JUST as it seems impossible to say anything coherent about religions, so rationality seems to elude any discussion about the British countryside.
I doubt it is possible to stand anywhere in the British countryside without ones eye lighting upon a subsidy. In the far north of Scotland, the conifers of the Forestry Commission stand proud but purposeless. In the west of Wales subsidy preserved sheep munch the hills bare. In the south of England, the prairies of wheat waving in the breeze depend on subvention. In East Anglia, the vast sugar beet acres almost mock the tropical communities that could send us sugar far more cheaply.
Yet even this description is wrong. There are rural trades that thrive without public funds. Millions of us so enjoy the countryside that the natives of pretty postcard English villages are displaced with retirees or second home urban affluents. Planners deter new construction so shortages are preserved by the cobwebs of unyielding glue called planning.
If rural economics is preposterous on these grounds, it is crazy at the higher altitude of policy-making too. Over half of the entire budget of the European Union (EU) goes on farming subsidies. The pretext is that French peasants would revolt but for their false incomes, although current events in France would seem to render this wrong-headed. It is the city-bound French who seem to need resources. The auditors of the European Commission say much of the billions fail to reach the ruddy faced men in Wellington boots of popular imagination. Too often, the money ends up in the pockets of organised crime syndicates that own only illusory cattle or do not bother to harvest the crops on which their claims to subsidies are based.
For the last few millennia, humans ate food produced within walking range. Exceptions are few. Carthage fed Rome. Russia fed Germany. The new force that cannot be defied much longer is transport. It remains a proud moment in history when Britain abolished its Corn Laws in 1846. Free trade in foodstuffs created New Zealand and Australia. It opened up Argentina and the plains of North America. This early experiment in globalisation was of course blighted by two world wars. Then the new priority became food security. To those who believe the Germans are still likely to attack us this may seem coherent. To the rest of us it is distilled nonsense.
Farming and its cousin ventures such as forestry exist only in the strange aspic of subsidy. The Forestry Commission is simply an unreformed nationalised industry that endures for no det