Mitch Daniels’s June 12 op-ed, “Down on the farm, values grow,” a paean to the family farm, was misleading on two counts. First, while economically viable small farms can indeed provide a rich way of life to the families lucky enough to own them, such farms are disappearing in the face of global economic forces. Moreover, it is industrial agriculture, and not such farms, that make it possible for “fewer than 2 percent” of the population “to feed the rest of us.” As an elected official — he is a former governor of Indiana — what kind of interactions did Mr. Daniels have with the owners of industrial hog and chicken farms, and what kind of special virtues did he find among them? What experiences did he share with migrant laborers, whose low-paid hard work is an important factor in the agricultural productivity Mr. Daniels celebrated?
Second, did Mr. Daniels also make efforts to interact with other kinds of families who own small businesses? He might have found, for example, that family-run restaurants, which, as with farms, require long hours and specialized skills (preparing food, interacting with customers, keeping the books), are also productive of positive values.
Mr. Daniels’s rural nostalgia does not give us a realistic assessment of the social sources of virtue in the contemporary world.
Richard Handler, Charlottesville