Durable Trades

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

I got the library I work at to order the excellent book "Durable Trades: family-centered economies that have stood the test of time" by Rory Groves. While I have a job, I think this book is great for anyone who is looking at what else they might do, and is especially good for young people who want to build a solid foundation. It is written from a Christian perspective, but it's not heavy handed, so if that's not your faith, that bit can be set aside with ease. Even so, I think the values of "family centered economies" are also a value of a lot of Green Wizards, regardless of their faith. Also, it's good for those who may not yet have a family, or for those who will be bachelors, because it all translates to jobs that are going to be around for the long haul.

This is from the blurb.

"With over thirty thousand occupations currently in existence, workers today face a bewildering array of careers from which to choose, and upon which to center their lives. But there is more at stake than just a paycheck. For too long, work has driven a wedge between families, dividing husband from wife, father from son, mother from daughter, and family from home. Building something that will last requires a radically different approach than is common or encouraged today. In Durable Trades, Groves uncovers family-centered professions that have endured the worst upheavals in history--including the Industrial Revolution--and continue to thrive today. Through careful research and thoughtful commentary, Groves offers another way forward to those looking for a more durable future."

In looking at the trades he rates them on a scale of how easy it is to learn the trade, how family centered it is, and a few other things. Because they have already stood the test of time, they are likely to stand the test of time in varying degrees as we go down the long descent, hence why I think this a valuable book on the subject of trades and vocation. Also probably of interest to deindustrial writers for the work they can give their characters.

Here are the entire contents and trades covered:

"Part I: Brittle systems. The challenge ahead ; The industrial revolution: then and now ; Defining durable -- Part II: Durable Trades. Key findings ; Shepherd ; Farmer ; Midwife ; Gardener ; Woodworker ; Carpenter ; Painter ; Cook ; Brewer ; Innkeeper ; Tutor ; Mason ; Silversmith ; Interpreter ; Author ; Butcher ; Apothecary ; Counselor ; Sawyer ; Lawyer ; Honorable mentions ; Baker ; Plasterer ; Tailor ; Metalsmith ; Barber ; Publisher ; Minister ; Merchant ; Roofer ; Embalmer ; Architect ; Farrier ; Leatherworker ; Sailor ; Logger ; Treasurer ; Physician ; Artist ; Musician ; Fisherman ; Miner ; Banker ; Courier ; Statesman ; Professor ; Nanny ; Judge ; Scientist ; Cartographer ; Armorer ; Schoolteacher ; Shipwright ; Watchman ; Dentist ; Foundryman ; Millwright ; Coachman ; Soldier ; Actor ; Athlete ; Tax collector -- Part III: Durable Foundations. The vital life ; The dignity of work ; A resilent future."

An excerpt is available here:

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

I just saw this article on Work or Welfare after I posted the above. It seems relevant.

Thank you for the recommendation.

I think about this sort of thing all the time, to make my fictional, world-made-by-hand world more accurate.

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Hey Teresa. Yeah, I liked this book. I know you write mostly novels, from what I gather -besides your nonfic books- and self-publish through your own press, but Nathanael Bonnel's "New Maps" quarterly is always on the lookout for new deindustrial short fiction. I'm sure you already know about it... but just throwing it out there. I hope you and your family are well. https://new-maps.com/

Short stories are almost impossible for me to write.
I get going and I write and write and write because every character is complete and has their own story to tell.

Keeping under 200,000 words is a challenge.

Thanks for your kind words!
I'll keep New Maps in mind in case I'm able to write something short and realistic (not fantasy or space opera).

I have the opposite problem. I either write short stories, or my longer works either finish at about 30,000 words or I never finish writing them at all.

David Trammel's picture

My first short story was published in a contest by Penthouse, with a 2000 word limit. I wrote a bit more in that niche during college for the money and yes, writing short is very hard. You learn to compress prose and edit down to the bone with that kind of upper limit.

I do wonder if many of these types of jobs will survive long enough to be there when they are needed again. Seems harder and harder to find them anymore. I tried finding a shoe repair place recently, to get some leather sewed up and couldn't. Sewing machine repair is another that's getting harder and harder to find.

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

I hear what you are saying David about if they will survive until they are needed again. I have a corollary story about a shoe repair place. There was one across the street from my old work location, but it too is now gone. The one time I went in there with some boots I wanted the guy to repair he told me they weren't worth his effort. Might be part of why he was out of business... but the price for his repair was equal to probably another pair of cheaper boots. So, even if shoe repair places are around, the type of shoes most people have are probably so cheap they aren't worth repairing. I do like to spend extra for quality when I can, but it's not always possible.

Hopefully some people will stick things out in the interim period. I think people might start doing some of these as hobbies or from their homes and could grow them further into full businesses when they have the people who will need that skill as a service. But is true, some stuff just isn't there. (It'd be great to see some of these go into all those vacant strip mall spaces lurking around America!)

lathechuck's picture

... maybe you should buy better shoes. I really like my made-in-Wisconsin RedWing work boots, and I've paid to have the soles replaced once (after about five years). The original soles cracked and leaked before wearing all the way through. It made me happy to give the cobbler a job, and the leather upper part of the shoe is both soft and sturdy (well broken-in).

If you buy cheap shoes (or anything else) made in China, you give China more choice about how to spend the money: buy US vacation properties? US rental housing? US farmland? US liquified natural gas? US politicians? It's their choice, and when they have the money, they can out-bid us on the things we'd like to buy for ourselves.

lathechuck's picture

No matter what you do, you need to bring in enough cash money to pay taxes. If you own your housing, you pay property taxes; if you rent, your landlord pays property tax on the land you occupy. That puts a hard threshold under the cash that you must bring in every year. I have a hobby of repairing guitars. Suppose I can add $100 value to a broken guitar. (Asian factories churn out playable instruments that retail for $100, so if I get a broken one for free, I can't make much more profit than that.) And suppose my property taxes are $5000 per year (which is pretty close). Then I need to sustain a flow of one guitar per week through my workshop just to cover the taxes! And if we suppose that a guitar gets broken every twenty years, I need a population of 50 x 20 = 1000 reckless guitar owners in my hypothetical community who know that I can fix their instrument for $100, and are willing to spend $100 to have it done. If their businesses aren't bringing in the cash for necessities, that spending might be hard to justify. If local conditions reduce local spending power, I could lower my price, but unless my taxes go down too, it just means I need to support a larger community (and do more work) to meet the tax threshold.

My property taxes largely go to local labor: public school staffs, roads and maintenance, etc., so it would be nice if those people would pay me to fix a guitar every 20 years, so the money circulates within the local area. But when any of us spend money on something from farther away (e.g., imported clothes, toys, electronics, etc.), that money may not come back, and we all end up poorer. It's not enough for me to strive for local-only consumption, if my neighbors export "community cash" instead.

If I want to make enough money to cover something other than property taxes, such as food, and clothing, these numbers need to be scaled up substantially. I might fantasize about heating with home-grown wood, eating home-grown food, wearing home-spun fabric, but there's no getting around paying the tax man.