Technology and Wages LO7678

Ray Evans Harrell (
Thu, 30 May 1996 03:44:24 -0400

Replying to LO7495 --

Technology and Wages LO7495

I've been following the list on netscape due to some problems with my
e-mail but I want to express my enjoyment and appreciation for the work on
this thread.

Joan Pomo said on Sun, 19 May at 09:02:
>IMHO we will be the same kind of human beings we are now and as such
>will adapt to any new circumstance. Manufacturing jobs are going the
>way of agricultural jobs - down. In the U.S., at one point over 30%
>of us were employed in agriculture and now it is less than 3% even
>though we produce far more agricultural products than ever.

>Will we continue down the road taken by the
>French or the Germans and almost completely preclude job growth while
>blaming business or will we learn from their mistakes and reduce
>government regulation/control? The latest company bashing certainly
>portends the worst as does the class warfare being waged

Actually Joan, we aren't producing more agricultural products per acre
than ever. The methods of the Inca and Nahuatl farmers were the greatest
crop yield per acre. It also had the advantage of maintaining the soil
with a constant supply of natural nutrients. All we can really say about
modern agriculture is that it is less tasty and is collected faster and
more destructively than ever. The chemical fertilizers and pesticides are
only now beginning to show their destructive capabilities for humans
although they have made the soil unable to absorb moisture in many cases
and if the droughts ever release the sand under the soil in the midwest,
we will have no agriculture to speak of on the plains. See Tuesday's
NYTimes Science section.

If on the other hand there was a return to more logical and nutritious
farming methods, planning ahead for the drought that is bound to come, by
developing plants that hold and nurture the life within the soil, we would
probably be able to survive the great drought that happens occasionally.
The last one was in 1860 but the prairie grass was still intact and there
were millions of Buffalo and other wildlife to sustain the soil.
Returning the land that is not stable enough for deep ploughing to the
large herding of Buffalo and Antelope, for example, you could develop soil
instead of using it up. Do we have to have a world wide famine before we
act on this? The last farmland to be developed was in the 1930s. There
is no more. In fact we are using what there is up with city development
and loss to the deserts.

One must never forget the arrogant ex-farmers of the Green Mountains in
New England where they were warned, by the Abenaki Indians, not to clear
cut the trees and use a deep plough on the soil. They were told to use a
digging stick lest the giant people in the earth be disturbed and come up.
The "pioneers" coming from the hovels of Europe didn't have much
appreciation for the translation of metaphor and so they went ahead and
clear cut the trees and deep ploughed the land and the stones came up. The
top soil disappeared and you have present day whitestone Vermont/ New
Hampshire. Anyone who had bothered to learn the Abenaki stories would
have known about the "stone giants."

If the modern department of agriculture and congressional agricultural
sub-committees were more scientific in their research and planning, (It is
embarrassing to talk to many of the delegation members) and offered grants
to develop a more scientific attitude (definitely less short term market
oriented) towards the shepherding of the land, then the cycle could be
renewed instead of the 70% depletion of the plains in the last 100 years.
The use of the word "technology" in this context is so poor as to be a
part of the semantic problem. I would suggest not using it.

If the AGILE and LEAN manufacturing programs that eliminate jobs and call
for the development of a new value system around the meaning of work are
the future (and that seems certain) then encouraging and training some of
those workers to work the land in an efficient renewable manner would make
sense. They might even learn how not to destroy the wild rice and turn it
into the garbage crop the miracle of modern agriculture has done. Forget
the tomatoes and most of the other crops developed by American Indian
agricultural scientists prior to European contact, these bear little
resemblance to the real thing although I am told they still exist in

Fred Nichols added.
>>We do have a bit of a chicken and egg problem here because it is
>>not clear if people were forced off the farm by increases in
>>productivity there, or if productivity there was driven by people
>> leaving for the factory. In any event, the migration took place
>>and the increased productivity happened.

>>Where we seem to be at this point is poised on the edge of another
>>great displacement. Armies of service workers, especially clerical
>>workers, can be displaced by automation (which is different from
>>mechanization). Changed management methods, reengineering, and
>>the like, have the potential to do much more than simply decimate or
>>take out one in ten managers, it could leave only one in ten standing.

According to my relatives who were on the land in the 1930s, the problem
was not productivity but the farmers ignorance of the needs of the land.
It took the lessons of the hardship brought on by the drought to convince
all seven children of my Grandparents to leave the farm and get college
degrees. If you talk to the farmers and their representatives today they
are using the same language that was used prior to the 1930s. It is truly
frightening to listen to a politician say that he mustn't reason but
simply represent the attitudes of his constituents. Maybe there is a wave
form that follows the weather and is expressed in the attitudes of the
farmers, a sort of massive denial of their vulnerability and thus ours.

In any event the point must be made that "productivity" in relation to
agriculture is a market term and not an agricultural one. It may be
cheaper in the short term but if farming becomes like oil, a diminishing
resource, then we had better have a depletion allowance for the farmers
and plan for much less "productivity" with much higher prices for the
consumer, in the future. If this seems a long way from an organization
that learns, we might consider why our human organizations don't seem to
be capable of learning these rather basic principles of how to align an
organization with an externally superior system. We might also consider
that the first element of team work is an accurate assessment of the
resources and their limitations contained within, not only the team, but
the team environment as well.

Thanks again for the work on this thread. As an artist I believe that the
beginning of the development of learning is found in the mechanism of the
ideal and intentionality. The development of trust and loyalty within a
business system while maintaining profitability and creativity is an often
mentioned issue in the archives and in my original post. For a lighter
read on all of this you might consider seeing the movie "To Die For" with
Nicole Kidman. She represents a rather basic business "values" attitude
while her husband's family represents the power of family and ethnic
relationships. When these two principles (one glitzy show-biz attractive,
short term and murderous, the other banal, smothering, basic and
murderous) collide as they often do in modern economics you can justify
almost anything as long as you stay within that system of thought. Ever
been caught in a trap like that?

Ray Evans Harrell

-- (Ray Evans Harrell)

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