Justice and Freedom Are Rooted in Land
Land-Based Tradition Goes Far Beyond Left-versus-Right
by Dustin FieldsIn politics and economics we're told we have two choices -- left and right. On the Left, Big Government, on the Right, Big Business. Now leaders from both proclaim a new "big" ideology- the global Information Economy. Forgotten is an older tradition that valued the small.
The Utah Agrarian
We're told that information will surpass labor and capital as resources, transcending the left-right conflict, and ushering in a new age of peace and plenty for all. But today we have conflicts over resource use in the American West and abroad. We have Culture Wars over America's very identity. We have international terror (September 11th, 2001).
That older tradition that values the small says land is the crucial resource. Land sustains labor, capital, and information. Small landholders, small farmers, small businesses, local neighborhoods and communities are the foundation of a healthy society. Land stewardship, distribution, and cultivation preserve it. Critics on left and right ridicule this land-based tradition as irrelevant in an urban, technological society. But cities still occupy land and are sustained by its resources.
American founders and patriots like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln held this tradition to be the foundation of national virtue and security. Mormon pioneers sought to build such a self-reliant society in Utah. Internationally, Gandhi saw it the key to self-government and home rule. It drove the populist movements of American history.
Some see the left-right economic conflict as a struggle between individual freedom and community equality. The land-based tradition says these are complementary and reconciled in land. The enemy of freedom, equality, community, and the individual is special privilege. Jefferson and Lincoln warned that granting special privileges to corporations would undermine the land-based community, destroying economic and political freedom and equality.
The Right claims to favor home rule and oppose Big Government. But many on the right support government grants of privilege which bloat Big Business and destroy the free market. Government moves from the people to large corporations and international trade organizations.
Many on the Left believe Big Government the solution for community and environmental problems, and the people incapable of home rule. They ignore the communities and environments destroyed by Big Government. (For example, those destroyed by New Deal-style dams in America and around the world.)
Rather than an age of information freedom, we enter an age of information dearth and monopoly. Natural, agricultural, genetic and cultural information is destroyed or monopolized by corporations and governments unchecked in power. We destroy the land base at home and abroad, creating our own enemies while eroding our greatest security.
Utah's Mormon pioneers believed land sacred, a common trust. They built orderly garden cities, clustered on the agricultural and wild lands that sustained them. Today, urban cores dwindle, while sprawl eats our best farmland and destroys our orderly settlement pattern. Economic strength is sought from without, not within. Infatuated with the Big, Utah has become a follower, not a leader of the world.
Left and right squabble over regulating these problems, leaving them to the market, or creating complex programs. The land-based tradition offers answers. We can restore its place in our education. We can end special privileges. We can end the privilege of land speculation, which distorts markets, burdens the poor, and feeds sprawl and blight, by a more just tax system. We can support candidates from all parties which support the land-based, informed populism upon which our greatest values were built.
The most important choice that you can make is between Special Privilege and Justice. What's your opinion? Tell your views to The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?