Garrison Keillor believes that a young President Obama would get America “out of the political boneyard where old hacks sit grinding their gums.” (“Let’s get out of the political boneyard,” Meanwhile, Feb. 29).
Keillor’s rather insulting ageism is based on one of the oldest fossils in the political boneyard: The delusion that because the young are closer to their own beginnings they will – once they get rid of the old hacks – begin the world anew.
By now, the adults among us have learned where that kind of false logic can lead: sometimes to the Beatles, but more often to the Hitler Youth, to the young warriors of the Cultural Revolution, and to the drug-addled hippies of the 60s.
The young do not possess some special grace.
Their endowment comes from sources far older than themselves: the great traditions of strong cultures, sacrificing parents, and – yes – elders who are willing to teach them how to be human.
David Gutmann, London
Africa and organic farming
The article by Robert Paarlberg, “Africa’s organic farms” (Views, March 1) argues that when elite urbanites in rich countries turned away from science-based farming in the 1980s, the result was a reduction of development assistance for agricultural programs in developing countries.
Indeed that is true, but Paarlberg neglects to mention another important factor: The world’s governing institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund started pursuing neoliberal policies that had a strong and strict agenda of rolling back the state.
This led to the diversion of donor funds away from agricultural assistance programs and extension services, as well as subsidies for farmers and farming produce in poor countries.
The underlying tenets of neoliberalism also lead to the neglect of the study of the agricultural sector.
Many mainstream development economists hoped that, as if by some magic, Africa’s agricultural based economies would transform themselves into industrial countries. Well, the market did not provide these miracles or this magic.
The challenge to development organizations, and to the field of mainstream economics, is to find a way of placing agriculture at the heart of their development programs and policies.
Such a change, however, might require a lot of mainstream economists to eat a lot of humble pie.
I wouldn’t mind if the pie was organic or otherwise, as long as they eat it.