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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Work For Me or Die

Vache Folle gets down to the nitty gritty on where those "best available alternatives" come from:

And once you turn folks into farmers, they are not all that keen to leave their plows and take their places in the mills. Sure, they’ll work seasonally, or some of the family will work for extra cash, but it’s hard to subject them to harsh conditions because they’ll just quit and help out on the farm. As long as farming is an option, you have to pay more and treat folks better to keep them on the line. What you really want to do is drive folks off the land. Then they have to work for you or die.


Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

It's more complicated than that. Who are the "we" and the "you"? Getting people to work doesn't help much if they only work for someone else. Things like Scots going into factories were incidental gains for the factory owners, only tenuously connected to the gains obtained by the evicting landlords (who gained from the wool trade).

The more effective way of getting work from people involves giving them a need for cash, and targetting collecting rents or land taxes. Think how rents fuelled the ship building labour force on Prince Edward Island, or the effectiveness of the Byzantine Kapnikon (hearth tax).

However, this land focus is a special case. People usually preferred not to be on the land as ciultivators in the first place, if other opportunities were available.

From Spenser's "View of the present state of Ireland", we learn that the English were trying to settle the Irish as farmers rather than having a herding lifestyle. This would have (and eventually did) make policing the population easier.

However the preferred ambition of most young men was to work as grooms for horses. Similarly, when hunter gatherer opportunities were available, Europeans often went native in new countries. And so on.

The thing is, working with land - denying it Or controlling access to it - only controls people "well" when it forms a constraint.

Apart from time lags and cultural variations, you tend to get landlordism when land is a bottleneck, but no freedom when it isn't - then, you just get explicit slavery. Other things happen along that spectrum.

Think Eastern Europe's "second serfdom", and how slavery became serfdom in the Dark Ages.

July 15, 2006 3:24 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Interesting you mention herding. I didn't include Vache Folle's comments earlier in the post on the state forcing nomads to become farmers in the first place in order to make them more controllable.

And you're right: manufacturing an addictive consumer culture, so people are busy working to pay off the Ditech loans for the big screen TV, is a pretty effective ploy.

July 15, 2006 11:36 AM  

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