Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Two Economies by Wendell Berry

Some time ago, in a conversation with Wes Jackson in which we were laboring to define the causes of the modern ruination of farm land, we finally got around to the money economy. I said that an economy based on energy would be more benign because it would be more comprehensive.
         Wes would not agree, “An energy economy still wouldn’t be comprehensive enough.”
         “Well, I said, “then what kind of economy would be comprehensive enough?”
         He hesitated a moment, and then grinning, said, “The Kingdom of God.”
         I assume that Wes used that term because he found it, after that point in our conversation, indispensable; I assume so because, in my pondering over its occurrence at that point, I found it indispensable myself.
         (Berry then draws a conclusion about the subject of conversation he and his friend were having regarding farmland)
         …the thing that troubles us about the industrial economy is exactly that it is not comprehensible enough; that, moreover, it tends to destroy what it does not comprehend, and that it is dependent upon much that it does not comprehend.
         In attempting to criticize such an economy, we naturally pose against it an economy that does not leave anything out, and we can say without presuming too much that the first principle of the Kingdom of God is that it includes everything; in it, the fall of every sparrow is a significant event.
         We are in it whether we know it or not and whether we wish to be or not. Another principle, both ecological and traditional, is that everything in the Kingdom of God is joined both to it and everything else that is in it; that is to say, the kingdom of God is orderly.

         Berry continues:

         …we live within order and…this order is both greater and more intricate than we can know. The difficulty of our predicament then is made clear… (And here he continues his thought regarding economies and how they affect farmland) Though we cannot produce a complete or adequate description of this order, severe penalties are in store for us if we presume upon it or violate it.

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