It’s Time for a New Declaration of Independence

Robert Rodale’s editorial from the September 1976 issue of Organic Gardening and Farming about personal independence

By Robert Rodale

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Your garden is your independenceNeeded—A Politics of Independence
Personal independence is an idea with profound political importance, yet it is a non-partisan concept. Whether you are liberal or conservative in your thinking, or middle of the road, you can make good use of greater personal independence. Any free political philosophy that a community chooses to emphasize will work better if its citizens have greater independence. Perhaps that’s because a government of independent people is by definition a smaller government, and is called on to provide fewer services. A government that is smaller can be observed more clearly, and is easier to manage, no matter which party is in charge.

Can the political system be used to help us become more independent? I think it not only can, but must be used for that purpose. We are so tied up now by centralization, especially centralization of government functions and programs in Washington, that in spirit of peaceful revolution we must petition for loosening our present bonds of dependence. Only by sticking to a positive approach can we mount a unified effort for personal independence that will have the support of people of all political views.

As a start, we should ask for a research program in personal independence. The development of new techniques and advanced technology is a potent force which has shaped our present society in many ways. Many millions are now being spent in research which is helping large institutions become bigger, and which as a result is squeezing out what little independence is left in us.

We need a comparable effort to develop techniques that will help people work on their own, and do things for themselves. All the activities I’ve mentioned so far (plus more) could be helped immeasurably by a research program in independence. We need more study of improved methods of gardening, alternate energy production, health promotion, transportation, personalized home building, home production, and so forth. I can even visualize a National Institute of Independence, whose sole function would be the development of ways that the American people could partially unhook themselves from the web of dependence that has been created during the 200-year history as a nation. Someday we could even have a Secretary of Independence in the cabinet, presiding over a department that would be working for personal independence in a wide variety of ways.

That may sound somewhat odd to you—asking Washington to help us become independent of the forces Washington represents so clearly, and even having an agent in Washington working toward that end. But the simple truth is that our dependence has increased to the point where we have to ask for help in changing the direction of our lives. It's also true that you and I, when aroused to write letters to our representatives, can get them to take note of our needs and maybe even take some action. Asking for a research effort to make personal independence more practical is really not such a big thing, and should be possible to achieve.

 

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