Losers

I consider Wendell Berry a prophet.

Penguin Books has recently published a new collection of his essays (do not see a contents…but think them all previously published???).

It is titled The World-Ending Fire.

He often refers to our present economy as being built on combustion and toxins…so the title is aptly put.

In an interview related to the book’s publication he was asked about his opinion on the recent election of Donald Trump as our American President.

His response was…it didn’t matter if it was Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump….either way he (Wendell Berry) was a loser.

I am personally in the same sinking boat….and over the past few years a number of folks have (very definitely) called me a loser.

Wendell has, for a long time, had both of his feet solidly planted in the compassion based, soil conserving, community building loser class.

I, for a similarly long time, had both my ‘moral’ feet in his space. It is just I had one economic foot  in the ‘combustion and toxin’ economy.

Over the past few years I’ve liquidated the ‘combustion and toxin’ assets to work with younger folks on another economy.

Now – at this point – I diverge a bit from Mr. Berry.

I’ve had a great deal more day-to-day business experience than he, so I see an opportunity to change the economy…and change it pretty rapidly in food enterprises.

Even think I know how to do it!

The previous post on An Enterprise Ethic starts to publish some of the work over the past three years that has helped solidify my reputation as a loser.

An Enterprise Ethic

I have a personal affection for small business.

My life experience indicates that once organizations exceed a certain ‘people size’ they begin to lose quality rapidly (without extremely intelligent and diligent management).

It is very parallel to Wes Jackson’s ‘Eyes to Acres’.

Over the past two years I’ve attempted to define an ethic that might enable more intelligence in small business organizations (and, by the way, I see a tremendous number of small businesses that I think run extremely intelligently and carefully within our current financial and tax structure). My purpose is not to criticize wonderful small businesses. My purpose is to propose a method of organization, management, and financial operation that is more democratic, compassionate, and responsive than the current financial and tax structure in America.

The legal and ownership structure would:

  • De-emphasize property  – which appears to be shallowly materialistic and static in our current financial system – and replace it with dynamic ‘living’ partner accounts.
  • Manage partner accounts through a democratic process and evaluate partner accounts on a periodic (quarterly/semi-annual?) basis for labor inputs, performance measures, and partner financial inputs/outputs.
  • Include performance measures determined for each partner (and any consideration of new partners) on a periodic basis (performance expectations for the coming period). Those performance measures would/could include labor expectations, financial expectations, business development expectations based upon the partner’s expertise and role within the enterprise.
  • Through periodic partner meetings, would reach consensus on current partner account value, partner expectations over the next period, and partner compensation over the next period.
  • Periodic partner meetings would also determine any financing or external agreements necessary for the effective operation of the enterprise – including a compensation methodology.
  • The total of all partner accounts would be equivalent to the sum of the Fund’s cash and liquid assets plus the appraised value of non-liquid assets.
  • All workers within the enterprise are partners – partner accounts would vary depending on the extent of involvement, financial inputs, etc.

I do not think this is necessarily unusual corporate language for partnerships…I do think it is unusual in application…because it becomes complex.

The value of confronting the difficulties is that it creates morally responsible, religiously sound, sustainable organizations.

Ratio of Eyes to Acres

Wes Jackson of the Land Institute has often used the term ‘eyes to acres’ to indicate proper scale for farm management.

Fundamentally one must be able to ‘see’ the farm…a way of understanding and gaining intelligence about farm agro-ecology.

We have been working on development of a farmer training program. Since the property has no buildings or equipment we have worked for seven or eight months designing a set of farm buildings and a comprehensive schedule of equipment and fixtures.

It has been a wonderful exercise…and has been carefully done so the resulting farm, buildings, and equipment allow us to ‘see’ everything on any given day.

We believe we are 95% complete with design (the other 5% will take a lifetime of refinement!).

David DeFrancesco, Christian Roberge, and I will be blogging as we progress on design and development process…hoping to engage a broader community as we refine/build/begin operations.

The Decline of Family Farms

There are certain days where the ‘best I can do’ is to sort out some ethical guidance for chaotic situations.

Nothing else, just sort out societal ‘messes’ and hopefully give folks some religious and ethical perspective on action.

Yesterday was one of those days.

I went to bed with dog Lucille at 8:30 pm after reading a few pages of an historical novel about rural life in America.

I awoke at 2 am.

The decline of the family farm in America was much more than a change in the ‘way we farm’.

It was a profound change in the way we think.

It was a profound change in our cultural values.

It was a profound change in our ABILITY to think.

Without the insights and intuitions of daily meaningful work with plants and animals we lose our intelligence.

