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Letters from Sri Lanka – Sarvodaya and the Tea Plantation Challenge

Part IX of a series – If you haven’t already, please read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII and Part VIII before continuing. This series is part of my work for the Sustainable (R)evolution book project.

Preamble: Described as ‘the champagne of tea’, Sri Lankan tea is consumed the world over. Second only to Kenya in exports, Sri Lanka’s tea industry accounts for a full 15% of the nation’s GDP, generating about $700 million per year. Yet very little of this money is seen by the people actually producing it…. Tea plantation workers are trapped in low paid manual labour positions and live in miserable housing conditions, while people around the globe slurp on the fruit of their misery. Sarvodaya has its work cut out to try to assist, but they’re giving it a good try.


Sri Lankan tea plantation worker
All photographs © copyright Craig Mackintosh

Winding up into the south-central highlands of Sri Lanka was refreshing – taking us from temperatures pushing 40’C to a pleasant 24-ish. In contrast to the more arid south and north of the country, this hilly terrain, which hosts dozens of Sri Lanka’s world famous tea plantations, attracts significantly more precipitation and cooler temperatures.

Tea has been grown in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon, as named by the British colonialists) for more than 130 years. In the 1860s, after a rust fungus decimated the coffee plantations that previously majored there, tea quickly took over as the crop of choice. Although produced in several lowland regions in the south of the country as well, it’s the leaves from the tea estates of these higher altitudes that are particularly sought after for their exceptional quality in taste and colour.


Tea plantations in the central highlands of Sri Lanka

While the scenery was exceptional and the climate pleasant, anyone with half a heart who might head off the beaten tourist path in this district would find much injustice to dampen the mood….


We pass through a small town as we climb up into the mountains


A village rests on a hill above a giant waterfall
in the high watershed of Sri Lanka’s central highlands

Life sucks for the average tea plantation worker

Unlike other Sarvodaya endeavours – where entire villages reassess what’s really important in life and then work together to implement positive change on land under their control – Sarvodaya faces a much greater challenge here, with the people they’re trying to assist being low paid peasant tenants on state owned, industry controlled estates.

Across Sri Lanka women are often discriminated against, but on the tea plantations this tendency is even more pronounced. Tea plucking is assigned to women and girls, only, with the girls starting as young as twelve years old. They, along with their males, are accommodated in barracks of one or two room ‘line houses’ (which I was not allowed to view or photograph) with extremely basic amenities – normally without running water, electricity, sanitation facilities and often even without windows. Six to eleven family members may live together in a single room. Privacy and sexual harassment is thus also a significant problem, resulting in a higher than normal suicide rates amongst the women.

Pluckers are paid by the quantity they harvest, earning about 200 rupees per day (US$1.75) from working 7:30am to 5-5:30pm. In the peak season they will work these hours seven days per week for up to three months, slowing to 3-4 days per week in the off-season. In the dim light or darkness before and after work the women must also cater to the needs of their families – looking for firewood with which to cook their meals, etc. This burden is offset a little by having even younger girls attend to domestic duties during the daylight hours.

Men fare slightly better – they’ll earn about the same amount for working less hours, weeding, logging and planting from 7:30am to 1:30pm, and can earn a little more again from other tasks after that. Men are responsible for collecting not only their own wage, but also that of their wives and daughters….

At the end of their working life workers are paid a small, lump sum pension payment – after which they’re at the mercy of their extended family.

Article continues after photos.


Women queuing at 5pm to register their day’s work at the estate office…


…both young…


…and old…


…before being trucked to a different part of the estate
– to work a little more before the day closes.

Mostly illiterate and unskilled, workers have little hope of escaping to a more equitable or meaningful life. All the estates pay the same rate, so trying to transfer to one of the other (roughly 500) plantations in the country is pointless. The industry retains its labour force, not through incentives or reward, but by paying them so inadequately that they just cannot leave.

As most have little to no land or time available to cultivate much in the way of their own food, they’re fully dependent on this wholly unjust money system.

‘Fair Trade’

The particular estate I visited had the apparent dual advantage of being ‘fair trade’ in addition to Sarvodaya’s involvement. When questioning the women on the benefits brought by the estate’s fair trade status, however, my disgust with many fair trade claims was further cemented. After much contemplation, the women said the fair trade organisation had provided school bags for their children, and a couple of very small buildings for religious services. Wahoo! Convinced they must have done more, I pressed different individuals during the course of my visit, asking in different ways in the hope of prying more information out. I signally failed to discover anything more that ‘fair trade’ had done to improve their lot. The one thing they did confirm was that they were not paid more than workers on other estates.

That should give you that nice warm, fuzzy feeling the next time you pay a premium to pick up fair trade Sri Lankan tea at your local market, hey?

When escorted into the estate’s leaf processing factory I was told I must put my camera away. When querying the reason, I was informed that the last person to take pictures there, a year prior I believe, returned to her homeland, Germany, and the pictures went into a German newspaper report that didn’t make the ‘fair trade’ organisation happy at all…. The result of the article was not an improvement of worker conditions, but a ban on further photographs in the building.

Sarvodaya, the people’s movement, more effective

When asked about Sarvodaya’s involvement, however, they were far more enthusiastic. One middle aged and heavily calloused women clearly stated "Sarvodaya has much more value to us than fair trade".

One of the first tangible benefits Sarvodaya has brought was to provide (with international donors financing it and the estate workers and Sarvodaya volunteers providing the labour), clean drinking water – through a gravity fed system that filters the water and pipes it directly to tanks on top of the line houses. As you might imagine, carrying water great distances in your ‘free’ time, when working such long shifts, would be a major chore. This single low-tech design implementation is, on its own, of immense value to the tenant families.

In addition Sarvodaya has, just like in other Sarvodaya villages, encouraged and helped the women to form committees to address specific needs, and has encouraged the estate managers to open estate management up to input from the same. Of the estates Sarvodaya are involved in, up to fifty percent of the labourers are now members of committees which directly influence estate management. Wage increases don’t enter into the discussion at this point, but other aspects that directly effect their quality of life do – including developing greater respect for women by all.

Sarvodaya is working to improve the estates’ health situations – currently farm accidents and other medical issues can be traumatic and deadly due to delays and lack of medical support and resources – and is also providing micro financing for some to begin small cottage industries. On this particular estate, some of the families that had lived there for generations had tiny portions of garden space, which Sarvodaya was assisting them with to develop a little food security as well.

It seems clear that a grass roots, participatory democracy people’s movement will always be more effective than top down, industry- and self-interest controlled, consumer-pandering financial mechanisms. The self-interest foundation of capitalism ensures funds trickle, or flood, to the people with power, not the people who need it or have earned it.

A peaceful revolution?

