March 02, 2004

The price of mobility?

Everyone is so eager to assert that feudalism would be inferior because it would limit social mobility.

Even if this were true (which I'm not convinced it is), let's not forget the price we pay for this mobility: at-will employment.

See, e.g., Donahue v. Federal Express Corp., 753 A.2d 238 (Pennsylvania 2000).

Donahue, the poor bastard, was fired because Fed Ex didn't need him anymore. His various and sundry pleas for legal redress fell on deaf ears. Pathetic, really. Workers in our modern system can't look beyond the next paycheck; no one owes them anything.

Under a well-ordered feudal system, your allegience to a lord would be balanced by the lord's obligations to protect you. That's more than Fed Ex is obliged to do. . .

Posted by Carey at March 2, 2004 10:19 PM

The answer? unionize!

Posted by: Jordan at March 2, 2004 10:22 PM

Jordan is right. Unionization is the answer, not feudalism. And, it has the added bonus that an intellegent hard-working Fed Ex employee can eventually run his own delivery company if given the proper educaation-impossible under feudalism What we need is cheaper education (and a welfare state and decent unemployment insurance). Oh and by the way, about what you and Raj were saying about how, unlike social democrats, feudalism could handle diversity if it got the chance. It had the chance. It treated European Jews like shit. This is what you call "handling diversity."
Oh, and Canada, which has democratic socialism, is one of the most diverse societies in the world.

Posted by: Larry at March 2, 2004 10:43 PM

Unionization creates two warring classes, instead of correcting the basic problem that Carey identified, a lack of mutual obligation.

It's quite possible that the social and technical advances we've experienced are not entirely due to changes in form of government. Maybe if feudalism got another chance with European Jews, it would do okay.

Posted by: Mark Ashton at March 3, 2004 10:12 AM

I agree with Mark. Carey's claiming to create a system where workers and owners (gasp!) are not at odds with each other. There are, at the very minimum, some wistful thoughts to be had on the matter.

After all, too much competition does nobody any good.

Posted by: Heidi at March 3, 2004 10:18 AM

The reason why people felt any obligation towards each other in Medieval times was largely due to the power of the Church. The Church kept people in check. Unfortunately it also led to religious intolerance. I don't know if you could have feudalism as we know it with religious tolerance.

As far as competition is concerned, the Middle Ages were among the most violent in history. Violence is the worst form of competition (6 murders a night in Medieval Rome -- out of 100,000 people. Even NYC at it worst was nowhere near as bad.) You guys should stop romaticizing the past (and the future) and start enjoying the present.

Posted by: Larry at March 3, 2004 10:48 AM

I want to amend my early statement. Unions institutionalize warring classes, they don't create them.

Medieval Rome is a bad example since, as a town, it was outside the feudal system.

I don't think we're romanticizing the past. I love the present. We live in a wonderful world. However, I think it is erroneous to assume the correlation between the rise of republics and an improvement in quality of life is a causal relationship. Is it possible that the old feudal system could have remained, with minor changes, in a society that embraces Enlightenment ideals and is technologically progressive? I think so. I don't think there is anything exclusive about the connection between our current forms of government and our good quality of life.

Posted by: Mark Ashton at March 3, 2004 12:53 PM

Give up all your sovereignty for job security? Just move to Japan!

Posted by: Dante at March 3, 2004 01:24 PM

The current system of government (and economy) is precisely why ideas such as the enlightenment and modern technology came about. If the only option for a smart peasant was to become a priest, you won't have anyone building better mousetraps so to speak, and the people with time to philosophise wouldn't think up Enlightment ideas, because they would be a threat to the status quo. At it's very least, Feudalism means that you are stuck in your ancestral position. (If feudalism doens't mean that, then what does it mean?) Having lots of people with absolutely no way to get an education to better themselves, and a few people dedicated to the status quo makes for a sclerotic society. I am one of the biggest critics of capitalism you'll see today, but as a basic system with a decent safety net, it's the best system we've got.
As far as violence was concerned, why does "fuedalism" have the same root as "feud", meaning fight? One of the reasons the Pope planned the Crusades was to stop Christians from killing each other (and kill Muslims and Jews instead).

Posted by: Larry at March 3, 2004 09:39 PM