“Then once more he raised his head, his face alive, his eyes far-focused, burning. He began to talk slowly, as though his lips were metal, stiffening. “The whole damn sandhills is deserted. The cattlemen are broke, the settlers about gone. I got to start all over-ship in a lot of good farmers in the spring, build up–build–build–”
Old Jules’ dying words from the biography entitled “Old Jules” by Mari Sandoz
Today at The Mint, we continue our journey, and we are glad that you are along with us. With the inflationary fruits of five, nay, 100 years of loose monetary policy beginning to destroy the very currencies which gave birth to them, the world will all too soon be left to pick up the pieces and boldly move forward when all hope is lost.
When there is no hope, one must fight to become hope. This is our charge to you, fellow taxpayer. Fortunately, this is far from the first time that mankind has found itself in this situation. For inspiration, we look back roughly 100 years to a man who had a vision for a place that was then, as now, a place that is difficult to inhabit, the sandhills region of Northwestern Nebraska. (The sandhills have appeared in the news as a possible route for the long delayed Keystone pipeline.)
That man is Old Jules.
Old Jules was a Swiss immigrant who settled in the sandhills and, as our title implies, devoted much of his interesting life to “building up the land.” What does it mean to build up the land? Your idea of building up the land probably means something quite different than my idea of building up the land, and we would both probably have visions quite different for building up the land than someone living 100 years ago, like Old Jules.
Yet all of our visions have merit, for the idea of building up the land, while it may manifest itself in any number of different ways, implies working with the land to help it produce.
The whole idea of man being able to help the land to increase its production and that production helping mankind, in turn, to increase their own production (or reproduction, to be precise), is a miracle. For those who inhabit urban settings, it may seem a mystery from a far off place.
Yet it is the command received by Adam and Eve at the dawn of creation.
Man was never meant to sit back and simply eat the fruits passively produced by the land, rather, the creation and mankind were created to have an intercourse, if you will, with the fruit of one producing fruit in the other, and vice versa. Mankind’s activities were meant to be intimately connected to the land. Mankind is to build up the land, and, in return, the land will build up mankind.
While the Victorian Yeoman farmer ideal may immediately spring to mind when one thinks of building up the land, it should be clear to any thinking person that the division of labor is a far more productive and resilient system by which to build up the land and to reap the benefits of such building.
Even in the Yeoman model, the division of labor existed. One fetched wood, another dug and plowed, another prepared food, still another shelter, and another fetched water, and so on.
The division of labor could flourish beyond close knit communal groups, such as families or tribes, only via a system of trade. The concept of trade, which further enables the division of labor to operate, is important not only for the concept of building up the land, but also for the maintenance of peaceful relations amongst communal groups.
The link between mutual trade and maintaining peace between groups is inseparable. In the words of Frederic Bastait:
“If goods do not cross borders, soldiers will.”
If all of these things, building up the land, the division of labor, and the necessity of trade, are to operate, the concept of money, or what is better described as the emergence of a good of the highest order which carries a monetary premium, must be tacitly agreed upon by all groups that engage in trade.
Today, circa 2013, there is something desperately wrong with where the monetary premium is placed today: Central bank credits, or what most of us know as currency, or money. The problem is that they are debt, and not part