A Modest Proposal

The country is increasingly in the grip of discontented protesters who lament the present economic conditions. Capitalism, they claim, has failed us. Year by year those who are already obscenely rich get even richer while the poor become poorer and the middle class shrinks down into poverty. It cannot be denied that capitalism, as it is now practiced, creates huge social problems. The rich live in their gated communities cut off from the needs of the poor, the unemployed, the destitute.

But is socialism the answer? I think not.  Shall the government take from the rich and give to the poor? The only people that benefits are the rich because they must give up some of their wealth, and that must be a good thing. The poor do not benefit because they are given hand outs–and that is demeaning. It encourages indigence, low self esteem, dependence and lack of aspiration. A hand out is not a gift. It is a booby prize.

Capitalism has failed and Socialism has failed. Allow me therefore to make a modest proposal and suggest that we return to the much misunderstood system of slavery. Slavery, as the basis for an economic system, has much to recommend it. Instead of a large, centralized, overblown and expensive bureaucracy, each landowner would raise his own army to defend his land. His standing army would also double as his work force. Slavery would keep the price of labor very low–which would help our country compete globally, and the principle of social welfare is built in very neatly because the landowner (let us call him Lord of the Manor) has a financial interest in the health, welfare, education (and I may add–discipline) of his workforce.

Should we adopt slavery instantly the unemployed would have jobs. The destitute would be housed. The hungry fed and the poor looked after. The unruly would be disciplined. The indigent put to work, the freeloaders encouraged by the homely words of Scripture, “He who would not work–neither should he eat.”

We would, admittedly, sacrifice the principle of ‘individual freedom’, but this is a highly over rated quality, and one which was virtually unheard of until modern times. Indeed, one could argue that ‘individual freedom’ has not existed in our own society anyway since the invention of the television.

And will we really sacrifice ‘freedom’? Think of the freedom the slave enjoys. Freedom from worry about where the next meal will come from. Freedom from paying a mortgage or rent. Freedom from crippling credit card debt. Freedom from making decisions about his future. Freedom from the stress of choosing his own mate. Freedom from the troubles of deciding what he is going to do all day. Freedom from the worries of personal security because they will be locked safely into their homes each evening. Think of the carefree life of the slave–working in our great factories and farms:

Each day they rise to the bright promise of a day full of rewarding work with a congenial group of colleagues of their own background and education. Walking home together arm in arm after a productive day, they will be welcomed by their wives and children for a simple meal. Perhaps after sundown they will all gather at the Lord of the Manor’s home for songs and entertainment and S’mores around the campfire before wandering home tired but happy to collapse into their beds for a satisfying night’s sleep before rising for another day.

The benefits for the landowners are also manifold. They do not need the government to take their money to feed the poor. They will be involved in this joyful duty themselves. Not only will they feed and house the poor, but because the poor live on their land and in their housing they, and their family will know the poor and care for them as members of their extended clan. No need for large government to build schools. The landowners will educate the children of the poor. No need for large government to build expensive armies or pay for the police. Each landowner will defend his own property with his standing army, operate his own justice system should the slaves misbehave (whipping and hanging may at times be necessary evils) and he will not need any of the ‘services’ provided by a central government.

In order to bring about this happy state of affairs I am interested to hear from all people who would like to join a new experimental community in South Carolina. I have secured the use of an old cotton plantation complete with a mansion which is in need of repair and some delightful slave cottages with the hooks still in the walls where chains may be attached. I will be Lord of the Manor and am looking for physically fit, unemployed people who would like to be the first slaves. In order to encourage volunteers I have set aside the sum of $20,000.00 to purchase some lead slaves. I am looking for bright, enthusiastic children of the middle class. Parents who cannot afford college for their children may be very interested in taking up this lucrative offer. Not only will they get paid for their children, but I can guarantee that each young slave will not only receive free room and board, but will also receive full training in a trade or profession free of charge.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16978369468735860836 Serendipity

    Alright Father, sign me up; able bodied college aged strapping young woman (can a woman be strapping?) It sounds just about like college, anyways.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02677700018308197978 truthfinder2

    Glad I'd finished my coffee before reading this. My keyboard would have been toast. Thank you for the laugh, Father!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04939761313614220536 Catawissa Gazetteer

    Might I suggest, Mr. Swift, before we all begin enjoying the economic bounties that only feudalism can supply, that, just as a lark, with no real expectation of success, we try a more – and I know this sounds so archaic and unrealistic in light of your brilliant suggestion – Catholic approach to economic security, a little thing called Distributism?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07331688544544080299 Mitch
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15358001898398406677 Bill

    Please, if we are really going to return to feudalism, can you call us serfs? It has more dignity to it than slaves :).Also by using that term, it might make it easier to get around that pesky little thirteenth amendment.Specifically, as a serf, I will be tied to the land I work. You as lord will own the land, not me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr Longenecker

    Bill, let's not be radical. That sounds sort of left wing and revolutionary. Call yourself serf if you like, but it's still 'slave' for me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00669617693714636751 Bos Mutissimus

    Witty, but inaccurate. If we were to return to Feudalism, it would not mean a return to slavery. See Belloc on Distributism; esp. from The Servile State. “Thus, my argument that slavery was slowly transformed and that the old Pagan Servile State slowly approached a Distributive State under the influence of the Catholic Church is not a piece of special pleading put forward to please my co-religionists. It is a plain piece of historical fact which anyone can verify for himself, and which many do not regard as an advantage, but as a disadvantage inflicted upon humanity by the advent of this religion. Whether the servile institution be a good or a bad thing, it did, as a matter of fact, slowly disappear as Catholic civilization developed; and it has, as a matter of fact, slowly begun to return where Catholic civilization has receded.” (Note: this is from the preface of the second edition, published in 1946. The first edition was published in 1912.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01678341854029479678 Old Bob

    Chesterton talked also about the comparative poverty of the medieval serf vs. the modern (say 1911) homeless; he said that at least the serf would never be homeless because he could not be disposessed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04150835852351448852 Cantor Nikolaos

    Is this for real? I have wondered how long it would take for someone to suggest re-establishing feudalism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14807873592896092136 Anthony S. Layne

    Absolutely brilliant, Father. But in view of the declining state of American education, I'm just waiting for someone who has never even heard of Jonathan Swift (that brilliant son of Ireland) to denounce you publicly and shrilly for your horrific plan. I'll even give slight odds that the person will be an English lit major.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15358001898398406677 Bill

    C. Nikolaos, Google Jonathon Swift and A Modest Proposal.Now, back in character. Father, slavery really had no place in a true feudal society. Serfs had rights that slaves never had… at least in the classic model of feudalism. Since you have given me leave to call myself a Serf, I demand those rights. I would also point out that as liege lord, you are required to provide protection for us serfs in return for the fruit of our labor (or at least a percentage there of). Lest you think you can avoid these obligations, I would point out that when the peasants and serfs of the late medieval period felt oppressed (it was really after the Black Death that serfs became tied to their land), they were not above staging a protest… and they were a little more boisterous than the Wall Street Protestors :).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09011063783466945979 Michael

    Never work these days. Why when you can feed a bulldozer a gallon of diesel would you feed a thousand slaves to the the same amount of work.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr Longenecker

    The slaves will drive the bulldozers

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04939761313614220536 Catawissa Gazetteer

    Then you'll need a lot less slaves or a lot more dozers. Oh-oh. Probably cheaper to reduce the slaves than buy the dozers. But then, isn't that how these sorts of economic systems always work?