Famine, Crop Yields, Food Surpluses, Irrigation, Plow, Crop Rotation, Cultivars, Fertilizers, Pesticides, Tractor, Railroad and Ships

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 5th, 2013

Technology 101

(Originally published May 23rd, 2012)

Because of Advances in Farming Fewer People could Grow more Food

Cold weather kills people.  A lot of people throughout history have died during winters as they exhausted their food supplies.  That’s why preparing for the winter was serious business.  You had to store enough food to carry you through the winter.  And if the fall harvests were poor it spelled big trouble.  And famine.  It’s hard to imagine what this was like.  A long winter ahead of you with an insufficient food supply.  It was scary.  For it meant some people would die before the spring came.  Hard to fathom this in a day where you can actually drive your car through a blizzard to your favorite greasy diner or fast food restaurant for a delicious hot meal to take off the chill of the coldest winter day.  It wasn’t always like this.

And it wasn’t only long winters that killed people.  Sometimes the long summers did.  Where there were insufficient rains.  And drought.  That destroyed crops and drastically reduced fall harvests.  You don’t hear much about famine these days in the U.S, Canada, Britain, France, Germany or other advanced nations.  But underdeveloped and impoverished nations suffer famine to this day.  Why?  Two primary reasons.  Improved crop yields.  And improved transportation.  The advanced nations have them.  The impoverished nations don’t.

Improved crop yields create food surpluses.  Key to civilization itself.  Food surpluses allowed a middle class to arise because everyone did not have to grow food.  Because of advances in farming fewer people could grow more food. Those who didn’t have to grow food could think about other things.  Including ways to further improve crop yields.  By creating better tools.  Better techniques.  Better food storage.  And when you do all of these things you not only have enough food for yourself and for your surplus you have enough to export.  To those who do not have enough food.  Even allowing people to live in areas that cannot produce food.  For they can trade for food.  Thanks to these surpluses available for export.

Food is so Plentiful and Inexpensive Today that the Problem in America is not Famine but Obesity

Early farms relied on the fertile soil of river banks.  The spring flooding of the rivers raised river levels.  When the water retreated it left behind fertile soil.  Eventually we learned how to take control of our water resources.  And used it to make fertile land away from river banks.  Using irrigation.  Bringing the water to the land.  Probably the next great development was the plow.  Which let us take control of the land.  We tilled the soil to aerate it.  To control weeds.  To mix in organic material.  Such as manure.  To prepare it for planting.  And we used irrigation to bring those crops to harvest.

We then developed crop rotation to replenish nitrogen in the soil.  And to control pests.  Certain pests attack certain crops.  By rotating crops pest infestation couldn’t spread and return year after year.  Families of crops need certain nutrients.  Rotation prevents the depletion of any single nutrient.  Then we took control of the plants we grew.  By creating new plants.  Cultivars.  Using selective breeding to increase grain size, the number of grains per plant, improve disease resistance, etc.

Then we turned to chemistry.  Creating fertilizers.  And pesticides.  These two advancements alone exploded crop yields.  Never before did so few grow so much with so little.  We maximized the agricultural potential of land year after year.  And then we mechanized the farm.  Introducing the tractor.  Allowing the same number of farmers to cultivate more land.  So not only did their existing lands yield more they added more high-yield lands to explode yields.  Creating huge food surpluses available for export.  And slashing the price of food across the board.  From the bread we make from wheat.  To corn-fed beef.  Food is so plentiful and inexpensive today that the problem in America is not famine but obesity.  Obesity is bad but it takes a lot longer to die from obesity than it does from famine.  And we enjoy all of those delicious things that are making us so fat.  While there’s nothing to enjoy when starving to death.

We were able to Raise Crop Yields to such High Levels we have Food Available for Everyone in this World

As crop yields increased more food entered the market.  Good for people.  But bad for farmers.  Because they depressed crop prices.  Large farms that cultivated more land could still make a profit.  But the small farmer who didn’t cultivate more land just saw his revenue fall.  Until his revenue fell below his costs.  Leaving him unable to service the debt he incurred to mechanize his farm.  Causing bankruptcy.  Which happened a lot in the Thirties.  Causing all those bank runs during the Great Depression.

To fight this free fall in crop prices countries enacted tariffs and import restrictions.  The British Corn Laws kept out the less expensive foreign food so the landowning aristocracy could maximize their profits.  And when the British repealed the Corn Laws and adopted free trade everything the landowning aristocracy feared happen.  Food became inexpensive and plentiful.  In large part because of the United States.  Who was maximizing their crop yields.  And then using the railroad to ship their surpluses to the great rivers.  The Ohio.  The Missouri.  The Mississippi.  Where they loaded these surpluses onto steamships.  Where it traveled down the Mississippi to the Port of New Orleans.  Where they transferred it to ocean-going sail ships and steamers.  Bound for Europe.  And Britain.  Where this food fed hungry people.  And cut into the profits of the wealthy landowners.

