It’s just one of those weird slippages one sometimes gets into while blogging, but the other day Megan McArdle wrote that upstate New Yorkers have “a farmer’s contempt for welfare,” and had a bunch of people jump all over her because of the massive government subsidization of farm production and in some cases government payments to farmers not to farm. And then, clearing up what she meant, she wrote that “The core of the farmer aversion to welfare programs specifically is that old farmer maxim: ‘If you don’t work, you don’t eat.'”
As far as I know that’s mainly an old Soviet maxim: “Кто не работает, тот не ест.” (“He who does not work, does not eat.”) Lenin used it in an essay called “On Hunger”, and it figures in the Stalin-era 1936 Constitution of the USSR. According to this site, pictures of Lenin emblazoned with the slogan used to hang in the “Red Corner” of many Russian homes in the early years of Soviet power. The slogan was used to justify the famines that followed the anti-kulak campaigns during the collectivization of agriculture, and decades later to justify the arrests of people for the crime of being unemployed, which was a way to prosecute political dissidents, black-market traders and prostitutes. Though the website, published by the Russian Orthodox Church, is mainly pointing out that the phrase, which it says Russians universally think of as a Communist one, originally comes from 2 Thessalonians 3:10 (“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat”).
Anyway, while I’m sure that many farmers hate “welfare” in the sense of state minimum income payments, so do a lot of other people. I’d like to see some evidence that the attitude is more prevalent among farmers than among the population at large. There’s also a very funny song by the Russian modern-folk singer Brodiagi that comments on who really makes the money, in both communist and capitalist society: “Кто не работает, тот ест; кто работает, тот пёт” (“He who does not work, eats [i.e. profits]; he who works, drinks”).
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