Saturday, January 16, 2021

The New Feudalism?

Hilaire Belloc wrote this, in Europe and the Faith (1920) about the fall of the Roman Empire. 

All that happened was that Roman civilization having grown very old, failed to maintain that vigorous and universal method of local government subordinated to the capital, which it had for four or five hundred years supported. The machinery of taxation gradually weakened; the whole of central bureaucratic action weakened; the greater men in each locality began to acquire a sort of independence, and sundry soldiers benefited by the slow (and enormous) change, occupied the local "palaces" as they were called, of Roman administration, secured such revenues as the remains of Roman taxation could give them, and, conversely, had thrust upon them so much of the duty of government as the decline of civilization could still maintain. That is what happened, and that is all that happened.

All that happened? Belloc was known for hyperbole and he was busy refuting a false view of history in the wake of World War I. Still, his insight into the murky transition of the Western Roman Empire into the Dark Ages and medievalism is well worth the read, to my mind at least. 

Check it out if you have the time. But what's always grabbed my attention is this, The machinery of taxation gradually weakened; the whole of central bureaucratic action weakened; the greater men in each locality began to acquire a sort of independence.

His point being that power began to coalesce into the hands of increasingly wealthy landowners at the expense of central government. Landowners who were effectively exempt from taxation and at the command, he argues, of military force. A small step from that to feudalism, and so to today.

According to Zerohedge and Forbes, Bill Gates in his wisdom has acquired over 200,000 acres of farmland in the US. Likewise, media mogul John Malone owns 2.2 million acres and CNN founder Ted Turner 2 million.

That's a lot of land, which by the way isn't being made anymore, and it doesn't take a vast amount of insight to draw the Roman parallel. Where will it end? Most obviously, to people being villains, serfs and tenant farmers on their billionaire socialist rulers' land. Also to devolution and Balkanization. History evidently rhymes.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam,



Anonymous said...

Neo-Feudalism rather than New Feudalism.

Feudalism can be characterized as being where the power of the State is weak and instead the inter-personal relationships between individual members of the elite dominate society.

It is not just in America, we are witnessing the creation of a globalized baronage that transcend national boundaries, the problem is there is neither a world-wide Royal power, or a global Parliament of the 3rd Estate, or even a Magna Carta, to check their power or machinations.

Ye oldie England needed a strong King and Parliament to balance out the barons. Now we have the barons but none of the checks and balances or laws that even medieval England had to contain this new globalized baronage's domination of our societies.

The new baronage is not secret and truly international in composition. Rather than access to acres to land and its tenantry, it is access to great wealth and a portfolio of assets from which they derive their power and thereby their influence through patronage.

In medieval England the Barons founded monastic houses, hospitals and churches as good works, today they are patrons of NGOs, Charities, Institutes, Educational bodies, the Arts and Cultural events. The medieval baron spent his money to cut a deal with God, their modern equivalent has less straight-forward motives, but generally God doesn't come into it.

Like medieval feudalism the Neo-feudal baronage is ranked, from Duke to squire. Like the medieval baronage great scion houses rise and then fall. Then the baronage reorders itself.

John Ball famously preached in 1381: "When Adam delved and Eve span, pray who was their Gentleman?" So if medieval feudalism was already identified as past its use by date by the 14th century, why permit its reinvention in the 21st Century?

Kid said...

And who is buying all the artificially depressed property on the Park Places around the country. San Fran, NYC, Manhattan, LA, etc. Feeding frenzy.

LSP said...

Most definitely "neo", Anon, agreed. That's why I pointed at late antiquity, the check of central imperial authority in the West had gone. Of course something like it returns with Charlemagne and we begin to get into feudalism proper. But I'm no expert.

Still, give Belloc's third chapter (linked) a read -- he's keen to discredit the "Hun" school of Teutonic history and no wonder, i. He was French and ii. World War I had just ended and iii. It was bad history.

That in mind, he doubtless goes too far but his insight into the devolution of power into the hands of vastly wealthy landowners and generals is, I think, helpful. And of course we're seeing something like it today.

Is Europe the Faith? Good question, and therein lies another tale.


LSP said...

Kid, gotta follow the money and what an nasty trail it is.


Where they'll make us work between reeducation sessions.