Catholic Worker View of NAFTA/Immigration

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I am a pretty big fan of the Catholic Worker movement and Dorothy Day. I see strengths in both liberal and conservative tendencies, and find both indications in my reading of the official documents and speeches/letters of our Catholic Hierarchy on political matters.

The following article is one that was published in the Houston Catholic Worker Newspaper back in 2008.  The author, Dawn McCarty is a frequent writer and volunteer at the Worker House in Houston. She seems to combine the head and heart in her approach to the issue of illegal Mexican immigration into the U.S. I offer her analysis for your commentary:

NAFTA Key to Immigration Problems in the United States

By Dawn McCarty

Dawn McCarty teaches at the University of Houston-Downtown.

“Illegal” immigration has become a hot-button political topic, but one aspect of the issue is rarely discussed: what happens to the families left behind in Mexico when the husband/father (and increasingly, the mother) immigrates to the United States? To find out, I traveled to 15 different communities in central Mexico in 2006 and 2007, formally interviewing 65 women, others informally, and working as a participant observer in two cooperative organizations of women whose husbands had gone to the U.S. In this article and others to follow, I will weave the stories of the women I met into a discussion of the larger structural, political and theological questions posed by this unprecedented movement of people from their homes in mostly rural Mexico to a country that could hardly be more different. Within the context of these stories, I hope to share my confidence that we can understand and resolve many of the issues about immigration that contribute to the growing human suffering on both sides of the U.S. Mexico border. And, most importantly, I hope to share the optimism that I felt after every interview I conducted in Mexico, the belief that good and compassion are stronger than greed and fear. Despite the poverty, struggles and family loss I encountered, I left certain that we can and we must do better.

The first step is to look at the economic and political causes of the desperation that drives today’s migration. Although there has been a long history of migration from Mexico to the U.S., the current situation represents a fundamental change in both the pattern and the scale of this movement between the two countries. These differences are what are having such a profound effect on the families left behind in Mexico.

The causes of the changes in immigration patterns are varied and complicated, but the key factor is the policies associated with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Nowhere is this clearer than in the rural, agricultural areas of Mexico, where working-age men and, increasingly, single women are scarce, unable now to make the living that their ancestors had made for centuries on land they used to own. Protected by the 1917 Constitution of Mexico, ejido lands, as they are called, belonged to the people in common and could not be sold. Communally owned lands that giant agribusiness interests could not legally buy was the polar opposite of the free-market ideology of NAFTA. Against years of precedent, then-President Salinas managed to change the Mexican Constitution in 1992 so that ejido lands could be made the “private” property of individual members of the collective, who then could sell their plot of land to private individuals. This privatization of ejido land was a critical component of NAFTA, since these communal lands comprised 29,000 communities and three million producers, encompassing 75% of all agricultural production at the time (Davis, Stecklov & Winters 2002).

As ejidos were broken up and title given to the individual campesinos , these poorly educated farm laborers tried to make a living on their small plots of land, just as their ancestors had done for centuries. But now that they owned the land individually, they found that the rules of the game had been changed. The government subsidies that had allowed ejidos to survive were now disallowed by NAFTA. The tariffs that protected them from the much more “efficient” agribusiness of the U.S. were gone. But somehow U.S. agribusiness still got their government subsidies, and that fact, together with the economies of scale available to giant corporations, meant that it was cheaper for a campesino to buy American corn shipped across the border than to grow it himself on his own plot of land. There was no way the individual farmer in Mexico, left by himself to the mercies of the “free market,” could compete with the Colossus of the North. Unable to make a living on the land, no matter how hard they worked, the campesinos had to sell their patrimony, and, with no bargaining power, they sold it for a pittance. The predictable result was that much of the land that supported the rural Mexican economy now belongs to the same major corporations, and their affiliates, that own the land in the U.S.

Some of the former campesinos still get to work on the land, but it is no longer their land, and they get paid what the corporations are willing to pay. The minimum wage in Mexico is a little more than four dollars a day . Some corporations pay twice that, or more, but to get that kind of money you have to work very hard for very long hours, and be very lucky. There are many people desperate for a job, and few jobs offered. And the work is sporadic.