When I first arrived at the estate I was welcomed like a king. Warm smiles and enthusiastic hand shaking ensued before I was prominently seated in a small room with more than 15 other women and just a few men – one a rather apprehensive looking fair trade representative. A wooden bowl was produced, a finger dipped into it, and a Tilaka painted onto my forehead. Then a floral necklace, reminiscent of the Hawaiian Lei, but made of plastic, was placed over my head and around my neck. To complete the welcome they all sang a song in unison. I worked hard to project appreciation and not reveal my inner embarrassment for such a show of attention.

Talking with them all, I felt so out of touch with the realities of their life, and yet as a westerner accustomed to some degree of (at least perceived) independence, I felt a deep frustration for the way these people are forced to live. Short of suicide, they truly have little chance to escape their onerous existence.

After speaking a while and hearing their situation and their views, with my frustration deepening, I couldn’t help but broach the topic of ‘systemic management change’ and/or land redistribution. Could they envision a more equitable profit-share scenario, where workers co-owned the estate and benefitted from its development?

"No, we can’t see our instigating a revolution", one said, as they all broke into a smile.

"What then, do you see for the future?"

"We put our hopes in our children" another shared, with others nodding in agreement.

They told me that Sarvodaya is helping support the education of their children, giving hope that these will go on to achieve more, become politically and legally active, and potentially overturn the system they were born into. Sarvodaya’s leadership training has seen not a few underprivileged young people go on to become teachers, lawyers and even judges. This, combined with the Sarvodaya philosophy of ‘progress/welfare for all’, has the potential, they believe, to stimulate positive pressure on their situation.

In Part II of this series I shared the meaning of the words ‘Sarvodaya Shramadana’, the name of the people’s movement I’ve been documenting. It is, essentially, "the awakening and uplift/progress/welfare of all". In the context of the modern day feudalism and effective slavery occurring at these tea estates, the words might well also be transliterated into, simply, ‘a peaceful revolution’?

Continue on to read Part X….

36 Comments

  1. It seems clear that a grass roots, participatory freedom movement based on private property rights will always be more effective than top down, industry and government-controlled, taxpayer-fleecing financial mechanisms. The monopoly-on-physical-force foundation of government ensures funds trickle, or flood, to the politically connected people with power, not the people who have earned it.

  2. Whilst our governments are beyond pathetic, and are generally corrupt, I’d love to know how simply removing ALL laws and restrictions on personal freedom from the above scenario will stop the industry these people are working for from continuing their feudalist control over them. It won’t. Indeed, at the moment there’s a government enforced minimum working age of 12, for example. Remove government, and why not reduce that to, hmm… 8? 6? Why have any minimum age at all?

    Seven social sins: politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice. – Gandhi

    As I always say, I appreciate the freedom aspect, but I truly don’t believe you’re thinking this through. Freedom is only a good thing if it’s used wisely and with a social conscience. Not everyone is wise, and not everyone has a social conscience. I’d go further to say that everyone on the planet – you and I included – are inherently selfish. Complete freedom thus inevitably disintegrates into an Easter Island free for all.

    Despite repeated requests, you’ve failed to tell us a ‘game plan’ for your libertarian/anarchistic beliefs – outlining what should happen to have us transition from where we are to where we need to go, whilst limiting suffering and bloodshed. I bring up BigBiotech, and their unleashing GMOs on the planet. We try to enforce laws to stop them, and in some places we manage to do so. Remove the regulations, and they’re free to plunder worldwide. You do not address these and many other issues I bring up.

    How do you see the people I write about in this post getting land? How would you go about redistributing it? As I’ve written before, we’re not starting from a ‘clean slate’. We are not in the situation where all of us (all 6.8 billion of us) are, in a fully cooperative state, walking out onto a fresh virgin planet to have land peacefully allocated us to steward and prosper peacefully on. How would you stop the powerful industry from fighting to protect the land and interests and control they’ve gained? How would you stop a flood of tea plantation refugees (there are close to a million workers on these plantations).

    Consider the bears… Where I live, people shoot them. But, they are only allowed to shoot a certain number, and they must have a license. Bear numbers are carefully monitored. This is government enforced for the benefit of the bear. It is to protect them from the few who’d like to see them all dead. These laws are a reflection of the will of the majority – a majority who don’t want to see them become extinct. Because of these laws (which are a restriction on the freedom of private individuals working in their own self interest – which is your ideal) the bear population stays relatively stable. What happens if you (somehow!) privatise all the land? Well, all the bear will get killed, that’s what. The bear will be imposing his own restrictions on your freedom of movement, and he/she might even steal some chickens from your yard. If a bad human neighbour did this, in your ideal libertarian world you’d take him to court, but what about the bear? You can’t sue him – so you’ll have to shoot him.

    How do you protect the rights of the other creatures who have just as much right to live as we do if we have your ideal – the freedom to do what we want on our own land as long as we don’t negatively harm or impact the life and profits of another human.

    Yes, governments are awful as they stand. But that’s because we the people don’t have them working for us, as they should. Rather, through our non-involvement and apathy and chasing liesure and wealth and self interest we’ve come to leave everything in their hands, and the natural course of selfishness has taken its course. (refer the Tytler cycle I shared with you before)

    There are a million examples for why we need democratically chosen, holistic, objective/unbiased laws agreed upon and enforced – to protect nature, to protect people, and to encourage postive social development.

    Again – I abhore the state of government control and taxation as it stands now. But please don’t continue to give me shallow, ill-thought, non-practical ‘stategies’ for dealing with our present situation. If I mention what happens if you privatise prisons – you cherry pick the war on drugs (a restriction of libertarian freedom), but don’t address the realities of other inmates (murderers, pedophiles, wife-beaters, etc.). If we must have prisons, then should they be run privately? If so, then isn’t the prison industry incentivised to have more inmates, and to keep them longer? In a state run scenario, aren’t we incentivised to have less inmates, as it’s a burden on taxpayers?

    You didn’t answer my question here. Is the law enforcing restaurant and hotel owners to accommodate black people wrong? Isn’t that law a restriction on the freedom of private citizens/business owners who are working in their ‘self interest’? They’re not harming the black people, so you can’t sue them. They just won’t let them in their store. Is that all okay with you? If not, then there needs to be a law stating they’re allowed to eat where they want. No?

    Just complaining about government repeatedly does not a viable new world make. When I speak of transition, one of your libertarian friends just says “let it fall”. C’mon! Can you not see the massive unrest, violence and struggle for power and resources that would ensue? The invisible hand has no morals – and, as we can see in a flash when we look around us, few people do either. A world of people all left to their own devices will be a very ugly place, and short lived too.

