State of Mankind

A New Way Of Thinking

Month: June, 2012

The Manorial Economy

It would be really easy to simply skip the manorial economy (and I considered doing so), due to the fact that in economic terms it has little to do with our world.  It can best be described as self sufficient  agrarian units, called manors, where there was a small ruling class and a lot of farmers.  However, a close look at history would reveal a lot of psychological contributions to our time, as well as a starting point for Western Culture.  Thus, we begin with Dr. Carroll Quigley’s description of the beginnings of Western Civilization:

“Western Civilization began, as all civilizations do, in a period of cultural mixture.  In this particular case it was a mixture resulting from the barbarian invasions which destroyed Classical Civilization in the period 350-700.  By creating a new culture from the various elements offered from the barbarian tribes, the Roman world, the Saracen world, and above all the Jewish world (Christianity), Western Civilization became a new society.

“This society became a civilization when it became organized, in the period 700-970, so that there was accumulation of capital and the beginnings of the investment of this capital in new methods of production.  These new methods are associated with a change from infantry forces to mounted warriors in defense, from manpower (and thus slavery) to animal power in energy use, from the scratch plow and two-field, fallow agricultural technology of Mediterranean Europe to the eight-oxen, gang plow and three-field system of the Gemanic peoples, and from the centralized, state-centered political orientation of the Roman world to the decentralized, private-power feudal network of the medieval world.  In the new system a small number of men, equipped and trained to fight, received dues and services from the overwhelming majority of men who were expected to till the soil.  From this inequitable but effective defensive system emerged an inequitable distribution of political power and, in turn, an inequitable distribution of the social economic income.  This, in time, resulted in an accumulation of capital, which, by giving rise to demand for luxury goods of remote origin, began to shift the whole economic emphasis of the society from its earlier organization in self-sufficient agrarian units (manors) to commercial interchange, economic specialization, and, by the thirteenth century, to an entirely new pattern of society with towns, a bourgeois class, spreading literacy, growing freedom of alternative social choices, and new, often disturbing thoughts.” (Tragedy & Hope, pg. 8-9)

The first major idea that I see coming out of this, which affects our time profoundly, is the move from state-centered political orientation to the decentralized, private-power feudal network.  The people of the time learned that the “state” was not necessary for their survival, or for society.  Today, much of our political debate focuses on federal power versus state power versus local power.  Many people still hold to the idea (and I’m not arguing the right or wrong of it) that the more local the control, the better.

The next item I would focus on is the inequitable distributions of income and political power.  In our current discussion as to the United Order, we could well say that Lords exploiting farmers probably isn’t what the United Order is about.  At the same time, we can’t overlook the fact that this caused the accumulation of capital needed for their society to progress and create a middle class, literacy, and basic freedom.  Quigley explains this transition:

“Western Civilization is the richest and most powerful social organization ever made by man.  One reason for this success has been its economic organization.  This, as we have said, has passed through six successive stages, of which at least four are called “capitalism.”  Three features are notable about this development as a whole.

“In the first place, each stage created the conditions which tended to bring about the next stage; therefore we could say, in a sense, that each stage committed suicide.  The original economic organization of self-sufficient agrarian units (manors) was a society organized so that its upper ranks–the lords, lay and ecclesiastical–found their desires for necessities so well met that they sought to exchange their surpluses of necessities for luxuries of remote origin.  This gave rise to a trade in foreign luxuries (spices, fine textiles, fine metals) which was the first evidence of the stage of commercial capitalism.” (pg. 42)

Now, a quick look at, perhaps, he positive side of the manorial economy.  From Quigley:

“A thousand years ago, Europe had a two-class society in which a small upper class of nobles and upper clergy were supported by a great mass of peasants.  The nobles defended this world, and the clergy opened the way to the next world, while the peasants provided the food and other material needs for the whole society.  All three had security in their social relationships in that they occupied positions of social status that satisfied their psychic needs for companionship, economic security, a foreseeable future, and purpose of their efforts.  Members of both classes had little anxiety about loss of these things by any likely outcome of events, and all thus had emotional security.” (pg. 1234-1235)

If we look at the aspects of security, companionship, and purpose, perhaps there are some positives that may be shared with the United Order.  As we look ahead to commercial capitalism and the rise of the middle class, we will see a more equitable distribution of goods, but also a loss in many of the other aspects and purposes which create happiness.  The middle class gained goods, but lost security.  The search for riches even today often costs people companionship.  If we can boil it down to one question, how is it possible to have advancement and equity and companionship?

