• Count Our Holiday Blessings: At Least We're Not Starving

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    The root
    of famine lies not in the gods or in the stars but in the actions
    of man.

    ~
    Murray Rothbard (1985)

    This being
    the holiday season it is good for the soul to spend a moment and
    give thanks to God for His blessings so thereafter, soul at ease
    and heart full of holiday cheer, you may rush back to Wal-Mart and
    resume punching out your fellow shoppers during infantile orgies
    of spending. I fear with America's high unemployment and a political
    elite seemingly bent on destroying the currency we might be psychologically
    inclined, as libertarians, to look on the dark side of things this
    Christmas. Allow me to point out a little ray of sunshine.

    By examining
    our nation's history we see that America is indeed exceptional and
    blessed by God in one very important way — we have never experienced
    famine. It might not sound like much, but you don't know what you've
    got until the refrigerator is bare. Episodes of famine are rife
    throughout recorded time; the past gives us innumerable episodes
    when millions of desperate, starving people were reduced to wander
    like the animals of the forest, every moment of their last wretched
    days spent in agonizing and often futile searches for food.

    Famine is an
    unrivaled horror; of all the ways to die none comes close to matching
    the physical and psychological torment of starving to death. It
    is the most painful way to end your life, a slow, drawn out execution
    that will reduce even the most proud of men to root eagerly through
    horse manure and swallow any undigested oats within it. Better for
    any nation an atomic bomb attack than famine, if history is any
    guide. Hardly any peoples on earth can boast of never knowing famine.
    During their time under the Tsars famine swept Russia so frequently
    that permanently staffed government bureaus were always on hand
    to deal with them.

    The
    physical effects of starving are pitiful and utterly disgusting.
    The primary change, of course, is a dramatic loss of weight as the
    body, in order to keep the heart pumping and central nervous system
    nervous, extracts the needed energy from pre-existing muscle and
    fat. Once this is depleted the body slows down to save energy, the
    starving become lethargic and incapable of any prolonged physical
    exertion. Entire families will lay down together and pass away one
    by one, famine will reduce whole villages and towns into graveyards.
    Under the assault of hunger great cities of millions will
    grow quiet as coffins.

    In
    St. Petersburg during the worst of its 900-day World War 2 siege,
    people considered themselves lucky to be eating the lubricant used
    for tanks and one person noted "people are all bloated, frightful-looking,
    black, dirty, and emaciated. Young people have become so ghastly
    looking…it's simply awful to look at them." (Lincoln, 2000,
    282) Starving people are not only hard on the eyes, they are worse
    on the nose. With a weakened immune system the body is exposed to
    a number of diseases that cause various skin eruptions, diarrhea,
    and sores. The stench of the starving revolts the senses.

    Yet
    even more than the physical devastation, it is in its psychological
    effects where starvation extracts the heaviest toll. People withdraw
    from the world about them, even from family, and think of nothing
    but food. The urge to survive, the endless craving from hunger will
    turn men into predators against each other. During the time of Stalin's
    terror famine upon Ukraine (when at least six million perished)
    it was dangerous for children to walk around alone — they were prone
    to be snatched, strangled, and cooked. In the town of Poltava an
    entire operation for the processing of children's meat was discovered
    by the Soviet secret police (Conquest, 1986, 288). But the consumption
    of a child didn't necessarily need to be done by strangers. When
    Mao's famine was raging throughout China from 1958 to 1961 a couple
    in Anhui province, driven mad by hunger, murdered
    then ate their eight-year-old son. (Chang & Halliday,
    2005, 438)

    There are important
    lessons to be learned from the history of famines and the radically
    progressive Murray Rothbard once hit the nail on its head when he
    quipped, "Why does nature seem to frown only on socialist countries?
    If the problem is drought, why do the rains only elude countries
    that are socialist or heavily statist? (Rothbard, 2006, 84)

    Above all it
    is a country's agricultural sector where the political class must
    be strictly forbidden to venture. Such meddling carries a unique,
    very deadly risk to the safety of the working masses as should the
    political authorities get hold of the means of production and distribution
    of food society will lay at their feet, helpless for its very life.
    Instances of wholesale death by starvation – whether bought
    on by political bungling or deliberately engineered "terror-famines"
    – stuffs our libraries history sections and grants to us a
    clear warning.

    Our last century
    experienced famine of a scope and virulence unmatched in human history,
    this despite a revolution in agricultural productivity that should
    preclude any famine at all. Look at those countries stricken by
    famine during our last (and current) century and they all share
    a common characteristic — in each the political class had control
    over that most commanding height of any economy: its food supply.

    From the 38
    million or so starved on the whim of Chairman Mao to the 6 million
    done in by Stalin to the current misery and starvation in North
    Korea, each and everyone lends truth to the great Leon Trotsky's
    warning regarding political power over resources, "The old
    principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced with
    a new one: who does not obey shall not eat." Food has
    too often been used as a weapon by the political class.

    In America
    the agricultural sector has, despite constant political inroads,
    been for the most part free of the degree of government control
    found in countries prone to famine. That is our saving grace and
    our safety. But should this ever change and we find ourselves in
    the sad state of a North Korea you can still be thankful to God
    for His mercy upon us, His favored children, and count your holiday
    blessings.

    For even should
    a deadly famine descend upon America and condemn you and your family
    to lay weak and still as corpses, feverish for food, your children's
    pathetic, skeletal appearance and stench will not trouble your mind
    in the least.

    You will look
    right past them and think of nothing but food.

    Sources
    Cited

    December
    7, 2010

    CJ Maloney
    [send him mail] lives
    and works in New York City. He blogs
    for Liberty & Power on the History News Network website and
    the DailyKos.
    His first book Back
    to the Land (Arthurdale, FDR's New Deal, and the Costs of Economic
    Planning)
    is to be released by John Wiley and Sons in
    February 2011.

    The
    Best of C.J. Maloney

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