One community that I often visited, located in the state of Guanajuato in an area near vast acres of farmland once owned by the people and protected by the Mexican Constitution, is now the property of agribusiness. Acres of asparagus and cauliflower are grown in this area of the country, and then picked, packaged and distributed throughout the United States. Many of the people in this nearby community provide stoop-labor as pickers in these fields during season; this is considered a very, very good job.

During our third visit to a woman from this community, she asked us to walk with her down to the road to wait for two of her daughters due in from the asparagus fields; it was quitting time. A covered cattle truck pulled up at the end of the road. I expected to see food or livestock unloaded; instead, the truck was full of workers from the fields. I watched old women and men, teenage boys, all with wet shoes, and then, the two sisters, Yolanda and Marta (all names have been changed), jump down from the back of the truck. My heart sank when I recognized Marta.

You see, I had met Marta the year before. A very bright student, she had been accepted to a student culture and language exchange program in the United States. Her future looked bright. In the U.S. she would further her education, something not possible in rural Mexico, then return to help her community. What was she doing back here picking asparagus?

As we all walked towards where the food ( nopales , eggs and red sauce) was prepared, we talked about the work, the pay and the ride in the truck. I didn’t have the heart to ask about the exchange program. Instead, I asked Yolanda, the older and more outspoken sister, about riding in the truck, standing, with so many people, men and women, old and young. At the beginning of the ride, she told me, they start out with about 100 people in the truck. It’s crowded, sure, but it gets less crowded as they drop off people, asparagus field by asparagus field. It wasn’t too bad.

They work 56 hours per week, and make 120 pesos a day, the equivalent of about eleven U.S. dollars, picking a vegetable that they don’t buy because it is too expensive. Still, this is big money for rural Mexico. They take their own lunch and water; it isn’t provided, and they work everyday, including Sunday, during the short picking season. The work is very hard, and if you cannot keep up, there are plenty of unemployed people out there who can and who will. When the season is over, of course, the work ends, as does the pay. If you get hurt, well, that’s a darn shame.

Now when I talk about NAFTA in any context, academic or personal, it is Yolanda and Marta and many other women and their children I see. “This” is NAFTA; “this” is the immigration debate to me now, “this” is what is left of much of rural Mexico, women alone in communities struggling with inadequate or no remittance money, sent back by the male family members they no longer see and are destined to lose track of. This is the end of the road, the losers in the zero-sum game of globalization. In this isolated community, with no cell phone reception, no sewer or running water, we find the people upon whose backs the rich get richer.

Yolanda does not consider herself a victim, and she is not. She is grateful for the work. She loves to work with the land, to work with her hands in the soil, in nature. But coming from a land of such affluence that it is beyond the imagination of these women, I have a hard time with this. In some sort of solidarity, misguided I’m sure, I have refused since to buy or eat an asparagus, my small protest at the unfairness of a economic system that Dorothy Day described as “filthy, rotten.”

While the pre-NAFTA ejido life was not a life of luxury, the current situation is insupportable. Many areas of rural Mexico are now depopulated of working age males (Wise & Cypher, 2007). It is possible, in fact, common, to travel through rural villages and never see a male between the ages of 15 and 60. The advantages and disadvantages of NAFTA may be hotly debated in our exciting race for the Presidency, but in rural Mexico, there is no debate at all. Free trade has destroyed their economic system, leaving them the choice of migration or watching their family slowly starve.

Rural agriculture was not the only sector of the Mexican economy hurt by NAFTA, but it was the hardest hit (Polaski, 2003) . Mexican agriculture has been a massive net loser in trade with the United States, and employment in the sector has declined sharply, from 8.1 million employed workers at the end of 1993 to 6.8 million by the end of 2004. Participation in agriculture fell from 26.8% of the Mexican population in 1991 to 16.4% in 2004 with the biggest losses (1.013 million jobs) specifically among rural corn producers ( Scott, Salas & Campbell, 2006) . In the overall industry, as early as 2002, NAFTA had already forced two million farmers off their lands (Faux, 2006).

Not surprisingly then, the most recent historical immigrants from Mexico to the U.S. are displaced rural people, 64% coming from population areas of under 15,000. (Durand, Massey, & Zenteno, 2001). Of all Mexican migrants, they are the least equipped to function in an advanced industrial society such as ours. Most are in the U.S. illegally, since there are almost no legal provisions for them to immigrate. The U.S. shares a common 2,000 mile border with Mexico, a country of 105 million people with whom it is tied economically as major trading partners and socially by a long history of conquest and migration, yet Mexico has the same 20,000-visa quota as that of Botswana, Africa (Fernandez-Kelly and Massey, 2007). NAFTA, by design, is an opening of the borders for capital, investment and trade, but not for labor. This cruel contradiction is not lost on the people of Mexico I interviewed.

