpayer on the hook for $160bn – a huge amount of money at the time, chump change compared with what was coming. The New Deal framework continued to be dismantled through the 1990s – Glass-Steagall bit the dust in 1998 – and, just as importantly, regulation was never extended to new markets in financial exotica like credit default swaps and derivatives. Banking and finance grew increasingly volatile, culminating (so far?) in the Great Recession of 2008, when only massive government intervention saved the economy.