Dumbest Thing I Have Seen Written in A Long While, Courtesy of Douglas Ruchkoff

Thanks to Don Boudreax for the quote, this is from Douglas Rushkoff’s new (apparently execrable) book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus.

The same goes for agriculture, textiles, and many other sectors where returning to local, human-scaled enterprise will lead to less worker exploitation and environmental damage while producing better, healthier products.  Nonindustrial practices may be more labor-intensive, but they’re also better for us all.  For those of us used to white-collar jobs, the idea of growing vegetables or making clothes may seem like a big step backward toward more menial labor.  But consider for a moment the sorts of activities the wealthiest Americans or most satisfied retirees engage in enthusiastically: brewing craft beers, knitting, and gardening.  If there’s really not enough work to go around and there are so many extra people to employ, we can always farm in shifts.

My response to anyone who told me this:  You first.  Ugh, this would be a one-way ticket to poverty and starvation.  Ghandi had this same idea for India, and if he had had his way the poverty would have been even more mind-blowing than what actually obtained.


  1. August Hurtel:

    It is best understood as an expression of a preference. Some of them get into farming, and get more libertarian because they hit government roadblocks. I doubt many of them explicitly become libertarian because the internet is full of libertarians making fun of them, but they definitely learn we could do with a lot less regulation.

    I think there are enough people with this preference for there to be a market. An innovative real estate developer will probably figure this out.

  2. J_W_W:

    Someone needs to give this asshole a horse and a hand plow and have him compete, John Henry style, against a modern tractor.

  3. Tim Broberg:

    "Why not use spoons?"

  4. Michael Stack:

    The author likely used a modern printing press and Amazon distribution to sell his book. Maybe he should hand-write each copy. Sure, it may be more labor-intensive, but it *would* be better for us all.

  5. mlhouse:

    One thing progressives think is that the indigenous peoples of North America and elsewhere were essentially coerced into adapting European goods when the fact is nothing is further from the truth. If you made your kettles out of deer gut and arrowheads out of bone you would immediately understand the value of the new iron pots and steel arrowheads,as well as the other technology like manufactured cloth and fire arms.

    The other aspect is that the value of these technologies to them was almost infinite. Revisionistic historians and progressive thought pretends that the Indian population was ripped off in their exchanges with the European settlers. But from their persepctive that was not the case. THey were trading carcasses of dead animals and land rights that they had very little concern about for items they could not manufacture. This trading pattern was essential for advancing their material quality of their lives, which is something EVERY civilization strives for. In fact, it did not take long before the original methods of making many goods was forgotten and a dependence on European trade established. That is how valuable it was to them.

  6. Craig Loehle:

    When I was young, I visited a number of hippie communes. They were either living off of some inherited money, selling drugs, or living pretty close to poverty. Japan cut themselves off from the world for a long time in the name of self-sufficiency, and the people got shorter over time due to malnutrition. It was a grind. After they saw US naval power, they reversed their policy and started modernizing and boom--huge increase in health and wealth.
    Was reading a book about early america after the revolution and while many farmers did make their own stuff, they did too many things to become "artisans" so their furniture looked terrible, clothes were shabby and simple, black smithing barely adequate. He imagines a noble savage world that never was.

  7. Arrian:

    Anyone who equates gardening to farming does not warrant my attention when he talks about farming.

    The issue I have with all the "some people do this and have good outcomes, therefore everyone should do this" advocates is selection bias. Sure, everyone Michael Pollan talked with about cooking for themselves is happier now that they cook for themselves. Everyone that this guy talked to about deindustrializing is probably happy about deindustrializing. But that's because they not only chose to do so, but they enjoyed the experience and chose to continue.

    They miss all the people who tried and to and it didn't work out for them. Much less the people who never even wanted to try. The reason canned, frozen, and prepackaged foods took off inthe 50s, 60s and 70s was because people who used to _have to_ cook for themselves didn't enjoy doing so and took shortcuts as soon as they were available. Cooking at home was distinctly not better for them than heating up pre-made food, otherwise they would have continued cooking at home.

    Same for farming, same for every other activity we've shifted out of the home and into the market.

    If you don't understand _why_ we take shortcuts, you absolutely shouldn't be writing books about eliminating those shortcuts. I don't want to read a book about why a woman with a Princeton MBA who decided to take culinary courses and start cooking at home for her Harvard MBA husband. I want to read a book about how a single mother of two feeds her kids healthy food. The former is really just consuming a luxury good, the latter is practical advice.

    Maybe I should write that book. How hard can it be? After all, I comment on blogs all the time! Practically the same thing :P

  8. MJ:

    It goes well beyond selection bias. What Rushkoff and others ignore is that people who engage in things like horticulture for leisure purposes, or just to grow and consume their own vegetables, are only able to do so because capitalism and industrialization have provided them with such a high standard of living that they can afford to spend time on such pursuits. If incomes were not as high, and if price levels weren't so low, these kinds of luxuries would not make sense.

    Retirees can brew craft beers or knit or garden because the capitalist/industrialist system they have participated in for several decades has delivered enough income for them to not have to work in their later years. This wasn't even possible for many people just a couple of generations ago.

  9. MJ:

    Don has been having some fun with this one all week. And Rushkoff's paragraph here could easily qualify him as a nominee for Don and George Selgin's proposed new award.

  10. 4kx3:

    Just think. The only thing standing in the way of this joyful era is a robust minimum wage.

  11. Brennan Schweitzer:

    Warren, other than your excellent "climate change" series, this is the smartest post you've made in months. The smartest, IMHO, since your excellent pieces regarding light rail. The only thing missing was a full take-down of the idiocy in the quoted text, but we can figure that out for ourselves. As usual, all my best wishes!