  3. JBob – would love if you could re-read this series again from the start, but trying to look through the lens of the people I’m writing about, rather than your libertarian lens. Then try applying your libertarian concepts to their actual, practical situations, and consider all the effects and consequences for the individuals.

    As well as this series, check out Marcin’s excellent pieces:

    https://www.permaculturenews.org/2009/02/19/rediscovering-democracy/

    https://www.permaculturenews.org/2009/02/06/building-the-sustainable-economy/

    https://www.permaculturenews.org/2008/11/04/the-flaw-of-western-economies/

    https://www.permaculturenews.org/2010/03/23/towards-local-democracy/

  4. Thanks Doug.

    JBob – would love to see how the successful participatory action on the Loess Plateau would have occured without a little top-down enforcement combined with participatory involvement?

    https://www.permaculturenews.org/2010/08/06/a-call-to-large-scale-earth-healing-and-lessons-from-the-loess-plateau-video/

    All of these people left to their land, to work in their own ‘self interest’ would see nothing but more floods and erosion. Are you going to sue me for chopping down my own trees, or grazing my goats over my land?

  5. Craig, I’m trying to get some burgundy beans and butterfly peas planted before it rains, so again, I won’t have time to whip up a treatise to answer your points. But quickly:

    Loess plateau: Private property rights should apply to waterways, too. Had the river or sections of it been owned, a just court system would not allow the actions of upstream neighbors (tillage, deforestation) to harm downstream owners (sedimentation, flooding). People would have had no choice but to come up with land use methods that didn’t cost them expensive liabilities each time it rained.

    Bears: private property rights should apply to wildlife. If you own the land, you can decide what happens to the bears. Some people would kill them, some wouldn’t kill any, most would probably hunt a sustainable number.

    Prisons: you have it exactly backwards. A state run system has the incentive to maximize inmate populations because the people who benefit (prison contractors, guards, etc) are not the people who pay for it (taxpayers with no choice in the matter.) A private system would immediately be faced with this little question: where the f%@* do we get $30,000 per year to house these guys? Maybe they’d be much more likely to seek out a compensation-based justice system rather than the punitive one we have now. I.e., make victims whole, not pay your “debt to society.”

    Land redistribution: No clear cut answer to all cases, but as a starting point, any extant party that stole land should be prosecuted and the land returned. I’m not sure about India, but in South America nowadays large *politically-connected* landowners are taking land left and right from peasants. Probably a similar story around the world.

    Private property rights make things simple and peaceful.

  6. “JBob – would love to see how the successful participatory action on the Loess Plateau would have occured without a little top-down enforcement combined with participatory involvement?” [end quote]

    If the author of this post remembers correctly, in China – a country with one classical example of agrarian society – people tend to be more reliant on central authorities to get things done. (The peasants would’ve probably continued to practice the same habits as always, had a government official not come around and promulgated the order to plant trees.) The centralisation of decision-making power has been afoot there for many, many centuries. The advent of a democratic approach as described in permaculture will take a while.

    Otherwise, if the same peasants had known from the start that having plenty of trees and other vegetation makes life much easier for the people, surely they would’ve not only been doing it for a long time, but the Chinese government would’ve been subsidizing it as well.

  7. “Loess plateau: Private property rights should apply to waterways, too. Had the river or sections of it been owned, a just court system would not allow the actions of upstream neighbors (tillage, deforestation) to harm downstream owners (sedimentation, flooding). People would have had no choice but to come up with land use methods that didn’t cost them expensive liabilities each time it rained.” [end quote]

    This would be effective, since human beings tend to worry more about their pocketbooks than their neighbors. The former tends to have a more direct impact on day-to-day survival.

    “Bears: private property rights should apply to wildlife. If you own the land, you can decide what happens to the bears. Some people would kill them, some wouldn’t kill any, most would probably hunt a sustainable number.”[end quote]

    This would be effective as well. Even within the Continental US, regional attitudes towards bears and other wildlife vary. It would not be logical to impose the views of one region’s people on those of another region. Thus, the current policy of allowing the Federal government to be in charge of wildlife preservation has it flaws. The State governments should be allowed to make most of the decisions in that field.

    As well, bears and other omnivores produce nitrate-rich feces, which is good for the soil. Just for this alone a limited annual cull of bears would be the best practice.

    “Prisons: you have it exactly backwards. A state run system has the incentive to maximize inmate populations because the people who benefit (prison contractors, guards, etc) are not the people who pay for it (taxpayers with no choice in the matter.) A private system would immediately be faced with this little question: where the f%@* do we get $30,000 per year to house these guys? Maybe they’d be much more likely to seek out a compensation-based justice system rather than the punitive one we have now. I.e., make victims whole, not pay your “debt to society.”[end quote]

    The arrangement that exists for prisons and other large institutions in the US is something known as “GOCO” – government owned, contractor operated. The government owns the instutition per se, but the contractor is the one operating it and the government pays the contractor a given regular sum for that. This reinforces the notion that the government is a bottomless pit of money that is easily accessible. (The taxpayer provides the money.) Thus, there are thousands of private contractors operating government institutions and receiving a fee for it.

    Now, if the government had no participation in it and a prison system were FULLY privatized, then of course maintenance costs are all out-of-pocket. The illusion of insane profitability has been shattered and more sober minds prevail.

    A compensation-based system wherein the defendant gives compensation to the victim would be better. At the least the cost of incarceration would go down ^^

    “Land redistribution: No clear cut answer to all cases, but as a starting point, any extant party that stole land should be prosecuted and the land returned. I’m not sure about India, but in South America nowadays large *politically-connected* landowners are taking land left and right from peasants. Probably a similar story around the world.” [end quote]

    A story that has repeated itself time and time again. The powerful haves taking from the weak have-nots. The South American situation has a counterpart of sorts in the US. Those in a favorable position use the apparati of the state to increase their advantage as much as possible – akin to the cancer cell that grows and grows without limit. Perhaps this is what the Bible means when it says that the righteous fear nothing, but the wicked will run even when no one is chasing them.

    “Private property rights make things simple and peaceful.” [end quote]

    In nature, everything is self-limiting.

    This looked like an interesting exchange, so I thought I’d join ^^

  8. JBob,

    You write:

    >Maybe they’d be much more likely to seek out a compensation-based justice system rather than the punitive one we have now. I.e., make victims whole, not pay your “debt to society.”<

    Heh. As Granwyth Hulatberi put it, "We can see ideas such as 'justice vouchers' that allow countries which commit heinous human rights violations but want to stop, to stop doing so but in a way that does not destroy the social fabric".

    By the way – maybe you haven't noticed yet, but the problem with "compensation" is that it actually never compensates. Lost an arm? Well, fortunately for you, you received compensation and now it's all fine again.

    Would you please take the time to briefly explain to your incredulous audience how, say, a "legislation market" should work?

