Addendum and credo

Well, the comments on my last post just keep rollin’. Thanks to commenters new and old for your informative views, and apologies that I haven’t had the time to respond to various points more fully. I take the point Joe Clarkson made – at root, this blog is supposed to be about farming. The trouble is, the shape of farming is driven by politics (we’ll know that agrarian populism has succeeded when and if it’s the other way around…) so inevitably writing about farming involves writing about politics. And politics interests me, so I could write about it endlessly.

But it can quickly become a rabbit hole (easy now, Clem) from which escape is impossible. So here I’m going to make a few closing comments regarding the previous post, answer a few questions posed to me about it in the form of a kind of gnomic political credo, and then leave it at that for now. But do carry on discussing if you wish. Small Farm Future is nothing if not generous with its bandwith. There’s plenty more I’d like to say about politics, populism, migration and the way the world is shaping. But I’ll aim to come back to it later in the year after more on farming, more on the Peasant’s Republic of Wessex and its environs, and more on history.

Meanwhile, I’m halfway through Colin Hines’s new book, Progressive Protectionism, which bears upon much of what’s been discussed. Among other things, Hines berates his fellow lefties and greenies for not embracing sensible anti-immigration policies. What is it with all these radicals at the moment, turning their guns on their colleagues? Splitters! Ah well, Hines argues that “today’s large scale migration is bad for democracy, internationalism and the environment” and hopes that his writing will help convert more ‘progressives’ to that view. The trouble is, the case he makes is weak on several key points. Still, I think there is a case in there somewhere, and I’d like to think about it some more. Though I’m not sure it’s a great time to be making ‘progressive’ cases for immigration control right now, as the shutters come down in the USA on refugees and the president’s own personal basket of deplorables, while Mrs May continues to dither. I’m moved by these words from Kapka Kassabova,

“If you live long enough in the corridor of distorted mirrors that is a border zone, you end up seeing your likeness in the image of your neighbour. Sooner or later, you end up meeting yourself. Which makes it all the harder to tell exactly where the barbarians are: pushing at the gates, already among us, or inside our heads….Is it unavoidable that we would enter an era of building hard borders, again? No – it is only desperately unwise. The reason why new borders haunt us is because we haven’t listened well enough to the stories of the old ones. It is because the barbarians are here, not just among us but inside our heads, tirelessly tweeting hatred.”

And, from the same periodical, another interesting article bearing on the topic of my last post from Sarah Churchwell: ‘It will be called Americanism’: the US writers who imagined a fascist future. Much to mull over – so I plan to simmer down for a while and think about populism, politics and migration while getting back to some farming issues over the next few posts.

In the meantime, in response to various comments on the previous post let me try to lay out briefly where I think I’m coming from politically with a few positioning statements, in which I’ll try to use a minimum of ‘isms’.

  • I think any political position or political programme involves contradictions that are difficult to resolve.
  • I like the idea of people owning their own property and taking responsibility for providing for themselves and their families from it.
  • I like the idea of individual and local self-determination.
  • I don’t think individual people or families can successfully provide for themselves without relying implicitly or explicitly on many other people. Robinson Crusoe was just a story. And even he managed to create a racial hierarchy.
  • I like the idea that people can voluntarily join larger groupings and collectivities of people.
  • I don’t like the idea that people must forcibly join larger collectivities. Unfortunately, it’s unavoidable – we’re born, live and die in wider communities over which individually we usually have minimal influence. And these collectivities shape our thinking.
  • I like the idea that people can buy and sell things with limited interference from the state, especially the closer that the market thereby formed approximates the impossible dream of what economists call a ‘perfect market’. This puts me at odds with some characteristic positions in left-wing thought. It also puts me at odds with contemporary corporate consumer capitalism, a command-and-control economy which has little to do with the ‘free’ market.
  • I like the idea that people can choose the way they want to live their lives, including taking or leaving new technologies, whether material or social.
  • I like the idea of people striving to extend and develop their skills and their knowledge of the world. I also like the idea of people not striving to do that if they don’t want to. I like the idea of figuring out a way in which everyone can pursue or not pursue such goals as they wish. I don’t think that’s easy.
  • I like the idea that people can stay in the same general area where they were born and find an acknowledged place and role there.
  • I like the idea that people can move to a different area from where they were born and find an acknowledged place and role in their new surroundings.
  • I think that if there are strong restrictions on people moving from their natal areas or strong limitations on them remaining in them then the conditions are ripe for tyranny.
  • I think wealth, influence and power tend to accumulate in small sub-sections of society unless positive steps are taken to prevent it.
  • I think wealth, influence and power also tend to accumulate in small sub-sections of the global political order – the system of national states is a system of centres and peripheries.
  • I think small inequalities, small centre-periphery relations, are unavoidable and in some respects enabling. But I think that great inequalities cause much needless suffering, limit human achievement, stem from the self-interest of the few against the many, and are ethically unjustifiable.
  • I think self-interested power tends to disguise itself by staking claims about how it reflects the natural order of things.
  • In western societies, I think power has disproportionately been held in the hands of old white men in every social class. And while I’m hurtling towards membership of that particular category myself day by day, I don’t think it’s a good thing.
  • Power concentrates, by definition, in the hands of ‘elites’. There are different kinds of power and different kinds of elites. Some elites advance their interests by making alliances with non-elite actors against other elites. Generally, I think that ‘business elites’ have had more power than ‘professional’ or so-called ‘liberal’ elites, and their power is currently growing stronger still.
  • I think it’s possible to overstate the extent to which history is driven by class struggle.
  • I think it’s possible to understate the extent to which history is driven by class struggle.
  • I think ‘class’ involves cultural as well as economic components.
  • I don’t think any one class or its members are usually better or worthier than any other, or repositories of some kind of world-historical truth that transcends its enmeshment in the politically immediate. Obviously, that would apply to the ‘middle class’. Obviously, it would also apply to the ‘working class’.
  • I think most complex modern states or polities involve class alliances of some kind which reach beyond the idea of self-interest towards some notion of general interest. But not always by very much, and seldom as much as their proponents think. These alliances are usually quite fragile.
  • I don’t think human societies have a natural tendency to move in any particular political or ethical direction through history. Not even a cyclical direction.
  • I think it’s worth trying to articulate universal principles of human conduct and to seek consensus between people around them whenever possible. I don’t think this can ever work in practice. I don’t think that means it shouldn’t be attempted.
  • I think it’s worth looking sceptically at how all principles of conduct, global and local, work on the ground. What are the gaps between ideal and reality, articulation and implementation? Who wins from them and who loses?
  • I think that political actors who strongly pursue ‘I win – you lose’ strategies run a high risk of ending up either in an ‘I lose – you win’ situation or an ‘I lose – you lose’ situation.
  • I think it’s good for political actors to pursue ‘I win – you win’ strategies where possible, but these are harder to come by than people often think. The next best thing is to pursue ‘I’m doing OK-ish – you’re doing OK-ish’ strategies, which are much under-emphasised in global politics.
  • I think that humanity is squandering its natural capital, that technical fixes probably won’t succeed in getting it off that hook, and so globally we won’t be able to keep on living as we do now indefinitely.
  • I think the best way of resolving all of the points above is by developing local polities with small farm ownership widely available to everyone.
  • I think that that resolution raises a host of virtually insurmountable problems. And so do all the other possibilities, only more so.

131 thoughts on “Addendum and credo

  1. Hinse’s book sounds interesting, Chris. I’ll add it to my reading list. Philip Cafaro offers a thoughtfully argued rationale for reducing immigration here in the US in his 2015 book How Many is Too Many? The Progressive Argument for Reducing Immigration into the United States. An important element of his argument is the effect of new immigration on wages and job opportunities for existing citizens, especially those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. That made sense to me at the time, but some things that you’ve written about immigration and the labor market have left me considerably less sure. In particular, I’m thinking about your conversation with Vera in the comments that follow this post: The tragedy of liberalism: a critique of John Michael Greer.

  2. Darn! I couldn’t find a single bullet point to dispute.

    Wait; I found one. I think the word “probably” could be removed from the third to last point.

      • Watch out now, Clem; your “curmudgeonly cred” (I think that was you) might dissipate completely if you insist on keeping hope alive, even if on life support.

        • Thanks Joe. It was me earlier, being jealous of what I considered a curmudgeonly remark Chris had made. Pretty immature in hindsight. There should always be room for more curmudgeons.

          Hopefulness is still a sign of a curmudgeon – at least according to Ike, see:

          For what it’s worth, Ike outlines a set of 3 attributes of a successful curmudgeon and 3 negative attributes. I have been guilty of some of the negative attributes… so going forward I’ll see if I can recalibrate my own curmudgeon cred meter.

          One can always hope.

  3. Thanks for stating in your list so much of the obvious that todays political class will never talk about! There is not one point I would disagree with on principle, just on the more or less emphasis I would give to it.

    I would add one or two though, though they are more for your agrarian populism. Those who work the land should have the right to live on it. Those who wish to do so should be able to subsist outside the market. The provision of a vegetable allotment, a share of a common for a goat, and a meadow for its winter hay, and cutting rights to coppice for firewood, is not difficult or a great burden on society as the products of these resources would have to be provided anyway via the “market”. I have long felt that markets are dishonest and distorted if you are forced to participate in them through lack of subsistence (poverty). I think a lot people would a lot happier if they only had to spend a part of their time earning the money required for their discretionary spending, while they spent the rest of their time in the subsistence economy providing their own living, along with their neighbours in a living community. I am well along the spectrum to providing my own subsistence while earning some cash via a part time job in the market, however much of that cash is still necessary spending, and I am some what alone having no community of fellow peasants, surrounded by urban sprawl on one side, and contract farmed arable on the other.

    Wishing you well

    • “I have long felt that markets are dishonest and distorted if you are forced to participate in them through lack of subsistence (poverty).”

      I’ve been arguing for several years that one of the roots of this – what really locks us into the (tilted) market economy – is being required to pay taxes in money (which we have to obtain from others, on their terms) rather than in labour (which we have a natural capacity to supply).

      So far I haven’t had any success getting people to engage with this argument but I keep trying. I’m currently setting up a website for a reform party and I’m including the concept in a proposal that people should be able to choose which level of government they pay their taxes to: Selective Empowerment.

      • I’ve seen it argued before that this is really the whole point of taxes — to force people to engage in the monetary economy.

    • Ruben
      That does seem a safe bet for the moment. But I plan to keep watching. Who knows when a sustainability guru will get ribbed by a coy curmudgeon… or perhaps the ghost of a 19th century American Populist will make an entrance.

    • About the Greenfield article- 81% of Americans live in cities and suburbs. If the class divide were truly marked by an urban vs rural separation, the rural would never have any power. Trump’s real power base is in the suburbs, though rural areas did give him just enough extra electoral votes for him to win the presidency.

      But Greenfield and all the Trump supporters in “Rust Belt communities and Southern towns where working people actually used to make things” should just get over it. Their “making things” jobs are never coming back, but the reason isn’t just international trade, it’s the declining EROI of fossil fuels and what that decline entails for industrial anything.

      And the good jobs that remain, those supposedly held only by the well paid, salary class ‘elites’, will soon follow those rust belt blue collar jobs down the energy decline rat-hole.

      Eventually all the ‘elites’ and all the Trump supporters (those that remain after the bitter fight over the scraps of our industrial civilization end) will be eking out a living on a farm, possibly side by side.

      Vera, I know lots of progressives and leftists who have taken Greer’s slogan “collapse now and avoid the rush” to heart, but I live in the bluest of the blue states and don’t have much contact with Trump supporters (those there are in my state tend to live in richer and whiter districts).

      What about Trump fans? Are they eager to “get back to the land”, grow their own food, and live as frugally as possible? If so, they should inform their friends that Trump can’t make America great again, no matter what he does, and urge them to grab a broadfork and get going with a subsistence farming program.

  4. Thanks for the comments. Curmudgeons always welcome here, so long as they remain (grudgingly) polite.

    Thanks for the additional thoughts, Philip – they make sense to me. Just some issues about implementation…

    Vera, I haven’t read Kazin’s book, but my feeling is that it’s hard to define populism beyond a few generalities along the lines that it refers to political movements that advocate for ordinary people, somehow defined, usually against some kind of elite interest, and usually against notions of a radical transformation of the social order. The rest mostly IS just history, the specifics of it in different populist movements. The populist movements that most interest me are peasant-populist movements. Whereas Donald Trump’s kind of populism leaves me cold… As does the Greenfield article. The one you linked by Mr Goad had a kind of rough outspoken charm, whereas the Greenfield one is a self-serving pot pourri of what I believe we now call ‘alternative facts’: “In Europe, democracy nearly vanished. In America, there were still elections” – excuse me?

    Well, I don’t want to get into another long argument about US politics, but c’mon Mr Greenfield – Trump’s support, which was much greater than most pundits ever predicted but still not that great, was tilted towards medium to high-earning white men, right? The article looks to me a lot like a representative from one section of ‘the elite’ invoking spurious working-class legitimacy to discredit another section of ‘the elite’. And I can’t see it working out economically, or indeed probably energetically, as Joe argues. Still, thanks for keeping me up to speed with what folks are saying. Here’s another take entirely on the elites involved:

    Ah well – more on migration and populism in due course. But now it’s back to the farm for me…

  5. “sensible anti-immigration policies […] I think there is a case in there somewhere”

    I wrote something on this the other day, arguing that the underlying problem is the free movement of capital which significantly increases damaging forms of migration (because capital, as a construct of human society, lacks the intrinsic real-world constraints that limit the movement of people, goods and services).

    Basically, free movement of capital leads to rent flows from poorer countries to richer (when people in richer countries take advantage of lower prices for land), which encourages people from the poorer countries to migrate to take advantage of higher labour rates, sending money home (where it buys more) and lowering wage rates in the richer countries.

    In the long term, I think sensible monetary reform would probably allow us to have completely open borders but, until that happens, some kind of anti-immigration policies might well be sensible.

    • What kind of “sensible monetary reform” would you favor? (I agree this is a key piece.)

      And how does monetary reform mitigate against closing your own door to any comers from the street, some of them anti-socials?

      • I think a lot of problems stem from the conflation of monetary functions which are mutually incompatible: its value as a medium of exchange depends on it circulating freely, but its value as a store of wealth rests on the ability to take it out of circulation, while its function as a unit of account constrains the authorities’ power to manage it. So I advocate separating the functions of money.

        In practice that means making cash lose its value if it stops circulating (which would allow a charge to be introduced on stagnant holdings of electronic medium of exchange) and having a separate non-transferable form of savings. This would allow a system in which different countries (and different regions within countries) could use a common medium of exchange while maintaining different debt regimes. That would (I think) allow inter-regional money transfers to operate on a purchasing power basis.

