The New Serfdom

Serfdom was a form of slavery in feudal times. Peasants were bound to the land and required to do whatever the lord of the manor wished them to do. It was an economic and social condition that put the serfs at the lowest end of the feudal society.

The origins of feudal serfdom began in Roman times. The expansion and expense of maintaining the Roman Empire’s government had spiraled out of control. The Emperor Diocletian decided to do something about it. He issued edict after edict requiring Roman citizens to give up their individual freedom and local self-government to strengthen the central government. He sought to freeze society by requiring the children to “inherit” the occupation of their parents. This edict virtually cancelled any opportunity for upward mobility in Roman society and created the serf/slavery system of the feudal times.

Today, the Obama Administration is encouraging people to become part of a new, modified serfdom through welfare and the food stamp program. Some people have no choice and some quite happily like the idea of taking the government dole. The problem is that people who embrace the free handouts from the government tend to stay in the program over generations. We know this because historic records over decades indicate that this becomes a life style.

If people stay in the program, they are not productive members of society but become government dependents who suck billions of dollars out of tax payer’s pockets without producing anything. This increases the burden on those who work and have to support them.

More importantly, those who embrace the welfare system as a life style are like serfs because it keeps them pinned to poverty. They lack upward mobility to improve their social and economic standing in society. This has an impact on our society and government because they do not contribute any taxes to support their lifestyle. As the rolls of welfare grow, so does the need for more bureaucrats to manage the welfare system. Big government expands and becomes another burden on taxpayers. It is part of the cycle of debt.

The same bureaucratic mess grew under Diocletian. By the end of his reign, graft and corruption were rampant. The most productive Roman citizens were complaining that, “There were tax-collectors than taxpayers.” In Diocletian’s time Roman society hardened into a caste system; furthermore, the government became more dictatorial to prevent disruption of this new system.

As the ranks of the new serfs grow here in the United States, we face the same dilemma. Higher taxes, a declining middle class and the draining of individual wealth to support this new serfdom is pushing the United States deeper into debt. Debt was one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire and we are following the same fatal path. If you think this could not happen in the United States then you are naïve. Economists have already predicted that Chinese society will surpass the United States as an economic power by 2030 because of our growing debt. We are economically declining into a debtor nation and higher taxes will not solve the problem contrary to what Obama says.


About camden41

Retired public school administrator Retired history professor: Taught Western Civilization, American Civil War, United States History, Economic History, Ancient & Medieval Foundations, American History Since 1945
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