I’m guessing that you, like me, watched the presidential debate on Tuesday night. And I’m also guessing that many of us have already made contributions to Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders … or, for that matter … Ben Carson or Ted Cruz.
To my thinking, money spent on presidential politics is all pretty much the same, the way that venture capital investing, currency speculation, betting on the price of oil or myriad other forms of investing as usual are all pretty much the same.
Send your money to a candidate. Send your money to a money manager. We need to do it. Or, we should say, many of us get to do it.
In a mature democratic society and a mature capitalist economy, we get to vote for the kind of government and the kind of economy we want. Millions of us get to vote with our dollars, this way and that. And despite all the special interests and dark investment pools and powerful forces that never seem to see the light of day, now and then we get a smile, a moment of affection, a moment of authenticity. A moment that gives us hope—not the hope of a political slogan, but actual hope.
We had one of those Tuesday night, when Bernie and Hillary shook hands and smiled, after his mini-rant about “your damn e mails.” Despite what Bill O’Reilly said afterwards—he thinks it was all scripted—I experienced it as a moment of authenticity. With some constrained but actual affection sneaking through and some actual hope mixed in.
But such moments are fleeting up there on the stage of presidential politics.
Before you know it, the candidates are back debating whether Black Lives Matter, Native Lives Matter, Syrian Lives Matter or All Lives Matter. What I’m waiting for is the moment of authenticity and hope that arises when the candidates start debating whether Earthworm Lives Matter.
Here’s one question that will never be asked of any presidential candidate during a debate:
Q. What is the earthworm population in an acre of organic farmland in Boone County, Iowa?
(A. 1.3 million.)
Much less the follow up question:
Q. What is the earthworm population in an acre of conventional farmland in Boone County, Iowa?
Do earthworm lives matter? They do if you believe that every living thing on this planet depends upon the life of the soil. They do if you believe that hundreds of millions of tons of topsoil washing down the Mississippi each year matters. They do if you believe that while industrial agriculture (much like capitalism, itself, although to say this invites us down not the earthworm burrow but the rabbit hole of capitalism vs. socialism, which debate happily deflects attention from a much more fundamental tension between industrialism and agrarianism) is a magnificently powerful tool for producing cheap shelf-stable commodities, it is a wildly deficient instrument when it comes to the health of Main Street and the health of bioregions.
But this is not an anti-industrial agriculture call to action or a Too Much Money In Politics call to action. It’s a call to action that goes, with a certain predictability in the case of me, like this: If we’re going to send money to any presidential candidate, mustn’t we also get some of our money to an organic farmer down the street?
And smile while we’re doing it?
There is surely too much money in politics. We are surely bombarded with ideological sound bites. There is surely much that is broken in the craven competition for our votes.
We can still smile. Not a Bernie smile. Not a Hillary smile. Not a political smile. A Beetcoin smile.
Because all the money in politics notwithstanding, relationships still trump transactions. In the long term, as surely as someone’s car in Madison sports the bumper sticker “Mother Nature Bats Last,” as surely as ecology trumps economics, as surely as a beet root has hair, relationships trump transactions.
Which is why some of us, on our way to who knows how many of us, are finding ways to invest some of our money in honor of relationships, and, so, do our small but vital part, as earthworms in the soil of a restorative economy, to preserve and restore the fertility of the American Dream.