        The first step, though, would have to be establishing a new unit, based on labour, for government fiscal accounting.

        I’m in the process of re-writing my proposal on how to do that, and why it’s necessary but, if you’re interested, here is what I wrote a couple of years ago during a project to crowdsource a new UK constitution. (It starts with an apology for how long and complex it is.)

        Point taken on ‘completely open borders’. I really mean ‘essentially open’.

  6. I would agree with most of your points. I don’t think, however, that a perfect market would be desirable. A “perfect market” is one with unlimited competition where buyers or sellers have no personal relationships, or other considerations blurring their economic transaction – which in essence is commodified agriculture. The perfect market notion is also based on the illusion that transactions under those conditions are by definition just and fair. I believe if there should be any market it should be a largely imperfect market, mainly based on relationships and a consideration that all transactions with goods or service have a lot more implications than just the exchange, and that market exchanges are embedded in a social context.

    And here the “free trade” also come in. I believe the valid argument in favor of free trade is liberty, not wealth cretion. Why should the government or anybody else limit my right to pass an arbitraty national border bringing in good or services? In that sense it also applies to movement of people. So, free movement of good and people are good principles, almost human rights.

    There are, however, problem related to this, which is the reason for why almost alla societies have regulated trade, and especially trade in agriculture products. On a low scale trade can be ecologically benign, allowing farmers in mountain areas focus on tree crops and grazing, while lowland farmers do more field crops, but trade today is not at all driven by ecological consideration but only by profit, which means that it constantly increases competition, and there are good reasons to limit that competition as it drives everybody to externalise cost as much as possible (of course liberals would say that this should be solved by internalising cost, but they have been talking about that for decades and most of the efforts in that regard in farming has failed).

    I expand my views on trade in food in

    I believe any discussion on migration also should have the starting point that people should have the right to move as they liked. I was shocked by the hypocricy of the West when the Sovier Union collapsed. It has criticised the Soviet bloc for not allowing their citizens to travel abroad, and now when they suddenly could, they were not even allowed visitor visas into most Western countries. Having said that I also realise there are many problems involved in migration. On the other hand, if you take our war and gross global and national inequality it would probably not be much of an issue, as migration would be much less than today.

    • Malcolm, when you say “I believe any discussion on migration also should have the starting point that people should have the right to move as they liked” do you mean that anyone should be able to move to Chris’ farm if they so desire, or to your own house? I am sorry to iterate my point, but I am trying to see the sensible kernel in what you are saying, trying to reduce it to something that can readily be imagined in one’s personal life. So if you would clarify?

      I tend to follow the principle that while everyone should be able to leave where they are (as I once was behind the iron curtain), they don’t have the right to barge in anywhere they want at will. They need to negotiate their entry. And any sane group, whether a family, a farming settlement, or a country, would not allow 1) anti-social people who revel in disregarding limits and who bring massive problems in their wake, and 2) people who don’t have skills and values the community needs and thrives by. Boundaries matter.

      • Malcolm, when you say “I believe any discussion on migration also should have the starting point that people should have the right to move as they liked” do you mean that anyone should be able to move to Chris’ farm if they so desire, or to your own house?

        If you’re supposed to be trying to build bridges, then why are you taking the least sensible and least defensible interpretation of Malcom’s ideas rather than the most sensible and defensible?

        Good faith discussion is improved considerably when one works from a position of charity, of taking your interlocutor’s statements as positively as possible and trying to find what’s worthwhile in them instead of trying to poke holes in them.

        It’s also the only sensible way to check your own biases. The proper way to test your beliefs is to try to disprove them, and charitably considering the strongest (rather than the weakest) arguments against is the best way to do that.

        Most importantly, it prevents people from becoming frustrated with discussions where all their utterances are misinterpreted as ridiculous straw men.

        You can ask for clarification of Malcom’s ideas without first caricaturing them.

      • As wysinwyg has pointed out, it wasn’t me who said that, Vera, it was Gunnar. But I’ll give you my answer anyway!

        My basic position is that government should not put arbitrary barriers in the way of people doing whatever they are naturally capable of doing, which includes moving freely between different regions.

        But that’s only one principle among several which need to be balanced against each other. Another very important principle is individuals’ right to exclusive enjoyment of their private property and I certainly don’t advocate that freedom of movement should take precedence over that. (Having said that, the issue of how private property rights are defined in the first place is hugely important and I consider that, in Britain at least, derelict laws of landownership are one of the root causes of inequality.)

        I certainly agree that boundaries matter. As regards what any sane group would allow, I agree (with reservations) on your first category but probably not the second, other than in exceptional circumstances. Excluding ‘people who don’t have skills and values the community needs and thrives by’ might sound good in principle but in practice, unless there is already overpopulation, I’d say it would encourage stagnation – because what society needs and thrives by often only becomes apparent in retrospect.

        My reservation on your first category is on excluding people solely because they ‘bring massive problems in their wake’. I’ve no problem with excluding anti-social people but I don’t think a healthy society would close its doors to people who need help.

        • Malcolm: Well, then we agree on at least the principle of it. Glad to hear it. But doesn’t the skills part matters too? I am familiar with intentional communities, and while they bend over backwards to accommodate any people who are interested in them, they cannot reasonably accommodate folks who are either too emotionally dependent, or too skill deficient, to thrive in what is already a difficult pioneer environment. To some extent, that is valid for any culture. I think. The old commies had a rule that they could only train five archeologists per year at their universities in the old Czechoslovakia, because the country did not need any more, and could not sustain any more. I know this because a cousin of mine made the cut. Seems fair… if the work is not going to be there, why spend the society’s resources to train tallow-candle makers (and set the person up for failure)? Or to bring in functionally illiterate people not interested in working? Or to bring in street sweepers when your own street sweepers are not finding enough work?

          Regarding values, there is a running debate in the IC movement. This is basically because communitarians are typically dedicated to broad inclusiveness, and yet at the same time they recognize that if you let in people as members who do not support your modus vivendi, you will not last long. On the large scale, we see this conflict now regarding Islam.

          There is an IC in Virginia that leans very far toward your dictum that a healthy society would not close its doors to people who need help. They opened them to a disturbed individual who then nearly burned the place down. I believe they lost two buildings. If it had not been for an insomniac working at his computer in the wee hours, lives would have been lost. It’s foolishness and arrogance, to endanger one’s own for do-good pretensions. Eventually, people like that earn Darwin’s Award and pass from the scene. Unfortunately, they often earn it for others as well.

          I am, of course, not advocating “closed doors.” I am advocating discernment. and sustainable numbers.

          Gunnar, I would love to hear your view as well. Sorry for the mixup.

          • I think we’re talking at cross purposes here, Vera. I’m interested in what laws relatively complex societies should adopt in order for large numbers of people, who are circumstantially living in proximity to each other, to co-exist in relative harmony. I don’t see that there are useful lessons to be drawn from the experiences of small intentional communities.

            Scale matters. A single disruptive individual coming into a community of, say, 200 is equivalent to an organised group of a quarter of a million coming to Britain. It’s not something normal immigration policy needs to be concerned with.

            It’s also important to distinguish between allowing people to come and put down roots within an established culture and accepting an obligation to accomodate them on their terms.

            “Or to bring in street sweepers when your own street sweepers are not finding enough work?”

            I’d say it would be pernicious for employers (even, or perhaps especially, public sector employers) to be denied the right to favour locals. But that’s a step beyond allowing outsiders the right to come and offer to do the job. If your neighbours prefer to buy a service from an incomer than from you, why should they be denied the right to do so?

          • Nicely put. I haven’t been keeping up with all of the comments. So, I’m guilty of cherry picking. But, I think you’ve laid out some reasonable points for societies considering restraint.

          • I am also interested in the rules best adopted by larger societies. I just think that it allows for greater clarity to put things in simpler terms. And frankly, I would not describe what is currently going on in western Europe as “normal immigration policy.” Especially when one is committed to living in harmony with one’s fellows — which is a goal we both share.

            I am intrigued by your last paragraph. “I’d say it would be pernicious for employers to be denied the right to favour locals. But that’s a step beyond allowing outsiders the right to come and offer to do the job. If your neighbours prefer to buy a service from an incomer than from you, why should they be denied the right to do so?”

            You seem to be saying two different things at once. Favoring locals is exactly what eastern Europeans want to continue doing. And yet, they are told this is bigotry and unEuropean.

            If my neighbor wants to buy lawn mowing from a Mexican working at peanut wage and living in some shack with others at 10 to a room (yes, I’ve heard this goes on here), undercutting local labor, rather than from myself who is insured, and has middle class bills to pay… well, that’s a problem for me. Do you see that? This sort of an immigration policy reminds me of bringing in scabs to break a strike — in this case, their coming is used to break the local working class. IMO.

            So I am interested — how do you promote the locals, and do it fairly?

          • By and large, I believe I concur with most Malcolm wrote. I was stating that the right for people to move freely is a good principle, which I am willing to defend. But it is one principle that needs to be negotiated with others, but not with force and brutality either way. The fact the millions of Europeans moved to the Americas didn’t give them the moral right to take the land from the native Americans and kill all the bison – but they did. I don’t think anybody should have the right to move in to Chris farm, or mine as little as they should have that right to do it in a rental flat where somebody already lives. That is not based on respect for “ownership”, but based on respect for other people. But there will be situation where not letting people in means letting them die, and then the choices are different. Massive migration is difficult, it needs to be managed with a mix of respect, pragmatism, compassion and also with ecological considerations. I live in Sweden, it is not particularly densely populated it can from a carrying capacity perspective take in millions. But culturally it is more difficult and it also put a lot of stress on the welfare system.

          • As I understand it, Vera, Chris’s goal is to understand how a healthy, sustainable society would operate and that’s the context that discussion here takes place within. That’s certainly my goal so, as far as I’m concerned, the fact that what is currently going on in western Europe can’t be described as normal immigration policy isn’t really relevant, because western European societies are fundamentally flawed. I did say explicitly above that ‘until [sensible monetary reform] happens, some kind of anti-immigration policies might well be sensible’. As I say in my own page on free movement, I regard the EU’s position as incoherent.

            Yes, of course I recognise that others undercutting you is a problem for you (though that applies equally whether they’ve come from abroad or just from a poorer region of your own country). But, as I said above, I see a significant part of the problem as stemming from the free flow of capital, which makes it profitable for migrant workers to work abroad and send money home – migrant workers who have no interest in becoming permanent members of the community they are temporarily taking advantage of.

            I don’t claim that’s the whole problem: there are also migrants who just want to escape the poverty of their native countries. Though I suspect that part of the reason for the persistence of large disparities in wealth of different societies is the other aspect of free movement of capital that I mentioned above: the ability of rent-seekers in rich countries to buy up primary resources in poorer countries.

            That problem, of course, has two roots: as well as the monetary side, there’s also the fact that land is treated as a commodity. For the record, I advocate that natives of a country should have a right to land, a right to inherit a fair share of their country’s natural resources.

            I don’t think I’m saying two different things at once. My position is that, in a healthy society, the state should not create arbitrary barriers to the free movement of people, but nor should it be barred from favouring the people whose interests it exists to serve. I don’t see that those positions are in any way incompatible.

        • Malcolm –
          Yesterday in your 15:41 reply to Vera you mentioned property rights, derelict laws, and provided a link to your Local Sovereignty blog. Fascinating stuff that.

          I have peeked around at LS a little, but feel I’ve only scratched the surface. Time restraints… (bugger!) Anyway, I have the sense there is still plenty you and yours are working out on these matters – and while I’m not trying to pull attention away from your efforts there (by all means folks, if you haven’t had a peek, go ahead and take one)… I would like to engage your time here to share a bit – maybe an example – of what you consider a derelict law in the realm of land ownership.

          The trustee angle (if I’m reading you correctly) for a landholder is fantastic. But as we’ve heard many times, the devil is in the details.

          • Thanks, Clem. It is certainly a work in progress and I still have quite a lot to add to it (though the site is intended as a manifesto for a new party rather than as a blog). And there is a fair amount of detail to work out on some of the reforms I’m proposing, although many of them could be introduced in a way which allows the detail to be worked out later.

            The prime example of derelict law, to my mind, is landowners’ power to bequeath land to anybody they please. My argument is that freehold ownership of land has its roots in the administrative rights that landlords had, centuries ago, when landownership was part of the machinery of government. Basically, landlords were local rulers, their landholdings defined their jurisdiction and the land rents they took in were what paid for government. Part of their responsibilities was to nominate a successor, i.e. someone to take over their administrative duties.

            That changed slowly, over a period of centuries, as power struggles led to local authority being vested in other bodies, and government revenue being raised through other routes, until landowners were left with the power to charge rent (without the obligations that had originally justified it) and what had once been the responsibility to nominate a successor, now degenerated into a simple privilege.

            Inheritance of land is an example of something which, in principle, could be reformed fairly easily, leaving the details to be worked out later. A simple clarification of its purpose, to establish that the power to nominate a successor is a responsibility rather than a right, would alter the dynamics of it (because the public interest would become a factor) without immediately changing anything substantively. Landowners would still have the power to nominate their successor but their decisions would be far more open to legal challenges, and case law would gradually establish maximums for what individuals could inherit.

            Though there are also other reforms I advocate … which I won’t go into here.

  7. Thanks for the further comments. Unfortunately I don’t have time at the moment to engage properly, but I’ll think about them. Gunnar, I agree with you that a perfect market isn’t really what’s needed – though it amuses me to think that a world of small scale farmers selling their wares to individual customers fits the models of mainstream economics much better than the existing ‘free market’. Malcolm, I agree with you on splitting the functions of money. I’ll have to think some more about labour service – it has impeccable feudal credentials, but I can also see it working in a modern democracy in some ways. Glad to see my view echoed here after the roasting I got for it recently that managing capital flows is probably a better lever for a steady-state economy than managing labour flows. Much to think about. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Chris.

      Just to clarify, I advocate that taxes should be denominated in labour, and that people should have the right to pay them in labour if they choose, but the state would still be free to accept money and I imagine that most people would in fact choose to pay them in money. What matters is the freedom to choose.

        • Great discussions as always, lots to respond to, but I thought I’d just weigh in on this little bit. The commutation of labour service in money also has impeccable feudal credentials, but that’s probably because taxation does too – indeed, historical materialists recognise tax, tribute, rent as species of the same kind of thing: value extracted within an unequal relationship, whether with landlord, warlord or state. The key thing about tax is surely how it is justified. Is it money to pay off Viking raiders, a fund that sets limits on government expenditure, or (following Mary Mellors) perhaps a control on inflation in an economy run on publically created money? I’m very interested to see what it’ll be used for in the Peasants Republuc of Wessex…

          • “historical materialists recognise tax [as] value extracted within an unequal relationship”

            My guess is that its origins lay in the contribution that members of a community were expected to make to the community’s internal organisation (i.e. paying the people who resolved disputes) and external defence. I suspect that, for the most part, it was only when meta-communities evolved that it became exploitative(because that allowed rulers to call on outsiders to help maintain their position).

