So It’s Serfdom, Again

You remember the English serfs, right? Serfs worked for extremely wealthy landowners with titles like baron or duke, for almost no pay at all. When all the wealth goes to a very few extremely wealthy people with titles, that’s called an extractive economy. Feudal England was just such an extractive economy.

After major political changes in 18th century England, a socio-political condition emerged in which workers did actually get paid. Eventually their children even got to go to school and all the rest. The American Revolution came along and abolished all inherited feudal establishments in the new nation. But conservatives’ thinking is still trapped in that feudal era, and they like the idea. The proof of this is the strong support of the enormous increase in wealth of the very rich by conservative Republicans, with no concomitant improvements for anyone else.

Conservatives’ central beliefs today
were formed at an earlier time,
when all wealth went to the wealthy.

Call me a peasant, but I take offense at the conservative belief in the importance of a very wealthy elite, the 0.01%, who control the other 99.99% of us, particularly in a country where all that was supposed to have been banished in 1787. These people aren’t “job creators”. They don’t actually “earn” their money. They are not at the top of a meritocracy. The whole conservative faith makes even less sense now that we have proven that diminished equality decreases the wealth and wellbeing of everyone, the rich included.

Now, do not conclude that I think we are on the verge of re-establishing the social setting of 1300 England. Nor am I against wealth, per se. But look at the direction conservatives would lead us. We already have vast wealth concentrated in the hands of a very few, who are working hard to build an extractive economy that serves only them, very much like feudal England. Only our enlightened laws prevent them from getting it at once.

It is among the poor where freedom is defined.

But it is among the poor where freedom is defined, not among the rich, and freedom is definitely on the decline for the poor. It should not be possible to work a full time job and be forever trapped in poverty, but that’s what we have. Millions of people work at common jobs, which are essential for the smooth functioning of society, but need a second job to make ends meet. This is the sign of a modern semi-serfdom, not freedom, not democracy.

When I have expressed my belief to conservative friends that everyone should earn a Living Wage, their response has been to ask why I want to seize the wealth of others. News for them: fair pay for honest work is not money seized from anyone; it is fair pay honestly earned. If paying a Living Wage would, in fact, be the same as stealing, it could only prove that this money was extractive wealth that should have been theirs to begin with. Nor could it devalue those who are reasonably paid. Living Wage laws have worked well in Australia, where they have been in place for a century. A fair social setting hasn’t hurt the poor in sound European nations, where an illness never creates a family bankruptcy, as is frequent here, and the low-wage worker isn’t automatically poor when age forces retirement.

Conservatives who say they don’t support
Living Wage laws actually support keeping
the poor forever in modern semi-serfdom.

Those at the bottom of the US labor market have become the permanent poor. The ever-worsening pay for the poor is approved of by conservatives, thus supporting the destruction of opportunity that is supposedly the hallmark of the country. In spite of their honest labor, any modest setback for a poor family can easily destroy their entire wealth and all hopes for a better future for at least a generation, often two or three.

The belief of conservatives is that this is the way it should be. If this were not their belief, they would fiercely support Living Wage laws, single-payer health care, and good retirement plans, all of which, ironically, would also benefit them. They do no such thing. I believe that conservative beliefs are hypocritical, and move us in the direction of serfdom, which is something we were supposed to have overcome with the Constitution.

[Edited from a post on 2012/04/16]


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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] So It’s Serfdom, Again ( […]


  2. […] So It’s Serfdom, Again […]


  3. We’ve all become quaint props in a .001% er’s modern-day Currier and Ives post card.


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