  9. JBob – before I respond to your reply, I’d like to save you being accused of cherry picking again, by reminding you to answer the question on whether the law enforcing people to allow black people to eat in the restaurant of their choosing is a good thing in your eyes or not.

  10. Many organizations fail once they reach a certain point of success. While there are challenges that overshadow the differences with peoples secondary views they stay cohesive but once people can see that they may succeed those differences start to emerge and the organization starts to splinter. Permaculture still has a huge amount of practical work and benefits to give before it starts splintering over differences in secondary ideology. Keep the eye on the ball guys :-)

  11. Michael,

    the way I see it is that all ideologies that want to sell us “the silver bullet” – usually in conjunction with an explanation that, if things go wrong despite using the proposed approach, this only was due to less-than-perfect implementation of an infallible approach.

    All such ideologies do not just have a massive problem, they are a massive problem, as they are incompatible with the need for sober perception. As soon as there is a “oh that’s just because…” catch-it-all that captures one’s thinking, how could analysis and assessment ever be accurate?

    So, I’d say that market fundamentalism is as much a problem as is religious fundamentalism along the lines of “Jesus will save us 144000 faithful lot and take us to a better world”, “Allah will always support us”, or Manifestation a la Wallace Wattles (“The Science of Getting Rich”).

    There are woo-woos of all these kinds who are interested in Permaculture, or doing it in some way or another – beacuse there are woo-woos of all these kinds in society. It’s just that the proportions are a bit different. Occasionally, one even comes across bizarre cases of the “christian atheist” or “creationist agribiz geneticist” kind.

    Fortunately, there are also quite many people active in Permaculture (more than average, I’d say – not that that there would be that many sane people in an average cross-section of society) who have very good judgment. Otherwise, books such as Patrick Whitefield’s “Earth Care Manual” never would have been written.

  12. Michael, the strength of permaculture is that it’s not an ideology at all. Permaculture is open for every thought that might put people and the nature in balance with each other.

    See: https://permacultureprinciples.com/principle_12.php

    Permaculture always has a respond to change, when there is not a balance, you start with observation and interaction over again, https://permacultureprinciples.com/principle_1.php

    This is the evolutionary spiral path of permaculture. In contrary to ideology that keeps on going straight forward untill the dead end, crashing your scull in the wall untill it all wanishes into nothing.

    While permaculture is like the roots of a tree, always searching NEW ways!

  13. Craig, yes I do think property owners have to right to invite or not invite whoever they want onto their property. So did Zora Neal Hurston, btw: https://www.lewrockwell.com/epstein/epstein15.html

    Michael, yes, there is plenty of work within the permaculture arena to do without getting into political debates. But if somebody on a permaculture website is going to continually advocate statist solutions to the worlds problems and leave a “comments” field open to me, then I will probably keep interjecting my 2 cents.

  14. Well said Michael. There is no reason why libertarian permaculturalists and socialist permaculturalists cannot agree to disagree and work together to benefit the permaculture movement.

    After all – we don’t want to turn permaculture into a monoculture :)

  15. Don’t worry Michael – we’re not throwing rocks at each other. I appreciate JBob’s input, and I think we enjoy the banter.

    There are important issues to understand here though, so I don’t think we should shy away from the discussion. It helps us all. For myself, I just don’t believe the problems of the world will be solved with the same mentality that got us into this mess – that being everyone working in their own self interest. With the exception of man, nature almost universally shows its success is based on give and take, not competitive pulling and shoving, which is exactly what a society based on litigation would look like.

    I should make something clear here – although I am editor of this site, I have my own personal opinions and experiences which aren’t necessarily the same as other permaculturists or even the same as other members of PRI. We all evolve in thought, have different backgrounds, experiences and have been influenced differently accordingly.

    I have previously invited JBob (perhaps two or three times now?) to write his own views on how we could transition to where we need to go – which I’d happily post to the blog for others to consider. I must confess to getting a little frustrated when people like JBob regularly put a brief negative comment in, which when you take a lot of time to respond to, they make no acknowledgements when you pin them down on something, but then they repeat it days or weeks later in another post.

    Within reason, this is an open forum, which I strongly encourage people to make use of. If people don’t like my opinion, then share yours!! Just do it thoroughly – not just broad statements with no substance to them.

    JBob, will respond to your responses when I get a chance, but might be a few days.

  16. “I just don’t believe the problems of the world will be solved with the same mentality that got us into this mess – that being everyone working in their own self interest.” Nothing about libertarianism or anarchism precludes altruism in the slightest, as long as it’s voluntary. And yes, I grant that certain mentalities regarding the natural environment ought to change. I’m not defending the status quo.

    “…they make no acknowledgements when you pin them down on something, but then they repeat it days or weeks later in another post.” Likewise. Welcome to the internet! ;)

  17. Yesterday I read an article about Montenegro, this small country from further Yugoslavia. It has small incomes and this was why the governments wanted to establish a tourist industry. But then they discovered they had sold out the whole coast line to millionaires and billionaires of Western Europe and the rest of the world, it was not any place left to put up a single hotel.

    It’s not that I support the leisure industry, but still I don’t find this right. Because it’s not just the hotel industry that is let out from the coast line, but the whole people of Montenegro.

    In spite of property rights, I simply don’t find it right that a few extremely rich people can close the coast line, the most attractive part of the country, for its inhabitants. That they can sit there in their fenced mansions, with their yachts by the quay, drinking dry martinis, while the citizens of the country must climb upon a mountain top to get a glimpse of the Sea.

    Honestly, this simply doesn’t make sense to me! Are property rights above the rights of the people?!?

  18. “Yesterday I read an article about Montenegro, this small country from further Yugoslavia. It has small incomes and this was why the governments wanted to establish a tourist industry. But then they discovered they had sold out the whole coast line to millionaires and billionaires of Western Europe and the rest of the world, it was not any place left to put up a single hotel.”[end quote]

    If I may ask, what stopped the Montenegrin government from limiting the amount of coastal land for sale, apart from the tempting sums of money changing hands? I wonder if the stigma of implementing policies that would’ve smacked of a betrayal of capitalism had something to do with it.

    If one has a large fortune (in gold or anything else widely recognised as money), it is possible to move anywhere in the world and, within the limits of local climate and resources, live the lifestyle of one’s preference. Of course, however, a rich pocket does not a rich mind make. For instance, would a Western (o Eastern) expat in Bali be able to buy a mansion or bungalow there and be in a position to experience and know the rich culture and history of that island, if he chose to do so?

  19. JBob has raised several points that can not be adequately refuted in a brief space. However, here is a sketch of a reply, with links to my more extensive responses.