            “The key thing about tax is surely how it is justified”

            Yes, I agree with that. To me, the tax system exists in order to match the contributions that individuals can reasonably be expected to make, to the cost of providing the services that the public can reasonably expect government to supply.

    • Surely if you have a policy of freedom of movement of labour and they move from one territory to another, then capital needs to be available to them so they can access housing, jobs, food, clothing, entertainment etc.

      Quite obviously, if capital flows are restricted so that the person cannot access the above because they are simply not available due to capital flow restrictions, then the person is either dependant on the natural capital around them or on state welfare.

      I always like to start with first principles when I reason. If a person moves into a new territory with no capital then they need to use the natural capital around them. Each person is going to require at least a hectare to survive so when all the hectares are used up in that territory then capital needs to be derived from elsewhere in order to accommodate and provide jobs for newcomers. This means dedicating some of those hectares for urban planning and grey infrastructure, all of which requires capital.

      So once the natural capital is used up in a given territory i.e one hectare per person, then different forms of capital are required to accommadate and employ new comers. How else are the newcomers beyond the natural capital population to survive? If they use existing capital then there will be increased competition and a rejection of these new comers. This isnt racism. This is survivalism.

      The only remedy is to inject capital into these territories before the newcomers arrive. Capital that needs to come from somewhere and therefore potentially deprives another territory of capital through opportunity cost.

      Freedom of movement into a territory that increases population beyond the natural capital population therefore requires capital to be imported into that territory. Preferably before in order to avoid increasing competition for the currently available capital.

      If you can respond with reasoned arguments rather than with ‘incoherent’, ‘weak’ or some other dismissive adjective, that be appreciated. Thanks.

      I wasnt roasting you. I was exasperated that a landworker does not get the basics of natural balance. Perhaps its a class thing.

      • In your first two paragraphs, you write as though migration is somehow a fixed quantity, which will happen regardless. The point I made above is that free movement of capital significantly increases migration. The availability of capital is an important factor in people deciding to move.

        “I always like to start with first principles when I reason”

        That’s a good policy, Stephen, but then you need to consider the fundamental rules about how natural resources are allocated, and the underlying nature of capital. I don’t get the sense that you’ve done that.

        • Probably best you read my response to Chris below. That clarifies my arguments. Obviously you are failing to take into account wage differentials across different countries as an incentive for migration. This simply means economic migrants are using currently available capital within a territory and so increasing competition. Therefore your position does not seem to incorporate the capital that is already embedded in a territory through previous investment and neither does it incorporate the fact that economic migrants can move into a territory that already has capital and then simply competes with the already existing population.

          In either case, wage differentials across different territories or embedded capital incentivises economic migration without the need for additional capital flows. However this invariably creates capital-labour lags which increases competition and hence social tensions. To remedy this, capital needs to flow into the territory to rebalance the capital per labour ratio.

          Your policy of allowing freedom of movement with capital controls seems to intend to increase competition and social tensions which I personally dont see as being socially sustainable.

          However I agree capital flow restrictions are necessary to disincentive job creation in certain areas but this would also require labour flow restrictions on a territory basis for the additional reasons above.

          Personally I think trying to put freedom of movement as the primary principle by which all other principles must adapt is fraught with difficulties. The only system that can jystifiably enable freedom of movement as the primary principle by which to organise our societies is an undemocratic version of global socialism which has highly sophisticated just-in-time planning system so that capital can follow the free movement of labour. To say that people will choose not to move with capital flow controls does not take into consideration medical reasons, family reasons, nomadic reasons, climatic reasons, ecological reasons. Capital flow restrictions will also impede these other reasons for migrational movements.

          Of course migration is not a fixed quantity. What we are talking about here in more definite terms is net population increases as a result of net inward migration flows into a territory that is already beyond capacity in terms of at least one hectare of productive land per person.

          Obviously over-population in respect to the available natural capital per person within a given territory requires natural capital to be imported from elsewhere. This in turn requires other forms of capital to facilitate this importation. Therefore migration pulls capital towards itself and at the same time deprives other territories of capital. Is this the demand and supply of natural resources you are referring to?

          • “Obviously you are failing to take into account wage differentials across different countries as an incentive for migration”

            Actually, Stephen, I explicitly mentioned people from poorer countries migrating to take advantage of higher labour rates, in the comment I linked to. Wage differentials across different countries do indeed lead to migration but only if migrants are able to spend the surplus from their higher wages in their home country where it buys more – i.e. if there is free movement of capital.

            There is also economic migration where that isn’t a factor, where migrants are simply looking for overall higher living standards. But then you have to look at why those differences exist. A major reason, to my mind, is the ability of rent-seekers in rich countries to buy up primary resources in poorer countries, which again depends on free flow of capital (though ownership laws are also a major factor). Without the steady flow of rent from poorer countries to richer, I think the current huge disparities in living standards are unlikely to persist for very long, so that motivation for migration would also disappear.

            However, I did acknowledge in my original comment that, in the absence of monetary reform, some kind of anti-immigration policies might well be sensible. But I’m not primarily concerned with what policies should be embraced within the current system, because I regard it as fundamentally flawed.

            “What we are talking about here in more definite terms is net population increases as a result of net inward migration flows into a territory that is already beyond capacity in terms of at least one hectare of productive land per person.”

            That may be what you’re talking about, Stephen. What I’m talking about (which I think is probably closer to what Chris is aiming for with this blog) is how a healthy society should develop policies that maximise both freedom and stability.

            I don’t think a healthy society would use a medium of exchange that can be taken out of circulation by anyone who has a surplus. Reforming the monetary system to make that impossible would automatically lead to changes in the way capital flows and would greatly improve governments’ ability to manage their economies. For the reasons I gave above, I anticipate that economic migration would then be substantially reduced, quite likely to a level where it no longer presented a problem. There would still be migration for other reasons but, if economic migration is taken out, I see no grounds for assuming there would continue to be significant net immigration.

            But as Chris said ‘then you have to look at whether the laws work’. If it turns out that the Peasant’s Republic of Wessex, with its soundly based political and socio-economic structures, is a magnet for migrants, then he will no doubt look closely at whether explicit controls are needed.

          • To be fair you do not seem to be engaging with my arguments but just writing them off and then reasserting your arguments.

            The main reason rent-seekers in rich countries buy up primary resources in poorer countries is because of net migration into territories that is beyond the population that can be accommadated by the natural capital in that territory. Consequently rentseekers will seek to purchase green infrastructure and natural resources from other territories in order that the ‘over (the natural) population’ can survive. Where else will the produce and natural resources come from to sustain economic migrants?

            Simple enough question I would have thought! If you cant answer it then your ideal of societies which primarily promotes freedom of movement and stability is not going to be stable at all.

          • Stephen:
            You asserted:
            The main reason rent-seekers in rich countries buy up primary resources in poorer countries is because of net migration into territories that is beyond the population that can be accommodated by the natural capital in that territory.

            I’m wondering if you have some way to substantiate this notion? There have recently been some fairly significant land grabs by stock corporations and I am experiencing some difficulty justifying their investments with the model you’ve described. Avoiding local taxation rates has been offered as one motivation, does that fit within your model?

          • “you do not seem to be engaging with my arguments but just writing them off and then reasserting your arguments”

            What I was trying to do, Stephen, was explain my argument in a bit more detail because you clearly hadn’t understood it.

            As for writing off yours, what else do you expect people to do if you put forward arguments that aren’t relevant to the context you’re debating in? I don’t think Chris, or most of the others who comment here, are looking for solutions to excessive immigration within the current system, which seems to be what you’re focused on.

            “The main reason rent-seekers in rich countries buy up primary resources in poorer countries is because of net migration into territories that is beyond the population that can be accommadated by the natural capital in that territory.”

            Well, my impression is that the reason rent-seekers try to get control of primary resources, anywhere and everywhere, is so that they can charge other people for using them. It had never occurred to me that rich-country rent-seekers are primarily motivated by a desire to feed the (newly-arrived) poor in their own country, which seems to be the essence of what you’re suggesting. But perhaps I’ve misunderstood you, in which case maybe you could explain your position more clearly.

  8. Thanks for the interesting debate on labour service and taxation – as with migration, something I’ll come back to.

    Steve, glossing over where I think the majority of the dismissive adjectives have been coming from over the last couple of posts, I think we’re talking at cross purposes. Capital controls aren’t about preventing immigrants from bringing capital in with them (except perhaps within reason – Russian or Saudi oligarchs etc) they’re about preventing the unrestricted global flow of investment capital. If you do that, you limit the development of geographical centre-periphery economic relations, and therefore a lot of the impetus for migration. You force investment in local economies and structures.

    You can pass laws preventing human flows or you can pass laws preventing capital flows. And then you have to look at whether the laws work. I don’t think it has to be an either/or, but generally speaking I think passing laws limiting capital flows would be more successful and more humane in achieving steady-state locality societies than passing laws limiting human flows. That’s not to say that I think large levels of international migration are a good thing. I don’t and I don’t think I’ve ever said so.

    In terms of carrying capacity, yes I think the concept is potentially useful (which is why I’ve been crunching so many numbers on peasant production in the southwest). I don’t think it’s ever really possible to determine quantitatively what it is since such an exercise involves way too many imponderables and assumption, and it can change rapidly upwards or downwards in relation to changing historical and ecological circumstances. I’m pretty sure that the carrying capacity of the UK has not yet been reached, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to push any closer to it. Those points don’t have a great deal of bearing on my views concerning migration policy.

    As in the cliche about it being impossible to ‘throw away’ things because there’s no ‘away’, so with migration policy – you can pass laws to try to keep people away from your picket fence, but ultimately what matters is whether they obey your injunctions. Of course the same is true of capital controls (the other, and for me, more persuasive side of Hines’ case that I’ll look at in a future post) – but I think the chances there are higher. Ultimately most people would surely want a world in which not many people feel the need to migrate too far from their birthplace. I don’t think that making lots of laws restricting immigration into Britain is the best way of achieving that goal.

    • My position isnt much different to your own then but I think my argument above still applies. If the capacity of a territory is not built up to accommodate newcomers, using capital either sourced from within or without the territory, then we have increased competition which to me is hardly humane, especially to the existing population. This is generally what happens if capital follows labour. Similarly if labour moves into a territory where investment restrictions are in place or capital flows are not forthcoming, then a net inscrease in that population will result in increased competition.

      How to stop these gliches of increased competition or the lag between net population increases and capital investment is where the social tensions lie. Hence the need for responsive labour flow controls.

      If a person is really keen to get into a territory then they can go on a waiting list and even start investing some of their capital into that territory in order to reduce the labour-capital lag. If they have any.

      Capital investment restrictions are also a good idea and especially making sure capital is invested into territories with poor infrastructure so that the green/grey balance is distributed equitably across the planet.

      But with current high differentials in income and wealth across the planet then capital investment restrictions will not stop large flows of international migration and so there will not only be labour-capital lags in richer countries which may well be excerbated due to the capital investment restrictions but there will be capital-labour lags as poorer countries experience brain drain. Therefore both labour flows and capital investment flows would need be managed simultanously in order to achieve steadystate bearing in mind that steadystate is not degrowth (which I know you know).

      Without needing to know the specifics, I think it is safe to say that each adult requires at least a hectare of land to survive. Maybe quite abit less if low impact. The point being that each person needs land whether that is locally based or non-locally based. Similarly each person needs a specified amount of capital to survive, especially in modern societies. And so communities will be sensitized to land/capital distributions in relation to the standards of living a community has adapted to. These days many poorer families rely on personal debt just to get by and so survival anxiety will be acute in these communities. Therefore it seems reasonable to first make sure the population of a given territory are adequately provided for before an open border policy is democratically popular.

      The only way the pro-EU lot even got 48% is by project fear and so praying on the survival anxieties already felt by the general population. If we had the referendum today, I think remain might get 25-30%. In general people dont want a highly competitive social market economy (TEU Art 3) which includes creating capital-labour and labour-capital lags all over Europe.

      • Briefly, just coming back to this figure of a hectare per person, I wonder where it originated? I have read of a land area of as little as 700m2 as sufficient to provide one person with a plant-based diet (Spedding CRW, 1996, Agriculture and the Citizen, cited in Tolhurst and Hall Growing Green p.9). I’ve heard that a figure of a hectare should be enough for a family of 4-5 in a talk by Ernst Gotsch and elsewhere. Meanwhile in Normandy a Bec Hellouin farmworker was apparently making approximately 30,000 euros market gardening one-tenth of a hectare. Where’s the consensus? Is there one?

          • Jeavons in California can feed a person from I believe 100 sq. ft. on heavily beans diet, and no animal products. But keep in mind that this is the result of a unique, very intensive process, and probably only indicates the lowest limit in a fecund and mild California location. I think that when you extrapolate to less favored locations, add some animal protein (and manure for the land), and all the other things a person needs for bare survival, though, a hectare does not seem unreasonable.

          • Sorry, I meant to say 1000 sq ft. But I just looked into his workshops and he’s revised his numbers and seems to be advocating 1600 sq ft per person now.

        • Im not saying this is scientifically validated but considering a hectare is roughly 1.5 football (soccer) fields then you need space for a dwelling, a barn/workshop, a space for chickens/hens, a space to store/park machinery, a space to grow enough veg to feed, produce seeds produce textiles and animal feed for winter. A space for milk-producing animals. A space to grow trees for building materials, furniture, firewood. A space for smelting and forging. A space for developing electronic equipment. A space to produce fuel to run machinery. And the list goes on as does the ecological footprint per person as measured in hectares.

          A hectare is a very conservative estimate of the amount of land each person needs to live a medium to high impact lifestyle. At present in the UK we would need 3.2 planets if everyone was to live the average lifestyle of a Brit.

          The needed land per capita for the average British lifestyle reflects we have exceeded carrying capacity by 3.2 times if freedom of movement was currently the primary organising principle. The same applies to the rich European core.

          In terms of sustainability as measured by land needed to sustain current lifestyles then core and periphery is unfortunately a much needed dichotomy.

          To remove the core/periphery distinction means radical degrowth for the rich and meager growth for the poor to bring the overall ecological footprint to within one planet living.

        • So much depends on location, dietary assumptions, energy/built environment assumptions and embodied infrastructure. Maybe I’ll try to flesh some of that out for my Wessex musings. In the present economy, some people can undoubtedly make a lot of money from small areas – but then they’d need to buy their bread from elsewhere…

          • Thanks all. No doubt simplistically, but if you split the 43 million acres of agricultural land in use in the UK by the 64 million population, you arrive at a figure of just over two-thirds an acre per person.