Several weeks after the “truck” incident I retuned to Yolanda’s community and was surprised to see her home in the middle of the day. I assumed the picking season had ended, but it had not. She had been fired because a relative got into an argument, and she, by association, was fired along with all her family members. She talked about going to the state of Zacatecas where she would live in temporary housing with others from her community and work together to pick tomatoes for 3 pesos a bushel. I wondered how long it would be until she was forced to try to migrate north to support herself and her family, without documents, across a dangerous border, particularly dangerous for women. And, that, I can both hardly stand to think about, and hope not to forget.

References

Davis, B., Stecklov, G. & Winters, P. (2002). Domestic and international migration from rural Mexico: Disaggregating the effects of network structures and composition. Population Studies, 56 (3), 291-309.

Durand, J., Massey, D. S., & Zenteno, R. M. (2001). Mexican immigration to the United States: Continuities and changes. Latin American R-esearch Review, 36 (1), 107-127.

Faux, J. (2006). The Global Class War. John Wiley and Sons: Hoboken.

Fernandez-Kelly, P., & Massey, D. S. (2007). Borders for whom? The role of NAFTA in Mexico-U.S. migration. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 610 (1), 98-118.

Polaski, S. (2003). Jobs, wages, and household income. In NAFTA’s Promise and Reality: Lessons From Mexico for the Hemisphere , ed. J. J. Audley et al. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Salas, C. (2001). The impact of NAFTA on wages and incomes in Mexico. In NAFTA at Seven, Briefing Paper. Economic Policy Institute, Washington, D.C.: EPI.

Scott, R. E., Salas, C., & Campbell, B. (2006). Revisiting NAFTA: Still not working for North America’s workers (Briefing Paper No. 173). Washington: Economic Policy Institute.

Wise, R. D., & Cypher, J. M. (2007). The strategic role of Mexican labor under NAFTA: Critical perspectives on current economic integration. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 610 (1), 120-142.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXIII, No. 3, May-June 2008.

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35 Comments

  1. EXCELLENT post! When NAFTA was passed, there were Americans who warned against this very possibility–but they were denounced as alarmists. Supposedly industry migrating to Mexico would provide jobs for all the displaced agricultural laborers. As it turned out, the only opportunities available in adequate numbers were across the border, and Americans at the time were definitely hiring. (Quite a different picture from the one the nativists paint: the one that features hordes of swarthy drug-dealer types bent on satisfying their greed by infiltrating our cities.)

  2. NAFTA and Bush destroyed the rural economy in Mexico and points south.

    We daily read and see horrific reports of famine, mass starvation, and pestilence. It’s the Irish Potato Famine being re-played (in HD) in front of our eyes!

    Their cultures, economies and nations are ruined. Let’s wreck the US and our way of life in expiation of our sins!

    Peace and justice! The common good!!!

  3. This certainly does a good job of putting human faces on the process of modernization.

    A couple point, though, at the risk of seeming heartlessly capitalist:

    – Although the constitutional reform which allowed ejido privatization was put through around the same time as NAFTA, it wasn’t actually a part of NAFTA, so much at it was part of a broader effort at economic development on the part of Mexico of which NAFTA was also a part.

    – Perverse as it may seem, one of the points of the ejido reform was precisely what is described here: reducing the number of workers employed in agriculture in Mexico. (see this brief piece from 1992 about ejido reform, written by the San Francisco Federal Reserve) Prior to the reform, as the Catholic Worker article also states, 26% of Mexican workers were agricultural workers. However, as the SF Fed article points out, agriculture was responsible for less than 10% of the Mexican GDP. In other words, farmers were among Mexico’s poorer and less productive workers. The belief was that this was that the small plots on communal land of the ejidos caused low productivity and lack of capital investment in improving the land. Mexican authorities believed that allowing privatization and selling or leasing of ejido land would allow larger farms to be established, productivity to increase, and large numbers of former farm workers to go into more productive industries. Usually, having a small percentage of your population engaged in agriculture (while having a large agricultural output) is actually a good thing for your country. For instance, the US has seen steadily increasing agricultural output from 1945 to the present, but has seen the percentage of the population working an agriculture drop from 16% to 2%.

