St. James Infirmary



There is a show on public radio called Marketplace, even though every sound uttered there is about political manipulation of markets. It should be called Anti-Marketplace.

Kai Ryssdal was interviewing a leader of a tile manufacturers group who stated that tariffs would not raise prices. No follow through on this ridiculous claim?

There is hardly a product produced anymore whose price is not driven up by politics. And none of it is necessary to make the product better in any way. Only to feather the nests of the well connected.

Constitution Day

This is the week of September 17, Constitution Day. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia added this special day to an omnibus spending bill in 2004. It is also referred to as Citizenship and Constitution Day.

This amendment requires any school that receives federal funding to have a program on this date commemorating and educating about The Constitution, and every federal agency is to provide educational materials to all federal employees on this date.

Several years ago we read about a Constitution Day program at NIACC that was open to the public. The teacher there spoke of the “flexible clause.” It didn’t take long to decipher it as the “general welfare clause.” As the name implies, it gives a general reason for the existence of The Constitution and so, the federal government.

The focus for this teacher was the overriding idea that anything the federal government can do to benefit its citizens, trumps (sorry) the rules and amendments stated in the rest of The Constitution. It seemed odd that he would then stop the discussion mid-sentence at exactly three o’clock despite the lively discussion and raised hands. But rules are rules, eh?

Why would The Constitution open with a statement allowing the government to do absolutely anything and then go on to list its duties, even stating that the states or the people are the only ones who may do that which is not on that list? When it says “promote the general welfare,” it refers to the purpose of the document then goes on to outline how that is to be done.

The damage done to our republic by an unconstitutional government is so vast and yet we still enjoy a lifestyle unimaginable just a hundred years ago. We have to give credit to the remnants of a free market that proves how powerful freedom is.

It is important to look at the practical side of a strict constitutional government. As a kid, I remember looking up “flags” in the encyclopedia. I gazed at the page with dozens of colorful national flags. Every country has a flag. Only ours has a constitution designed to protect each person from the aggression of another.

Yet, our flag is bordering on being a religious symbol to many, while The Constitution is routinely ignored or scoffed at; even by people who call themselves “constitutional conservatives.”

In practical terms what difference does it make?

A perfect example of the different world created by an unconstitutional government is being played out in the Carolinas right now. Very few people who will lose their homes in Hurricane Florence have flood insurance and almost all of that is federal insurance.

The West Fork of the Cedar River runs through our farm. We know what a flood looks like. We’ve lost cattle in a flood. The farmstead is not in the floodplain. It makes us wonder why all these people build in floodplains.

Although I don’t think there are many who conspire to take advantage of federal disaster aid, the fact that it exists makes it more likely that dream home will be built. On a beautiful day it is hard to imagine filthy floodwater lapping at your windowsill. The wording of The Constitution makes it plain that the federal government was not intended to be an insurance company.

The free market I mentioned is destroyed by federal insurance of any kind. It is more correct to call it welfare or robbery.

There are many more examples of disasters caused by unconstitutional government:

  • If war had been required to be declared by Congress instead of that authority passed to the president, as has been done in every war since World War II, our representatives wouldn’t be able to pass the blame (for the 58,000 lives lost in Vietnam or the 6,000 lost in the Middle East) onto the president. Think of the scientific advancements that may have been discovered by one of those lost lives.
  • If the modern welfare state had never gained traction and private charity had remained as the prime benefactor of those in need, the culture of dependence that has robbed us of a our sense of community and family would not have grown into a major part of our economy.
  • If the system of business incentives and disincentives that has grown to be a major part of all business had never been allowed, we may have found all kinds of different products or processes not connected to powerful lobbies.

Robert Byrd’s pocket Constitution was smaller than a pack of cigarettes. We should stop waving the flag and start waving The Constitution in the faces of our representatives.

Organic Means It Contains Carbon

I haven’t expressed my appreciation to you folks who bother to read The Alternative for awhile. So here it is .

Actually, I have no idea what that thing is. I just hope you enjoy it. Please write back with any comments, questions, or rebukements. If you are ready to have The Alternative off of your email, let me know.

Anxiously awaiting any feedback,  Fritz 


I just read another article calling organic farming “sustainable.” This claim cannot go unchallenged. Granted, we do not know the long term effects of the chemicals we use. But we do know the effects of tillage.

Except for pasturing livestock or crimping rye as a weed suppressor in soybeans, there is little way to deal with weed competition and make organic farming economically viable without tillage. Tillage is murder. The life in the soil that we can’t see from a tractor seat is the basis for the productivity with which we are blessed. Those creatures are our partners in the production of food.

That life includes fungi, bacteria, insects, worms, and numerous other organisms that burrow in and bind soil to create pathways for water infiltration and also make nutrients available for use by the plants. Mycorrhizal fungi, for example, can grow into plant roots and convert enough soil phosphorous to a usable form that none needs to be purchased as fertilizer.

I remember many years ago, as I stood with my neighbor Dean, we were having a wet spring much like this year. The man who had just delivered fertilizer said, “Pretty wet out there. You better work it up to dry it out.” Obviously, if it is too wet to plant, it is too wet to work.

The increased water infiltration mentioned above also allows for better drainage. That is why long term no-till fields next to conventionally tilled ones show less ponding after a rain. Plant roots need air as well as water. Tilling the soil smears shut the air and water pathways.

The use of tillage by farmers who also use chemicals is more puzzling than the tillage alone of organic farmers. Considering that organic farmers can be profitable without chemicals, why spray and also till the soils, thus causing erosion along with the destruction of the soil structure? Why use both, especially considering that no-till equipment is so readily available?

This is not to disparage all farmers who use tillage. No-till takes a long term commitment. I know a farmer who tried no-till for a year. Compared to his conventional tillage system it yielded less because conventional tillage is mainly there to remedy the damage caused by tilling the year before.

We live in a culture of short term thinking. Some studies indicate that no-till takes three to five years to overcome years of damage from tillage to achieve its full potential. When you see how drought years and wet years alike, are moderated by a more natural soil profile, you will be convinced.

The battle lies in overcoming the threat of politics and other artificial market distortions that make long range planning difficult in justifying short term sacrifices. We can see how tariffs have destabilized the markets and ethanol mandates make alternative crops less attractive. If tilling this year to undo last year’s damage brings a profit, why risk a new system? Because a more positive outlook on life, makes us happy.

Perhaps the reasoning behind the widespread use of tillage is that the soil, like fossil fuels, might outlast a civilization that will succumb to war, environmental catastrophe, or disease before the soil or oil are depleted anyway. And that’s very sad.