Science cannot replace the intelligence that grows from daily work caring for plants, animals, and other humans.

We Americans have been lost.

I see lovely signs that we are beginning to – again – be found.

The Value of Knowledge

I am starting to revisit work done over fifteen years ago on the financial value of knowledge.

Interestingly, the period when I was first analyzing valuation methods for intellectual property/knowledge was coincident to Internet enterprises devaluing knowledge/information.

It was a period where social media, Google, and other Internet enterprises were building advertising financial models. Those enterprises were both devaluing information/knowledge as well as condescending to longstanding academic and publishing ethics on knowledge creation/evolution.

Currently (20 years later) we have the result of their ephemeral business model and condescension…fake news.

It was inevitable.

It was also the result of complex cultural changes that were evolving because of our highly individualistic society.. and much of the petty social action that results from that self-absorption.

I now confront another harmful cultural outgrowth of those events.

How do you financially appraise the value of sound, rigorous knowledge creation in a society that has very few tools for analyzing those assets?

In a few narrow fields (mostly linked to progressing self-interest – human aiding biotechnology, personal computational technology, etc.) those knowledge developments are highly (and I might add artificially) valued.

In most other fields the basis for valuation is only linked to current cash flow generated by those knowledge creations or – in some rare cases – projected cash flows from comparable analysis.

Neither of those approaches allow for analysis of asset value based upon historical, cultural, scientific comparisons that accommodate for externalities…. and natural elegance (more on that in another post) .

I’m in process on further research to address some of the issues/problems that I encountered 20 years ago when we began our agro-ecological work.

More to come.

Family

This morning I went to a favorite breakfast spot in Warren, Rhode Island.

They have a community table and I ended setting with a young couple and their 4 children.

It was remarkable for several reasons:Roblox HackBigo Live Beans HackYUGIOH DUEL LINKS HACKPokemon Duel HackRoblox HackPixel Gun 3d HackGrowtopia HackClash Royale Hackmy cafe recipes stories hackMobile Legends HackMobile Strike Hack

  1. Seldom in my community do I see larger families..particularly out for meals.
  2. The children ranged in age from 4 to 8. The three boys were ‘stairsteps’ (another term I never hear in this community for progressive births). The youngest, a girl, was a foster child.
  3. They were lovely children…but active…so I was helping a bit…and find both parents (probably early 30s) grew up on farms.

It was a lovely breakfast.

More Thoughts on the Human Manipulation of Biological Characteristics: Part 2

At our Partner Meeting this morning an interesting discussion arose regarding natural genetic evolution/modification versus human driven, biotechnological genetic modifications/changes.

One of the Partners had an important comment that natural modification always involves a complex array of biological occurrences….and that those additional factors are an integral part of biological evolution…and, in turn, agriculture.

Both of the young farmer Partners are skeptical of biotechnological genetic modification because it alters what they see as a fundamental ethic of biological evolution.

My sense from them was not so much a concern for unintended consequences  – although they are concerned about unintended consequences – as they are concerned about an intuitive ‘wrongness’ about altering the complexity of natural genetic modification.

Somehow we potentially head down an ethical black hole without the natural complexity.

It much better defined – for me – a parallel to the cultural debasement that occurs in societies that become spiritually wounded, shallow, and materialistic.

Justice

Martin Luther King often said justice is the result of love.

From Wikipedia:

Justice is the legal or philosophical theory by which fairness is administered. The concept of justice differs in every culture. An early theory of justice was set out by the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato in his work The Republic. Advocates of divine command theory argue that justice issues from God. In the 17th century, theorists like John Locke argued for the theory of natural law. Thinkers in the social contract tradition argued that justice is derived from the mutual agreement of everyone concerned. In the 19th century, utilitarian thinkers including John Stuart Mill argued that justice is what has the best consequences. Theories of distributive justice concern what is distributed, between whom they are to be distributed, and what is the proper distribution. Egalitarians argued that justice can only exist within the coordinates of equality. John Rawls used a social contract argument to show that justice, and especially distributive justice, is a form of fairness. Property rights theorists (like Robert Nozick) take a deontological view of distributive justice and argue that property rights-based justice maximizes the overall wealth of an economic system.

A farm lovingly managed exhibits just relationships.

More Thoughts on the Human Manipulation of Biological Characteristics – Transgenics

Transgenics refers to those specific genetic engineering processes that remove genetic material from one species of plant or animal and add it to a different species.

