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That's certainly part of the function, but if it were the principal one, then we wouldn't see slums growing so rapidly in slumdog India where landholdings remain tiny by law (no forced migration as farms become concentrated as in other countries), and grain imports are negligible (India remains largely self sufficient in food (India imports grain on net only low production years and also imports fruits and vegetables, like many high income countries do too.)
by santiago on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 07:55:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... principle reasons to be the same in India and Africa?

And in India, it seems absurd to suggest that less powerful farmers are not forced off their land by the machinations of more powerful farmers based on the laws that are on the books to prevent it ... that would be like concluding that there is no bribery of officials in Nigeria because it is against the law.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 12:50:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, in India it is not farmers who are moving to the urban slums so much, but family members of farmers and non-farmer rural dwellers.  Why would family members of farmers have to move to the city?  Well, usually because if you can't grow the size of your farm, which is prohibited by law in India in most cases, you can't increase your family income either to keep up with the higher costs of living and affording things like cell phones and new medicines. So you send your kids to the city or to foreign countries to diversify your family income.  

Much empirical work has been done on this in Africa as well. Farm consolidation and growth allows farm families to increase their income, but migration allows them to both grow and diversify their income and lower risks of income shocks, which is necessary to be able to continue to afford the ever increasing necessities of modern life.  (Alternatively, farmers could become like the anti-capitalist Amish and simply eschew modern technological benefits altogether and thereby avoid the need to grow income entirely.)

by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 11:02:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... hitting the entire agrarian sector while at the same time reducing the cost of living in urban slums?

You are referring to studies on how African agrarian communities react to the impact of First World attacks on their livelihood that silo off the original cause of the sector-wide income shocks. Assuming sector-wide income shocks that are inversely correlated with urban informal sector real incomes to predict the response to the removal of that pattern of shock is begging the question.

Indeed, if access by women to education is inversely related to rates of population growth, starting an explanation of which sectors of the population of the most densely populated rural areas are forced into internal migration to the urban informal sector by assuming that poorer households will have higher birth rates is another silo.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 12:20:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, and that is exactly what we're talking about here regarding the benefits of empire to lots of people that may actually now depend on it for survival. If you conceive if it just as an "attack," that is "hitting" the rural sector, as if the conservatism of rural life has a greater claim to reproducing itself than the more liberal opportunities provided by urban life, then yes, it's an argument that begs the question, as you say.

But let's conceive of it a bit differently. If the affect of liberal order was entirely on cost of living of urban dwellers and did not negatively affect the incomes of rural dwellers, we would have the same migration issues. Rural dwellers may be migrating to the cities because they want to and not because they have to.  In fact, in the US experience, the data supports this.  An acre of farmland has produced the same real income for last hundred years for which data has been collected on it. This means that the only reason that farmers have had to migrate to cities is to enjoy some of the benefits that urban progress has offered. In order to get electricity and health care and the Internet, you have to increase your income in order to pay for it, so you either grow the size/productivity of your farm or find extra work in urban economy to trade for urban goods and services.

You can only conceive of this as an "attack" on the rural sector if you assume, a priori, that few people in rural areas want to enjoy any of the benefits that liberal, urban society offers.  

Anecdotal aside: I recently met with some US farm industry lobbyists, all of them now aged children of farmers and who opted for a city job  when they were young instead of returning to their farms (and who were dismayed about the prospects for continued agriculture subsidies given the outcomes of the last congressional election).  Over beer, one them explained why he had never really been much of a supporter of rural policy initiatives to retain rural populations and had been more than happy, as was his father, to leave farm life altogether years ago.  "If the rural hometown of my childhood had been twice as large, it would have been twice as shitty" he said. Lesson: We can't assume that rural to urban migration is a bad thing for most people who do it, even if it leaves them in institutional dependency situations they would not have if they remained farmers.

The Amish are an example of people who have little need to increase income because they can be mostly self sufficient in small-holding communities by forgoing most of the benefits of urban life that other farmers don't choose to forgo.  But there are reasons why most people don't opt to become Amish, even if some do. Most people just might not view that kind of life as very much fun.  But in order to avoid the forces that push and pull people out of rural communities and into cities and slums, people actually have to eschew most of the "fun" things that the Americanized liberal order has offered them, just like the Amish try to do.

by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 01:33:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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