But it wasn’t only in the United States.  Soon other great agricultural countries produced food surpluses that they shipped all over the world.  Winters still happen.  Droughts still happen.  But they don’t happen everywhere at the same time.  And because we were able to raise crop yields to such high levels we have food available for everyone in the world.  And truck, rail and ships can move that food anywhere it is needed.  Which is why we can drive to our favorite greasy diner or fast food restaurant during a blizzard on the coldest day of winter and enjoy a fresh glass of orange juice, coffee, eggs, hash browns and sausage.  No matter where you live.  As long as you live in a country that supports free trade.

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2012 Endorsements: John Adams

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 24th, 2012

2012 Election

John Adams was descended from the Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock

John Adams was the Rodney Dangerfield of the Founding Fathers.  He got no respect.  However deserving he was of respect.  The man was brilliant.  Well read.  Honest.  Virtuous.  But irascible.  And vain.  He knew he was right when he was right.  And was more than eager to argue with anyone that was wrong.  Which was most of the time.  Tending to make most people not love him.  A lot.  Earning him monikers like His Rotundity.  Because he was portly.  Irascible.  And not really loved.  Which bothered Adams.  For he was one of the greatest of the Founding Fathers.  But others got all the love.  Such as Thomas Jefferson.  The junior Congressman they delegated the writing of the Declaration of Independence to after Adams did all the heavy lifting in Congressional debate to lead the nation to declare their independence.  While Jefferson sat through all those heated debates silently.  For, unlike Adams, Jefferson did not like public confrontations.  He preferred stabbing people in the back through surrogates.  Or in the press.  As Adams would learn firsthand during the 1800 presidential election.

Adams was a very religious man.  His family descended from the Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock.  Who stressed filling your day with hard work and going to church.  And if you had any time left in the day you might get a little eating or sleeping in.  Adams was a farmer.  And had the hands of a working man.  But he was also a lawyer.  A very good lawyer.  Who had as much reverence for the law as he did for his religion.  So much so that he represented the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.  After the Stamp Act (1765) things were getting a little heated in Boston.  Adams then wrote the Braintree Instructions in response to the Stamp Act.  Stating that there should be no taxation without representation.  Calling for trial by jury.  And an independent judiciary.  Things the British denied the good people in the American colonies.  But things Adams insisted that the Americans shouldn’t deny to the British soldiers who shot those Americans in Boston.  So he represented the British on trial when no one else would take the case.  And he got a jury of Bostonians to acquit all but two who they found guilty of manslaughter.

Just about every Bostonian wanted the British soldiers found guilty of murder and hung.  Bu the rule of law prevailed.  As Adams convinced  the jury that the British did not just open fire on innocent bystanders.  There was a mob harassing the British.  Throwing snowballs and chunks of ice.  And other projectiles.  Someone knocked a British soldier to the ground.  While the mob grew in size.  And in intensity.  Provoking the British to discharge their weapons.  As much as the British killing these Americans bothered Adams so did an unruly mob.  His religious teachings emphasized hard work and prayer.  Not drunkenness and mob violence.  However, Boston had always had drunken, unruly mobs.  But they didn’t always get shot by British redcoats.  So why did they this time?  Because British redcoats were quartered within the city of Boston.  This was the kindling that led to the mob action.  Which was yet another British violation of the good people of Boston.

A Strong enough Naval Force acts like an Impregnable Fortress Wall to any Hostile Power

When the British marched to Lexington and Concord to seize some weapons in 1775 and exchanged shots with the Americans a state of war existed.  The Revolutionary War had started even though their declaration of independence was another year away.  Up to this time most of the trouble with the British was in Massachusetts.  And some states wanted to leave it in Massachusetts.  Which was a problem for Massachusetts.  For they couldn’t take on the British Empire by themselves.  But if the states united together they had a chance.  Adams understood this.  So when it came time to choose a commander for the Continental Army he looked to a Virginian.  George Washington.  After they voted to declare their independence he looked at another Virginian to write the Declaration of Independence.  Thomas Jefferson.  Understanding that they had to make this an American Revolution.  Not just a Massachusetts one.  For only a union of their several states could withstand the mightiest military power on the planet.  But not just any union.  One that would release all the latent energies of the several states.  A republican union.