    – Although, as the Catholic Worker article points out, the percentage of Mexican workers employed in agriculture has dropped from 26% to 16% in 20 years, the total agricultural output of Mexico has actually increased steadily throughout that period. That actually means more food, less hunger, and overall improved conditions for Mexicans overall.

    – This kind of drastic societal change always comes at a significant personal cost for those affected. The US went through this same period of increasing agricultural output, but rapidly dropping rural population. We did the 26% to 16% change between 1925 and 1945 — a period which isn’t really remembered fondly. My dad’s mother and her family were directly effected by the US version of this dislocation. They lost their farm in Ryan, Iowa, piled everyone into the Ford, and drove out to California in search of work in the early 30s. Given that Ryan now has a population of only 400, and an average income well under the national average, that may have worked out well in the end. But it was far from fun for the first decade.

  4. We did the 26% to 16% change between 1925 and 1945 — a period which isn’t really remembered fondly.

    The banking crises and associated contraction in output during the period running from the fall of 1929 through the spring of 1933 and the aftereffects thereof are why the period is not remembered fondly. These were not a necessary component of the shift from agricultural to non-agricultural employment. (One of the previous generation in my household quit farming in 1949; I cannot recall he ever said it was a wrenching experience).

  5. Certainly, the rapid shift from agricultural to city labor wasn’t the only thing going on during the depression, but for a lot of families that “lost the farm” that dislocation was a major part of the story. We even got Grapes of Wrath out of it, for all that’s worth.

    It was also the motive behind some of FDR’s more idiotic policies — like destroying large quantities of food in order to keep prices up.

    After all, for rural banks, one of the main sources of bank failures was when heavily leveraged farmers got hit with falling prices and the dust bowl at the same time, and so starting defaulting on their mortgages and heading out for the coasts. (What made it a lot easier on them than Mexican peasants, however, is that they mostly had at least an 8th grade education, which amounts to rather more than a high school education these days. And they spoke the language.)

  6. Darwin,

    You make excellent points. Part of the limits of human understanding is the consequences our actions will produce. Often the consequences are not what we expected and can frequently be for the worse (I think Health Care Reform will be an excellent example.) But one also has to look at what NAFTA has accomplished. There has been a human cost but also a human gain. The whole truth needs to be looked at so that it can be objectively assessed and good maintained and the bad corrected.
    I think such an approach is consistent with Catholic Social teaching. As Benedict XVI noted in Caritas in Veritate, charity must be in accord with the truth. Otherwise it becomes mere sentimentalism. So a detailed, economic analysis of NAFTA along with the personal stories is required by CST so that the truth can lead charity.

  7. Yes, and if it wasn’t clear from what I wrote above: I am in favor of NAFTA (and the changes to the Mexican constitution allowing for the privitization of the ejidos) because I think that it will, in the end, be to the common good of Mexicans.

    A demand that people be allowed to remain subsistance farmers has a certain romance for moral tourists, but it’s notable that none of us choose to go be subsistance farmers. The intermediate stages may be misable, and the suffering of people who find themselves displaced against their will is real, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not in fact a road to a better situation. My grandmother’s family, for instance, was much better off as a result of losing the family farm and having to move to California. It took a good ten years or more for them to be better off, but in the end they were — and certainly their descendants are.

  8. Three of my four grandparents came here from Mexico. It was very rough in the beginning. My maternal grandparents raised 13 children through the depression. All my aunts and uncles are doing exceptionally well in America. Much better than relatives who stayed in Mexico. Disruptions is sometimes painful, but in the long-term helpful.

  9. “Usually, having a small percentage of your population engaged in agriculture (while having a large agricultural output) is actually a good thing for your country.”

    As Peter Maurin put so well, a child is an asset on the land, but a liability in the city. It would be far better if most of us lived on the land, farming and making crafts, engaged in a distributist economy that put people before profits.

  10. Like most people I’m perfectly willing to go along with Nate’s vision as long as I’m not one of the “most” engaged in farming and craft-making.