          • Thanks for that Simon. I wonder what the amount of grey land is and how much there is per capita.

  9. I guess I’d just observe that so long as capital flows create rent-seeking from rich countries to poor countries, then there will be ‘economic migrants’ trying to flow from poor countries to rich countries. If you stop the rent-seeking, you’ll stop the economic migrants. The rent-seeking is primarily about fiscal capital – it’s a historical continuation of colonial-economic expansion. It’s not primarily about ‘natural capital’, though there is some convertibility, perhaps increasingly so. With less rent-seeking, rich countries would be less rich, and poor countries would be less poor. I can’t really see any good arguments as to why that wouldn’t be a good thing – I’m not persuaded by the ‘race to the bottom’ view of it that some commenters take. Indeed, I can’t see how anything resembling sustainable local economies can be built in the absence of a major equalisation of global wealth. Though I’d accept that in the short run there’d be a lot of policy headaches about how best to juggle fiscal flows with people flows. I’d take those difficulties more seriously if rich-country governments were taking seriously the need to end their rent-seeking. But they’re not. War refugees and climate change refugees add another layer of complexity.

    Since this cycle of posts arose out of my commentaries on Brexit and Trump, perhaps it’s apposite to end with another comment on it. I find it easy to write a long list of reasons why it would be good for Britain to be out of the EU – but very few of them have figured in the pre- or post-referendum positions taken by the Brexit camp, which have mostly focused around the deeply contradictory poles of ‘getting back our sovereignty’ and being ‘a global trading nation, open for business’, larded with a generous helping of petty nationalism. Meanwhile, the new US administration has torched already minimal climate change commitments, threatened war with China and holy war across the Middle East, expressed various levels of enthusiasm for dissolving NATO and the EU, and made common cause with Russia. I’d like to think that even Trump & co aren’t so stupid as to try to enact all that, but I think the world has become a more dangerous and less stable place (I was told on here that Trump had a domestic agenda that was less globally dangerous than Hilary Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy stances…I’m not really seeing it…). And for those reasons I’m now much more supportive of the EU and the impossible dream of Britain staying within it than I was last June – not because I’m especially enthusiastic about its economics but because it’s a remaining bulwark for some kind of global stability and due process, which seems about as much as anyone can realistically hope for at the moment. Well, of course that’s just me – but to be honest I don’t see much evidence that British people are more supportive of Brexit now than they were last June.

    • I certainly dont disagree that rent-seeking activities exist by which the rich are capitalising on the national assets of the poor. However it is also the case that economic migration will add to the demand for this rent seeking activity so we have eu corporate landgrabs, eu corporate-led deforestation, eu corporate palm oil plantations, eu corporate household products using the spoils of this eu corporate activity in order to satisfy eu consumer demand which includes indigenous and non-indigenous populations. Added to that we have eu corporate petrochemical industries and subsiduaries. And then the eu corporate automobile industry.

      So Chris (and Michael)

      Are you stating that these eu ‘liberal’ corporate activities are economically benign and that these same eu corporate enterprises are NOT intentionally sourcing their resources from poor nations in order to both facilitate and take advantage of migration-led growth in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden etc etc.

      If people choose to move and capital flow controls are in place then obviously there will be increased competition. Stopping eu corporate activity abroad will just mean large-scale job losses and state welfare payments.

      If a plan is not able to weave itself into the current tapestry then quite frankly it is just fantasizing. How do you deal with huge unemployment, increasing budget deficits and increasing national debt interest payments whilst creating a patchwork of smallholdings that are each about 3/4 acres large.

      Vera I agree with your sentiments. The brutal reality of ecological overshoot and the accompanying ecological degradation will not be resolved by political correctness. It will be resolved by making tough decisions that are going to put most people well and truly out of their ideological comfort zones. The alternative is to avoid taboos and when the shit hits the fan then its every man fir himself. I guess this is the New Left liberal way according to Greer.

      Liberalism as Greer points out has been corrupted by the New Left so as to render it virtually obsolete. Since the 60s, the New Left have effectively tried to delimit the democratic public sphere to a platform that is solely concerned with judging as correct liberal values whilst at the same time denigrating conservative values. Modern Liberalism is no longer assessing through reasoned debate the merits and dismerits of different values in the face of changing circumstances. It is a movement with fascistic tendencies.

      You will like this Vera.

      I guess liberal elites (Democratic and Labour/EU) have over co-opted the revolutionary tendencies of the New Left in order to keep the Conservative elites at bay.
      However it is conservatism that incorporates localism, agrarianism and even regionalism and it is national sovereignty that is the gateway to these ideals, not an eu technocracy that has been fully captured by eu liberal corporate elites.

      The point of the enlightenment ideal of reason is to know when you are wrong and to be able to let-go and move on. All the eu is interested in is their global share of corporate power.

      A global socialism on the other hand and one that supports local sustainability (social ecology) is one pathway but requires global cooperation on a unprecedented scale. The fact that the eu with its self-interested liberal elites and its eu corporate rent-seeking global activities and its parchant for undemocratic technocratic institutions was not and never will be a sustainable model so was rejected by anyone who could see the eu for what it is. That being, a protected cartel of liberal business elite interests who have contributed more than most to ecological overshoot, ecological degradation and climate change. Germany for example is the most polluting per capita country in the world and is the country with the most fingers in the eu corporate liberal pie. Luxemburg is the most heavily protected tax haven on Earth. NATO and the much anticipated EU Army being its soldiers on permanent guard duty.

      Populists dont align with social and economic liberal elites and nor do they align with social and economic conservative elites. But they might play one set of elites off against another.

      So then, why is it so strange that Trump wishes to forge links with Putin. Both of whom are politically opposed to both eu and us liberal elites. Ironically he is being more liberal than any eu eurocrat whose job it is to protect eu liberal corporate interests.

      The obvious paradox of Trump is that his rugged straight talking cowboy ways are actually creating a global unity of resistance that is unprecedented in history. One man is stirring others into unprecedented global solidarity. Like I said everything works in accordance with balance.

      Is Trump doing this consciously. Probably not but if he were then that is what enlightenment is. A true understanding of the paradox of balance.

      • Oops I mean I certainly do agree that rich countries exploit poor countries.

        My phone sometimes autocorrects. Sorry.

      • Stephen asked ‘Chris (and Michael)’:

        “Are you stating that these eu ‘liberal’ corporate activities are economically benign”

        I think Chris made his position clear enough in the post you were replying to, Stephen, when he said rich-country governments weren’t taking seriously the need to end their rent-seeking.

        I don’t know who the Michael is that you were addressing – was he one of the people you felt had been rude to you in the last thread? – but I dare say he won’t mind me answering in his place. Personally, I regard rent-seeking as pernicious, though I don’t see any reason to think EU liberals are any more guilty of it than others. (Having said that, I think it’s generally just people taking the world as they find it, taking advantage of opportunities created by bad laws, rather than stemming from human wickedness.)

        “If people choose to move and capital flow controls are in place then obviously there will be increased competition”

        Yes, Stephen, if people choose to move then obviously there will be increased competition in the place they move to regardless of whether capital flow controls are in place. That’s why it’s a good idea to understand what motivates them to make that choice. Chris and I both think free movement of capital is a major factor and that, without it, migration would be significantly reduced. You don’t seem to have engaged with that argument at all.

        “If a plan is not able to weave itself into the current tapestry then quite frankly it is just fantasizing”

        Yes, of course. But, as with a journey, having some idea where you want to end up makes it much easier to decide which direction to go in. Before trying to reform the current system, it’s a good idea to have a vision of how a healthy society would operate, because that’s the only way we can judge what reforms are likely to lead to where we want to be.

        As to being able to weave it into the current tapestry, I’m in the process of setting up a website for a reform party. The first steps, as far as I’m concerned, are reforms to the obvious flaws in our system of governance. Once that’s done it’ll be very much easier to implement the necessary reforms to land ownership and how the monetary system operates. As I said above, ‘until [sensible monetary reform] happens, some kind of anti-immigration policies might well be sensible’. But as a long term solution to anything it’s just a red herring.

  10. I wanted to say, I am grateful for all the thoughts expressed here regarding people and capital flows. As always, this blog keeps me thinking.

    I have to admit, at the same time, that my sense is that folks — all of us, I think — are not willing to be sufficiently honest about our predicament. When Gunnar said that Sweden could take in millions more migrants and call it within its ‘carrying capacity’, I kept thinking about that famous quote from Princess Bride: “That word you are using. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” A country that is largely boreal forest and tundra? It left me scratching my head.

    My sense from these and many other such discussions is that we greens talk ecosystem protection on one hand, and “compassion” as in open borders on the other, and that the two are not really readily compatible, all the verbal assurances to the contrary notwithstanding. I think Britain (as an example) is long past overshoot, and survives only by tapping massive resources elsewhere. My best sense of the situation is that even if influx of new humans into Britain stopped today 100%, apart from new births, the population levels are so out of kilter that trying to protect the remaining ecosystems would be a huge struggle.

    I think to do so with the constant significant inflows Europe is now experiencing is impossible, and that we are all tapdancing around some brutal realities it has become more polite not to directly acknowledge. Maybe I am just feeling down right now. But following this discussion closely, that’s what I am taking away.

    • Thanks Vera – much I can agree with there. But I’d argue that the concepts of carrying capacity/overshoot and ecosystem protection aren’t the same. Four questions:

      Can Britain feed and otherwise nurture its current/projected population adequately under existing bio-climatic conditions using sustainable agricultural methods?

      Would it be easier to feed and nurture Britain’s population using sustainable agricultural methods at lower population densities?

      Would it be easier to protect/enhance natural ecosystems at lower population densities?

      Would it be difficult to adopt successful policies that would reduce Britain’s population density significantly over the next few decades?

      My answer to all four questions would be yes.

      • Can Britain feed and otherwise nurture its *projected* population adequately under existing bio-climatic conditions using sustainable agricultural methods?

        I sincerely doubt Britain can feed its projected population by *any* agricultural method. Not without plundering the hinterlands elsewhere. Not while the hinterlands are barging in demanding to be fed too.

        • Vera,
          Whose *projected* pop figures do you like?? If Brexit effectively nullified future immigration numbers such that new births from extant British citizens were the only new members of the population and were offset by deaths and the emigration of citizens not willing to stay for whatever reason, then future expansion of numbers may be quite mild.

          Sustainability is a tricky word too. If one forces us to look out beyond say 500 years then very little of what we think is doable today would meet some folk’s definition of sustainable.

          I happen to agree with Chris’ thought that at least in terms of providing food for the masses, [and using Simon’s under 1 acre per person – arable to current pop calculation above] there is a fair chance to feed everyone. Off shore fishing can help – and off shore fishing can be restricted to a level that needn’t compromise the longevity of natural populations of fish stocks. Aquaculture can also increase the “landbase” per capita – adding what could be considered ‘arable’ watercourses to Simon’s calculation.

          Would it be simple? Not likely. Would a diet in such a scenario resemble what folks in London are currently feasting upon? Not likely. But if your choice is something shy of what you have now and nothing at all…

          • I’m tempted to side with you Clem. If Jeavons can pull the (quorn?) rabbit out of the hat on just 150m2 (1600 square feet) as claimed, then I’ll be pulling up my seat for the bean-feasts. Have a good weekend all.

          • Clem said: “If Brexit effectively nullified future immigration numbers… and were offset by deaths and the emigration of citizens not willing to stay for whatever reason, then future expansion of numbers may be quite mild.”

            And if wishes were fishes, beggars would feast.

            I think at this point, nothing will “nullify” immigration numbers except the big die-off.( I just heard Africa is supposed to quadruple in numbers by the end of the century. Right.) I am sure the global elites have it on their planning boards… to be implemented as soon as robotics really kicks in. (And if somebody has a good argument why they wouldn’t, I’d like to hear it. I seem to have taken on the mantle of the grim curmudgeon today.)

          • Vera, you’ve ducked the question. What sort of population numbers do you expect will inhabit the English Isle at some specific point downstream? In the comment immediately before:
            You asked if Britain could feed itself, and I tried to make a case she could. You didn’t offer any rebuttal, but went to Africa in search of a four fold population explosion.

            If you’re just looking to lay down rhetorical questions and don’t want feedback, leave me a better signal.

          • I thought it was established that 64 million with 3/4 acre of productive agricultural land was pretty much at carrying capacity. However is 3000m2 per person enough for all our natural capital needs including animal products or do we continue relying upon agricultural land in poor countries to provide for many of our needs.

            Forgot to say, salt, spices, ice, cotton, rubber, oil and humans of course are all natural capital resources which historically have motivated international trade,exploitation, rent-seeking and wars which have historically benefitted different groupings of elites from the local to the global. Migration-led growth is just another aspect to this rentier nature of elitism. Capital and labour flows are just two sides of the same coin, one feedbacking with the other.

          • Sorry, Clem. I have no idea what to expect… except that it will be too many, for a while. I am not a statistician, and it will all depend on what happens elsewhere, as well as Brit politics… but I have little confidence at this point that the tsunami from elsewhere will somehow be stemmed, whether this tsunami be because the borders are too permeable, or because what is going on elsewhere is simply not containable.

            I admire Jeavons’ and similar efforts — worthwhile to learn how to make the best of a small bit of land, regardless of what the future holds.

            I do find the larger question worthwhile — can we feed the multitudes with eco-agriculture? I think we can… but only if we look away from the up and coming human gazillions. Is it still projected at 12 billion by 2075? And as I said, I don’t see that dilemma resolvable by any agricultural techniques.

            I am thinking… it wouldn’t it be lovely if Chris’ ideas and calculations were picked up by some intrepid experimenters who’d be willing to do something like the old Biosphere 2 experiment? What happens if these ideas are applied and lived? How well nourished wold the people be? How well would the land be cared for? Call it Wessexsphere.

          • Wessexsphere… does have a sort of ring to it. My fear would be that a single Wessexsphere project would not be sufficient – there being so much variation from place to place. But at the same time it is a start.

          • It occurs to me… I find future projections and stats a distraction, and musings over total arable land divided by population too abstract. I am wondering… what if one took just one shire, one actual shire with its soil and climatic conditions and current population and spread of cities, and showed what it would look like if it fed itself, and by what ag methods and social rearrangements? I think I might find that far more convincing.

          • Just one shire? You know, I think that’s been done. Yes, a chap named Tolkien I think. Elves and Hobbits, Dwarves and Gollum. A dragon too I think. Sustained for a great long time too. All you need are some swords, lots of arrows, a wizard or two (or three) – magic rings… a bloody good time.

            Sorry, the shire made me do it.