After declaring their independence the first order of business for the states was to replace the British governing structure.  And that started with the writing of new constitutions.  To make those new state governments.  That could join in a republican union.  Something Adams had given much thought and study to.  He believed in the separation of powers between the executive, the judicial and the legislative branches.  To provide checks and balances.  And a bicameral legislature.  A lower house to represent the common people.  And an upper house to represent the rich people.  With an executive to represent the state.  Such that the interests of the many, the few and the one were all represented.  Similar to Great Britain’s two houses of Parliament (House of Commons and House of Lords) and the king.  Though, of course, having versions of these that weren’t corrupt.  Thus not allowing one group of people (or person) to dictate policy to the other group of people (or person).  Thereby avoiding a pure democracy and mob rule.  A characteristic of a single-house legislature.  As France would demonstrate during their French Revolution.

After delegating the busy work of writing the Declaration of Independence to the junior member from Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, Adams dove into the work of building a navy.  What he liked to call ‘wooden walls’.  For a strong enough naval force acted like an impregnable fortress wall to any hostile power.  The British Empire ruled the world because the Royal Navy was the most powerful navy in the world.  She could protect her coasts.  Prevent the landing of armies.  Keep foreign warships out of canon range of her cities.  And even protect her trade routes.  In a day of competing mercantile empires dependent on their shipping lanes having a navy to protect those shipping lanes made the difference between empire and former empire.  As few picked fights with the nations with the big navies.  Adams understood this.  And he believed in it.  Peace through strength.  For a strong navy was a deterrent to aggressive nations.

If John Adams were Alive Today he would Likely Endorse the Republican Candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan

But Adams was no warmonger.  During his presidency Napoleon came to power in France and was waging war across Europe.  And against American shipping.  Once again Adams fought to build up the navy.  To erect those wooden walls.  To be able to protect American shipping on the open seas as France and Great Britain returned to war.  President Washington maintained a policy of neutrality in their latest war.  Adams continued that policy.  Which infuriated the French.  And the American people.  As the French had helped the Americans win their revolution the French and the American people believed the Americans should help the French win theirs.  So the French seized American shipping.  And demanded tribute from the American ambassadors in France before beginning any peace discussions.  When news of this leaked out to the American people (known as the XYZ Affair) the public sentiment on France changed.  And soon everyone was demanding a declaration of war on France.  Adams tried one more peace commission while at the same time the growing American navy fought back against French naval aggression in an undeclared war.  The Quasi-War.  Eventually peace came.  Through strength.

Adams was pretty much everywhere in the making of the American nation.  From the Braintree Instructions to supporting George Washington to winning the debate for independence to the writing of states’ constitutions to building a republican union.  He helped build American naval power.  And he avoided war with France when just about everybody wanted war with France.  But one place he was not was in Philadelphia in 1787.  Even though his constitution writing skills were second to none he did not help draft the U.S. Constitution.  For he was busy in Holland.  Getting the first foreign power (the Netherlands) to recognize the United States following their victory in the Revolutionary War.  He negotiated a Dutch loan.  Negotiated a treaty of amity and commerce with the Dutch.  And established the first American-owned embassy on foreign soil.

If Adams were alive today he probably would not be a fan of the Democrat Party.  And their constant use of class warfare.  Especially when the top 10% of earners pay about 70% of all federal income taxes.  While about 50% of the population pays no federal income taxes.  This does not represent the interests of the many, the few and the one.  The few pay the majority of tax revenue and have the least say in how that money is spent.  Taking the nation closer to a pure democracy.  And mob rule.  While at the same time the Democrats use the courts to write unpopular legislation they want but can’t pass in Congress.  Where a few judges can write law through court opinions.  A great offense to a pure jurist like Adams.  And transforming ‘the one’ into a leviathan of special interests and cronyism.  Knowing how hard it was to secure loans to pay the nation’s war debt in his day he would be appalled at the size of the annual deficits and the accumulated debt today.  And the constant refrain that the rich need to pay their fair share even though about 10% of all Americans are already paying approximately 70% of the tax bill.  The character assassination of Mitt Romney by the Obama Campaign would be too reminiscent of the abuse he suffered through in the 1800 election.  And as a firm believer in the policy of peace through strength he would not like the massive cuts in defense spending.  Which will only encourage more attacks like the one on the American embassy in Benghazi.  An obvious sign that our enemies don’t fear us.  And are not deterred by our strength.  No, if John Adams were alive today he would likely endorse the Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

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Famine, Crop Yields, Food Surpluses, Irrigation, Plow, Crop Rotation, Cultivars, Fertilizers, Pesticides, Tractor, Railroad and Ships

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 23rd, 2012

Technology 101

Because of Advances in Farming Fewer People could Grow more Food

Cold weather kills people.  A lot of people throughout history have died during winters as they exhausted their food supplies.  That’s why preparing for the winter was serious business.  You had to store enough food to carry you through the winter.  And if the fall harvests were poor it spelled big trouble.  And famine.  It’s hard to imagine what this was like.  A long winter ahead of you with an insufficient food supply.  It was scary.  For it meant some people would die before the spring came.  Hard to fathom this in a day where you can actually drive your car through a blizzard to your favorite greasy diner or fast food restaurant for a delicious hot meal to take off the chill of the coldest winter day.  It wasn’t always like this.

