Global Analysis from the European Perspective. Preparing for the world of tomorrow

Serfdom enhanced

A few centuries ago it was all visible. A peasant – a serf – was obliged to work, say, three days a week for his landlord, and he was obliged to give away a part of the agricultural produce from his household. The amount of work and the amount of the produce were all visible, palpable. If a landlord wanted to extend the time of work done by his serfs for his benefit or take away from the serfs more than was prescribed, the serfs would have rebelled because it was a matter of survival and the maintenance of the standard of living. A serf needed the three remaining days to work for the upkeep of his family; the serf needed to have the rest of the agricultural produce at his disposal for his family to survive. If a serf had been forced to work four rather than three days and give away more than usual from his produce, he would have had less for himself and his family. In other words, working as much as before, he and his family would have had less. The serf would have known who was to blame for this.

Today it is all for all practical purposes invisible. A government prints more and more money and causes inflation. The government does not need to raise taxes. The amount of the tax that is levied on workers may stay the same. Still, due to inflation, labourers or present-day serfs, although they work as much as before, can buy less and less. Of course, sooner or later the present-day serfs notice that they are worse off, but they notice it belatedly and – what’s worse – there is no one person, known to them by name, who is to blame. Yesterday’s serf could have rebelled against his landlord and oftentimes he did; today’s serf can rebel against… inflation, which means against nobody. Yesterday’s serf could have threaten his landlord with a pitchfork – and sometimes it happened. Today’s serf can cast his vote from time to time, to vote out of office some, and vote into office others and, as a result, receive more of the same in terms of economic policy. None of the politicians that currently hold power can stop inflation, even if he wants to. The purchasing power of the present-day serf is constantly diminished, and though the present-day serf is not referred to as serf but, rather, as a citizen with a batch of human rights, he can do nothing about being robbed of the fruits of his work.

Historical record shows that prices used to be stable over decades. Our day-to-day experience teaches us that generally in a longer perspective prices can only rise. If they level off, then but for a short time, while they never fall if viewed over a longer period.

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