            But there is a grand Wessexsphere project already underway. Its a bit more grand in aspect. You see they’ve placed this big blue rock in an orbit between Venus and Mars. Gave it a big ol rock to circle it and make tides go in and out. Now we’ve come to write about it on these little electronic do dads. And next we get to wonder how the story comes out in the end. No better page turner ever.

      • I concur with all those “yeses” also for most countries in the world, and for the globe as such. As for Sweden, the countryside is quite depopulated and can take a lot more people and there is quite a lot of idle cropland and pastureland. Immigrants, however, tend to congregate in the cities for a number of reasons, they have earlier relatives already living there, there are more jobs there and livelihood in the countryside is often dependent on considerable capita availability. As I said before, migration is not easy to deal with, but it is just one of many challanges a society needs to address. A good resilient society can cope with more stress of that kind than one which is already falling apart. As I wrote before, my opinion is that freedom of movement is a relevant principle and national borders are very arbitrary. Some of the arguments against immigration are quite valid in my view, but not strong enough to deny people the right to move.

        There is no science in this – on either side of the debate – it is about values, and it is hard to argue about values. It is like discussing veganism. And of course, most vegans would eat meat rather than starve. But that is not a very good argument against veganism. Similarly, I wouldn’t really like to share my bed with a stranger, or give him or her my land. But I have offered asylum seekers to farm on a piece of my land. That is my current limit.

  11. Stephen: Grey land? I guess you mean underutilised verges and suchlike. Places like Incredible Edible Todmorden lead me to believe there are enough patches to have a good time with, as a community. In my home county of Notts I’ve seen green spaces that form traffic roundabouts and odd strips of land 100s of metres long but only one metre wide, up for sale. At the time I thought ‘this is madness’. On second thoughts, in Todmorden they’d probably pounce on such opportunities. Good on ’em.

    • No I meant grey infrastructure. Factories, offices, transport networks, warehouses, dwellings etc etc.

      What is the land for grey infrastructure per capita?

  12. Any meaningful search for sustainable prosperity, therefore, begins from the love of home. Home is the place where, if you make a mess, you clear it up, the place where you are conscious of those who share it, and of the lastingness of what they share.

    A conservative take on localised sustainability by Roger Scruton. Published as part of the ethics for sustainable prosperity series.

  13. I don’t have time to engage properly with this interesting ongoing debate, but I’ll make a few comments.

    In relation to Steve’s political picture of the world, I’d basically agree with the characterization of a liberal-corporate planet-trashing EU. I’ve seen nothing to suggest that a post-Brexit Conservative government, or those of the other main parties, would be any different. What’s offered by Trump is an illiberal-corporate planet-trashing government, which is worse. I wrote previously about Greer and the liberal public sphere – that’s why I think a Trump-Putin power base would be worse than, say, a Democrat-EU one, and I don’t see the need to add anything more there.

    Historically, populists have very often allied themselves with left-wing, liberal and right-wing groupings and elites, though I’d agree it hasn’t usually gone well for them. If there was a self-styled ‘conservative’ political movement in the UK that incorporated localism, agrarianism, regionalism and national sovereignty then I’d probably align myself with it, so long as it didn’t claim that we’d be just as well off financially as we were before, or adopt positions on social issues I found unconscionable. Likewise, if there was a self-styled ‘leftist’ movement that did the same – the main difference probably being in the take on social issues, where I’d likely feel more at home. Unfortunately, there are no such movements that I’m aware of. If there were, their agrarian thinking would surely look pretty similar to what I’ve been construing here.

    I don’t recognise Steve’s description of the New Left – or Greer’s for that matter – as having much grounding in reality. Though I think maybe we’re working with different understandings of the ‘New Left’. I think of it as the kind of people and the kind of thinking associated over the years with the journal New Left Review. That New Left has never had a chance to enact its ideas politically. When it comes to voting, everyone has to juggle what they’d actually like to see with what’s on the ballot paper, without the benefit of hindsight as to how things will unfold. I voted remain in the referendum and Green in the general election and I haven’t yet seen reasons to wish I’d voted otherwise.

    Love of home – yes. The trouble I have with Scruton’s stance generally is that he likes to define it in ethnically exclusive terms, which are extraneous to that argument. Wendell Berry makes similar arguments about home, but without the ethnic nativism. An advantage, perhaps, of the USA over the UK, where a strong ethnic nativism would reduce the population by, what, 98%? I’ll be writing more about this soon.

    As to feeding the population, well at relatively low existing yield assumptions it’s easy to show that Britain could easily feed another 10 million people on top of present population entirely from its existing agricultural land, albeit at lower levels of meat and dairy consumption. Whether it could do so under pressure of climate change and climate change refugees is less certain, but isn’t climate change just a hoax by the Chinese?

    • I think you are probably right about different interpretations of the New Left. I was referring more to the American New Left and the resulting Culture War that has ensued there. In the UK we are only experiencing the latter stages of that War and in typical British style, we are dealing with the extremes of that polemical conflict deftly and swiftly. Is Jonathon Rutherford British New Left. And what about Jon Cruddas and David Goodhart (Demos).

      I find it intriguing that the choice between technocratic liberalism and no real democratic choices around economic, social and environmental policy and national policy sovereignty is seen as a choice between two evils especially as national policy sovereignty is associated with the Conservatives being in power indefinitely. The irony of course is that because the Left/Greens split itself over the spoils of corporate Eu then the Conservatives have been handed power on a plate. Of course if the Left didnt split over the spoils of corporate eu then the potential of Brexit might well be aligned with more emphasis on national self-reliance. Im not sure why the Left chose to split itself apart over corporate eu but my impression was that is was the New Left vs the Old Left with the New Left being all overdramatic about racism and xenophobia when none really existed. In other words it was purely a liberal elite ploy to stay in power. As a result the New Left has almost permanently disenfranchised its working class town base.

      Whether Conservatives set up global trade or not, we now have the democratic choice to change policy and change the terms of any global trade deals. Also we are now in a position to insist on more democratic global institutions which was never possible whilst the liberal elites controlled the eu.

      Bringing power closer to the people is populism and national policy sovereignty is the only way to achieve that democratically.

      Home from a national context does not necessary exclude and so therefore does not inevitably result in ethnic nativism. However what we fear often comes to haunt us.
      For me national democracy just allows the cultural constitution of a nation to be democratically decided, not imposed by an outsider.

      For me I feel a much deeper sense of connection with my neighbours since Brexit. I think having a sense of being British does enthuse a sense of belonging and home and so does enthuse a greater sense of patriotic care. All my neighbours are British-Asian. The only couple of white faces I see are my flat neighbours who are part from Europe and part from other parts of Birmingham. But it is the wider Muslem community in which I live that I identify with most and so my political work is largely local in its orientation. So not sure who this ethnic nativism actually applies to. But definitely get the point that locals are locals and it can take a generation to be acknowledged as a local. In my experience, it is because locals are not sure whether to attach deeply or not to newcomers. They’ve moved once, maybe they will be moving again. So its takes a while to build up trust and a sense of permanance and so insider/outsider perspectives are abit of a defence mechanism to save getting hurt through attachment. Thats my take on it anyway having moved around alot. From this point of view its all about community memory and settling into the already existing emotional/psychic networks and dynamics.

      With regards the eu referendum, I just feel sad that the Left split itself up so dramatically for the sake of preserving liberal elite interests in the eu when we could have really staked a powerful claim over our national future and set an example for others to follow. The New Left/Green totally destroyed any chance of that and instead we are back to square one with liberal elites and conservative elites well and truly back in control. I share Colin Hines frustration of a wasted opportunity to sort out national sustainability problems foremost and then spread that model. It could now take a generation to unite the Left.

      For example, if freedom of movement, workers rights etc was so important then simply include it in the election manifesto. I just dont understand why significant parts of the Left rejected national democracy. Oh well.

      Im not sure where you are getting your figures regarding national food security.

      Based on the farm-gate value of unprocessed food in 2015, the UK supplied over half (52%) of
      the food consumed in the UK. The leading foreign suppliers of food consumed in the UK were
      countries from the EU (29%) and Africa, Asia, North and South America, all providing a 4% share
      of the food consumed in the UK.

      Is your adjustment for animal rearing and animal foodstuff and adopting low impact agrarian production based on these figures?

      Anyway, dont want to take up too much of your time. Realtime farming is obviously way more important.

  14. Small side-point on British self-sufficiency in food. The latest iteration of the Centre for Alternative Technology’s Zero Carbon Britain model assumes a population of 70.6 million in 2050.

    It does manage to make the numbers add up for a zero carbon carbon scenario which is largely self-sufficient in food, but (a) I’m not sufficiently deep into this to have any idea how plausible their numbers are, and (b) it would have to be a radically different place (but we all know that already).

  15. Chris – do you mean the UK population would be decreased by 98% under a strong ethnic nativism? If yes, and if willing to take North American inhabitants as of 1492 as the ethnic natives for the US, then I have to think the numbers aren’t too different (indeed 2% might be too large the for US number).

    Martin – thanks for the Zero Carbon Britain link… now even more to pour over.

    Stephen – ethics for sustainable prosperity series looks to be worth a peek too. Not sure where Roger’s going, but will take a minute and see.

    • No, I meant the USA. I’d guess a much smaller percentage here, but who knows? Once you start defining ethnic nativisms, you run into no end of trouble. I grew up about 100 miles away from where I now live, but many here wouldn’t define me as a local and the same applies to where I grew up. My ancestry is Scottish, Irish, Welsh, English, Dutch and Jewish – I reckon I probably have as much claim to ‘ethnic’ Britishness or Englishness as most people living on these isles, but there’s basically nowhere in the world I could live where somebody wouldn’t be able to advance a claim that they’re more native. I imagine that’s probably true of the majority of the world’s population.

      • What you’ve described about nativity and locality is very much the same over here – though likely more pronounced in the countryside than in very large metros. My parents moved into the community where I was born – my mother moving a mere 28 miles (you could literally see St Louis on the horizon from our farm) and she was an ‘outsider’. Two of my brothers still live in the community. Old guard by now. I haven’t lived in the community for over 40 years now, but am still more ‘at home’ there than where I spend my days. There’s likely some real evolutionary angle in this sort of behavior. It’d be nice if some sociologist or anthropologist hung around this blog to enlighten us.. 🙂

        • I recall similar when we bought an old disc mower from a dairy to the south of our farm. The woman was clearly the boss of the family. Loud jovial sort, talked nonstop. Her husband skirted the edges of the conversation doing little tasks. She kept mentioning that he was from up north. Which around here is usually code word for “Yankee”. She’d add that even after being married for thirty years he was still an outsider. So, we bit, and asked where “up north” was he from. “Madisonville”, she said. A town all of 12 miles away.

  16. The same thought occurred to me Vera, and no doubt there’s somebody somewhere already living the neo-peasant dream. I’d be willing to have a go myself, as long as the hectare wasn’t one metre wide and 10,000 metres long, or in the middle of a traffic island, though if forced to choose I’d go with the latter and hope that the feng shui won’t be irreparably poor.

  17. Chris, I know you’re busy and have limited time to respond to individual comments, but I just wanted to chip in here since I guess I’m one of the commenters you’re referring to in your earlier post where you wrote:

    “I was told on here that Trump had a domestic agenda that was less globally dangerous than Hilary Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy stances…I’m not really seeing it…”

    First off, just so that’s clear, I definitely don’t want to come off as a Trump apologist. The man seems wildly unsuited to such an important position, and there’s been no shortage of dubious appointments and decisions since he was elected (at least from a “green” or “left agrarian populist” point of view). That said, I’m still not convinced Clinton would have been any better. War with China would obviously be a very bad idea, but that still strikes me as less likely than a war with Russia under Clinton. Not that it’s possible to know with any degree of certainty, of course, and things could change very quickly, especially with as unpredictable a president as Trump.

    First, regarding NATO and Russia, I’m not sure why “making common ground with Russia” is a bad thing in and of itself. Putin has a nasty authoritarian streak to be sure and there’s plenty to criticize in Russia, especially when it comes to human rights and freedom of the press. But I don’t think there’s any reason for the current level of intense hostility between Russia and the West either, and a normalization of relations would in my view be good for regular people on both sides. Russia is a lot closer to Europe than the US, and we need to find a way to live with each other somehow.

    NATO is pretty much a relic of the Cold War, and it’s mostly been used to wage deeply unpopular wars in the Middle East and to ramp up hostility towards Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. Surely there’s a more sensible way to organize European defence that’s not quite as tied to the mast of US foreign policy? There’s also Greer’s claim that the US simply can’t afford to spend as much money on NATO anymore, but I don’t know if you agree with that.

    Finally (sorry, I know this is getting long), about the EU. It was interesting to follow the EU referendum as an outsider and observe that even those who argued in favor of Remain on the “green” side had nothing good to say about the EU itself. It was all about how the Tories would be even worse, which is sad but understandable. Even in this comment thread, you yourself keep saying how unattractive the EU is. Of course I agree about the need for a liberal public sphere, but I’m far from sure the current EU is the best way to guarantee that. As you point out, the EU is neo-liberal through and through, and I lost whatever faith I had left in the EU after the debacle in Greece. Some kind of European integration is probably a good thing, but in my opinion it’d probably be better to start from scratch.

    As for the actual blog post, there’s very little I’d disagree with in your list, and I’d certainly vote for that as a political program.

    • I too found it very alarming that our trusted guardianista heros all fell in line with an eu apologist position again using the lesser of two evils argument despite being highly critical of it beforehand.

      I can only guess that they fell in line with the eu because the liberal elites use the eu as their main power base for global operations and they were not going to leave themselves at the mercy of conservative elites and white trash. Democracy or no democracy, self interest rules, the rest is just article fillers.

      Limousine liberalism and Mercedes Marxism are just the cultural offshoots of this pernicious divide between different houses of elites in that…

      “Republican and Democratic parties now represent two different elite constituencies, each with its own culture and interests and modes of thought. Fraser describes today’s Republicans as the party of “family capitalism,” encompassing everyone from the mom-and-pop business owner on up to “entrepreneurial maestros” such as the Koch brothers, Linda McMahon and Donald Trump. The Democrats, by contrast, represent the managerial world spawned by modernity, including the big universities and government bureaucracies as well as “techno frontiersmen” like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. These are two different ways of relating to the world — one cosmopolitan and interconnected, the other patriarchal and hierarchical. Neither one, however, offers much to working-class voters.”

      However Id argue that the eu is neither liberal nor cosmopolitan except in terms to promote a PR front to its own dark arts which Monbiot conveniently ignores in his appraisal of (conservative) elites. These liberal elite lackays are nothing more than hot air appeasing partisan prejudices and wishful thinkers.

