October 07, 2008

Crunchy or Flaky?

David Gordon’s article on the flakiness of the Crunchy Cons has generated quite a bit of comment, and displeasure. Over at Chronicles, Jerry Sayler has written a pointed, and funny, defense of Wendell Berry (whose ideas Gordon sees at the heart of the Crunchy Con movement.) Gordon has offered short rebuttals here and here.

I’ll let Gordon defend himself; however, I will make one comment regarding his notion that in a free economy, no one is really “forced off the land,” to the contrary, they chose to take up productive work in other sectors. Sayler has stressed that, no, in many instances, the Tennessee Valley Authority did force families off their ancestral estates, sometimes at gunpoint, in the name of “economic efficiency.” Earl Butz, the ‘70s ag secretary who’s the central figure in Berry’s first major book, The Unsettling of America, operated under the motto, “Get Big or Get Out!” It’s important to stress that Gordon would never support any centralized planning of the economy or bureacratiziation of agriculture in which people would be forced to take up “progressive farming” or else so, in many ways, Sayler’s critique is misplaced. Also, though Berry began his career going after the Department of Agriculture, his later critical work is directed almost exclusively against “global capitalism” and what he sees as the callous free market. Indeed, Berry makes no secret of the fact that he supports massive subsidies for tobacco farmers and the like. 

This being said, Berry certainly is a treasure as a writer, novelist, and poet. My mom loves in particular his “Coulter” novels, as in them she meets characters reminiscent of the people she knew growing up in the Louisiana Delta.

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