Eighth of an Acre Bounty

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Salatin’s manifesto (and my diatribe)

September 21st, 2008 · 7 Comments

I originally sat down to write a long overdue post of what I have been doing (since I certainly haven’t been posting). It quickly became apparent that I had to get something off my chest and my original post needed to be split into two, since I just couldn’t stop typing. The original post was put up yesterday and I promise is less vitriolic than this one - so for those not on my own political lean - you may just want to skip this.

I checked out Joel Salatin’s recent book Everything I Want to do is Illegal. And up until yesterday I was enjoying it. Salatin is an intelligent man and a good writer. His discussions of the industrial food system and the bureaucracy that prevents small farms and local food systems from succeeding is both stimulating and insightful. I have the utmost respect for what he and his family are doing on their acreage in Virginia and have learned many things from him in other essays and his occasional articles in The Stockman.

But he jumped the shark. Big time.

This book is full of his personal libertarian analysis of the ills of modern society, and while some of his reasoning’s I tend to concur with - suffice it to say I am not signing up for the Libertarian party anytime soon (or any party for that matter*). But I could get over that, I could read past our political differences and still involve myself in the context of his arguments and the base rationale behind them. I even glossed over the frequent bible references he uses as his reasoned guidepost for public policy (ugh). We each have our own gods and opinions and still have a lot to learn from each other, right? (Note that this is a big step for a Catholic School survivor and avowed atheist to take).

And then, last night, I came to his chapter on Labor. It all started simply enough with a discussion of his difficulties in getting help on the farm and having to turn away kids who desired to apprentice because he did not have the infrastructure, cash and certifications for such a program. And then he started sliding into the precursors for an argument against minimum wage and child labor laws (I squirmed a bit, but knew he was a Libertarian when I started so I pushed on through).  I moved on to the chapter on taxes. And then, how do I introduce it? Well - lets let him speak for himself:

“Of course, if our civilization hadn’t killed 50 million babies that would have been paying into the system right now the shortfall would not be as acute. That is why we allow continued inflows of illegal aliens. We can’t afford to stop the flow because these are the folks propping up Social Security. And they are now doing the work that aborted babies would have been doing right now. We’ve executed our work force and must now accept whatever we can get.”

What the fuck? Is he serious? Really? Where do I begin….

So to restate his point. Social Security is failing because we aborted too many babies and the aborted babies are also the cause of all illegal immigration. Had all those babies been born, they would be paying social security taxes enough to cover our current deficit all based on low wage salaries (below minimum wage at Sataltin’s choice) for picking our produce, cleaning up our factory farmed chicken shit, cleaning our houses, mowing our lawns and tucking our kids in at night?

I don’t even know if I have it in me to compose a rebuttal to that sort of idiocy - but I’ll give it a shot.

Social Class - You know, Joel has a point. I don’t know anyone who would disagree with a 50 million strong uber-underclass caste we could use to do all of the jobs that the existing born and bred Americans don’t want to do at the going federal minimum wage rate of a whopping $6.55 per hour or $13,624 dollars a year before taxes and the much owed social security and medicare taxes are deducted from their paychecks. But wait, all of those aborted babies would actually be eligible for social security and medicare (unlike the illegal immigrants who (according to Salatin’s assertion) are supporting the system now without any access to its benefits. And I would put good money on the fact that someone making under 14k a year would have to avail themselves of Medicare or Medicaid services when a health issue threatens them instead of trotting down to the nearest for-profit hospital to get charges $100 per stitch (This comes from experience, I needed 7 stitches while in school and without health insurance - the bill came to just over $700).

Unemployment Rates - What about the unemployed we have now? Are they not figured into this rationale, or are they just good for nothings who don’t want to work? Do we have a guarantee that those 50 million (now un-aborted) babies will come into this world with a family eagerly anticipating their arrival and prepared to care for them properly and raise them with the good ole American work ethic that will be demanded for their lifetime of manual labor at a pittance?

Population Density - The current US population estimate is 305 million, give or take a couple hundred thousand. 50 million additional people represents a sixteen percent increase over our current population. Where are these people going to live? Salatin bemoans the conversion of prime farmland over to housing developments and big box stores (don’t get me wrong, so do I). But if these 50 million are intended to rescue us from our farm labor crisis where does he propose they live? In the nearest city so that they can commute to the farm everyday in the car that they bought on their 13k salary? Oh, wait..farm workers don’t even get minimum wage, do they? Not to mention the cost of gas. Or are they intended to live in ramshackle converted chicken huts and weathered lean-to’s like many of our immigrant farm workers do? This is an improvement? The living conditions of this country’s farm workers is already horrendous - and we are to assume that they will improve out of the beneficent farm owners desire to care for a largely migratory population that travels where the work is?

Settling for “what we can get” - Are you freaking kidding me? This country was built on the backs of immigrant laborers, legal and illegal. Our wealth and rise to the top of the dung pile is at the expense of millions of working class immigrants who wore out their bodies and souls just trying to feed their families and make a go of it “in the land of the plenty”. Settling? We have been coddled for so long and used the third world as our bargain Labor-Ready pool since we forcefully acquired this country - how can he possibly believe that we are settling for “what we can get”. Immigrants are the chosen caste in this country to do our dirty work. The born and bred American is too aware of his rights and abuses of power, employment law etc to be of any use to those who want the maximum work for the minimum expense. Or is there some inherently racist and nationalist undertone here? Does the value of a persons work increase or decrease depending on their citizenship.  Or does a US citizen make a better compost heap than an illegal immigrant?

It is absolutely amazing to me that a man who has spent so much time considering the intricacies and dependent relationships of earth, plants and animals could flip and expose such a sophomoric view of human social intricacies and dependent relationships. You’d think that maybe he viewed humans as a completely separate system. You will note that I am not even taking up the abortion argument here. He is free to not abort any children that may find their way into his womb, I promise. I tried to read past it, and got into the next chapter but couldn’t stop spinning.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a couple of days now, because there is so much more I want to add (and rant on about). But I figured I should just post it and let it go. I haven’t picked up the book again - don’t know if I will. Such a shame…

Tags: Deep thinking

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Books and Magazines Blog » Archive » Salatin’s manifesto (and my diatribe) // Sep 21, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    [...] Original post by Eighth of an Acre Bounty [...]

  • 2 Callista // Sep 22, 2008 at 6:43 am

    Great post.

  • 3 maya // Sep 22, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks Callista - I am sure you can imagine the steam coming out of my ears as I read.

  • 4 Gary // Oct 5, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Umm…yer my hero! But then you knew that. How the hell did I get so lucky…

  • 5 maya // Oct 6, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    I ask myself the same question everyday :)

  • 6 Katie Hobson // Oct 13, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Whoa, talk about creepy here - I just finished that book this weekend and had the same WTF moment on that exact page! And I strongly question the 50 million number…. That pretty much soured the rest of the book for me… I couldn’t regain the highly focused grasp he had me in after that point.

    So glad I found your blog this evening…it’s so great to come across blogs that keep your interest, entertain, and are intelligent! Keep up the great work.

  • 7 maya // Oct 14, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Hey Katie,

    Thanks for the kind words! That is a pretty strange coincidence of timing with the book. I didn’t even finish the book. Usually I will power through something even if I don’t agree with it. But his blathering on was so poorly thought out - I had better things to do with my time (plus I still got angry whenever I picked the book up).

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