As someeone who studied eleven centuries of international economic history in the course of my reading, I am a bit of a fan of feudalism. Feudalism is under-rated. On a good day, feudalism works a lot better than capitalism.
Contentious, qui moi?
It may surprise you to learn that after the Black Death, when many villages and feudal settlements were empty as a result of the deaths of the occupants, the contents of the cottages revealed, in many places, a far higher standard of living than expected.
Ask an unemployed urban dweller now whether they would feel hard done by with their own rabbit warren, space for a cow and some hens, hand me down crystal, clothing and metalware from the ‘big house’, a four day working week for the local lord, followed by a day for the church to cover education and medical treatment for the family, their wives doing cottage-based piece work for the travelling merchants, and they will admit that our marvellous capitalist system is not treating them particularly well compared with medieval peasants. Capitalism and socialism are mutually dependent. If you believe otherwise, you are being conned.
The difference with feudalism and the reason that it could not be sustained, was that it was based on the availability of land, which is why the British strove so hard to acquire quite so much of it. The British class system, complete with privilege, horse skills, hunting etc was set up for exploration, not industrialisation. Given a chunk of uncharted territory, your average toff was able to feed his workers, organise them to build shelter, reroute rivers and eventually plan out a wider agricultural and transport strategy thanks to their having been given land to manage over several generations, something I touched on in Best Scandal Ever.
Now, of course, there are far too many people for us to benefit from a feudal system with a local landowner to blame if things go wrong. In the event that the reformation had not happened as a result of urbanisation, the catholic peasantry would have been starved and tithed out of this formerly comfortable life. The British class system, which worked so well for the Georgian and Victorian explorers and their military-imperialist tendencies, has now been reduced to a small number of corrupt individuals who, rather than believing in duty, the preservation of land, and the glory of the nation, now believe in reducing those who do not benefit from capitalism to criminal behaviour in order to survive. Instead of national pride, we have a system which supports contempt for the poor and disabled, offering benefits to cronies in the fields of banking, weapons manufacture, construction and of course, the politicians who ensure that their instructions are carried out.
What happened then, to the idea of ‘things being better when gentlemen were in charge,’ a cry uttered by my neighbour within my lifetime. When the gentlemen were in charge of my city, they dutifully gifted their estates on death to become parks. Can anyone imagine George Osborne gifting his wealth to anyone? I have met some of the older members of David Cameron’s family, and whilst they would not gift their wealth, they certainly donated quite a proportion of their property for the benefit of the military during World War 2 and had a sense of humility whilst doing it. I cannot imagine the same can be said for the Head Prefect, who spends his time whining to his local council whilst recommending that the rest of us get fracked.
So why retain faith in the Great British machine, when the Great British machine no longer works? Clearly the answer is to remove cronies, whether they be Tories, sustaining each other’s family businesses by promoting war, forgiving banker’s errors, indulging in not-so-secret talks with corporate lobbyists before promoting policies that serve only themselves? In the meantime, they feign caring by retaining some of the worst Labour policies. Labour, as a party, is all but dead, they wait to be told what to think. Consensus, as I have always said, is not a healthy or progressive state of affairs for any party, nor is attempting to centralise a country that cannot, and should not, be centralised, particularly not for the benefit of London, at the expense of the entire UK.
Honesty, in addition to duty, have gone out of fashion, unfortunately at a time when we are more aware than ever before exactly how many lies, and how many mistakes, we are at the mercy of. Is it not time that we took some initiative to get our country back on track? We used to be great, not a puppet sideshow, whispering in the ear of the USA to scrape a few arms sales to line the pockets of a few more fat cats, smoking in the private member’s club right next to your politicians.