The Hobbit economy not bucolic utopia but tenant farming and ostentatious displays of clan wealth

In The Moral Economy of the Shire Nathan Goldwag teases out the things about Hobbit life that J.R.R. Tolkien smoothed over but surely intended: that under the surface tension of rural utopia are the hard lives of tenant farmers and a complex cultural web of shame, obligation and largesse.

our protagonists aren't typical Hobbits. Bilbo, Frodo, Merry, and Pippin are all very clearly members of the landed gentry, the landowning class that controls most means of economic production and maintains social dominance over the Shire. This isn't really extrapolation or interpretation, it's more-or-less text, and I suspect the only reason it's not spelled out is because Tolkien assumed any reader would understand that intuitively. Bilbo and Frodo are both gentlemen of leisure because the Baggins family is independently wealthy, and that wealth almost has to come from land ownership, because there isn't enough industry or trade to sustain it. They can afford to go on adventures and study Elven poetry because they draw their income from tenant farmers renting their land. Merry and Pippin are from an even higher social tier; both are the heirs to powerful families that hold quasi-feudal offices (the Master of Buckland, for the Brandybucks, and the Thain, for the Tooks).

The Hobbits' obsession with feasting and parties, for example, are just the rich turning wealth into perishable gifts to avoid sharing it. It's the "always has been" meme with the astronaut pulling a gun, and the question is "Merry England is a potlatch culture?"

Also consider the other Shire thing: sufficiently inept government is indistinguishable from libertarianism. Which Tolkien romanticized (cf. "Tory Anarchism") but clearly understood was vulnerable to fascist sublimation because exactly that outcome was banged in at the end of Lord of the Rings.