      Populism obviously aims to take back the power that rightfully belongs to the people which liberal elites avoid by retreating back into their fundamentally illiberal anti-democratic technocratic institutions. At least the Conservatives elites have the balls to play albeit on an unlevel playing field. The response of liberal elites and their lackays as a substitute for rational discourse and reasoned debate is racist, xenophobe, demagogue, misanthropist, homophobe, authoritarian etc etc. So yeah I could really feel the rational and reasoned vibes coming through this liberal space man!

  18. Thanks for the additional comments. Yeah, I should be working on the farm but it’s cold out there, so time for yet another brief response…

    In relation to aligning oneself with less-than-ideal political options, I think this is rarely avoidable. There’s plenty of “Trump is awful, but…” thinking being expressed here. “The EU is awful, but…” is of the same form. We can argue about which is more awful and speculate about the twists and turns it’ll all take, but the starting point is that we all have our feet in the same swamp. I don’t see a logical as opposed to a strategic reason to think that supporting the EU as a least-worst option is somehow qualitatively different. Especially since all the mainstream anti-EU positions involve exactly the same neoliberal power politics. The rising illiberal regimes around the world, including Trump’s, are no less deep in the ‘corporate liberal’ trough.

    Let’s say for simplicity that there are four major global power blocs – the USA, Russia, China and the EU. All of them are seeking their own advantage through geopolitical power games and all of them are committed to a neoliberal global economy. I’d prefer a world without those power games and without that economy. But taking out just one of those blocs – for example by willing the end of the EU – doesn’t bring that world any closer. It just reshuffles the pack, almost certainly to the detriment of Europe and the advantage of the other blocs.

    Improving western relations with Russia is no doubt a good thing, all else being equal. But if it involves dismantling European power to the benefit of the USA and Russia, then I’m not so sure. Yes, I think it could be argued that NATO is a Cold War or post-war relic with blood on its hands. I think we’ll see it argued more and more forcefully in the coming years that the same applies to the UN, the EU and various other supra-national organisations. And it will be true. But the demise of these organisations will redound to the benefit principally of the other power blocs, which have plenty of blood on their own hands. And my bet is that it’ll be mostly those power blocs who are pushing the critique.

    Maybe it’s true that a US-Russia war would have been more likely under Clinton. Certainly, Putin was gunning for her. But then it seems to me to be a slippery slope to argue for the benefits of Trump on the grounds that he suits Putin better. One issue I hadn’t really thought about until Trump’s phone call with Xi is that the US administration seems largely comprised of ideologues and political amateurs. I’m not sure of the implications of that. At least Clinton is/was actually a politician – even if relations with Russia under her had been frostier I think she’d have probably done a better job of avoiding getting into an accidental war. I’m not so sure about Trump et al. On the other hand, I think wily politicians of the likes of Xi, Putin and probably the EU, if it can hold together, will run rings around Trump’s administration – which will be good for them, and not for the US. But maybe the US would then decide to lash out militarily, which seems to me quite possible. The stakes are high, and overall I’m still far from convinced the world is a safer place. But of course here we’re in the realm of speculation and historical counterfactuals. Who knows? Not me, for sure.

    As for Britain, I think we’re in a lonely and precarious position internationally. If we can accept a few home truths, swallow some bitter pills and turn in on ourselves positively, then I think it could turn out surprisingly well. Lo, I bring you the Peasant’s Republic of Brittania. But we might easily turn in on ourselves not so positively. The current political atmosphere in Britain doesn’t encourage me to think a positive outcome is likely.

    Regarding farm productivity and food security, it’s hard to get county-level figures – and few counties house large cities so the results could be rather misleading. I’d argue that regional figures are better to provide at least some kind of baseline. This is what I’ve been doing in my Wessex analysis. Britain imports a lot of its fruit, vegetables, meat and fodder, and devotes quite a lot of its arable production to livestock fodder. But in terms of crop areas, current crop yields and nutritional requirements of the population it could very easily feed the current or even an expanded population from current agricultural areas and land uses, albeit at lower levels of meat consumption. We’re not currently anywhere near a Malthusian crisis. The only ways I’d see that changing in the short-term would be declining yields due to climate change or rapid civilizational breakdown, or a massive population influx amounting to an invasion. All possible, I suppose.

    Maybe the following calculation helps to provide a Malthusian outer limit, for discussion. At an energy intake of 2,500 kcal per day, based on eating only potatoes a person could just meet their yearly energy requirement from about 1,200kg of potatoes, which at present average conventional yields could be grown on 0.03 hectares or 0.07 acres. If half of the UK’s existing arable cropland (ie just half of the existing total arable area, excluding grassland) was devoted to potatoes and all other calorific input is assumed as zero, then calorifically this crop could feed 214 million people, or about triple the present population. Not that I’m advocating it…

    • “It just reshuffles the pack, almost certainly to the detriment of Europe and the advantage of the other blocs.”

      Hence the Trump administration’s apparent hostility to the EU — foment it’s break up and then pull individual nations into US orbit with separate trade deals. At this point, I’m hoping desperately that the EU can hold together and resist Russian/Trumpian influence by way of rightwing populist parties like the The National Front.

      “One issue I hadn’t really thought about until Trump’s phone call with Xi is that the US administration seems largely comprised of ideologues and political amateurs. I’m not sure of the implications of that.”

      For me, it’s inciting a strange mix of optimism and terror. Their incompetence and malevolence so far has helped both to galvanize the left and to give us some breathing room. That’s good. The risks to which it exposes both the US and the global order, though, is another matter entirely.

  19. “That said, I’m still not convinced Clinton would have been any better. ”

    Despite having seen this argument advanced countless times, it still leaves me gobsmacked, Kim. Even if we put domestic policy aside and focus exclusively on US foreign policy, which is what I think you’re doing (correct me if I’m wrong), I’m still at a loss as how to make sense of this perspective. It seems almost self-evident to me that this line of argument falls apart on temperament alone. After all, when you’re dealing with a willfully ignorant, highly competitive, emotionally volatile, impulsive narcissist (did I leave anything out?), are you really all that confident that he’ll behave with the calm deliberation that such a powerful position demands? I have my differences with Hillary Clinton, but I also have no doubt that, like Barack Obama, her actions and decisions would have been based on a careful analysis of the facts at hand, that she would draw on the expertise of a large circle of advisers and analysts, and that she would act in what she genuinely thought were the best interests of the United States. That, to me, is pretty much a minimum baseline for job competence. While I despised George W. Bush and vehemently disagreed with nearly all of his policies, I think he met that baseline most of the time. I most certainly can’t say that about Donald Trump, and that terrifies me. With that in mind, is it really all that likely that he’ll maintain a cordial relationship with Russia? Masha Gessen, a writer and Russian refugee with a keen understanding of Putin’s Russia as well as the characteristics Trump and Putin share, isn’t at all optimistic:

    The Most Powerful Men in the World

    While I can understand the desire for some sort of workable partnership with Russia, I’m just not sure how Putin’s vision of Russia and its future is compatible with a continued commitment to the liberal internationalism that’s become the hallmark of modern US foreign policy. That’s a hard truth that Bush and Obama, both of whom came into office with the intent of mending fences with Russia, had to face. What I fear is that the only possible way that Trump and Putin can reach a detente of sorts is for the US to become more like Russia (something with which Trump would appear to have no problem). I’m certainly not an apologist for US foreign policy, but, given a choice between the two, I’ll choose liberal internationalism every day of the week.

    • Im glad I managed to read this. It had been in my inbox a week.

      It makes clear that the Democratic Party are essentially new world order nutters including Obama. And that is coming from Jeffrey Sachs.

      He also makes clear that an open door migration policy is a clear mistake like much of Centre Left ‘liberal’ policy in the last few decades.

      Hr doesnt support Trump but then sees the fault in Presidentialism which I guess is Republic societies but not sure about that. The President of Wessex!!! He thinks parliamentary systems are much better. Yay!

      Chris. I noticed your international realism is based on the eu failing and collapsing. If EU 1.0 failed then we would have EU 2.0 and hopefully not one that has a liberal alcoholic as a president. It is inconceivabke that Europe will throw in the towel and become subservient to US, Chinese or Russian interests.

      Brexit is the beginning of EU 2.0. Just waiting for the power-crazed liberal elites to let go and adapt to our world order of global democratic institutions.

      Yep vegan/veggie Britain might work. And not growing for bio-fuels too. Should newcomers be non-meat eaters only.

    • Sorry if this is getting off topic now, just wanted to reply since this was addressed directly to me.

      First, I can grant the temperament angle, and I acknowledged that several times in my post. There’s definitely an argument to be made that Clinton would have been safer since she’s more measured and rational.

      That said, I disagree about Clinton acting in the best interests of the US, and that’s one my main strikes against her. All I’ve read about her antics as Secretary of State taking donations in exchange for arms sales, the email scandal and so on makes her very much seem like someone who’d be prone to abusing her position to her own advantage rather than putting her country first. Maybe some of the allegations are exaggerated or invented, but I’m still not convinced she meets your baseline of competence any more than Trump does.

      Again, just to be absolutely clear, I (as a complete outsider to the US) think both candidates were atrocious and would have much preferred Bernie Sanders.

      As for Russia and Putin, it’s complicated since he’s such a divisive figure, and I guess it comes down to where one assigns the lion’s share of the blame for what’s going wrong in international politics. Again, there’s plenty to dislike about Putin’s policies, but Russia also has as much of a legitimate right to advance its interests as the US or the EU. I’m not convinced any sort of deal with Russia necessarily has to be a zero-sum game either, since it depends very much on the details. And in a future more localized world like Chris envisions with this blog, we in Europe are probably going to have to find some sort of equilibrium with Russia, like it or not. Not that this means I’m saying we should applaud anything Putin does, of course.

      Finally, a few quick points on the EU and NATO. I’m not at all sure the EU tends to advance the interests of regular Europeans most of the time, especially in the south. I’m also skeptical it’s all that committed to liberal values (in the non-economic sense) when it comes down to it, even if it’s a little better than Russia or Trump’s USA. I know it can be dangerous to topple an existing bad order just to get something even worse, but I also honestly think the EU is too badly flawed at this point to be worth saving. European cooperation is one thing, but I’d much rather see a looser structure without the monetary union and the byzantine bureaucracy.

      As for Chris’ point about NATO and the slippery slope: true, but there’s also a significant difference between NATO as a purely military organization and the UN and the EU, which rest on many other pillars and could claim to have loftier aims than just warfare.

      • I’ll refrain from venturing any further down the rabbit hole of geopolitics, Kim, but I do appreciate your reply — I have a better sense now of our points of disagreement.

      • Yes, there’s much I’d agree with there. There are certainly tensions in Europe between west, east and south which should have been better handled and seem likely to scupper the EU. Your key sentence for me is “I know it can be dangerous to topple an existing bad order just to get something even worse, but I also honestly think the EU is too badly flawed at this point to be worth saving”. For me, the ‘even worse’ is all too obviously waiting in the wings, so the bad flaws will have to do – and seem to me no less remediable than elsewhere. Could you write “I think the USA/Russia/China are too badly flawed at this point to be worth saving”? And if not, why not?

        • Id respond to that by saying that it is your subjective presumptions that are the driving force behind your opinions.

          The EU is a largely illiberal undemocratic institution and is a poor reflection of what the world needs at the moment. As is the US, China and Russia. However to justify the existing eu on the grounds that we need our fair share of earth trampling corporate capitalism and ecological destruction to protect us is again a subjective opinion that seeks illiberal and undemocratic expression in the form of eu membership.

          Obviously Kim can speak for herself but for myself I really dont see the coherence of supporting illiberal and undemocratic european institutions that actively advance corporate capitalism and ecocide with democratic forms of regionalism that seeks to nurture the complete opposite.

          At least China and Russia do actively support small farm ownership whereas the EU most certainly does not.

          I guess we have to resolve and rationalise our own predilections and the contradictions that these predilections create. Thank god that we are well on the way towards regaining democratic national policy sovereignty rather than continuing to slide towards ‘liberal’ totalitarianism especially as modern liberalism is fundamentally flawed in two major ways.

          As we leave the EU, we can start engaging in our democratic public sphere with the knowledge that our democracy is no longer reduced to choosing which party will next manage eu policy. Getting rid of these totalitarian tendencies within our political institutions will hopefully reinvigorate people to reengage as well as encourage people to think outside their ideological boxes.

          Quite obviously we need a policy-based politics rather than an ideological-based politics since politics is surely about the fair distribution of resources according to need rather than affiliation to a certain set of values. The latter soon turns into a demagoguery of its own and is how prejudiced based ideological (value-laden) politics soon turns into conflict and warfare. Hence we have eu liberal and us liberal elites starting civil wars in Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen etc causing a refugee crisis and deep divisions in Europe and America. All in the name of ‘progressive liberalism’.

          Essentially any ideologue will justify their demagoguery by appealing to popular prejudices and that’s how most wars are justified.

          • On the question of the EU and small-scale farming, I’d observe that the last CAP settlement allowed individual countries to cap maximum payments per farm and to continue paying small farm support. The UK government chose not to cap maximum payments and abolished payments for entitlements under 5ha, saying that it supported the concentration of farms into larger units in order to improve economic competitiveness. The UK already has the largest-scale farming in Europe. I don’t see any reasons to think that leaving the EU will prompt the UK government to embrace the cause of small-scale farming.

            Otherwise, yes, as Gunnar has also pointed out, people’s subjective presumptions indeed are the driving force behind their opinions – I think the debate here has now sufficiently clarified everyone’s presumptions and opinions so I for one am happy to leave it there. Thanks to everyone for the discussion, which I’ve found informative.

          • Considering that England is the second most densely populated country in Europe and programmatic efforts by the liberal left to increase England’s population through migration-led economic growth which in turn reduces the available acreage per capita to 2/3 of an acre which is hardly enough room to sitrme a smallholding in the first place then it almost seems pragmatic to invest in large-scale farming practices in order to best utilise this minimal amount of land. Eu policy is hardly benefiting UK green infrastructure at all and is infact leading to an increased erosion of green infrastructure in England.

            France on the other hand which gas recently taken on as national policy a transition to agroecology (on the back of its long and glorious history and tradition of small scale farming) is by comparison hugely benefiting in green infrastructure as are many Eastern European states. Infact populist parties are forming in NE Europe as a direct response to high emigration and the fear that EU membership will require land to be released on the open market for eu corporate agribusiness to take over.

            The EU is a denizen of free market capitalism as is the US. Whilst Russia and China have managed flow controls which any sensible regional policy would have. Eu neoliberalism and cutthroat competition is one side of the emotional distress story of Brexit. Exactly what is the basis of your emotional distress. That your mental constructs might be losing their meaning and significance.

        • “Could you write ‘I think the USA/Russia/China are too badly flawed at this point to be worth saving’? And if not, why not?”

