The Servile State and the Road to Serfdom look more prescient all the time

Medieval peasants got a lot more vacation time than you do.

The author, being a typically ignorant Late Modern, manages to paint the Church’s insistence on leisure for the poor as a cynical crowd control measure rather than as an act of mercy running interference between the weak and those who exploit them, but the point is that yeah, in Christendom, the goal was to cut the poor slack.

In modernity, particularly in the past thirty years, we have managed to erect a system primarily ordered toward defending the strong from the weak, while making the vast majority of our citizens poorer and poorer, working longer and longer, for fewer and fewer returns. The goal, of course, is the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few, with fewer and fewer ties of responsibility to the people they exploit.

And when the middle class complain of this, they are accused of being Communists or socialists. That game will only work so long. Sooner or later, something will have to give.

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  • Dave G.

    “Sooner or later, something will have to give.”

    I hope so.

    • James H, London

      It’s the cracking, grinding and collapsing that hurts!

  • Teddy

    Christian socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat-Karl Marx

  • Teddy

    Europeans have plenty of vacation time still, by the way. Six to eight weeks depending on the country. Fully paid. Plus fully paid maternity leave. But we can’t have that in America becaise STALIN MAO POL POT shut up that’s why.

    • Paxton Reis

      And for all their secularism, they get a load of religious holidays off too: Easter Monday, Assumption Day, All Saints, etc.

      • Teddy

        Well AFAIK most of them either have an official State Church in spite of their secularism in society, or, in the traditionally Catholic nations, still have a vestigal cultural deference to the RCC on these types of things.

    • James H, London

      That might be true on the continent, but here in Blighty it’s 25 days a year, max. And if the business closes between Christmas and New Year, those days get taken off the 25, too. We get long weekends (Mondays off only) at the beginning and end of May, the last weekend of August, and Good Friday/ Easter Monday. Religious holidays evaporated with Cromwell.

  • B.E. Ward

    No one with “economic power” has been able to answer this question:

    For those of us under 40, when Social Security is long gone and none of us have pensions, when *real* inflation puts a gallon of milk at $15 in 30 years, and when we have a piddly lump sum from a 401k that was “generously matched at 4-6%”, how are we going to survive?

    PS – and we’re the ‘lucky’ ones. What happens to the folks that have no 401k and never earned more than $25/hour?

    • Teddy

      Social Security could be easily fixed by eliminating the payroll tax cap. But, is there the political will to do that?

      • Half Heathen

        Of course, taking 50% of someone’s income is not nearly enough! Those greedy rich people ought to be grateful that our benificent rulers let them keep any of their income, all of which is stolen from the poor.

    • thisismattwade

      I think we’ll all realize that getting a three pack of shirts for $5 at Target and a bedroom set for $100 at Babies R Us, all made in China or Vietnam, wasn’t worth the savings we thought were so valuable at the time while we slowly destroyed our local economies and communities. But hey! a new electronic toy/video game/cheap book on Amazon to distract me!

    • If you see your economic pathway dead ending in a lousy spot, maybe it’s time for a career change to something that will do better? I’m in the middle of this process right now, in my mid-40s myself, and not expecting to get much out of Social Security.

      The plain fact is that any economy needs some sort of signalling device to get people to move out of economic activity that has too many people doing it and into other activity that has too few. Capitalism does this by lowering pay. Nobody’s figured out a better way yet.

      We desperately need more businesses to increase demand for labor.

      • Dan C

        Labor and humans are undesirable for a business. There are plenty of calculations that independently determine the worth of a company just based on the number of people employed. The more, the worse it is. Hence, companies having yearly lay-offs each winter and spring.
        We are supposed to be thrilled by this loss of employment. Its called “creative destruction” because its supposed to be good. So says the propaganda.
        Most studies suggest that the individuals who get laid off, particularly if skilled or professionals, often do not regain the same position or salary in the next job and many never regain that position once held.
        A good, healthy company will lay people off, just to foster efficiency. There are no signals, human labor is not respected by employers or Wall Street.

        • Were somebody to offer a report to calculate my business worth “just based on the number of people employed” I would throw him out. It’s nonsense, as stated, because the value those persons are creating for the business are not included in the calculation.

          If I can do a job with 10 people instead of 100, I do like it, but only because that means I can do other things with the freed up labor. The nature of the work I am engaging in, which is outwitting dishonest politicians, will never be entirely automated, but does not require advanced degrees. There are on the order of 89,000 governments in this country. We have no idea really what they are, who runs them, what do they do, any of the basics needed for management. It’s all pretty opaque for most people. When you have a huge pile of work and orders of magnitude too few people, creative destruction looks pretty good.

          After a certain point, you get enough people to do the job fully and guess what, that is the point when you need to start looking for another problem to solve because your days of driving up labor demand just ended.

          There is always another problem to be solved. That’s been true since we were kicked out of Eden. I expect it to remain true and thus we can always increase labor demand by tackling more problems.

          Unless you’re an apostle for stagnation, freeing up labor is a good thing so long as new company formation balances the freeing of the labor with new jobs tackling new problems that we hadn’t gotten around to addressing to that point.

          The problem isn’t in freeing up the labor. It is in the stagnation of new company formation.

          Stagnation isn’t a virtue.

      • Elmwood

        From my perspective, businesses (big corporations) don’t like hiring to give people jobs, they only hire to increase potential share value. That means an economic environment where we work for it rather than the economy working for us. It’s backwards and people are reduced to commodities to be done away with when they are seen to be uneconomic.

        So I don’t think it’s realistic for people to change careers because they will likely hire a young person out of college instead of an old person. They will have one person do the work of three because it saves money.

        • Don’t work for large companies. It’s been well understood for some time that virtually all the employment growth is in the small/medium business sector in the US, not in big business which fires as much as it hires.

          If big business is not a fertile place for you, withdraw your labor from them. If enough people do this, they will suffer higher labor costs and reduced profitability. They are already doing so.

          There are a lot of companies out there that you seem to not be considering as viable workplaces. This reduces your earnings potential and sets you up to be a sucker for people who you already admit aren’t acting in a friendly way towards you.

  • faithandfamilyfirst

    I too am disturbed that, as soon as you point out that the current system is working only to increase the wealth of the very small minority who were already wealthy, and not working to increase the wealth of the so-called “middle class,” then you are branded as a no-good Commie who should be shot. While capitalism has done great things to generate a great standard of living for so many, it has its flaws. It doesn’t help matters that the current stream of capitalists (Buffet, Gates, dot-com bazillionaires, etc.) either have not been raised with any sort of moral backbone or have chosen to ignore what meager morality they once possessed. While God gets pushed more and more into the dusty corners of non-public life, we will see more and more abuses of the working classes.
    It’s not like we little guys don’t have power, however. Remember, the stock market is loaded with mostly the 401k and private earnings of the average consumer. That’s why it’s the average consumer who bears the brunt when the Wall Street hacks blow up the market. We’ve had 3 major stock explosions over the last 30 years, wiping out untold zillions from the portfolios of the common man. Pull your money out of the market.
    Ok, start calling me Commie and calling for my head on a platter.

  • Noah Doyle

    Related thought: I wonder if a problem with poverty is one of goals. We wish to end poverty, to defeat it, as if it were a enemy force, as opposed to a status, or condition. Perhaps we should be looking at ways to ameliorate the situation of the poor, rather than wonder why this or that new program failed to make them not-poor.

  • Only a Communist would suggest that the contemporary American Way of Life isn’t the bestest and awesomest in history.