    1. “Freedom” for whom? At what cost in freedom for others? Libertarians (as their name implies) propose to maximize liberty for the individual. They also endorse John Stuart Mill’s “like liberty principle:” each individual is entitled to the maximum liberty consistent with “like liberty” for others.

    What libertarians fail to appreciate is that the “like liberty principle” is the downfall of their ideology, for libertarianism, in practice, entails loss of liberty (as well as quality of life) for others.

    2. Libertarians complain that government wields a “monopoly on force”. But in practice, we have found that an unconstrained market results in private “force” (e.g. by tea plantation owners in Sri Lanka). The remedy? What else but the rule of law, which means, of course, government.

    3. All complex social activities require rules and sanctions. Organized games must have rules and referees to enforce them. The same is true of societies. Accordingly, no civilized society has existed without government, or even with the minimal government advocated by the libertarians. The libertarians insist upon the protection of the fundamental rights to life, liberty and property. However, as the US Declaration of Independence states, “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.”

    4. Libertarians are correct: governments are imperfect. So too police and fire departments. But the remedy in all these cases is to improve these institutions, not to abolish them.

    5. Free market economic activity affects third parties (“externalities”) who do not have a direct voice in particular economic transactions. Coal fired plants emit pollution. Drugs have side effects and tainted food can cause disease — consequences of market transactions that private companies would rather not disclose to the public. Don’t these third parties deserve protection and representation? What institution can represent and protect the unconsenting third parties, if not government?

    5. Libertarians answer: courts exist to award damages to victims of unregulated commerce. But “the courts” are institutions of government. And the “courts and torts” remedy is vastly inferior to government regulation.

    For a start: courts are reactive, while regulation is proactive, and “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” (For further arguments against “the courts and torts remedy,” follow this link.

    6. Finally, JBob offers the intriguing suggestion that “private property rights should apply to wildlife” and, presumbly, to nature in general. Here is my published response to this scheme:

    “Critics of libertarianism find no end of amusement pointing out the inadequacies of the libertarians’ [privatization solution]. How, for example, are we to “privatize” the whaling industry? Are we to “brand” the whales, to validate the ownership of each? And what if “my whale” feeds on “your krill,” which you purchased (from whom?) to feed “your whales”? What courts must we set up to assess damages? What agency will be set up to collect the facts germane to the case, and how is it to be financed?

    Furthermore, the privatization of oceanic resources suggests that “territories” of ocean will have to be established, which means the end of the centuries-old convention of non-sovereignty of the seas. What country will be the first to claim the North Atlantic, along with the Gulf Stream?

    If the United States, will Great Britain and Scandinavia then have to pay the US for the use of the Gulf Stream’s climatic services? Will the nations of the world accede to this “sea grab” without protest? The military implications are awesome.

    “If we privatize wildlife, then will the owner of the wild insects that pollinate my orchard be entitled to charge me for this service? If someone’s flock of migrating birds soils my clothing or pollutes my swimming pool, how am I to locate the responsible owner? The mind boggles.

    “There is worse to come: can we conceivably “privatize” the atmosphere, and with it the hydrological cycle? If so, then who is liable for El Nino or Hurricane Katrina? If I own a “piece” of the atmosphere, is this a defined space, or is it the migrating clouds and molecules within. How is the “owner” to make his claim?

    “Total privatization of the earth is a fantasy — a reductio ad absurdum, charitably supplied to the critics by the libertarians themselves. The atmosphere, the seas, wildlife, and innumerable ecological services both known and undiscovered, are now and will forever be the “common property” of mankind, not to mention the other species of the earth.” (“With Liberty for Some“)

    For more refutations of libertarianism, please watch this blog, as I’ll soon be submitting a multi-part critique to PRI’s editor.

    Ernest Partridge

  20. Thanks Ernest, you’ve saved me a lot of time here!

    JBob – I’ll just touch on a couple of points in addition to what Ernest has written.

    A central thought I want to express, which I’ve shared in various ways in previous posts and comments, is about the ‘altruism’ you mentioned:

    Nothing about libertarianism or anarchism precludes altruism in the slightest, as long as it’s voluntary.

    I fully agree that in a perfect world, this voluntary altruism would be universal and all-pervasive – and would be the recipe to success for all. In like way, I agree with Zora Neal Hurston’s observations that just because restaurant owners are forced to open their doors to black people, it doesn’t mean they’re sincerely welcomed there or appreciated as individuals. It can effectively be enforced hypocrisy.

    But, while libertarianism does not necessarily preclude altruism, you must admit that libertarianism in no way GUARANTEES it. If altruism is an essential component to a truly successful/sustainable/peaceful society (I would say there can be no doubt that altruism must be all-pervasive), and complete freedom for all individuals (individuals acting in their own self-interest on their own private land holdings) makes thinking and acting in the interests of others a wholly voluntary option, then altruism can in no way be guaranteed. And if altruism cannot be guaranteed, and is indeed unlikely for the most part (as evidenced by thousands of years of human history) then it needs to be assured through regulation.

    Going back to the Zora Neal Hurston example – the law may have created hypocrites out of many restaurant/hotel owners and bus drivers, but if that law had not been enacted, widespread discrimination would still be ingrained and happening in American society today. Instead, the law took precedence over voluntary acceptance, and people who before had little contact with black people were now rubbing shoulders with them, and from that not a few would have come to genuinely appreciate them for who they are – and learn/realise they are no different than themselves.

    The law began a transformative process in the minds of white people – so that today few are racists any more. Without that law, if we waited for a universal voluntary acceptance of black people as equals, it just would never have happened. The U.S. would still be in the dark ages in this regard.

    Here’s a little test of your altruism – when you’re walking around your local market, or supermarket, and are selecting fruit and veg to throw into your canvas bag, do you look for the best ones to buy, or do you leave the best ones so the perfect stranger that comes after you can have it instead? I’m going to guess you, like myself, take the best ones you can find. Carry this thought over to situations where entire populations are concerned. Read the Global warming, Hitler, and World War II Rationing article, and tell me how the US and UK could have defeated Nazi Germany without both top down regulations combined with participatory involvement from their respective citizenry. Would the libertarian only react if a bomb landed in your own particular back yard – and then seek to take Hitler to court for damages? Some things, indeed, many things, require concerted action – and someone needs to lead on this. My point is that leadership needs greater accountability to citizenry. They need to be doing our will. They need to be our servants. Where leaders go astray is because our ‘democratic system’ is not democratic at all. That needs to be changed. We need more people involved in the decision making. We need those people to be holistically educated, politcally active – and redesigning politics to better reflect the will of a majority working for the good of people and place (and the creatues in it).