  11. Well, yeah. I don’t mean to sound like a jerk by putting this so bluntly, but if Maurin was right, why is it that even the vast majority of those involved in the Catholic Worker movement do not in fact live on the land farming and making crafts? I would assume that if this was clearly preferable at a human level, more people would be doing it.

  12. Darwin,
    It is, of course, because “other people” should be doing it. It always is. People with advanced degrees in social work, philosophy, etc have more refined vocations, such as organizing and leading a society that successfully requires “most people” to engage in land farming and craft-making, for their own good of course.

  13. As Peter Maurin put so well, a child is an asset on the land, but a liability in the city. It would be far better if most of us lived on the land, farming and making crafts, engaged in a distributist economy that put people before profits.

    A child is an asset when there are no child labor laws or Social Security, and a liability when there is (which is not to say that we should do away with Social Security or laws against child labor; it’s just to note that it is those laws, rather than the geographical location in which a child grows up, that are responsible for children being an economic liability vs. an economic asset).

  14. I reject what my fiancee and I affectionately call “Shire” Distributism – this reactionary view that we’re all going to go back to the land and till the soil for the good of our souls.

    I support anyone who wants to do that but realistically it is never going to become the dominant economy ever again.

    There’s a reason why the Papacy never advocated such a return to the land either. The Papal view of Distributism is much more realistic, it talks about how the idea can be applied in modern society, in modern businesses and modern economies.

  15. I reject what my fiancee and I affectionately call “Shire” Distributism – this reactionary view that we’re all going to go back to the land and till the soil for the good of our souls.

    Shire Distributism. I may have to steal that.

  16. To be fair, Maurin did in fact live on the agricultural Catholic Worker communes, so at least he followed his own advice. But though I’m not deeply read in Catholic Worker history, it doesn’t seem to have been an overall good for many families. I recall reading an interview a while back where Dorothy Day’s daughter talked about how intense trying to live up to that rural ideal was, and said that it was one of the reasons why she’s no longer practicing her faith.

  17. Well, friends, there are many Catholic Worker farms, and the Catholic Worker movement is still in its infancy – barely 75 years since its founding. Most Catholic Workers that I know do not have advanced degrees, and try to ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. Of course, there are elements of every movement that do not adhere to its founding vision, but those elements will not last.

    Shire Distributism! I will have to use that phrase. But Joe, have you considered that the dominant economy, that of capitalistic industrialism, will collapse one day? I am convinced that it will. And what then?

  18. Peter Maurin used a great phrase too – Agronomic Universities – a place where scholars could be workers, and workers could be scholars. Like living in the Shire, but with a great many books and a great many vocations! Love it! Someone want to donate me some land in Missouri?

  19. Actually, I think the brilliant thing about “Shire Distributism” is that both proponents and opponents would like the term.

    To me, I think the thing it points out is that Tolkien’s shire was knowingly an idealized place — one which Tolkien wasn’t trying to write about as a realistic society. Tolkien was evoking an image of the English countryside which even to him was just a distant childhood memory. And so he’s not worrying about topics like: If a farmer has four sons, and just the right amount of land to support the family well, which of his sons gets to marry and have a family and inherit the farm, and which three need to work as unmarried laborer or else go find non-family land somewhere else?

    And indeed, I think the disagreement over Shire Distributism is very much one between idealism and practicality.

  20. “I reject what my fiancee and I affectionately call “Shire” Distributism – this reactionary view that we’re all going to go back to the land and till the soil for the good of our souls.”

    Having done a fair amount of agricultural labor in my pre-lawyer incarnation I can guarantee that most people would truly hate earning their living by “working the land”. Additionally there simply wouldn’t be enough land for “city-folk” to make a living doing it, even if they adopted an Amish life style.

    I am pretty familiar with the Amish here in Illinois.

    http://www.amishillinois.com/towns/arcola.htm

    I admire their way of life, but it is definitely only a way of life for a highly disciplined, extremely hardworking and tightly knit group.

  21. “Someone what to donate me some land in Missouri?”

    Work hard for many years. Then buy it yourself. 😉

  22. Peter Maurin used a great phrase too – Agronomic Universities – a place where scholars could be workers, and workers could be scholars. Like living in the Shire, but with a great many books and a great many vocations!

