The farm owned by Major Major’s father prospers due to agricultural subsidies from the federal government. The concept of “paying farmers not to grow crops” grew out of the Great Depression, when President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration passed the Agricultural Adjustment Act in 1933. The U.S. had already provided price and income supports to livestock farmers starting in 1921 during the economic collapse in Europe due to the devastating effects of World War I.
The idea was to help farmers who were losing money by destroying excess crops, with the ultimate goal of artificially reducing supplies and thereby stabilizing prices. If farmers were willing to limit how much they planted and cultivated, the government would pay them subsidies to keep their business afloat. The Supreme Court struck down the 1933 act as unconstitutional, so Congress responded by passing the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act in 1938 to achieve the same goals.
Heller highlights the irony that Major Major’s father depends on an inherently socialistic program -- on a broad scale, farm subsidies transfer income from general taxpayers to farm owners -- yet opposes federal aid to anyone else because it’s “creeping socialism.” This sort of tunnel vision survives alive and well to this day among military personnel and veterans who draw their incomes and retirement benefits from the federal government, and retirees who depend on Social Security checks and Medicare to survive, yet take the “freedom-loving … rugged individualist” stance of Major Major’s father that “government is the problem, not the solution” and what the American people need is “less government.”