          Thank you, that’s a very interesting question. I’m probably not anywhere near knowledgeable enough about all those places to give a proper answer. In one way, I suppose the answer might be “yes” for all modern industrial, neo-liberal states, or at least for “imperial” power blocs at that level of size and complexity. There’s also the fact that as a European, the EU also feels closer to home and easier to have a strong opinion on, even if my country isn’t a member of the Union. Anyway, I’d like to briefly try to answer.

          For me, the main difference is that Russia, China and to a lesser extent the US are proper nations with histories and cultures and full sovereignty (neo-liberal corporate onslaught notwithstanding), while the EU is a much more artificial and recent construction on top of the existing nation states. As such, it’d be less disruptive to get rid of it than a comparable collapse of the US, China and Russia, with a chance to start over with a new and hopefully more sensible framework of agreements between the sovereign nations.

          I guess much of this could apply to the current Communist version of China too, and the regime there probably can’t survive the end of growth and the industrial project. And I know quite a few of Greer’s commenters seem to think the US is too flawed and fractured to be worth saving too, but as a European I’ll leave that to the Americans and the Chinese to figure out.

          After thinking some more about your earlier comments, I’ve also realized one of my disagreements is that I think the strong support for the liberal public sphere you rightly commend in Europe has more to do with European culture than the EU as an organization. That’s why I’m not too worried that would disappear along with the EU if it were to fall.

          PS. Stephen: Regarding “Obviously Kim can speak for herself”: I’m male, Kim is mostly a men’s name in the Scandinavian countries, unlike in the English-speaking world.

          In any case, thanks for the replies and the ongoing interesting discussion!

          • Thanks for that, Kim. A fair answer, and I’d agree that the nation-building projects in a lot of the EU countries have a historical head-start over the EU-building project. Though in some cases not even by as much as a century – and not always very successfully, or in directions that I find positive. What I’d emphasise though is that nations are also artificial constructs, as suggested by theorists of nationalism like Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner. I’d concede that they do tend to have a more visceral and emotional pull than you’d normally associate with a project like the EU. Though having said that, there’s plenty of people in the UK who are emotionally distressed by the Brexit vote, something that remains true even if they’re dismissed as liberal elites. I’m less optimistic than you about the resilience of the underlying public sphere in Europe. I think it’s all too easily eclipsed by petty nationalism and the kind of limited populist class alliances we’ve been discussing on here. If we could return to earlier decades and reboot the EU project with the lessons of hindsight gained from the mistakes that have been made, then I’d probably share your enthusiasm for a whole new start. But we can’t, and I think the options available in the world we’re entering are more sobering. In that world, I fear the visceral pull of nationalism and some of its associated populisms. But I could do with some sustaining optimism, so I’m glad to hear from those like you who feel the options are more open.

          • Thanks for clarifying your gender. Strangely I gad a feeling you might be male but Kim is a very gendered word in my mind.

            I have a black weed smoking alpha male type allotment colleague whose name is Carol. It still is quite confusing to my poor brain especially when I was going out with a woman called Carol.

            Which Scandanavian country?

          • Liberal elites and their supporters only have themselves to blame. We (are we allowed to say that or is the likes of petty nationalisms or petty regionalisms or petty communalisms or petty liberalisms or petty internationalisms which all infer a ‘we’ versus a ‘we’ not allowed) tried to make clear a clear emotional distress that was dismissed as petty racisms, petty xenophobias, petty ideogical isms – all of which are petty mental constructs that drives prejudism. Fight by the sword die by the sword and all that.

          • Stephen Gwynne on February 13, 2017 at 12:13 said

            “Liberal elites and their supporters only have themselves to blame. We [] tried to make clear a clear emotional distress that was dismissed as petty”

            Sure. But why are you posting that here, on the blog of someone who’s clearly been conscious for a long time that the current system is deeply flawed and has been actively exploring how to get away from it?

            My own feeling, after the Brexit vote, is that the leavers have kicked down a door that some of us have been knocking at politely for years. As far as I’m concerned, it creates an opportunity for reform which simply hasn’t been there before – for essentially the reason you give, that people have been complacent.

            But that doesn’t mean rushing to leave the EU is sensible and it certainly doesn’t mean that simplistic explanations of what’s wrong have proved themselves to be valid.

  20. Well, I think everyone’s positions on geopolitics are probably clear enough now to leave it there.

    …not necessarily a vegan Britain – there’s still about 10 million hectares of grass to play with, plus all the non-agricultural land for pigs, chickens etc.

    How does this motto sound: “In Britain, a hundred miles is a long way, whereas in the USA a hundred years is a long time”. Maybe it doesn’t work in Tennessee…

    • Two hundred years – but yes, I see your point. And it’s a fairly solid one. So Africa… opposite on both counts? Smallholders want to know.

        • Well, those sort of intense localisms in the modern world I mentioned are possibly more a function of geography and productivity of the land. The agricultural areas of the US that are the most productive necessarily have been better suited for Big-Ag, with resulting bigger and bigger farms, less community cohesion, and increasingly less generational continuity.
          The broad swatch of the Appalachian region, from Maine to Alabama, has historically been the region of small hard-scrabble farms and less historical mobility. In short some pretty solidly independent minded folks (who can be quite insular). In many ways rich soil can be a curse to the community, leading to more intense exploitation and community disruption.
          Be wary of the next village, Chris.
          Insular joke: a flatlander stopped his car and asked a Vermont farmer, “does it matter if I take Highway 15 or 128 to Burlington?” “Not to me it don’t”, he replied.

          • Nice points. The tension between liberalism & localism is a key one to resolve – and in my view one not best resolved just by ditching the liberalism, or the localism. A problem, I think, with David Fleming’s rather sunny take on localism, though he’s far from the worst offender…

  21. Hi Michael. I thought Id engaged with the capital before labour flow controls argument to a point of boredom.

    Capital flow controls sure will reign in labout movements to a degree but wage and income differentials will continue to still stimulate labour flows which you agree with. Therefore your original argument is false since you openly admit that capital flow controls by themselves wont styme labour flows significantly. You then proceed to ignore the fact that your argument is false and so you yourself are the one that is not engaging in the argument but on an infinite loop.

    If you were to engage with the argument then you need to make the case of how capital flow controls will equalize wage and wealth differentials across the territories which are imposing or have democratically chosen the free movement of labour.

    Im actually a fan of local municipal politics and in particular a fan of a national or even European or even a global confederacy of self-determining regional communities or bioregions.

    Consequently I had many debates during Brexit between the merits and dismerits of EU subsidiarity and national sovereignty. However tended to feel that national policy was a national democratic concern and so eu treaties were a grave restrictions on the rights and liberties of regions to be able to self-determine.

    Of course I was called a fascist rascist bigot for daring to think differently to a command and control version of localism as promoted by eu centralised subsidiarity.

    • I should add Im not a fan of local municipal politics that aims to drive an ideological wedge into the heart of communities.

    • ” you openly admit that capital flow controls by themselves wont styme labour flows significantly”

      No, Stephen. Firstly, I’ve explicitly said that I think sensible monetary reform would significantly reduce economic migration (though some of the effect would take time to come through).

      Secondly, I’m not concerned with the situation where that is the only reform.

      And thirdly I acknowledged in my original comment on the subject that, in the absence of sensible monetary reform, some kind of anti-immigration policies might well be sensible.

  22. Sorry Malcolm. Getting well confused with names.

    If we have been banging or knocking on the same door then
    1. Why are Brexiteers raving far right racists and you are not?
    2. Why is Eu membership beneficial when eu membership restricts the liberties and rights of national citizens to democratically choose national policy?

    • “Why are Brexiteers raving far right racists and you are not?”

      Where have I suggested I think Brexiteers are raving far right racists?

      “Why is Eu membership beneficial when eu membership restricts the liberties and rights of national citizens to democratically choose national policy?”

      And where have I suggested it would be?

      My position on whether we should be a member of the EU is that it’s part of a broader question regarding the relationship between different levels of government. I think we should address that broader question – i.e. work out a sensible basis for the relationship between local and national government – before blindly crashing out of a union which is still very much a work in progress (and which got a big shock last June that will almost certainly lead to significant changes in the way it operates).

      And we should also recognise that the existence of the EU is a barrier to healthy relationships with the other countries of Europe, so it could be as big a problem for us out as it is in. If it really is as unreformable as its most strident critics say (which I doubt) we might be better staying inside and trying to break it apart. But right now we’re not in a position to judge.

      • EU “still very much a work in progress (and which got a big shock last June that will almost certainly lead to significant changes in the way it operates).”

        Have you seen any signs of it? All I see is them tripling down on more of the same, full speed ahead. My prophecy is that the EU will continue to strengthen its authoritarian tendencies until the money is cut off. Wish I had a bookie.

        • Enough signs to think change of some kind within the EU is inevitable. The tripling down, as you called it, is one of them. As to which way it goes, I think that’s still to play for.

      • Perhaps Malcolm you’ll find this paper interesting. It identifies poor institutional capacity in poorer countriescas the main reason why these countries remain poor.

        Also he argues capital flows have only a small effect on creating global equality i.e reduced country by country wage differentials.

        Your argument that labour flow controls are a red herring is not shared by thrme acedemic community in general and so perhaps points to your efforts to find economic rationalisations for your desirrme to impose cosmopolitanism on everyone.

        Worth a read for background arguments that you will encounter, on top of the ones I’ve highlighted that you fail to counter.

        Is Global Equality the Enemy of National Equality?

        How does monetary reform equalize wage and wealth differentials across and within countries? And how does monetary reform build up institutional capacity in poor countries?

        The possibility of EU reform is only now becoming a reality because of Brexit. For decades the EU liberal elites have been warned to democratize their liberal cartel, as you very well know. How long do you expect people to wait? The unresponsiveness of liberal elites meant it was time to eject them. But if you are into abusive one-sided double standard relationships then I guess being forced to let go might be traumatic for you. For me it has reinvigorated and rejuvenated British, if not European and perhaps even global politics, in the true democratic sense of the word.

        • Thank you for the link, Stephen, but I very much doubt that paper would be of any interest to me. Unless the academic community is looking at a similar future context to me (which is most unlikely) what they think has no bearing on my arguments. (And given that the abstract mentions China, I’ll guess the ‘poor institutional capacity in poorer countries’ doesn’t refer to EU countries. In which case it’s hard to see what relevance it might have to whether a general principle of free movement between western democracies would be beneficial or harmful.)

          As I’ve said, I’m trying to envisage how a healthy society would operate and that’s the discussion I’m interested in and I entirely agree with Chris’s view when he said “I can’t see how anything resembling sustainable local economies can be built in the absence of a major equalisation of global wealth”. I’ve no reason to engage with your argument that capital flow controls wouldn’t stop economic immigration, in the world as it is today, because it simply doesn’t interest me.

          There are any number of internet sites where I could read that kind of stuff, and any number of academic studies I could read which look at how different policy options would operate within the current paradigm. But there don’t seem to be many places where people are genuinely interested in how we might transform things. This seems to be one, which is why I’m here.

          “How does monetary reform equalize wage and wealth differentials across and within countries?”

          I outlined above, in response to Vera, what kind of monetary reform I think would be necessary. Separating the functions of money would take away one of the root causes of inequality because the rich would no longer be able to hold the medium of exchange to ransom. But, as I acknowledged in my exchange with Vera, there are also other factors which are important drivers of inequality, and they too would need to be reformed.

          My response to you today was questioning why you’re posting comments that have no relevance to Chris’s position, or the position of most people who comment here. “We [] tried to make clear a clear emotional distress that was dismissed as petty” you said – but who here has dismissed people’s distress as petty?

          And, apparently, I have a ‘desire to impose cosmopolitanism on everyone’. Is that on top of believing Brexiteers are ‘raving far right racists’? (Will you be pointing out where I suggested that or are we just forgetting about that one?)

          “But if you are into abusive one-sided double standard relationships then I guess being forced to let go might be traumatic for you.”

          Who is this addressed to? Who here is ‘into abusive one-sided double standard relationships’?

          • To be fair I guess you are frustrating me with statements like ‘blindly crashing out of the eu’ and your suggestions that Im not engaging with your monetary reform arguments without any causal logic as to how monetary reform will equalise wage and wealth differentials to the extent that labour flow controls will be a redherring.

            You are making some grand arguments for change and when presented with a neutral critique (Dani RODRIK’S paper) who in my opinion is a scholar rather than a polemicist, then you reject him on the basis of assumptions you make in his abstract.

            Id agree he doesn’t share your paradigmatic model but then you say are emotionally dismayed that the Uk is blindly crashing out a highly capitalistic growth-orientated institution called the Eu.

            Personally I dont see anyone blindly crashing out of anything so I wonder why you are struggling to let go. You say growth-orientated capitalistic analysis isnt your preferred paradigm of choice but you are emotionally dismayed that we are blindly leaving the EU and heading towards more democracy within which alternative paradigms like yours could have more countenance.

            All I can say is speak for yourself and start owning your subjective experiences rather than project them as some kind of objective fact. You might find that the extra degree of intimacy will mean people will better understand you. Plus it avoids orojecting your feelings on to others like me who do not share your particular experiences of dismay.

            Regarding this blog, I wasnt really expecting it to be a left leaning ideological echo chamber since Im was already familiar with Landworkers Alliance, La Compesina and Ecological Land Coop and quite frankly disillusioned that people seem to be supporting., by proxy and prejudice at least, the very liberal/neoliberal institutions that are actively promoting industrialised agriculture and the enclosure of the commons on a worldwide basis.

            Definitely not on the same page as me although I admire the willingness to take on the Goliath of the Eu. Myself I think it is a complete waste of time and energy which would have been better used to consolidate power at the national level foremost. Whilst we are fighting on two fronts we dont stand a chance and as far as I am concerned the two goals are directly antagonistic.

            I now just accept that our society is permanently divided and probably always has been. So maybe we have always been on different sides but I just didnt know it. I prefer diverse bottom up approaches but I guess this blog is more about a single top-down approach. Myself I prefer the diversity of letting the people decide and smaller the polity the better but at the same time think that there is an optimal polity size that is no larger than say England but maybe even that is too big.

            So yep I guess you are right. Why am I here.


  23. I liked this approach to some degree.

    Food is treated as a mere commodity in European policies, legal frameworks and normative views. Actually, food is not even considered as a human right in EU charters, constitutions and legal frameworks, nor a public good subject to public policies and universal access (such as health, education or water) and least to say a commons, although many commons and community-owned resources are producing food for Europeans.
    In this video, Jose Luis Vivero explores the potential of treating food as a commons for building a more sustainable and fairer food system, for the humans and the environment.
    15 measures to support the food commons in Europe
    Policy proposal “The food commons in Europe”

  24. Stephen Gwynne said above: “you say are emotionally dismayed that the Uk is blindly crashing out a highly capitalistic growth-orientated institution called the Eu”

    I don’t recall saying that and I’d be very surprised if I had, because it isn’t true. But if I did, by all means point out where.

