Why is there such a negative connotation for feudalism? I mean, the whole “Dark Ages” thing probably tarnishes anything that happened in the middle ages, but it seems like it was a decent set-up for a scary, violent world. If you were a vulnerable peasant, you got the protection of a lord from invading hordes and robbing neighbors. The lord got labor, but only if he could keep his laborers alive and well enough to grow the turnip.
True, whatever the lord’s version of justice, was what the serfs had to live with, and certainly some lords took advantage of their power. But if peasants could choose which lord they worked for–and gave them protection–then it would quickly become royal suicide to mistreat those below you. It seems the worst aspects of feudalism seem to be the only ones we haven’t done away with!
Of course I don’t really support historical feudalism, because it was still coercive. Feudalism was quite unjust when peasants were literally forced into the system, not allowed to leave, or forced to work, especially if they were already inhabiting a piece of land that the lord claimed.
In that sense though, feudalism was a dream come true for the progressive left! Everything within the state, nothing outside of it. The government provided security, food, medicine, and regulation. I mean sure, sometimes the security would kill the peasants. And the food was actually grown by the serfs, of which they only got to keep a small percentage. And the medicine was really just quackery and sometimes got people sicker than the disease. And the regulation really just benefited the lord by allowing him and his friends to do whatever they wanted. So pretty much exactly like modern government.
But with a few changes, feudalism would be something to consider. Especially since proximity to your feudal lord would not be necessary in the age of the internet.
Imagine a modern feudal system: you choose which company to work for, in exchange for protection from the company, healthcare, food, and anything else the company might offer in order to make their “realm” (or company) more inviting to potential “serfs” (or employees).
Imagine a feudal system that didn’t have to be physically centered in one location. This would just up-the-ante for companies to compete to see who can offer their workers the best conditions, working environments, and compensation.
In order for it to be a truly just system, feudal lords would not be able to force anyone to accept their protection, nor force anyone to work for them–this would be enforced by other feudal lords vying for the labor and business of the serfs. The best feudal lord would attract the most serfs, and the serfs wouldn’t have to physically change their location these days–at least not more than for the typical job.
Lords also could not claim land owned by others to be under their jurisdiction. They can make whatever rules they want on their own land, and others can voluntarily organize their estates under the feudal lord if they so desire. And again, the land need not be connected into one parcel, a lord may command his knights to protect any plot of land one of his serfs may live on.
Of course, I am really just describing a modern, complex, totally free market society. But it is not that far fetched, because as you see from my example, people have historically been able to organize for survival. Eventually, when peasants became more free, they were able to become merchants and artisans, which increased the wealth of all, as measured by quality of life.
With more wealth former peasants were able to demand a certain amount of rights, rights that today, only the government can violate. Now that the earth has unprecedented wealth and quality of life, it is time to do away with the number one threat to progress, the government. We can keep business in check, we cannot keep government in check.
Peasants accepted the violence of the lords back then, and assumed warring nobility was just the way it had to be. But these days, people will not patronize or work for outwardly violent companies–unless it is a government job. With the internet, it is easier than ever to report back on what the nobility is doing. The only thing missing is being able to withdraw our consent. The only thing missing is being able to remove our funding and our labor from our lord.