Eliza asked for a practical discussion of agrarianism in connection with modern times and I would like to respond in a series of short very focussed posts rather than trying to cover everything at once. For starters, then, the question is: does Agrarianism mean we should cease and desist from shopping for the best buy? Should we necessarily pay more for hand-made items made locally?
If the best deal on batteries is to be found at K-mart (including all factors such as the cost to the soul of the aesthetic insult of such surroundings, and the time to get there), then by all means buy your batteries at K-mart. We certainly don’t need every village to have a little hand-made battery-making shop. Give me mass-production and mass-distribution on something like this.
What about something where mass-production is not obviously desirable, and localism might seem better in the abstract? Should you go to Mimi’s Tavern to get a lovingly-prepared hamburger, even though you are in the mood for McDonald’s? I think not. There might be times when you would prefer the McDonald’s even if Mimi’s only cost the same as McDonald’s. So, let’s not turn agrarianism into yet another form of wearing a long face and doing things we don’t want to do.
My hypothesis is that cultivating and nurturing a taste for the richness of creation will gradually only be satisfied by production that is in the direction of individual creativity and local diversity, which is at least half of the agrarian vision. So, by metonymy, I freely interchange the term as referring to the inner motive and the external vision.
Never spend more than you need to, provided “need” is defined richly. On a special occasion, buy the best bottle of wine that matches your palate, but spend not a penny more. Pay more for stereo equipment as long as you can hear an improvement; the minute that point is reached, spend not a penny more.
Secular progress is not rejected by agrarianism: we distinguish the good from the bad. The point should never be imposition of a rule — “buy local” — but rather cultivation of an aesthetically rich life. Usually, then, dwelling over Mimi’s hamburger will be a satisfaction that McDonald’s would not be able to compete against.
That this will lead to greater creativity, diversity, and localism is a prediction not a rule.