    You seem to be hung up on my phrase ‘blindly crashing out’ but totally ignore what I said, immediately prior to it, about establishing ‘a sensible basis for the relationship between local and national government’ being more important. And you totally ignore my statement about the Brexit vote creating ‘an opportunity for reform which simply hasn’t been there before’.

    I’m not emotionally distressed – I just see an opportunity being wasted.

    You talk of “time and energy which would have been better used to consolidate power at the national level foremost”

    The EU isn’t standing in the way of reforming national politics. It isn’t the EU which prevents the public from initiating referendums or recall motions; it isn’t the EU which insists we use an electoral system that gives disproportionate power to two parties half the population feels contempt for; it isn’t the EU which dictates that local affairs are entirely subordinate to Westminster; it isn’t the EU which puts our representatives in Parliament in the pockets of the Executive; it isn’t the EU which makes it possible for British legislators to wilfully ignore glaring deficiencies in fundamentally important laws.

    These are all things that the reforms I’m promoting would address. And if we did address them we would be in a very much stronger position to demand reform of the EU, to make it properly democratic, to ensure that it respects the autonomy of local communities and to ensure that its core principles (such as free movement) are at least coherent.

    From the way you go on about EU liberal elites I assume you’re unaware that the EU is essentially run by national governments. It’s the power of national elites you ought to be indignant about because they’re the ones who keep you powerless.

    One of the ways they’ve done that is by using the EU as a scapegoat. Well, that’s blown up in their faces and now they’re running scared; prepared to hurriedly cut our ties with it, in the name of respecting the will of the people, while privately promising themselves that they won’t be making that mistake again. You think the public will be given lots more opportunities to give their opinions on specific issues? Not if Theresa May and her crew manage to ride this out, we won’t – nor will we if people like Farage get their hands on the levers of power.

    The only way we will is if we use this situation to bring about proper reform of our internal political system. And we won’t be able do that unless we recognise that our membership of the EU is a problem we can safely leave till later.

    And your guess that ‘this blog is more about a single top-down approach’ is just silly, as anyone who reads Chris’s writing with an open mind can see. As for myself, the party I’m trying to set up is called Local Sovereignty, and it’s based on the core principles that ‘true sovereignty resides in all of us as individuals, that political institutions should have no more power over us than we collectively cede to them voluntarily and that the laws they make should be consistent with our shared values’.

    You lecture me about projecting but seem to be incapable of looking beyond your own prejudice that anyone who doesn’t think we should immediately leave the EU is blindly supporting it. The world isn’t that simple.

    • All I can say is that you have obviously not gone through the current eu treaties.
      Treaty of the EU (TEU).
      Treaty of the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).

      When the eu treaties are included then uk national policy is governed by eu policy by around 65-70%.

      The eu commission is not elected by a national electorate and neither are the 27 representatives on the EU Council or the Council of the EU. Similarly a majority of Meps are not elected by an individual national electorate.

      This means uk national policy is largely determined by non-uk nationals.

      So whilst you subjectively experience the current Brexit process as blindly crashing out of the eu and in the process missing an opportunity for reform, I subjectively see a withdrawal process that hasn’t even been activated yet, a 2 year period of negotiations to reform(ulate) our relationship with the eu followed by a period in which relationships with European nation-states will be reform(ulat)ed. In this respect what I see as essential is realigning uk national policy with the uk national electorate which will increase democratic accountability by around 65-70%.

      At present local-central government relationships are largely framed by eu policy including austerity in that eu treaty demands that national budget deficits remain within 3% of Gdp as per Stability and Growth Pact stage 1 integration. At present we have fallen from 6% to 4% since austerity and so still have 1% to go.

      By far the greatest democratic deficit is between the eu and national policy.

      The democratic deficit between local and central is exacerbated by the deficit between eu and national despite
      1. The localism act.
      2. The sustainable communities act
      3. National planning reform – national planning policy framework will gives more local powers.
      4. Devolution agenda, combined authorities and metropolitan mayors.

      So I would suggest you are scapegoating national govts and shifting attention from the eu for other unarticulated reasons.
      The eu has had decades to reform and has not yet stepped forward to put reform on the table whilst we are blindly crashing out. In fact the eu has done quite the opposite and belligerently maintained that current eu treaties will not be renegotiated unless it is on a platform of ever closer union.

      Consequently I have a diametrically opposed view of events, of how uk and eu politics actually works and what the priorities for Britain are.

      I look forward to hearing your view after you have read TEU and TFEU.

      Similarly we seem to have diametrically opposed views on nearly everything.
      Euroskeptism has been a predominantly coherent force since 1972 and has gradually built up momementum which reached critical mass with UKIP. No doubt you have scathing views regarding the democratic choices that constitute Ukip but in the end the Tories were forced to act on the popular will of the people.

      Hiding behind narratives that suggest that the uk electorate didnt want a vote on eu membership especially since the Maastricht treaty is plain ignorance which you then confusingly mask as democratic deficits between the local and the national in that the national (executive) is exerting its will over the local. These deficits are largely in your own imagination and acrually exist as the relationship between the eu and the national and in particular how left and right liberal elites have denied the people a vote on the increasing involvement with the eu.

      Brexit has been a long time in coming and when the people did get a chance to vote, courtesy of the democratic right, then a majority wanted to leave. If we had been given the chance to vote for Maastricht we would have voted out then as well. Labour (Progress) liberal left simply were not allowing a referendum to happen knowing full well that a majority of the people will be voting out.

      The world is as simple or complicated as you want to make it. Those that like it to be complicated tend to be inconsistent in their beliefs and principles usually on the basis of specific interests rather than common interests.

      What is your notion of shared values. Are these determined through local self-determination or are they determined as a top-down imposition that everyone must or should abide by.

      • There’s a good example in there of the deficiency of our current, occasional democracy:

        “left and right liberal elites have denied the people a vote”

        It’s our own constitution which gave successive British governments the ability to ignore the will of the people for the last 30 years or so, and our own national politicians who chose to do so.

        “in the end the Tories were forced to act on the popular will of the people.”

        My impression is that the people were only given the chance to vote because David Cameron was blithely confident that they would vote to remain; if he’d thought Leave might actually win, he wouldn’t have offered the referendum.

        “If we had been given the chance to vote for Maastricht we would have voted out then as well”

        The ‘spontaneous democracy’ reforms that I’m promoting would have meant that the public could have insisted on a referendum at any time. And also, if my proposed integration between different levels of representation had been in place, local government would have had both the power and the motivation to block treaties that inappropriately shifted sovereignty to higher levels.

        In terms of administrative and legislative activity it may well be that 65-70% of policy is dictated by the EU. But our social and economic landscape is primarily shaped by laws and conventions which were in place long before the EU came into being and some of the most significant of those laws have not been kept in tune with modern values. I think that’s where the roots lie, of the inequality and sense of powerlessness which so many people feel, and that’s why my priority is addressing fundamental flaws. (Which would also do away with the need for a lot of the irksome rules that liberals have introduced over the years, because the only purpose of many of them has been to mitigate the ill-effects of those older laws).

        • The Local Government Associations of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland have urged central government to make further constitutional arrangements for local authorities – suggesting that more power should be transferred to local authorities.

          The LGAs might be interested in your ideas.

          For me democracy is mainly about engaging with the formal and informal procedural processes that shapes policy, planning and development plans. Discovering and using these procedures and processes including conversing WITH (rather than talking at or talking to) ministers, advisors, related thinktanks, MPs, ward councillors whether left/right/centre/liberal/conservative/socialist. This also includes engaging with central and local govt consultations, planning applications, local authority overview and scrutiny committees, all party parliamentary groups etc etc.

          Radical(ish) change will normally take around 15 years to achieve with sustained effort even if it is an excellent idea.

          Good luck in tapping into the right procedures and processes for you with regards your interesting ideas..

          For me, most of what constitutes democracy is about engaging with these formal and informal processes, trying to shape minds and opinions between elections, winning arguments using reason, connecting with influential networks of thought, organisations and people. Dont use a political badge as the vehicle for your ideas, make your ideas attractive to a diverse range of political perspectives.

          Good luck Malcolm.

          • Thanks, Stephen.

            The things you suggest are pretty much what I have been doing for the last few years, but my ideas are generally too radical for people to be keen to be flag-bearers for (though some of them have been around, in slightly different forms, for a century or so). In fact, setting up a new party had never occurred to me until I was asked if I was going to, by the husband of a prominent member of the LGA who I’ve shared many of my ideas with.

            Being a reclusive would-be low-impact dweller, it’s the last thing I actually want to do. But I’ve come to the conclusion that people aren’t going to sign up to radical change unless there is some vehicle for them to get on board. It’s only when the public has the opportunity to vote for things that we find out how much people really want them.

            Anyway, thank you for the exchange and the good wishes.

          • Hi again.

            Just to apologise for pre-empting all you have already done regarding LGAs etc.

            I sense your frustration and I certainly know how slow the wheels of structural change can be even over relatively insignificant changes in policy.

            Your project is obviously a biggie and despite it being well worked out you have liberal, conservative, socialist etc elites against local self-determination since how elss are they to control our communities. Even well-meaning liberals would be opposed to local sovereignty due to their religious like beliefs in liberal values and principles.

            I only came to local sovereignty through Brexit and so called ‘rightwing’ populism by realising that a confederacy of self-determining communities seems to be the only way to allow different people with different values to live peacefully in the same territory by facilitating self-determination on a local/regional level.

            This indeed has many aspects of conservatism since it relies more on virtues and duties within the context of civic associationism as a moral framework compared to the deontology of rights which liberalism tends to incorporate which cannot be localised due to its emphasis on equality as opposed to equity.

            You probably know this already so Im curious about your contact in the LGA.

            For example I commented on this piece which is criticising a green conservative for his localism.

            (My comment)
            Im not sure if you are correctly understanding conservatism, at least from Scruton’s perspective. For example, references to externalities means that they should be internalized within the existing market framework. He most certainly does not advocate no state intervention at all, only that the state effectively mediates between private utility and public utility. Hence encouraging community owned power generation using renewable forms of energy does not require a top-down heavy policy, it just requires allowing individuals the liberty to participate in energy-markets. This approach has been most effective in reducing carbon emissions with private utility companies like Good Energy providing extensive choice driven public utility without radical state intervention.

            Then you move on to some ill-defined notion of tradition when Scruton was emphasizing the idea of home which in more liberal terminology is a thick network of localised civic relations which boosts social capital as well as providing the civic framework by which locals naturally become more caring of their local environment. Therefore what Scruton is arguing id that if all locals cared for their local environments due to a duty of care that naturally evolves from strong and integrated communities, then through a globally locally approach, ecological degradation would end without heavy top-down state imposition.

            However this means the population would have to adopt conservatism as opposed to liberalism which is perhaps what the author is really objecting to. However the simple fact of the matter is that conservatism does seamlessly incorporate the environmental dimension, e.g safeguarding green infrastructure and aspiring towards national resilience regarding food security through labour flows controls. Whereas liberalism is neither able to incorporate the rights of all life-forms – so is unable to mediate effectively between human rights and non-human rights -but is also unable to effectively incorporate responsibility with its emphasis on positive and negative human rights.

            Hence principles of free movement of labour are not only in direct opposition to environmental protection (since free movement seeks to reduce green infrastructure and food security by reducing land and food availability per capita within a given territory) but is also in opposition to principles of local self-determination which is the political means by which localities can strengthen their sense of home and as a result feel a natural duty of care towards their local environment.

            With regards private capital and corporate power, it is plainly obvious that this is a state driven enterprise since if local communities were self-determining to the extent that locals could vote on licensing, planning and development decisions, then corporate power would not be able to get a foothold in communities unless they actually democratically chose it. Essentially corporatism is a state-centric enterprise and in the vain of distributism, conservatism as a political philosophy is opposed to state-facilitated corporate monopolies. In this respect, it is the state that is trying to separate economic and political spheres of societal civic power, not the local civic communities or Burkean platoons that Scruton prefers.

            Overall then, you are confusing conservatism with both corporatism and capitalism and Scruron was advancing the many facets of conservatism as the means to achieve sustainable prosperity, not corporatism nor capitalism. From a conservatism point of view then, scaling up is paradoxically achieved by scaling down to globalised forms of localised self-determination.

            This group might be interested in your ideas.

            They seem to be non-partisan in general terms.

            Myself I think there is more hope in making the argument for local sovereignty within the context of conservatism or a variant of populism that promotes a confederacy of self-determining communities aa the ultimate opposition to elite control which is just municipalism of the social ecology variety or communitarian anarchism.

            Apart from elites, I think another significant obstacle is whether people want to take on the political responsibilty that comes with local sovereignty. I certainly have friends who do not engage because they see politics as something for the rich, i.e see politics as essentially elitist, and so not for the poor. In this respect it is hard to know how and if local sovereignty would reengage this disillusioned mass of the electorate.

            Anyway sorry to go on. Im also interested in how to localise power, especially regarding licensing decisions that put industrial diesel generators in my local park for 6 week durations 24/7. Disgusting abuse of power just so some council official can have his salary paid for a year. If local people can vote on local licensing decisions then at least there is a democratic chance to overturn the decision.

            Again good luck.

  25. More on conservatism, capitalism, populism and history here at Small Farm Future after our upcoming agricultural interlude…

    • It sure is – thanks for that. Amongst other things the article says:

      only 23% of fruit and vegetables consumed are grown here

      but fortunately those are the things which it’s very possible for an individual to grow a useful amount of their own personal needs. The “small farm future” would surely need to include a fair bit of “micro-farming” from those of us in towns.

      • I agree Martin, and how micro: according to figures in organic (stockfree) market gardening book Growing Green (thanks for the recommendation Chris), an acre should produce enough to fill 25-30 veg boxes a week, which in land use equates to around 160m2 per veg box.

        • Have I got that right. A 10m x 16m plot of land will produce 52 veg boxes? So an acre will produce 25×52
          = 1300 boxes?

          • On page 302 grower Tim Deane (set up Britain’s first ever box scheme at Northwood Farm) asserts one acre produces enough to fill 25-30 boxes a week, which at the time the book was published (2009) estimates a turnover of at least 9000GBP per annum. This includes intensive and protected cropping, though I have no idea if the same acre is used to provide all its own fertility through green manure leys, as to close the loop in this way requires a 1:1 ratio (green manure:veg beds) according to the book.

          • Maybe they are very small boxes.
            I mean, I would have thought 1300 cauliflowers would require around 1/2 an acre.

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