    More on altruism, specifically in regards to the land aspect – I note from several comments that you have land! You wanted “to get some burgundy beans and butterfly peas planted before it rains” and in a previous post commented that you “will be seriously tumbling some ideas around… [your] head regarding reports from …[your] farm.” Given this context, I can certainly understand the ease with which you can ignore the plight of the billions of landless on this planet. If you can secure private property rights, the rest of the world can go to hell, as you manage the little world under your control.

    But, no man is an island. We have to find a way to cooperate, as revolution will come soon enough. You won’t have fences high enough – and no court will be able to protect you. Far too many people don’t have land today. Permaculture to them is a pipe dream. For them, permaculture is ‘only for rich people’ as I’ve heard landless poor tell me. I, myself, don’t have land, yet I promote permaculture because I see it as the only real way forward. But for it to be a REAL way forward, it’ll only happen if more, or most, people have land. How does someone go about getting some of YOUR land? I wrote about this recently – where wealthy landowners were setting an amazing precedent in sharing their land with their landless neighbours. Will you do this? Or will you leave it to ‘the other guy’? At the moment the only way I can hope to get land is to stop promoting permaculture, and to join ‘the system’ and work and compete and clamber over everyone else, and likely become a major bastard along the way.

    Instead, the fastest way to ensure land starts to get redistributed, so people can transition to sustainable small scale landholdings, is to have financial incentives from government that start to favour smaller farms, in opposite to the ‘get big or get out’ policies we’ve had since the 1970s. With such legislated market incentives, agribusiness can begin to get dismantled in a staged progression that ensures the present industrial food system doesn’t collapse overnight (creating widespread starvation), but can be transitioned over many years. Without such incentives, land will continue to be accrued by those with advantages. For all I know, you may be working your day job – saving to buy up the neighbour’s property. That’s working in your own self interest, the rest be damned, and nobody can sue you for it.

    Removing government does not give land to the tea plantation workers above. Indeed, it’s removing their last hope for change.

    Again, we’re not starting from a clean slate. We have major power and resource imbalances in place now which need to be peacefully reversed. If you, and other land holders like you, do not voluntarily parcel your land to give place to the teeming landless of the world, then what do you expect for the future? I see bloodshed, and lots of it. It’s happened time and time again historically when society became excessively stratified, and this time we’re dealing with a greatly magnified population and no new virgin terriroty to claim. The libertarian though, holds his property as his to defend – and defend with a mega-complicated and impossible court system.

    Re Loess Plateau: We, as Ernest has mentioned in his discussing privatising nature and assigning accountability for negative results, get into absurdity here. How will you find and isolate who has pulled down too many trees. Will you file a class action suit against villagers spread across thousands of hectares of land? How will you prove your case. What costs will be involved in this enormously difficult and complicated litigation process?

    Private property rights make things simple and peaceful.

    Simple? Peaceful?

    And, as Ernest notes, this is reactive, not preventative. If a law is enforced before the fact, stating that the trees of this watershed are critical to climate and hydrological stability, and so it’s illegal to cut them down, then the problem never arrives in the first place. It’s much harder to replace a forest than it is to protect it. Such villagers could never afford to ‘pay the compensation’ for the eco-services (stable climate, drought/flood stability, oxygen and rain creation, etc.) they’ve destroyed. They couldn’t afford to replace those eco-services.

    Private individuals eye all the forests of the world. Leave them unrestrained to turn them all into GM soy plantations, toilet paper or junk mail, and they will.

    The reality is if a right action is left to be voluntary, it will always be left to ‘the other guy’.

    I must say I find the thought on bears highly distasteful – in that these are sentient beings with a right to life. They are not your property. And to just ‘trust’ that private individuals will protect ‘their’ bears is gambling with the lives of these same sentient beings. From what we see with overfishing, over hunting, etc. – I don’t understand how you can so complacently assume that ‘most people would probably hunt a sustainable number’. That’s rose-tinted thinking if ever I saw it. Are these individuals experts in bear-thology? Won’t the profit motive kick in to tell them to maximise use of the land they have – making the bear an obstacle to their achieving their goals born of self-interest? Perhaps they’ll even sell their gall bladders to the Koreans as an added bonus.

    How does libertarianism break up monopolies? How does libertarianism restore ecosystems? How does libertarianism protect the poor, protect wildlife, and educate society?

    I will repeat, once again, my request that you lay out your libertarian ‘game plan’ for transition of society in a post peak oil world – whilst avoiding widespread mayhem. Just removing government only plays into the hands of the BigBusinesses who are now already largely in control of those governments. People need to be controlling these governments, not industry, and controlling them for the public good.

  21. Craig, your response re: altruism is spot on. Egoism is the foundational postulate of libertarianism: asserted but unproven and unprovable. Libertarians regard taxation imposed, even by popular vote, to aid the poor or even to support public institutions such as schools, universities, parks, museums, etc., as “theft” of private property or, as JBob puts it an unjust imposition of “monopoly power.” If, out of the goodness of your heart, you contribute to charity, that’s just awfully nice of you. But it is not required in any sense. Trouble is, this scheme results widespread poverty and misery, an uneducated population and work force, and woefully underfunded public facilities.

    But not to worry. After all, as Ayn Rand told us, and as libertarians affirm, “there is no entity as society, since society is only a number of individual men.” It follows that there is no such thing as social injustice, no “victims of society,” and no public interest or public benefits. So-called “public order” (the rule of law, established institutions, common purpose, a functioning ecosystem), according to the libertarians, are all “spontaneously generated” free gifts to which no sacrifice or personal wealth is required for thier maintenance. (See my “Why Should I Pay for Someone Else’s Education“).

    As L. T. Hobbhouse put it:

    The organizer of industry who thinks he has ‘made’ himself and his business has found a whole social system ready to his hand in skilled workers, machinery, a market, peace and order — a vast apparatus and a pervasive atmosphere, the joint creation of millions of men and scores of generations. Take away the whole social factor, and we have not Robinson Crusoe with his salvage from the wreck and his acquired knowledge, but the native savage living on roots, berries and vermin.

    Libertarian egoism is utter balderdash, of course. But worse than wrong, it is a very dangerous doctrine, as we are now discovering in the post-Bush United States..

  22. Wow… ok, this has gone from bad to worse. Now altruism must be “enforced,” I must give my land to the poor, the laws made white people stop hating black people, democracy will fix all problems (two wolves and rabbit voting on what’s for lunch), people don’t follow laws until they are caught and prosecuted, cooperation among men is impossible without government oversight, bears have a right to life (you’re a vegetarian?), to work and earn money is to be a bastard, all landowners want GM soy plantations, toilet paper, and junk mail (I’m a landowner), and to top it all off, I have to come up with a detailed Plan to Save the World to defend my ideas.

