“Seeding Control to Big Ag.” Gracy Olmstead marvels at the wonders of seeds and explains the complex history by which a few large companies have come to dominate their distribution and sale.
“To Revive Rural America, We Must Fix Our Broken Food System.” In another excellent essay for The American Conservative, Austin Frerick argues that “rural America can be revived. It has a future, but only if we challenge who holds power in the current system and create an agricultural system that rewards meaningful work.”
“The New Lazarus.” Gary Saul Morson reviews Eugene Vodolazkin’s The Aviator in First Things. It’s a big, ambitious Russian novel that sounds as good as Vodolazkin’s excellent Laurus.
“Workism Is Making Americans Miserable.” Derek Thompson, writing in The Atlantic, finds that capital is a jealous god:
The economists of the early 20th century did not foresee that work might evolve from a means of material production to a means of identity production. They failed to anticipate that, for the poor and middle class, work would remain a necessity; but for the college-educated elite, it would morph into a kind of religion, promising identity, transcendence, and community. Call it workism.
“Cultivating A Work-Wise Family.” Hannah Anderson’s contribution to the Public Justice Review’s series on work is excellent. If we allow our families and communities to define the value of the work we do, we will be better positioned to participate in the marketplace.
“Fractal Localism: Political Rigor and Clarity under Complexity.” Nassim Nicholas Taleb has published a draft or sketch of what he calls “fractal localism.” It includes a set of principles, a code of conduct, and a list of questions. (Recommended by Josh Hochschild.)
“Is It Time for the Robert Penn Warren Option?” In Modern Age, Mary Cuff argues Warren exemplifies agrarian wisdom stripped of its baggage. I’m not convinced that one can embrace “the mentality, rather than the lifestyle, that underpins agrarianism,” but her essay raises important questions:
Agrarianism is of only casual interest for many Americans today, when it is not discounted as irrelevant, impractical, even elitist. The Nashville Agrarians, if the average reader has heard of them at all, are at best remembered as nostalgic or at worst as proponents of the Lost Cause and tacit racial segregation. As for modern advocates of agrarianism and its corollary, localism, the charge remains that the social diagnosis might be sound but that the proposed solution is untenable. Adrian Vermeule voiced this complaint well in his American Affairs review of Patrick Deneen’s 2018 book, Why Liberalism Failed. Faced with the crushing conformity demanded by a society crafted by industrial and technological liberalism, retreat to localized, intentional communities—agrarian or not—dangerously assumes that same society’s forbearance. This criticism is commonly leveled against the various Benedict Option –style solutions to the dehumanizing anthropology of the modern state, and it is a critique for which most conservatives have not found a satisfactory answer.
“Working with the Earth.” The Point Magazine “invited people who work with the land—farmers, ranchers, foresters, ecologists and others—to tell us what they think the earth is for.”
Is John Williams “the greatest American novelist you’ve never heard of?” B.D. McClay thinks that Williams’s novels “contain very little genuine feeling or observation.” E.J. Hutchinson, on the other hand, argues the author of Stoner is a deeply moral writer: “One need not accept Octavius’—and Williams’?—view of an ultimately cold and empty cosmos (as it happens, I do not) to appreciate the profundity of his characters and their disappointments, and their consequent utility for reflection on the struggle, which is universal, to come to terms with what we are, with how we belong in the world, and with why it so often seems that we do not.”
“In Defense of Localism.” Over at Mere Orthodoxy, Sean O’Hare offers nuanced praise for the goods of localism, in the process drawing on several of the essays in FPR’s Localism in the Mass Age.
“Ben Sasse Heightens the Contradictions.” Jake Meador, also at Mere Orthodoxy, argues that if you want to make a coherent, compelling pro-life case, you’ll also have to critique the American dream that, as Sasse (quoting Reagan) puts it, “you and I have within ourselves the God-given right and the ability to determine our own destiny.”
”Up From Consumerism.” Daniel Kishi reviews The Once and Future Worker for The American Conservative. “An unquestioned allegiance to growth and consumption has blinded policymakers to all other considerations, most importantly the health of the nation’s labor market,” and Oren Cass’s approach offers a refreshing alterantive.