    Whenever I hear ideas like this I can’t help but be reminded of Mao’s line about how “knowledgable youth should go to the country, to be educated from living in rural poverty.” Of course Maurin was a fundamentally decent man, and never would have used the methods Mao used to bring his vision about (which may partly explain why Maurin’s views were never put into practice on a large scale).

  23. I like the article linked below on shire economics:

    “Take the idea of the Shire as an ideal community. When I first read the book, I thought the Shire was the most realistic part, and that Minas Tirith, a sort of cross between Camelot and Rome on its seven hills, was artificial. But the Shire is a complete fantasy; no subsistence farming community (and as the hobbits don’t manufacture or trade much, they have to be classed as subsistence) have among their ranks people like Frodo or Bilbo. The Shire is a farming community without farmers. Frodo, Bilbo, Pippin, Merry and even the Sackville-Bagginses are all middle class, and middle classes don’t occur in close-knit farming communities. The middle class is a result of trade, surplus, commerce and an administration that needs well-educated people to run it. Middle classes are an urban phenomena.

    Even Sam is not a farmer, he is a gardener; there is a big difference, farmers grow crops, gardeners grow flowers.

    To cite the Shire, therefore, as a model community to counter the ills of modernism is very unwise. Even in the book, Frodo is regarded by the hobbits are eccentric. In a real Shire, he might be driven out as a witch for knowing Elvish. And without Frodo, would we really want to be like the Daddy Two-foots and Ted Sandymans? A community that is close-knit and anti-authoritarian can also be claustrophic and backward.

    The greatest casualty of modernity is the environment, and Tolkien and his writing appeal strongly to people who wish desperately to preserve the natural world. As Tony Shell says, Tolkien can ‘provide an extraordinarily sublime feeling of immanence and essential vitality to the natural world..’

    But would we all want to do without the trappings of modernity, even to save the natural world? I would do without a car, gladly. Even the washing machine, although beating out clothes on the river bank while exchanging gossip with the other village maidens is not really my thing.

    But doing without medicine, basic healthcare, street lighting, accessible education, juries, pcs, cinemas, freedom of speech, that is another. But these, as well as the destruction of the enviroment, are trappings of modernity. My own grandfather was a ploughman in one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland. But he died within 24 hours of pneumonia from sleeping in a damp, if picturesque, cottage. People who advocate such a return to traditional communities and ways of life are often city folk who forget that such an existence was described as ‘nasty, brutish and short’. because it was.”

    http://lotrscrapbook.bookloaf.net/essay/varda/contents/varda_paradise.html

  24. The Shire isn’t exactly a rural society — it’s more an idealized English country village. Think the Highbury of Jane Austen’s Emma. But even more so than in Emma, we only see the members of the essentially idle class. Bilbo (and Frodo later) never had a Baggins estate so far as we can tell, where actual tennant farmers raise crops to produce income. Nor does one get the impression that one can make all one’s money off investments in the Shire (as the Mr. Woodhouse in Emma apparently does) — it’s a country village, with a country village’s upper class, but not London to provide more complex investment for those not actively running an estate or business.

    I’d say that’s probably because Tolkien isn’t attempting to be realistic in his portrayal of the Shire. Minas Tirith and Rohan are portrayed (in the book — unlike in the movie where these cities sit in the middle of totally empty plains) as fairly realistic pre-industrial cities with outlying farmlands and villages. But the Shire (perhaps in part because it very much dates back to The Hobbit, which is more a children’s book in its atmospher; partly because it is an intentional evocation of Tolkien’s childhood memories) isn’t thought out in traditional social structures so much as it draws on traditional characters and institutions without giving much thought to how they’d fit together.

  25. Wow look what I started!

    “I’d say that’s probably because Tolkien isn’t attempting to be realistic in his portrayal of the Shire.”

    And neither are some Distributists in their view of politics and economics.

    Nate,

    “But Joe, have you considered that the dominant economy, that of capitalistic industrialism, will collapse one day? I am convinced that it will. And what then?”

    Well, I’m not so sure industry itself will collapse.

    The civilization we have now may very well collapse, though.

    And so I fully support people who want to learn basic survival skills, basic farming skills. I think we should all have some knowledge of these things because we may need them in the future.

    But we should also try to preserve the civilization we have and not give in totally to fatalism. Of course everyone has to make calculations based on what they think the future will hold.

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