Saturday, January 7, 2023

Irish Famine Redux in America? – The Occidental Observer - by Albemarle Man

 As the odious American new foreign policy elite sails closer and closer to nuclear war over the Ukraine (after having forced its de-nuclearization in 1995), will a second problem develop?  Given the sanctions imposed by this marvelous elite on the largest world grain and oil exporter — Russia — coupled with an ever-growing world demand for food, will the United States soon face a situation like the famous Irish famine of 1848?

This might seem ridiculous to suggest.  After all, as we all learned in 5th grade, the U.S. is the breadbasket of the world.

However, given our increasingly hostile government, it could be more likely than one might think.

Some background is helpful.  Take the famous Irish Famine of 1846—8, which gave America such blessings as Joseph P. Kennedy and James Michael Curley.

The Irish famine was not a famine in the traditional sense.

Many countries — especially China and (except as noted below) India — have long had famines in the traditional sense.  Namely, due to uncontrolled population growth, the population had come close to outrunning the food supply that could be produced by the nation’s farmland.  The slightest disruption to an annual harvest — bad weather or civil wars — could, and did, immediately induce significant, sometimes horrific, famines in which millions starved to death.  For example, see the Chinese famines of 1850–73 (drought and rebellion), 1876–79 (drought), and 1928–30 (drought, effects of war) (“List of Famines in China”).  The 1876–79 famine in China was due to the fact the region was vastly overpopulated relative to its ability to produce food.  A drought made it worse.  The slow decline during that period of central government authority caused (a) increasingly poor maintenance of the sophisticated canal system, thus impeding the delivery of relief supplies and (b) a previous draw-down in the amount of grain stored in emergency government storage facilities.

However, in 1848, for the first time in world history, a new kind of famine was seen.  A “capitalist” famine.  This was the famous “Irish famine.”  (This was to be repeated in India in 1878–9 [the Great Famin]), and again in 1943 due to the good offices of Winston Churchill, the Bengal Famine.)

Ireland in 1846–48 suffered a potato blight which effectively wiped out the potato crop.  This however, should not have resulted in mass hunger.  Although the main food source for the Irish peasantry in those days was the potato, Dr. Christine Kinealy has concluded that Ireland in each year of the famine produced a lot more food than was ever eaten by Irishmen — possibly, and probably, enough food to feed all 8 million Irish.  Ireland’s farmland produced enough wheat, which if turned into bread, could have fed 3 — 4 million people, plus calves, butter, and eggs according to Kinealy (“The Irish Famine: Complicity in Murder,” The Washington Post).  Although no one, it appears, has compiled enough data to prove the point definitively, it does appear that with a ban on exports, even with no imports, and a proper rationing of food, the Irish famine might have been much smaller or possibly non-existent.  So what was the problem?   Why did things get so bad?

The problem was unregulated capitalism, coupled with a government hostile to the people it governed.

In Ireland in 1870, 302 proprietors (1.5% of the total) owned 33.7% of the land, and 50% of the country was in the hands of 750 families. At the other end of the scale, 15,527 proprietors (80.5%) owned between them only 19.3% of the land (Land-holding in Ireland 1760–1880,  And Finlay Dunn wrote in Landlords and Tenants in Ireland (Longmans Green, London, 1881), that “half the area of the island (Ireland) (not half of the agricultural land, half of the land in the whole country) is owned by 750 landlords” with average holdings of 5,000 acres each” (ibid., p. 1).  One can only presume that that half represented the bulk of the good agricultural land in Ireland.  At the time of the famine, the figures were presumably at least similar, or worse, considering that between the famine and 1881, the “Land Act of 1871” had been passed, forcing the sale of some small plots of land to tenants.

Thus, it is reasonable to assert that a preponderance of Ireland’s premier farmland appears to have been owned by a few families, many or most of them absentee landlords living in England. In addition, many of the landlords had borrowed significant sums to upgrade their country houses — either in Ireland or in England (Terrence A.M. Dooley, “Estate Ownership and Management in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-century Ireland,”, or otherwise to finance their profligate lifestyles.  For these landlords, burdened by gigantic, barely serviceable, debt, it was imperative that the rentals, paid by grain exports, continue to be made.  The alternative?  Bankruptcy, or at least the seizure of their estates by lenders.

Second, Ireland, like England and the United States, was governed under laws permitting the purest form of capitalism ever seen before or since.  Thus, virtually no thought was given to holding back sufficient grain to feed the Irish residents and permitting only the surplus to sail its way to world markets.  The result was that starving Irish peasants watched mountains of grain, herds of sheep, barrels of butter, crates of eggs, loaded on wagons paraded by them and their starving children, on the way to ports at Cork and Dublin plus many ports in the hard-hit west of Ireland, for transshipment to Liverpool England.  From there the grain was sold on international markets for the spot price and the rest re-sold to the English.  In addition, grain was transported internally, out of starving areas, to gin mills so the profitable conversion of grain into nutritionally useless alcohol could continue.  Even grain donated by the good old US of A was turned into gin!  Now there’s a capitalist class that’s got its priorities straight.  Everyone knows you get more from selling gin in bars than giving away a bunch of grain for free!

