Manorialism and Serfdom

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 29th, 2011

Politics 101

High Taxes and a Declining Birthrate marked the Beginning of the End of the Roman Empire

Serfdom dates back to European Manorialism.  But it was born in the decline of the Roman Empire.  When the Romans stopped pushing their borders out they lost a key source of revenue for their empire.  The spoils of war.  This coincided with the rise of their welfare state.  An ever larger bureaucracy to manage the breadth of empire.  And a loss of Roman identity and pride.  Taxes were rising.  And they were debasing their coin.  To monetize their debt.  People tried their best to evade taxes.  And had no desire to serve in the mighty Roman Legions securing the empire’s borders.  Which turned out to be quite the problem for the Romans.

The Romans had to hire soldiers to defend their borders.  A very costly endeavor.  Which added greatly to the cost of empire.  Hence the high taxes.  And debasing of their silver coins with lead.  But only the silver coins.  Not their gold.  Because they needed those to have value.  As they used them to pay for their hired soldiers.  And that’s one thing you don’t want to do to a hired army.  Anger them by paying them with worthless lead.  Because they could attack you as easily as protect you.

Soon being a Roman wasn’t fun anymore.  Taxes were so high people were working more for the Roman government than their families.  And inflation was making daily life difficult.  The people’s money was becoming worthless.  Which raised prices.  Soon the Romans were taking tax payments in kind.  Instead of money they took wheat, wine, clothing, etc.  Whatever a person made a large portion of what they made went to the Roman government.  It became so bad people were quitting to do something else.  A lot of them.  So many that it was cutting into what the Romans were collecting.  That and a declining birthrate marked the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire.  Large armies.  A growing bureaucracy.  And a declining tax base.  Not a formula for fiscal stability.  So they said enough.  No more quitting and moving on.  Whatever your father was you’ll be.  You have no choice.  You’ll do as he did until the day you die.

The Lord of the Manor owned Great Tracts of Land that Needed Laborers, Peasants had Labor to Offer but no Land

It was the rural part of this Roman directive that shaped future history.  Especially in Europe.  When the Roman Empire collapsed civilization went backwards.  To a rural, agrarian way of life.  A rural self-sufficiency.  Where people either owned land.  Or worked on land owned by others.  And that Roman idea to prevent people from quitting and moving on?  That became serfdom.  Where people who worked the land were bound to the land.  And not allowed to leave or look for a new job.  And if the lord sold the land the people bound to the land went with the land.  Not the lord.

This is Manorialism.  As the Roman Empire disintegrated power shifted from a central government to manors.  The Lord of the Manor owned great tracts of land that needed laborers.  Peasants had labor to offer but no land.  So they made an agreement.  The Lord of the Manor would permit the peasant to live and work a small piece of his land.  In return the peasant would join other peasants and work the large landholdings of their lord.

A serf was little more than a slave.  But with a home and land to work to provide for his family.  Which was a lot in Medieval Europe and often meant the difference between life and death.  And he had something more.  Protection.  A set of laws to live by among his fellow serfs administrated by his lord and the manorial court.  And protection from outside threats.  Which was also part of the agreement.  The serfs agreed to fight alongside their fellow serfs in defense of their lord’s land.  Which was also their home.  And the source of all provision for their family.  So it was a very beneficial agreement for both lord and serf.

Serfdom was a Life of Subsistence and Prayer

The Lord of the Manor lived in a mansion.  The peasants lived in a little village.  Between the two was often a church.  Also in or near the village was the lord’s mill.  Operated by the serfs for both the lord’s harvest and their own.  Maybe even a bakery.  Surrounding these were the great tracts of land the serfs worked.  And forests where wild game was available to hunt.  And wood to burn.  But the forests were typically for the lord’s sole use.

So after the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome this was what civilization came to.  A life of subsistence.  Back-breaking work in the fields.  Eat what you grow.  Pray.  And try not to starve or freeze to death during the winter.  Not a life we would dream about today.  But one that worked for centuries.  And held Europe together during the Middle Ages.

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Hmmm, Help the Economy or Class War?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 17th, 2010

Do you know why some Democrats are now urging their leaders to extend the George W. Bush tax cuts?  That’s right, because Bush and the Republicans were right. 

The Democrats want to tax and spend.  But you can’t tax and spend if you don’t win reelection.  And there lies the problem.  They’ve crashed the economy.  Created a permanent underclass.  And shook down the average working stiff to pay for it.  The problem the Democrats have is that there are still too many people who want to have a job.  And until they can take the vote away from these people, they can’t just take their money.  They have to…represent them.  Yeech.  (That would be how these Democrats feel.  Personally, I feel that representing your constituent is a beautiful thing.  So rare these days.)

You see, Democrats are elitists.  They’re part of the Washington aristocracy (which includes RINOs, too).  Life was simpler in the 15th century.  Or so they would think.  And this is what they would say.  If they were honest. 

People knew their places in the 15th century.  The noble classes owned the land.  And the land was everything.  The lord of the manor enjoyed the good life while the peasants worked the land.  Feudalism.  The way it was supposed to be.  Not these days.  This uppity middle class works wherever they want and does whatever they wish.   With no deference to us.  We who are better than they.  No, they act, well, as if they are our equals.  Imagine that!  These impertinent, despicable guttersnipes.

But they’re not honest.  So they don’t say this.  But when they act against the will of the people, they don’t have to.  Their actions speak louder than words.

So now they must deign to listen to these voters.  And these voters want something that’s alien to them.  Jobs.  So they must turn to the alchemy of the Republican Party.  That mysterious witch’s brew.  They have no idea what it is.  But it stimulates the economy.  For real.  It’s one part tax cuts.  Something else.  They don’t know.  It’s all Greek to them.  They don’t know anything about the economy.  But when the Republicans get their way, a crap-load of money comes into Washington.  And they can take it from there.  For they know how to spend that money.  Their money.  So they’ll act like Republicans.  For a little while.  Just long enough to make it through another election cycle.  Then they can stop that nonsense and return to tax and spend.  With a great, big pile of new money.  Their money.  Yeah, that’s right.  To them, it’s all their money.  If only us dunderheads would get it through our thick skulls.

So the Washington aristocracy will call a temporary truce in the class war.  And they will try to stimulate the economy.  And this time it won’t be another spending bill to fund some underfunded union pension plan.  It’ll be something that actually stimulates.  Because it’s for real this time.  It’s election time.

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