Worster, Donald.  Human Ecology. The Wealth of Nature
New York
Oxford University Press, Inc.
1993
ISBN 0195076249

Page 89

In an earlier America of extensive rural poverty and poor living conditions more could be said for the vigorous pursuit of wealth in the marketplace, just as more may be said for it today in Bangladesh or Haiti. But when that pursuit persists beyond the point of material sufficiency, when it becomes a dream of unlimited economic gain, troubles follow. That is what has happened to American farmers and indeed to this country in general. Farmers must run their machines nonstop to keep up with the self-aggrandizing industrialist. The faster farmers go, the more crops they harvest, the more secure their position in the marketplace may be, the more they can buy—so they hope. But what they win in that way lasts only for a brief while. A continual uncertainty is their fate in this society.

The average farmer is not altogether responsible for this predicament. He did not set up the race, and he is not leading in it but is somewhere back in the pack, straining to catch up with corporate presidents, athletes, lawyers, movie stars, and engineers. The modern farmer lives in an intensely high-pressure world of many wealth maximizers. In the milieu, growing food becomes his only defense, his sole means of competing for social position. Unfortunately for him, food has been a comparatively poor basis for income growth, for it quickly saturates its market: humans can eat only so much lettuce or beef. Unlike others in the race, the farmer must always confront the biological limits of the consumer. He cannot make more money without finding more mouths and bellies to feed. Agriculture, by its very nature, is a productive activity that deals primarily with real human needs, not the contrived wants around which the game of maximization revolves. That difference must inescapably put the farmer at a disadvantage.