Why Authoritarian Governments Hate Small Farms

Authoritarian governments have a tendency to limit or even collapse the food supply. At first that doesn't appear to make sense. People get angry and desperate when the food supply is limited, especially when their kids start starving. That's often when the king, queen, pharaoh, president, emperor, or empress is overthrown and killed. History demonstrates that over and over again. Yet, authoritarian governments keep doing it. It's a contradiction I've been thinking about for years. And when you think about it long enough and hard enough, it makes complete sense.


Imagine there's a nice family living in a house with a yard. They decide to plant a few things. The things grow. They eat them, the food is good. They have a few extra things. They give some to a neighbor. The neighbor likes them too. The family needs a shed built. The neighbor is a carpenter. They trade. Everything is good. What's missing? The government.

From a civilian's perspective this seems like an idyllic situation. From the government's perspective there is zero control, zero power, zero authority. If the government has the normal underlying philosophy that the government's job is to direct and control people, then this lack of control is a problem. It's easily solved though.

People don't need a new shed every day. They can go years without a shed, or a lifetime. People can forgo many things when they need to, but not food. Everyone has to eat every day (that's a slightly simplified truth, but still a truth). A totalitarian government wants control over everything and everyone, they see that as their purpose, their job, their duty. You have to start somewhere, and food has the most leverage.

Imagine the danger to a government of the spread of small farms. If you have a farm that can support a few dozen people, within that few dozen people you may have a construction worker, a mechanic, a metal worker, a teacher, a plumber, an electrician, a musician, a trader, an artist, etc. You have a community that can support itself. A community bonded together by personal ties. A community that has a need for government limited to the most basic function of the protection of individual rights within the group, and protection from attack from outside of the group. Someone that wants control, power, and authority cannot abide such a thing.

There are multiple ways to tear that community apart. One way is to make the people scared of their neighbors, for any reason. If people are more afraid of their neighbors than the dangers of centralized power, then centralized power you will have. Wish granted!

A more direct path is to have the government shut the small farms down. This can be done from any level of government, and generally the large governments have the small governments shut small farms down. It can be done in stages or all at once. Any reason will work, they accomplish the same end.

With this one simple focus the power gained is immense. There are three ways to structure this control.

One way is to exert various types of control over the now limited sources of food. If there are only a few large farms, you only have to control a few large farms. If there are only a few places to buy food, you only have to control the few places you can buy food from. By controlling a few organizations you can control the entire population's access to food, and thus you can control the entire population. It appears that there is a free market operating. It's an illusion. The businesses and the government start to blend together. That's the crony capitalism method.

The second way is to establish organizations that regulate the production and distribution of food. They can decide everything. They fix the prices, the supplies, what you can farm, when to plant and when to harvest, who you can sell to and buy from, how big or small a farm can be, etc. It appears that there are small farms operating, they just don't actually have any choices. That's the method that the National Socialists used in their command economy.

The third way is the most direct. You can have people pick up food at the government commissary. The production and distribution of food is centrally planned to be super-efficient and super-fair. The government will make sure you get the appropriate amount of food. It appears that someone has a solid plan and is executing it. Execute is the right word. That's the system that the Communists implemented in the Soviet Union and China. The resulting famines harvested the souls of many, many millions of people.

Any and all of these methods work if your goal is to control people. Often these methods are mixed and used at the same time. The complexity hides the ominous future to come.

A community that is able to support itself, to produce within itself, to trade within itself, has a real and personal economy. It's harder to make people fear their neighbors when they're exchanging things they each need. It's harder to sell propaganda when people are having real in-person human interactions. It's harder to threaten and coerce people when they have a feeling of independence and self-reliance. It's hard to destroy a society when it has that in-built resilience.

I was recently talking to someone I know that grew up in the Soviet Union. I told her about how my township tried to eliminate one of the local farms that I go to. She said that the Soviet Union did the same thing, they used the local governments to shut down the local farms. And she told me how sad it is to see the same thing happening in the United States. Shut down the local farm, but it's fine, you can pick up food from your local school, or other conveniently located government building, because the government is here to save you (insert wink).

Luckily we have history to learn from. We have people willing to correct the course of society and save it, not through the government, but from the government. To let farms happen. To let exchange happen. To let resilient communities come into being and sustain themselves, through farming and beyond.

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