Political Brain Disease and Actual Thinking

Wendell Berry in a rare moment of biting sarcasm, in an essay on the dangers, fallacies, and atrocities of factory farming.

“Animal factories ought to have been the subject of much government concern, if government is in fact concerned about the welfare of the land and the people. But, instead, the confined animal feeding industry has been the beneficiary of government encouragement and government incentives. This is the result of a political brain disease that causes people in power to think that anything that makes more money or ‘creates jobs’ is good.

“We have animal factories, in other words, because of a governmental addiction to short-term economics. Short-term economics is the practice of making as much money as you can as fast as you can by any possible means while ignoring the long-term effects. Short-term economics is the economics of self-interest and greed. People who operate on the basis of short-term economics accumulate large ‘externalized’ costs, which they charge to the future – that is to the world and to everybody’s grandchildren…

“If the people in our state and national governments undertook to evaluate economic enterprises by the standards of long-term economics, they would have to employ their minds in actual thinking. For many of them, this would be a shattering experience, something altogether new, but it would also cause them to learn things and do things that would improve the lives of their constituents.”

-Wendell Berry in “Stupidity in Concentration” (2002), collected in Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food, p. 12-13

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