WARNING: LACK OF COHESION AHEAD. THIS POST MAY CAUSE HEADACHES AND DIZZINESS.
I would just like to point out that I am fully intending to homestead one day and the point of this post is to explore the ethics behind my decision. I am not ragging on homesteading. :)
I’m big on society. Splitting all our essential tasks up and divvying them out between us so that each task is performed by specialists such as farmers, power companies, builders, engineers etc. has allowed humanity to develop into the flourishing, creative and high achieving species that we are today. The formation of societies wherein individuals work together for more than just protection has freed up the time of many to perform non-essential tasks. I guess I should clarify what I mean by essential and non-essential.
Essential tasks are those which cater for our most basic needs. I’m sure most people know what their basic needs for existence are but I’m going to use Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs to illustrate my point:
So according to Maslow, our basic needs are: food, air, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep and sex. While I guess sex is an important biological need, it’s not vital to individual survival so I’m going to ignore it for now. (Although I guess societies have a specialised group of people to cater to that need too).
Straight away it’s easy to see how societies have people to cater for our basic needs. Though initially I was a bit uncertain of how society provides air, I think it’s fair to say that government pollution regulations are now providing that in a sense. Catering for our basic biological needs doesn’t require the whole of the population which frees up plenty of people to fulfil our higher needs, from safety through to self-actualisation. And that’s what makes society so friggin’ awesome.
My issue with homesteading stems from the idea of removing one’s self from society. While I believe people should be able to ‘opt out’ of society, would it be right to do so?
Now I know that many homesteading families have at least one member still in employment and so are still contributing to society in that fashion. However, I question the effect of their reduced economic input. Spending less money on food, which is often a reasonably significant portion of their expenses, means less cash flow. How negative is the impact this would have? Probably not very at all.
But what if a large number of the population decided to homestead? Perhaps the cash flow would simply shift; rather than going to supermarkets and corporations it would move through local markets and farmers, growers and breeders. But it would never be as much as if all food were to be purchased through the supermarkets, due to the nature of homesteading, i.e., seed-saving and breeding your live stock to replenish those slaughtered.
Of course the reality is that only a tiny fraction of the population homesteads, or has the desire to, so the overall economic impact is tiny. Even if there were vast numbers of people looking to homestead, there’s a natural limit due to land availability. Although there is more than enough land for every family to own an acre in the UK, and a few acres in the US, not all of that land is farmable. Even if it were that would deprive us of the space and man power needed to sustain society as we know it, full of the luxuries and benefits that we enjoy and are hardly likely to give up.
Thankfully that’s not going to happen.
So what was the point of this post? Well, it is an introduction to the big-picture impact of homesteading. In coming articles I am going to address aspects of homesteading that include: a more detailed look at economics, energy, responsibility to the less fortunate, responsibility to society, and society’s responsibility to homesteaders.
I apologise for the weird flow and lack of focus in this post, I’ll probably write a more coherent revised version in the future, but for now this will do.