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1. A song by Jello Biafra on the No WTO Combo album.

2. A term coined by meaning what some predict is the coming form of corporate-govnerment, or military-industrial complex (M.I.C.--also a Husker Du song). The barons and lords in castles, who own the land and the people on the land (i.e. the serfs) have been replaced with CEOs and their huge coroporations which both fund the government (lobbies) and are funded by the government (corporate welfare), with the masses working for them, having no where else to go.

One can say that this sounds like paranoia, like another conspiracy theory rant. However, consider the following: in this modern life, it is becoming more and more rare to find an independent businessman. The mom-and-pop shops of yesterday are being replaced by Wal-Mart, and mom and pop are now running Sam Walton's registers. The independant businessman, like the independent land owner, cannot compete with the big corporations, so they give up and join said corporation. This is not unlike the medieval system of feudalism, wherein a man gave up his freedom and his land in order to become a vassal for the local lord; this would afford him protection from other kings and lords who decide to make war on the land. He was held in homage to this lord, with no real freedom, but enough money and food to keep his mouth shut.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of people haven't enough skills or social positioning to even be a vassal, and so are left to be peasants, who were exactly as they sound--worked six days a week, had no education, no ability to move beyond their caste, and in some cases, weren't even able to do such things as deflower their own wives (yes, Braveheart wasn't making that up). Worse yet were the serfs--owned by the lord, forever tied to the land they farm. However, they never farm it for their own benefit. What they farm is taken by the lord to feed to his vassals and keep them happy; a small percentage is kept by the serf to eat (this is the actual cause of the Irish Potato Famine).

So, New Feudalism is the premise that today, we are either:

Instead of the American credo "all men are created equal," this works upon the ideas of social darwinism, wherein "the strong survive, and the hell with the rest, we'll eat them for lunch when they've outlived their usefulness. There's more where they came from." All men aren't created equal by this measure, but are bound to their caste, like in India. The poor will stay poor by cutting social programs and allowing huge corporate mergers and a return of monopolies and oligarchies. The middle class shrinks because of the cut to education (for instance the laughable voucher system, wherein only one out of twenty students will be able enter a private school; the rest must remain in the public schools, which now have fewer funds because the funds have been diverted to the voucher system), which leaves the masses unable to move up using their intelligence; as well as because of the lack of meaningful employment. (A side note--unemployment may have been down the past few years, but the jobs that people worked at were low-paying retail gigs; many of these people have a college education, but that doesn't buy you much anymore).

With the death of the independant businessman, we are entering an age of New Feudalism. This isn't capitalism anymore--this is worse.

I myself will be joining the guild of bards as soon as possible, provided my band can find a drummer.

This is the kind of thing that can get depressing if you think about it too much. This is the stuff that your guidance counselor never tells you about. I pretty much agree with all of the above w/u. If you're still a little hazy about what 'jonez meant by corporate welfare or military-industrial complex, check out the links and find some of Noam Chomsky's stuff. (I'm working my way through Keeping the Rabble In Line but I have to take it slow for the sake of my sanity--it's like finding out there's no tooth fairy, only 100 time worse).

Sometimes feudalism sounds like it would be fun. Some of us would be knights-errant, zooming around the planet with lightsabers righting wrongs. The monks would get to recite those cool chants and even the peasants would get to talk in funny british accents like in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The idea gets some consideration in the node semi-feudal corporate anarchy as the basis of a fictional universe.

But the whole thing falls apart today because we're missing the fealty (loyalty directed up) and noblesse oblige (loyalty directed down). The common worker-bees aren't pledging loyalty to their employers, and employers aren't taking care of their charges, the workers. Okay, there's 401k plans, but you can still be downsized at any time. And there's just a whole hell of a lot of people who are superfluous--it's not worth the effort to train them to be productive worker-bees because there's enough worker-bees already. I'm probably not stating this very eloquently. And I wouldn't be the first one to make a comparison between the black plague and aids--if there ever is a cure for it, who is going to be responsible for passing out the cure to all the serfs/worker bees? Not the lords/ceo's, probably. Look at some of the stuff that Chomsky's peers are writing (I get a catalog from Common Courage Press which seems to have some good stuff--if you have a high depression threshold.) I can't state it as well as they do in the catalog but it's something along the lines that the system treats an incurable disease in the free world at the cost of a bijillion dollars (per case) but it doesn't cure bijillions of third world sickies at the cost of a few cents (per case). The whole thing is just depressing. Or maybe the liberal press is throwing the whole thing out of proportion and everything is just peachy keen.

   "New Feudalism" is an attempt to draw vague connections between "Old Feudalism" and modern capitalism. Defences of capitalism can be based on egoism or utilitarianism, and both come in useful in this case. New Feudalism seems a hard opponent to battle because it is not tightly-defined or formalized, so I shall limit my response and discussion to statements made in the two write-ups above. Whether I convince you or not, it will provide food for thought that opposes the above.

