Owning Verses Working

There are a multitude of factual reasons why re-localization might be a good course for families going forward. But I want to start off with some more subjective observations about why people chose working for wages vs. working for something they own.

Historically and currently in many areas of the world, subsistence farming is one of the hardest ways of making a living, it's hand to mouth, hard, dirty work with frequent set backs and periodic starvation. It's no wonder industrialization quickly lured - still does in fact, many off the farm with the promise of relatively easy work and all the store bought luxuries available in the cites.

Like most lures the benefits were many times imaginary, at least for the first generations. But as the manufacturing base grew, many struggled to find a way off the spinning room or killing floor and even into ownership of their own business.

But odds are the majority populated what was the growing Working Class, and their kids followed in their footsteps.

None of that is news, but the thing that stands out to me is at the very time they abandoned ownership of a hardscrabble plot of land to toil for wages for another, was the exact same time that mechanization was making it's way into farming and transforming it from a struggle for basic survival into a business!

Like in many things, the amount of breathing room and opportunity for profit provided by the mechanization of agriculture allowed just enough slack for innovation to accelerate at a rate far beyond what it had been in previous generations.

To be sure, much of that innovation was misdirected, which is a different topic but the fact remains, many with a great understanding of the land and seasons quit just at the time of greatest opportunity. And yea, you guessed it, there was somebody right there to snatch up that land for a pittance.

This continued all through the 19th century at the very time huge strides were taking place on the farm. The thing that is so striking about this period is that between 1820 and 1890 the effort required to produce 100bu of wheat declined from 300 man/hours to 50! And although the turn of the century was also a time of increasing pressure from railroads, bankers, etc, it was also a time of relative prosperity for farmers.

My great grandfather was in the Run for the Cherokee Strip in the 1890's. In researching old land records in a dusty little clerks office trying to locate the original homestead a few years ago it struck me how many homesteads were sold as soon as they proved up their claim. And even more interesting are the pages and pages of newly deeded farms bought by one person and then pages more bought by another and so on.

Now whether those homesteaders were shills from the get-go or couldn't make a go on a small plot of land in that country or were just ready to get back home I have no idea but the fact remains there were willing buyers with cash in hand to snap up those properties and amalgamate them into huge tracts for ranching, farming, and oil drilling.

But still most of those original homesteaders sold out.

By the way, my great grand father didn't sell, in fact he bought the neighbor's place.