May 26, 2017

BAD LUCK, THEN AND NOW:

Shot:

In the economically illiterate hope that raising prices would increase incomes and restore prosperity, the New Deal cartelized agriculture. Landowners raked in subsidies for taking land out of production and destroying crops and livestock, which threw huge numbers of agricultural laborers, tenant farmers, and sharecroppers out of work and made food and clothing more expensive. FDR himself, having created the opportunity, built his coalition by decrying “one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clothed, and ill-nourished.”

* * * * * * * * *

Of course, not all groups saw increased opportunity during World War II. The book’s shocker is buried on page 299, thanks to the perverse geographical organization: Hello to Manzanar—or at least, to Tule Lake. Every collectivist agricultural revolution needs its kulaks, and the administration at last found a population that was compelled to obey commands and (at least in the case of its businesses) be liquidated. Japanese Americans, subject to intense racial discrimination before the war, had created an entrepreneurial niche in truck gardening: fruits and vegetables for urban markets that we would today call “locally sourced.” After being forced to sell their businesses for pennies on the dollar, they were shipped off to internment camps.

You can’t make omelets without breaking eggs, and you can’t collectivize agriculture without creating food shortages: The Roosevelt administration disrupted the West Coast’s efficient fruit and vegetable agricultural sector just as the region’s population exploded with war workers. New Deal Photography offers a single color Russell Lee picture (1942), which the OWI presumably hoped would depict the internees as happy collective farmers among the furrows. They don’t look too happy—nor should readers be, because this appalling culmination of the FSA project has been addressed in depth in several previous books, as opposed to the cursory treatment here.

“Image of a Decade,” Jay Weiser, the Weekly Standard, May 29 issue.

Chaser:

A California farmer is facing a $2.8 million fine for failing to get a permit to plow his own field.

John Duarte bought 450 acres of land near Modesto in 2012 and is now being sued by the federal government for plowing near areas the government considers to be “waters of the United States.”

The case will head to trial in August. The government claims that Duarte violated the Clean Water Act because he did not obtain a permit to work near the wetlands.

“Farmer facing massive fines for… plowing his own field,” Jazz Shaw, Hot Air, today.

(Classical reference in headline.)