recognize that every enlightened andnprosperous nation on the globe makesnspecial provision for its farmers, andnnot from an obsolete affection for thenyeoman ideal. The truth is that thenagricultural market is the great unsolvednproblem of the modern economy.nNo one Has as yet devised morenthan a makeshift solution to the cyclesnof overproduction and underproductionnand price fluctuation that havenbeset agriculture since at least the 18thncentury. Whatever due obeisance wengive to the market, and much is due,nthere is something wrong with the approachnof the sophisters and calculators.nLeave aside the ad hominem argumentnthat some of these gentiemennwere socialists until a few years agonand that they have never been nearernto a real farm than the Chicago futuresnHaunted by Yesterdaynmarket. What is more to the point, wendo not start with a clean slate. The freenmarket is a grand ideal, but from thenfounding of the United States governmentnuntil at least the 1930’s, publicnpolicy was not laissez-faire butnplanned industrial growth by subsidynand favorable legislation for the industrialnsector at the expense of farmersnand consumers.nToday’s agricultural support can benseen as a redressing of the balance.nToday we have a government whichnbuilds and maintains waterways andnairports for the yachts and privatenplanes of the rich; which subsidizesnillegitimacy on an immense scale;nwhich bails out billion-dollar corporations;nwhich pays untalented and obscenenpoets to write gibberish. Undernthe circumstances, it should not shocknby David Hallmann’In literature, it is the hereditary spirit that stillnprevails.”n—George SantayananThe Summoning by Robert Towers,nNew York: Harper & Row.nNothing is more dangerous for thencritic than taking a book cover atnface value. But when the blurbs comparenthe author to William Faulkner,nFlannery O’Connor, Walker Percy,nand Saul Bellow, the challenge is irresistible.nAnd since these are the claimsnwith which Harper & Row confrontsnthe reader of Robert Towers’ novel,nThe Summoning, the publisher is settingnits own standards for the critics.nRemarkably, the novel does not disappointnunless it is held up to those highnliterary comparisons the publisher hasnimplanted in the reader’s mind.nAlthough the action is set in thenSouth and Towers tries to evoke anheavily Southern atmosphere, thencomparisons to Bellow and to a lessernextent Percy, with their depictions ofnexistential angst and quests for “meaning,”nare more valid than the evocationsnof Faulkner and O’Connor.nDavid Hallman is professor ofnEnglish at James Madison University.nnnour free enterprise sensibilities toonmuch to hope that policies can bendevised that will not only allow thensmall farm to survive but to increase innnumbers.nThe goal of encouraging families tonflourish on the land is both morenattainable and more desirable thannmost of the ends for which publicnmoney is spent. I for one am willing tonforego a good deal of the theoreticalnvirtue and actual efficiency of the freenmarket for such an end. I suspect thatnin the long run even the economicneffect would be favorable, but I havenno doubt that the social effect wouldnbe entirely to the good. For the life ofnnations, like the life of persons, isnmore than a balance sheet.nJULY 1986/2Sn