The field of transgenics allows scientists to develop organisms that express a novel trait not normally found in a species; for example, potatoes that are protein rich, or rice that has elevated levels of vitamin A (known as “golden rice”). Transgenics may be also used to save endangered species such as the American Chestnut tree, which is currently being repopulated by Chinese-American chestnut hybrids specifically engineered with a genetic resistance to the chestnut blight—the deadly fungus that nearly decimated native populations in the early 1900s.

Ethical Issues

Transgenic biotechnology presents an exciting range of possibilities, from feeding the hungry to preventing and treating diseases; however, these promises are not without potential peril. Some of the issues that need to be considered are the following:

Social Concerns

  • If the blending of animal and human DNA results, intentionally or not, in chimeric entities possessing degrees of intelligence or sentience never before seen in nonhuman animals, should these entities be given rights and special protections?
  • What, if any, social and legal controls or reviews should be placed on such research?
  • What unintended personal, social, and cultural consequences could result?
  • Who will have access to these technologies and how will scarce resources—such as medical advances and novel treatments—be allocated?

Extrinsic Concerns

  • What, if any, health risks are associated with transgenics and genetically modified foods?
  • Are there long-term effects on the environment when transgenic or genetically modified organisms are released in the field?
  • Should research be limited and, if so, how should the limits be decided? How should the limits be enforced nationally and internationally?

Intrinsic Concerns

  • Are there fundamental issues with creating new species?
  • Are species boundaries “hard” or should they be viewed as a continuum? What, if any, consequences are there of blurring species boundaries?
  • Are chimeras and transgenics more likely to suffer than “traditional” organisms?
  • Will transgenic interventions in humans create physical or behavioral traits that may or may not be readily distinguished from what is usually perceived to be “human”?
  • What, if any, research in genetic engineering should be considered morally impermissible and banned (e.g., research undertaken for purely offensive military purposes)?
  • Will these interventions redefine what it means to be “normal”?

The Issue of Species Boundaries

Some individuals argue that crossing species boundaries is unnatural, immoral, and in violation of God’s laws, which presumes that species boundaries are fixed and readily delineated.15 However, several books and journal articles demonstrate that the concept of fixed species boundaries continues to be a hotly debated topic. Some bioethicists point out that a variety of species concepts exist: biological, morphological, ecological, typological, evolutionary, and phylogenetic, to name a few. All of these definitions of what a species is reflect both changing theories and the varying purposes for which individuals conceptualize and utilize different species.20 If species boundaries are simply a matter of a naming convention, and there are no truly fixed boundaries to cross, then many philosophical objections to transgenics are rendered less problematic.

In addition to the issue of species boundaries, there are other issues that need to be considered and discussed prior to large-scale acceptance and usage of transgenics and other genetic engineering research, including:

  • the risks and benefits of the experimental use of animals;
  • the risk of creating new diseases—for which there is no treatment—by combining animal DNA or human DNA with plant DNA;
  • the potential long-term risks to the environment;
  • the potential for increased suffering of transgenic organisms. Various bioethicists, environmentalists, and animal rights activists have argued that it is wrong to create animals that would suffer as a result of genetic alteration (for example, a pig with no legs) and that such experimentation should be banned.

Source: Ethical Issues in Genetic Engineering and Transgenics, Linda MacDonald Glenn

Note: I would add many of these ethical issues are from the perspective there could be some  control/management/regulating of biological manipulations. I believe numerous additional ethical questions arise when you introduce uncertainty over ‘who uses and how’.

A Failure to Improve the Lives of Rural Small Farmers

Long-Delayed Rules to Protect Small Farmers Might be Too Little Too Late

Siena Chrisman in Civil Eats does a postmortem on efforts during the Obama Administration to improve the law and policy for small farm operators.

My question:

Why believe that Congress and the Executive Administration will provide equitable, reasonable, and environmentally/economically intelligent legal solutions to our social problems when those congresspeople and administrative executives are driven by – and dependent on – large sums of money that can only be provided by aggregated enterprises or aggregating individuals? – and unfortunately too many of them in our current economy are not morally sound.

We live in a post-aggregated economy – the money is highly concentrated. The folks who are in Congress and the Administration (Obama or Trump…or whomever is next) have accepted the monetary system of American politics.

We are almost all money-dependent. The question is about the ethical nature of our financial support system.

This in no way implies that individuals or institutions cannot obtain great wealth in a morally responsible manner. They can.

The issue is the ethical, moral, and religious basis for individual and institutional action.

From a previous post:

Agriculture and food are intellectual gateways to culture.

We are not going to farm well (properly) by legislating morally shallow enterprises.

To continue building a sound culture and agriculture is going to be  long and expensive…. and require people of excellent character spreading the good news of healthy food and nutrition.