    I think we better stick to swales and legumes for discussion topics. Most permaculturalists can’t help themselves from putting forth political ideas, and I’m one of them obviously, but I will at least admit that agriculture and politics don’t necessarily need to be bound together at all times. As I’ve said before, if you’re truly interested in freedom there is plenty of great reading to do all over the internet.

  23. JBob – it’s just that our present systems force me to destroy people and place worldwide. I live in a system that necessitates travel, for example – because most of the things I must have, as an individual in this system, come from all over the world. We live in a system of specialists, where whole countries become specialised in just a few things. To relocalise and diversify and upskill again will not be an easy task. We cannot easily escape this system, and this system has us killing others (think Iraq/Afghanistan) for oil so we can persevere with the system as it stands. We’re attempting to privatise countries so we can grow food for ourselves on their land.

    We either find a way to change the system, or we persevere with resource grabs and murder so we can continue with it a little longer – and so you can have the luxury of a day job, complete with swales and legumes on the weekend. The system ensures you need a car, because you don’t have enough people around you, with a diversity of essential skills, to enable you to remain independent enough to be able to live without using one.

    Digging swales and planting legumes is a great start, but with this only being possible for a minority (as I said, some say “permaculture is only for rich people”), then it’ll never gain the momentum that will have the system-overturning effect that it must if your efforts are going to actually, ultimately, serve any purpose.

    To repeat that thought in a different way – if you and a few others have your ‘lifestyle block’, and it’s unattainable by the majority, then you’re completely wasting your time. The chaos we’ll see will swallow you up, along with your swales and legumes. “Let them eat cake.”

    Ecosystem restoration, and creating some equity and cooperation in the world, will never happen by just shouting ‘remove government’.

    Re ‘plenty on freedom to be read on the internet’ – I’ve read my share, but never seen anything that is actually constructive. Rather, it’s just shallow excuses for removing taxation and removing governments. I’ve not seen anything to cover my questions: “How does libertarianism break up monopolies? How does libertarianism restore ecosystems? How does libertarianism protect the poor, protect wildlife, and educate society?”

    Do note – this conversation started because of the first comment on this post. That comment was yours.

  24. From Ownership to Relationship: https://eartheasy.com/blog/2010/03/from-ownership-to-relationship/

    JBob, Craig did of course mean that bears as specie has a right to live. But still, we must always keep in mind that every creature has its own intrinsic worth: https://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC22/Zimmrman.htm

    I know that Bill Mollison was a bit skeptical to deep ecologists, but I’m sure if he had met Arne Næss he should had enjoyed his company. Arne Næss was a great man, living a simple life, with a playfulness and sense of humor hardly ever seen.

  25. I wish you could all have read this book: https://www.nina.no/Aktuelt/Artikkel/tabid/945/ArticleId/840/Det-biologiske-mennesket-individer-og-samfunn-i-lys-av-evolusjon.aspx

    This book is just so related to permaculture that it could have been written by Bill Mollison himself. It gives the answer to who we are, why we behave like we do, and how we must organize our communities to live in peace with each other and nature.

    This means that we MUST break down all our huge structures to small tribal like entities. In short, we are tribal people, and must organize our self like tribes. ONLY THIS WAY CAN OUR GREED BE CONTROLLED, AND ONLY THIS WAY CAN WE CARE ABOUT EACH OTHER AND TAKE CARE OF OUR LIMITED RESOURCES!!!!

  26. A libertarian view of land monopoly: https://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/eleven.asp

    I found this while looking up links for your questions. I will skip the others to make sure you look at this one. Interesting and informative historical facts regardless of your political persuasion.

    “Land monopoly is far more widespread in the modern world than most people—especially most Americans—believe. In the undeveloped world, especially in Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America, feudal landholding is a crucial social and economic problem…”

  27. It’s obvious that we now have to create totally new systems of society, which in fact is the oldest, the tribal systems. All current systems are not based in the full understanding of the human biology, inherent in our genes. We need to design human systems that are in harmony with our genes, developed through millions of years of evolution.

    The patterns of human biology are now thoroughly understood. We need a massive reform in our societies to wipe out “sick patterns” that are not in harmony with our genes. This means we need to establish new patterns or design systems that put humans in harmony with our genes, through oppressing our bad behavior or attitudes, and encourage our good behavior or attitudes.

    As we now understand that our true biology is tribal, we need tribal system designs or patterns, to replace ALL other systems created since we left the tribe. Because only in a tribal system we can thrive, and only through tribal systems our civilization can survive.

    What is forgotten in this discussion is that we also need governments in the process of returning land to the nature. It is a fact that in a truly tribal system based upon the principles of permaculture, we can return 97 % of the land we now hold, to nature wildlife: https://www.permaculturenews.org/2010/08/12/permaculture-%E2%80%9Cyour-way-to-sustainable-living%E2%80%9D/

    According both to the ethics of permaculture and to Deep Ecology: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_ecology , I see it as a crime against nature to hold more land than what we need.

  28. “The central spiritual tenet of deep ecology is that the human species is a part of the Earth and not separate from it. A process of self-realisation or “re-earthing” is used for an individual to intuitively gain an ecocentric perspective. The notion is based on the idea that the more we expand the self to identify with “others” (people, animals, ecosystems), the more we realize ourselves. Transpersonal psychology has been used by Warwick Fox to support this idea.

    In relation to the Judeo-Christian tradition, Næss offers the following criticism: “The arrogance of stewardship [as found in the Bible] consists in the idea of superiority which underlies the thought that we exist to watch over nature like a highly respected middleman between the Creator and Creation.”[8] This theme had been expounded in Lynn Townsend White, Jr.’s 1967 article “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis”,[9] in which however he also offered as an alternative Christian view of man’s relation to nature that of Saint Francis of Assisi, who he says spoke for the equality of all creatures, in place of the idea of man’s domination over creation.”

    See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_ecology

    Maybe it’s now time to abandon both the idea of “ownership” and “stewardship”?

  29. Principles of Deep Ecology:

    1. The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: intrinsic value, inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.

    2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.

    3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital human needs.

    4. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.

    5. Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.

    6. Policies must therefore be changed. These policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.

    7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent value) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.

    8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to try to implement the necessary changes.

  30. A libertarian view of land monopoly: https://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/eleven.asp

    I found this while looking up links for your questions. I will skip the others to make sure you look at this one. Interesting and informative historical facts regardless of your political persuasion. – JBob

    JBob – thanks, yes, Rothbard’s article is an interesting read. You’ll notice it echoing some of my concerns.

    1) Economies subject to investment from entities working in their own ‘self interest’, “free from government harrassment” end up being leached of their resources and labour. I expounded upon this here and here amongst other places.