And it wasn’t only long winters that killed people.  Sometimes the long summers did.  Where there were insufficient rains.  And drought.  That destroyed crops and drastically reduced fall harvests.  You don’t hear much about famine these days in the U.S, Canada, Britain, France, Germany or other advanced nations.  But underdeveloped and impoverished nations suffer famine to this day.  Why?  Two primary reasons.  Improved crop yields.  And improved transportation.  The advanced nations have them.  The impoverished nations don’t.

Improved crop yields create food surpluses.  Key to civilization itself.  Food surpluses allowed a middle class to arise because everyone did not have to grow food.  Because of advances in farming fewer people could grow more food. Those who didn’t have to grow food could think about other things.  Including ways to further improve crop yields.  By creating better tools.  Better techniques.  Better food storage.  And when you do all of these things you not only have enough food for yourself and for your surplus you have enough to export.  To those who do not have enough food.  Even allowing people to live in areas that cannot produce food.  For they can trade for food.  Thanks to these surpluses available for export.

Food is so Plentiful and Inexpensive Today that the Problem in America is not Famine but Obesity

Early farms relied on the fertile soil of river banks.  The spring flooding of the rivers raised river levels.  When the water retreated it left behind fertile soil.  Eventually we learned how to take control of our water resources.  And used it to make fertile land away from river banks.  Using irrigation.  Bringing the water to the land.  Probably the next great development was the plow.  Which let us take control of the land.  We tilled the soil to aerate it.  To control weeds.  To mix in organic material.  Such as manure.  To prepare it for planting.  And we used irrigation to bring those crops to harvest. 

We then developed crop rotation to replenish nitrogen in the soil.  And to control pests.  Certain pests attack certain crops.  By rotating crops pest infestation couldn’t spread and return year after year.  Families of crops need certain nutrients.  Rotation prevents the depletion of any single nutrient.  Then we took control of the plants we grew.  By creating new plants.  Cultivars.  Using selective breeding to increase grain size, the number of grains per plant, improve disease resistance, etc. 

Then we turned to chemistry.  Creating fertilizers.  And pesticides.  These two advancements alone exploded crop yields.  Never before did so few grow so much with so little.  We maximized the agricultural potential of land year after year.  And then we mechanized the farm.  Introducing the tractor.  Allowing the same number of farmers to cultivate more land.  So not only did their existing lands yield more they added more high-yield lands to explode yields.  Creating huge food surpluses available for export.  And slashing the price of food across the board.  From the bread we make from wheat.  To corn-fed beef.  Food is so plentiful and inexpensive today that the problem in America is not famine but obesity.  Obesity is bad but it takes a lot longer to die from obesity than it does from famine.  And we enjoy all of those delicious things that are making us so fat.  While there’s nothing to enjoy when starving to death. 

We were able to Raise Crop Yields to such High Levels we have Food Available for Everyone in this World

As crop yields increased more food entered the market.  Good for people.  But bad for farmers.  Because they depressed crop prices.  Large farms that cultivated more land could still make a profit.  But the small farmer who didn’t cultivate more land just saw his revenue fall.  Until his revenue fell below his costs.  Leaving him unable to service the debt he incurred to mechanize his farm.  Causing bankruptcy.  Which happened a lot in the Thirties.  Causing all those bank runs during the Great Depression.

To fight this free fall in crop prices countries enacted tariffs and import restrictions.  The British Corn Laws kept out the less expensive foreign food so the landowning aristocracy could maximize their profits.  And when the British repealed the Corn Laws and adopted free trade everything the landowning aristocracy feared happen.  Food became inexpensive and plentiful.  In large part because of the United States.  Who was maximizing their crop yields.  And then using the railroad to ship their surpluses to the great rivers.  The Ohio.  The Missouri.  The Mississippi.  Where they loaded these surpluses onto steamships.  Where it traveled down the Mississippi to the Port of New Orleans.  Where they transferred it to ocean-going sail ships and steamers.  Bound for Europe.  And Britain.  Where this food fed hungry people.  And cut into the profits of the wealthy landowners.

But it wasn’t only in the United States.  Soon other great agricultural countries produced food surpluses that they shipped all over the world.  Winters still happen.  Droughts still happen.  But they don’t happen everywhere at the same time.  And because we were able to raise crop yields to such high levels we have food available for everyone in the world.  And truck, rail and ships can move that food anywhere it is needed.  Which is why we can drive to our favorite greasy diner or fast food restaurant during a blizzard on the coldest day of winter and enjoy a fresh glass of orange juice, coffee, eggs, hash browns and sausage.  No matter where you live.  As long as you live in a country that supports free trade.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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