A seemingly obsolete form of governance, the traits that define classic feudalism are eerily similar to aspects of modern American governance.
The basis of the feudal system during the middle ages in Europe was predicated on a belief that God appointed the King to rule the kingdom. It was this belief in the “divine right of kings” that gave the king dominion over the people. In a religious land, to obey the King was to obey God. Land acquisition was the primary driving force that spurred building empires and kingdoms. The feudal system provided a military force large enough for perpetual war and to keep land in the control of the King.
Wikipedia provides a brief, clear definition of Feudalism:
The classic François-Louis Ganshof version of feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs. A lord was in broad terms a noble who held land, a vassal was a person who was granted possession of the land by the lord, and the land was known as a fief. In exchange for the use of the fief and the protection of the lord, the vassal would provide some sort of service to the lord. There were many varieties offeudal land tenure, consisting of military and non-military service. The obligations and corresponding rights between lord and vassal concerning the fief form the basis of the feudal relationship.
Ultimately, the basis of any society is the raw materials communities can produce to keep themselves sustained. Sustenance either through use of those raw materials, adding value to the raw materials or export of the raw or value-added products. In a feudal system, the King and ranking lords relied, not only on the serfs service in the military, but also on the raw and value-added materials the serfs produced. Essentially, Lords did not create anything of value nor contribute to production of raw materials. Without the serfs, there would be nothing to base the kingdom on. With the strident belief in place that God appointed the King, the beliefs behind feudalism had more than a worldly hold on the serfs.
Today, while some like to call our government in America a “Democracy” or a “Republic” there are scary parallels between our society and a feudal one.
While our current faith might not be in a “Diving Rights of Kings,” there is a similar, and perhaps even more obscure, belief in the “authority” of the State. It is this belief that creates the dangers we currently face of force, property removal and incarceration.
In the relationship between vassals and serfs, the vassals gave permission to the serfs–or peasants–to work the land. The serfs were then responsible for providing raw material or value added material to the vassals.
In the 21st century, when it comes to food, the parallels are all too easy to spot. We pay exorbitant taxes on our land, or property, and failing that, we are forcibly removed from our property and often caged. Farmers, hunters, or anyone wishing to produce food, fuel or fiber, must go through a registration and permitting process in order to produce or hunt on the land and sell what they produce. Peaceful individuals who fail to comply with such registration and permuting are often criminalized. Value-added products have a higher “penalty” with additional permits needed and processes which stifle the natural innovation of creative minds. Failure to comply with these measures often results in property moving from a modern “serf” to a “vassal” (any government agency demanding a fee in exchange for their “permission” to work the land). One could easily argue that the income tax is a version of this as well.
A new technology—Bitcoin–faces similar challenges. There is nothing new about the idea and concept behind feudalism—that one group will do the work while an elite few will steal the labor from those doing the work. However, in an emerging technology, it might seem odd to apply a concept as antiquated as feudalism and one that is predicated on a belief structure that we presumably discarded centuries ago.
Bitcoin as a technology offers innovation, creativity and a path to a new economy. The potential is vast. So, naturally, the control freaks of the world want to control it. But more importantly, they want to control the individuals who use and add value to the Bitcoin system.
In a recent statement from the IRS, the agency declared that bitcoins should be treated and reported as property. The State, based on a belief that they have the “authority” to do so, takes the value that individuals have created whether it is food or digital currency. Without the work of many individuals who bought into Bitcoin and used it in the early days, Bitcoin would not have the value it holds. The IRS’ ruling on Bitcoin is another indication of a despotic system that harkens back to feudalism. This is all based on a belief that the State has the authority to confiscate property and value from those who create it. If we, as a culture, no longer hold onto a belief in the “divine rights of kings,” then why, culturally do we hold onto this more abstract authority as legitimate?
With the decline of feudalism came an opportunity for a new wave of thinking. World circumstances shifted and gave way to new philosophies. One such idea was that “all men are created equal,” or at least a loosening of the belief in the “divine rights of kings.” I can imagine, though, how scary—perhaps even terrifying—it was for a population, so entrenched in an accepted idea, to reexamine the evidence and draw new conclusions.
We have this same opportunity now: examine and re-examine the belief structure that allows tyranny to thrive. Unlock the shackles placed by the lingering acceptance of the “divine right of kings” theory. We can create a free future through a new economy and the natural community interdependence that will thrive under the belief of true equality.
Bitcoin and individual involvement in local food production are two powerful ways to begin the transition to a free society. Use bitcoin. Grow a garden. Find a source for local food. Disengage from oppression. Choose noncompliance. Build community. It is possible. It is the way to a free future. I’ll see you there!
“Tyranny will not allow self-government. It won’t let you imagine, much less exercise choice until you choose DESPITE tyranny. You do not defeat tyrants: you make them obsolete and irrelevant by acting outside and beyond their boundaries of permitted action. Tyrants thrive on imagined and invented ‘legitimacy.’ Without followers and yes-men, they shrivel away.” –Ben G. Price