    2) I spoke about the fact that we’re not starting from a clean slate – that inequality and land monopolisation abounds, so just removing government, or opening markets to free investment, doesn’t address this. The article quotes Carlos Fuentes: “You started from zero, a virgin society, totally equal to modern times, without any feudal ballast. On the contrary, we were founded as an appendix of the falling feudal order of the Middle Ages…”

    Note that Rothbard says: “Furthermore, the free market and capitalism flourished earliest and most strongly in those very countries where both feudalism and central government power were at their relative weakest: the Italian city-states, and seventeenth-century Holland and England.”

    The interesting thing is that in the article he doesn’t seem to recognise one simple fact – that America is actually controlled by feudalists. He says:

    Largely escaping feudalism itself, it is difficult for Americans to take the entire problem seriously.

    Can we not see that America, and the rest the ‘developed’ world, is under the almost complete control of feudalists? (see here).

    Further, as described above, with all apologies to the American Indians, the first settlers did start with a clean slate. They started with a clean slate, and with all that freedom and equality promptly started to rebuild another feudalist state. The cartoon at top of the page in the last link pictorally expresses the concern of early settlers as they saw the beginnings of corporate feudalists taking control over government, so they could favour their ‘self interest’.

    I’ve said to you repeatedly this very fact – that if we were all to start afresh, on a fresh clean planet, and with all of us receiving an equitable parcel of land, that without deeply motivated ethical values, or laws that enforced ethical behaviour, we’d end up right back where we are today – with major social stratification, inequality and a destroyed planet. This is people simply working in their own self interest. Greed and selfishness. Libertarianism as a concept is fantastic – but it will only work if you magically rid man of his imperfections. This is something you cannot do, so Libertarianism is therefore totally impractical.

    And the ‘free market investment’ proffered to ‘undeveloped’ countries is actually these wealthy feudalists extending their reach to take control over the citizenry in other countries, like they have control over those within their own borders (you and I).

    Aside from manipulating our desires through advertising and product obsolesence, influencing politics, etc. (see The Century of Self), Big Business owns much of our land and have almost complete control over our seeds and food systems. Whilst at the moment government are aiding them in accruing this land and power, removing them won’t undo the results of those disastrous policies, subsidies, incentives and back room deals.

    I see that we need to reinvent politics, not just wipe it aside – which would just leave the feudalists/capitalists to have unobstructed control over us.

    Rothbard ends on the slavery issue – sharing an idea that would be rather unusual for most of us today: that being that the slaves should not only have been given their freedom, but also portions of the land they were working. This ties in to the article I wrote above. Just removing government would not accomplish this for the people above. Indeed, it would remove the only protection these workers have against their overlords.

    We need to build a steady state economy – one not dependent on perpetual growth. And we need to control it ourselves through the most democratic system we can conjure – with its success dependent on full participation by an ethically motived, holistically educated citizenry.

    At the end of the day, large land holdings will either be broken up by:

    1) financial incentives – ‘get small, or get out’
    2) revolution (bloodshed – and the end of the world as we know it)
    3) voluntary cooperation and kindess (hence my asking if you’ll give some of your land to someone who needs it)
    4) by arbitary government decree – court order.

    The first and fourth are by government. The former I favour. The latter being rife with impossible decisions (who decides who actually owns your land for example – it could be claimed by an aboriginal descendent of a man who foraged there 3,000 years ago). The former allows for transition – and time for people progressively taking control of smaller holdings to upskill and learn how to manage it. Many times in the past, as I wrote here, people took control of land hurriedly, only to fail to utilise it due to ignorance or lack of resources to make best use of it.

    The second is what has almost always happened historically. In the context of today, we’re talking global meltdown with a high likelihood of it bringing in a new reign of fascism as government tries to overwhelm dissent.

    The third is so against our selfish nature that this is an extremely rare thing, and highly unlikely.

    Do you see another option? Which would you choose?

    Again, don’t take me to mean I’m communist. I’m not. I just don’t see libertarianism offering anything but a strengthening of feudalism. In an ideal world, complete freedom would rule – but, sounding like a broken record, that can only happen if everyone exercising that freedom is fully objective, holistically educated, and morally motivated. Failing that, we need laws to work for the public good.

  31. Dammit Craig, when will you stop making such in-depth rebuttals that bring up so many irresistible points?! As usual, I will force my reply to be brief.

    I read this post, and I read the Roots of Change link. A lot of points in both, so here’s an unordered list of my thoughts:

    -I don’t think large hand holdings necessarily need to be broken up. First, what is “large” anyway? And plenty of large land titles are just. But in general, I choose your option #1, and add that it is NOT by government. Speaking specifically of the thousands of acres adjacent to me, typically owned in several hundred acre chunks, they exist in monocropped, bare-soil-fallow 8-months-of-the-year, huge tracts solely because of farm subsidies. Quit taking my money and giving it to my neighbor as payment for screwing up the landscape and feeding us crap. That’s what I want, and removing government’s monopoly on force would achieve it.

    2. Speaking of governments monopoly on force, that is what allows corporations to do the really bad stuff they sometimes do. Next time you hear of corporate atrocities, ask yourself where the actual physical government guns come into play. Without them, the evil scheme probably wouldn’t work. Note that this does not cover some things you often complain about like “unfair” wages and lack of “public interest.” If the wage is voluntary, it’s fair in my book. And there is no “public interest” apart from the interests of individuals.

    3. Libertarianism does not require human perfection. As I keep saying, it is just the best way to cope with our shortcomings. By never allowing anyone physical domination over others, a whole crapload of bad practices go away. I’m sure you’ve written on it somewhere, but just how do you expect all of us bad humans to somehow vote up good laws in a democracy? Granting some group of people coercive power over others (and that is what any political system is, even your local democracy which admittedly does probably minimize this problem) is not conducive to fair play.

    4. I agree that pushing the red button and wiping out government today would not work well. Not because we need government for any reason, but only because without educations and more popularized thirst for liberty, another government, probably worse, will pop up like a weed in the former’s place. So we agree that hearts and minds need to change.

    5. A question occurs to me. Since you favor localized democracies and self-rule to some extent, what would you say about a world in which one such local democracy turned itself into a libertarian anarchy? Fair play? And no, we will not belch earth-destroying pollution into the sky – if our activities harm others we’ll be civilized and stop them.

    6. The “big business has almost complete control over our seeds and food systems” line is oft repeated, but definitely overblown in my opinion. I can more easily procure seed and plants of any useful plants species in the world today than ever before – other than a few commercial varieties which we’re not very interested in anyway. Yes, most of our food comes from big companies, but there is nothing keeping us from doing things differently. …oh wait, yes there is, the… wait for it… government! With their vast array of “safety” regulations that hog-tie small producers wanting to actually sell their food, they forcibly prevent voluntary transactions between farmers and customers. See Salatin’s “Everything I Want to Do is Illegal.”

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