Remind You Of Anything?

Once upon a time much English land was common, which meant that all the peasants of a community had a right to use it – for grazing, and for many purposes other than digging and growing, as the medieval economy was by no means a monoculture. Then came the Enclosure Acts, whereby former common land became the property of the big landlord and were fenced off. Without access to the commons, many peasant holdings were no longer viable, and the people migrated to the cities to become the proletariat.

What is happening now is not a precise equivalent, as the whole concept of common rights in the means of production has long been as dead as the dodo. On the other hand, the sequestration of public or state property, originally created out of taxes on all, to become the assets of the well-connected has been a major theme of the late twentieth century. Driving peasants off the land to become factory workers is not relevant, as modern factory work is to be done on the other side of the world. The former producers do not migrate, but are intended to stay and rot where they are; there is no real idea of what to do about a desperate and angry proletariat after the remnants of welfare have been withdrawn to finance tax cuts and subsidies for the magnates. In this way the latest enclosers are far more short-sighted than their eighteenth-century forbears.

Another aspect common to both phenomena, however, may be the notion that seizing the property of others is okay when done on a very, very large scale and by people who claim to be “the economy”. Steal a hundred pounds and you are a thief, steal a hundred million and you are a financier. We might do well to remember a folk ditty from the former period:

“They hang the man, and flog the woman,
That steals the goose from off the common;
But let the greater villain loose,
That steals the common from the goose.”

Posted on July 12, 2009 at 10:47 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!, The Age Of Enron-cence

Leave a Reply