   First, I think it should be pointed out that despite all the flak that capitalism takes, the system we (the Western world) live under today, is freer and more prosperous than any previous system. Even if one were to accept the worst-case scenario of what is described above, modern liberal democracies provide demonstrably freer lives and better standards of living than existed in these countries before. Before criticizing a firm for holding you in a servitude of low wages and little reward, it is important to remember that without this firm you would have no way to make your living. If the opportunity cost1 of you working for that firm was a better option, then you would be taking the superior option.

   Some, especially those that romanticize Medieval village life, say that humanity would be much happier in the agricultural life that it existed in before the advent of capitalism. The hardships of this life are often forgotten - healthcare was not adequate, education in the higher aspects of life non-existent, and famine due to poor harvest a constant threat. It should be remembered that the wealth that was generated through capitalism alleiviated all these problems - indeed, your health and education may be looked after by mechanisms of the state, but they levy the money to provide these services from the transactions of capitalism. It is an undeniable historical fact that the reason we enjoy such a higher state of life now than our forefathers did is because of capitalism.

   However, this is not to say that our current way of life is perfect or anyone's idyll - yet, in this imperfect world it is fair to say that it is the pinnacle of what has come before it.

   The accusation that modern capitalism is opposed to the principle that "all men are created equal" is based on a misunderstanding of this phrase, which is in fact not even meant to affect the economic sphere. All men are created equal, in the eyes of the law, in terms of their base opportunity (the extra opportunity provided by inheritance is something we shall return to later), meaning there should be no discrimination. At first this principle meant no group should be victimized or dealt with harshly - when social welfare programs came into being, it meant their benefits should not be limited to only one class of people.

   The accusation that modern capitalism has created a new "caste system" is at once correct and incorrect. There is a "caste system" under modern capitalism - as there is a caste system in men's minds. Some men are more physically fit than others, some more mentally able, and some spiritually purer. Capitalism does not deny the existence of God's unfairness to men as Socialism does, but instead affords the able a right to prosper. In fact, the prospering of the able almost always rubs off on the less able - the firms run by the business-men provide jobs for all, and the taxes levyed from them provide for social welfare. While all men are not equal in terms of material wealth, freedom is provided for more wealth to be generated, so that general standard of living for all increases.

   There will always be "upper", "middle" and "lower" classes - but before deriding this system one would do well to remember that the lots of all classes have being increasing since the Industrial Revolution, and that economics is not a zero-sum game. If Bill Gates never existed, you would not have more wealth than you have now - the world would have less.

   I realize I have not yet addressed the "death of the independent businessman". Let me assure you very much that the independent businessman is not dead. His most noticable manifestation - the small retail shop - is indeed in decline, but sadly this group's continued existence was not to the advantage of society. While we must feel sorry for the men going out of business due to the supermarket (my grandfather ran a small grocers for most of his life), it must be recognized that society has voted with its wallet and chosen the supermarket.

   Other small businessmen are still very much in existence. My grandfather owned a grocer's shop, my father is an independent engineer operating as a sole trader.

   If it be claimed that the castes imposed by capitalism place not the best and the brightest in the upper classes, but those that have the luck to inherit wealth, it must be remembered that whoever amassed that wealth to begin with has the right to dispose of it as he wishes. We could not prevent him passing it on to his offspring without a gross infringement of his right to what is his. Besides, amassed wealth is not an evil - it tends to generate more wealth across the whole of society, as the bank it is kept in invests it, and the owner spends it. Even if the inheritor of a vast sum of money is indolent and does not deserve it, then he will stimulate the economy if he fritters it away on parties and high living.

   The idea that politicians are "Kings" and CEOs "Lords" is ludicrous. Where is the patronage from King to Lord? Where is the duty of Lord to King? Neither are to be seen, because neither exist. Certainly, businesses can exert pressure on the government, like any other pressure group can. As the primary concern of any government is its own re-election, it will only bend to this pressure as much as it has to without alienating the voting public. We live in a democracy, peasants and serfs did not.

   You are never required to give up your freedom. To say that "I am reliant on A providing me with B, therefore he has stolen my freedom as I cannot survive without him," is a very contorted view of freedom and morality - yet this is what you are claiming if you say your company has stolen your freedom. Without the company, you would have nothing! Nor is it true that there is no way to move between castes - and to describe professionals as "peasants" seems very bizzare indeed! The working class is the working class - often poor, often under-educated. Teachers and nurses are the middle class - they enjoy an affluence that would be the envy of those living in undeveloped countries! It is certainly not fair to describe management as a caste apart from professionals - many could have entered management if they had wished to.

   To summarize, what capitalism allows men to do is live to the fullest of their means, earnt or inherited. You may feel bitterness that entrepreneurs pull in millions of dollars, but why not do it yourself? We live truely in societies of opportunity and wealth unknown in any age before. Some benefit more than others, but most of the barriers to advancement and increased affluence are in the mind, not in reality. When the wealthy generate more wealth, all of society benefits, and never before has it been easier to make a grab for the top yourself. You may not succeed, but well, if you fail maybe you'll start to understand that entrepreneurs are not an over-class of privledged frat boys, but many work very hard to get to where they are.

~ Notes ~

1. Opportunity cost is the option you forfeit by taking another option. For instance, if I opt to take a job at Microsoft, I forfeit the opportunity of a job at Apple Computers.

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