Capitalistic Feudalism

In his blog post, Kevin Carson argues, “Capitalism, as a historic system of political economy, was really just an outgrowth of feudalism with markets grafted in and allowed to operate in the interstices to a limited extent.” Feudalism in the Middle Ages was probably as widespread as capitalism today. It’s political system placed a majority of the world’s wealth in the hands of a few individuals who were lucky enough to be born into a royal lineage.

I his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell discusses the importance of luck in success today.  He gives the example of hockey players.  A majority of hockey players are born towards the beginning of the year.  The reason for this is the way in which professional hockey players are chosen.  At a young age the more skilled players are chosen for elite leagues where they receive better coaching, more playing time, and more practice time. “The small initial advantage that the child born in the early part of the hear has over the child born at the end of the year persists…Success is the result of what sociologists like to call ‘accumulative advantage.’ The professional hockey plater starts out a little better than his peers. And that little advantage leads to an opportunity that makes that difference a bit bigger, and that edge in turn leads to another opportunity, which makes that initially small advantage a bit bigger, and that edge in turn leads to another opportunity, which makes the initially small difference bigger still –  and on and in until the hockey plater is a genuine outlier.” But how can one genuinely tell if a young hockey player is better than another? When we are young, a year of development can make a big difference in athletic ability. Therefore, individuals born in January could have as much as a year advantage over their peers born in December.  Its not that they truly are more skilled, just that they have a year more of development. But its those players that look better at tryouts that get selected for the elite leagues. If you were lucky enough to be born at the beginning of the year, you have a much greater chance of being able to play professional hockey.

Through the rest of his book, he examines example after example and finds that luck and lineage determine extreme success more than ability.  Considering that a majority of the world’s wealth is owned by a few individuals, and that luck and lineage determines who receives this wealth, how much has our economic system really changed over the years?

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3 thoughts on “Capitalistic Feudalism

  1. Interesting thought. I am wondering how you reconcile this with America having such a large middle class? I am not saying your idea is wrong, I am not sure to be honest, but I have always been told that America as a nation has one of the largest proportions of middle class that history has ever seen.

  2. The amount of money you make to be in the middle class in America, probably puts you in the upper class of most third world countries. So I am guessing that the extremely poor in developing countries balances out the large middle class in America.

  3. Pingback: 42 « Hakuna Matata

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