Eventually, to protect the exiting grain and food shipments, English troops had to be brought in to protect the grain wagons from depredation by the native Irish and to protect the landlords’ properties from devastation by enraged Irishmen.  Ironically, English troops were not fed by the Army; they were given pay designed to be enough to purchase daily food; however, the huge spike of food prices during the famine, not matched by pay increases, resulted in even the English troops going hungry! (Kineally. Ibid.).  So the very troops protecting food shipments from starving Irishmen were themselves starving.  Talk about “stiff upper lip.”  But here’s a thought piece:  did they at least get their “gin ration”?

From a population of 8 million, through death and emigration, Ireland’s population decreased to 3 million.

Many in England saw this as an unfortunate byproduct of the “inevitable” laws of capitalism and free trade.

Others saw it as a desired attribute — a fortunate byproduct of the famine: the massive reduction in a perpetually despised population.  Killing two birds with one Killarney stone, as it were — pay off your debts, kill the locals!  Charles Trevalyan, Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, made this clear:  the famine, he said was beneficial.  Trevelyan wrote to Lord Monteagle of Brandon, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the famine was an “effective mechanism for reducing surplus population and was “the judgement of God”  (Sir Charles Trevelyan, 1st Baronet), “a direct stroke of an all-wise and all-merciful Providence,” one which laid bare “the deep and inveterate root of social evil.”   Wow, sounds almost like Buzzfeed talking about Fentynal deaths in Appalachia!

As if that were not enough, a second “capitalist” famine was induced in India via similar means, the Great Famine of 1876–78.  In chilling contrast to the ShanXi 1879 famine, which was worsened by lack of transportation by which relief supplies could have been delivered, a later analysis showed that the worst-off areas in India’s famine were the ones best equipped with railroads!  The reason?  The railroads that theoretically could have brought in food relief instead were fantastically efficient in removing grain produced in the famine areas to remote warehouses for re-sale in other, richer areas (Mike Davis, The Origins of the Third World Markets States and ClimateCorner House Briefing 27, p. 5/62).  No nasty starving emaciates to steal that grain please!  The areas not so “blessed” with modern transport, however, did much better, since it was harder for landlords to remove grain from starving locals.  Not surprisingly, though the rest of India was in surplus, the surplus was exported for cash to the U.K.  So any railroads going into the famine area would have been empty anyway!

In the 1942 “Bengal” famine, Churchill purposely diverted food from starving areas of India to “ol Blighty” and her troops — again, made possible by the best in modern transportation:  trains and big cargo ships.  The final tally:  better fed troops (after all, Englishmen “walk towards gunfire,” surely they deserve good eats) and 3 million Bengalis dead of starvation.  Had the Germans done it, it would have been a war crime, but luckily the Brits did it.

Could this happen in the United States?  Famine amid plenty?  We do have a hell of a rail and road network, after all!

The breakdown of US farmland ownership is as follows:  60% is owner-operated, 40% rented.

For cropland, the figures are 46% owner-operated, 56% rented; for pastureland, 28% is rented, 72% owner operated (USDA Economic Research Service, USDA ERS – Farmland Ownership and Tenure).

However, in the crucial Iowa/Mississippi valley farm belt, the heart of the “breadbasket of America,” about 60% of farmland is rented.

The ownership figures currently in the US do not seem — on their face — to be as bad as Ireland just before the famine.

However, just like the old Anglo-Irish landlords, even — and especially — the owner-operators are under harsh financial constraints to produce maximum profitability.  They are caught between ever-increasing fertilizer prices and ever more concentrated buyers, such as Cargill (which is totally committed to ESG), and many, if not most, are deep in debt incurred either to purchase their farmland or equipment or simply to finance losses incurred in bad years.  In the case of the “landlords” — the equity farmland funds, their success is dependent on maximizing the production and profitability of the land they own.  In addition, a great number of individual “farmer owners” are no more than serfs of such esteemed companies as Tyson Foods (“chicken lickin’”), Cargill, Kellogg (breakfast of champions) and others.  If they want to keep afloat on miniscule margins they have to keep working and selling the products their master-buyers want, who, in turn, are in it for profit, not charity.

As we sanction and prohibit our allies from importing grain from the largest wheat exporter in the world (Russia) and as we cooperate in the complete devastation of the second largest world grain exporter (Ukraine), what happens if the world grain markets offer prices to those financially constrained farmland owners that U.S. consumers cannot match?  Do the iron laws of capitalism and free trade apply, permitting loads of grain to be transshipped to China at the Port of Long beach while emaciated White children look on?  Or does the government do what the British government did not do — put some constraint on the ability of big (and increasingly anti-White and “woke”) business to “starve out” one’s own population to achieve maximum profit?  Or do national guard troops mobilize to force Iowa corn shipments on trains to the Port of Long Beach, shooting White protesters trying to obstruct the trains?

What we do know is that we have a government that increasingly reviles and fears its own population.  For such a government, starving down such a despised group of people may not be seen as an unfortunate consequence of free trade.  Having doused the despised 100 million strong White working class with opioids, wage cuts, and unemployment for 20 years, an early death for all of them that have not yet committed suicide might be seen as an additional benefit.

Shades of Cork, 2023.