Poverty and Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Farm Security Administration

By Sidney Baldwin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE FSA IN ACTION: PROGRAMS AND PERFORMANCE

Once a human interest is recognized as legitimate, a principle of conduct is derived from it.

KARL POLANYI1 The Great Transformation

Perceiving a mandate, not for a war on chronic rural poverty, but rather for more orthodox purposes--preservation of the family farm and reduction of certain forms of farm tenancy--the leaders of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) proceeded with caution. As reasonably sophisticated veterans of American political life, they cloaked their ambitious goals in traditional agrarian symbolism, and the family farm became the hallmark of the agency, despite the fact that some of their programs were devoted to a more collective organization of agriculture and rural life. During the years that followed, there were conflicts, defeats, disappointments, and retreats, but the extent to which they achieved their goals, improved the human condition for hundreds of thousands of destitute farm families, conceived and successfully applied unique social innovations, maintained their agency's viability, and explored the parameters of the possible surprised their friends and alarmed their foes.

____________________
1
Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation ( New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1944), p. 261.

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