Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bureaucracy Is Almost Feudal, Where Free Enterprise Is Not.

"Washington has become this place that people don't leave. It has become this permanent feudal class."

Mark Leibovich
New York Times Magazine

The feudal economic system carried the load for much of the Middle Ages.  It was the ruling economic system on many continents.  It took hold, and spanned the 5th to 12th centuries, more or less!

What replaced it?  Free market economics - capitalism - free enterprise!

It is said that William the Conqueror (to whom I am said to be distantly related) brought feudalism to England to create loyalty.  Taking over as he did made him king over the land.  As the king, he was therefore responsible for his new subjects, those who lived in his new territory.  The system is such that as a king died, one of his sons or other relations would take over, and this kingship was passed along to subsequent generations.

William's territory would today be called Great Britain, but was then a disparate group of disparate areas and disparate people.  So, how does a king bring all that together?
He buys them off!  What does the new king William have to buy off loyalty?  Land.  So he appoints, or selects, barons to manage his business, awarding them land for such loyalty.  Barons were often selected from the family tree.

The barons, in turn, are responsible for that area so granted. Loyalty is created by them in much the same way, further down the line through the selection or appointment of knights.  The knights are the local managers, with the peasant rabble as their responsibility.  They are also the soldiers in the kingdom, even with power to recruit the army.  The knights were given land for their responsibility, with a small portion of it for personal use, and this entire grant would incorporate that local area of responsibility, along with the peasants that came with it.

The peasants were the local "blue collar" working class.  The peasantry had almost no ability to move up in the system.  They were without any rights, except what privileges that were allowed them by the local knight in charge.  Their work was forced.  They worked the land.  They worked for the king.  They had no ownership of anything. 

This began to change in 1215 when a group of nobles forced, that's forced, King John to sign the Magna Carta, or "Great Charter."  It began to change rights, incorporating new rights for the "citizenry," and even forced the king to obey some laws.  With time more and more ways were found to limit the powers of the king.  Councils developed, eventually into a representative Parliament, and the lawmaking began.  Kings had less and less ability to just do things - they needed Parliament's support.

This was not only a step toward democracy, but toward free market economics.  Individual rights were extended in private property rights.  And the free-enterprise games began.  

The "technical" definition of free enterprise is where goods and services are priced in an economy based on the laws of supply and demand (yes, LAWS), and the market-perceived benefits or quality of those goods and services.  Prices eventually reach a maximum point of equilibrium and are sustained by competitive market forces.  Competition can lower prices by making goods and services more prevalent and therefore less expensive.  Free enterprise demands competition and private ownership of one's idea, good or service.

Feudalism has not died, however.  It is alive and well in the gubment bureaucracy!  People come to Washington, set up their territories based on political "grants," and go about protecting it.  They want to live on in perpetuity!   And Washington becomes a career.  And the bureaucrats become permanent fixtures.  The Ben Franklin statement that visitors and fish begin to stink after three days could not be more applicable!


No comments:

Post a Comment