 

On To The United Order

Nothing seems to provoke political sparks faster than the economic argument.  Everyone seems to have their set idea on how the economy could function better, or be more fair, or closer to what the Lord desires of us.  This often leads us into seemingly divergent beliefs.  However, the more these things are discussed, the more it seems we all want the same thing.  We want to move on to what members of my faith call the United Order.  But what is the United Order?  How does it look?  How is it legislated?  Is it run by automatic control or conscious control?  What are automatic and conscious controls?  Does it follow a Keynesian model or something else?  Is money even used at all?  In an attempt to answer these and many more questions, we will look first at the past, especially from the insight given by Dr. Quigley’s book Tragedy & Hope,  as his history covers thousands of years, the entire world, and many different economic systems, especially those of the West.  We will look at the social and moral aspects of these types of economies.  We will also try to see which aspects of each type of economy may pertain to the United Order, and which aspects caused this particular order to fade into the past.  Finally, we will try to see some aspects of the United Order and what we can do to help it to be established.

Dr. Quigley named six distinct types of economy that existed in Western Culture.  These include:  Manorial (670 AD-1150), Commercial capitalism (1050-1690), Industrial capitalism (1770-1870), Financial Capitalism (1850-1932), Monopoly Capitalism (1890-1950), and the Pluralist economy (1934-present).  In the coming weeks, there will be a posting on each of these, defining it by Dr. Quigley’s assessment and adding my own research and opinion.  The success of this project will depend very much on getting the perspectives of others who may have something to add.  My hope would by that by discussing these things in depth, and in the historical context, we can all gain a greater understanding of why each of us believes as we do in the current world, and we can each decide on positive steps toward accomplishing the will of the Lord in our own lives.

The Sustainability Haters

We simply need to be really careful about how we get our information and where our attitudes come from.  A few days ago, a local radio station was advertising an event sponsored by the United Nations Foundation.  The DJ finished by suggesting that everyone must be for this, unless you are a “Sustainability Hater”.  Hate is a pretty strong word.  The message from the DJ (well meaning as he may be) was that if you don’t support this agenda, you are alone and a hater.  Did he have any idea that there are other views out there or what these views may be?  Does he know who he is calling a hater?

FANRPAN is the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network.  Their goal is to improve food security in Africa by increasing farming productivity.  At their conference in Pretoria, South Africa on May 24, Chairman Sindiso Ngwenya of Zambia criticised First World attempts to use climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development arguments to prevent African agriculture from advancing.  He spoke against First World handouts, suggesting that what Africa really needs is modern technology (tractors, fertilizer and the like) and reliable, affordable electricity.  He was critical of the UN’s COP-17 (Conference of the Parties who decide climate policy) for being obstructionists to what Africa needs to gain food security.  A full story can be found at:  http://sppiblog.org/news/commonsense-wisdom-from-african-farmers#more-7601

Sorry, but African Farmers who want to grow food for their people don’t seem much like haters.  In fact, when a movement relies on name calling to show its superiority, it is definitely worth looking deeper into what it may be hiding.  However, it is far too easy for Americans who have plenty of food, and generally very few real worries to catch a tidbit from the radio or the news and accept it as universal truth without understanding the perspective of those affected.  For me, I’m standing with the African farmers.  Maybe I’m a sustainability hater, too.

26.2

A few digits.  A number.  Bent lines and dots.  These things can have very little meaning or they can be the cause of flowing emotion.  26.2 is recognized by almost everyone as a number, by many as the official distance of a marathon, and by a few as the sweat, pain, toil, training, and eventual triumph of having successfully run 26.2 miles, along with the euphoria of the finish line.  It can be written about, but understanding comes only to those who have done it.

Last Saturday, I ran the Utah Valley Marathon which was my first.  It was an amazing event, capping off a lot of training and many learning experiences.  It is one of these training runs, which turned into a learning experience, that will be the focus today.

A few months ago, as the weather began to warm up, I decided it was time to push ahead and try the great test for anyone training for a marathon, the first 20 mile run.  I had run 15 miles a number of times and didn’t see any real problem adding another 5.  I ran at normal pace, feeling great after 10 and 12 miles.  13.1 is the half marathon mark, and I was still going strong.  I felt a bit of fatigue at around the 15 mile mark, but was confident I could push the last 5.  Then it happened.  My legs cramped up at about mile 16 and I could barely walk.  I tried to push through the pain and start jogging again, but soon realized it was useless.  It was over.

Where had I gone wrong?  Could I really run a marathon, or was I just fooling myself?  Amid the questions, I remembered the most basic thing I had learned in Scouting about first aid.  Cramps are a sign of dehydration.  I weighed myself and realized just how much water weight I had lost.  Using mathematical calculation, I figured out how much I needed to be drinking to avoid this scenario.  Asking experienced runners for advice, I eventually came up with a plan for nutrition and hydration which made all the difference in the long run.  Who would have thought that, though I felt great early on, my habits had sealed my fate further down the road?  Who would have thought that simply by drinking the right amounts at the right intervals early on, I finished the full marathon without anywhere near the struggle I thought I may have?

In books which we consider sacred scripture, we have the teachings of societies past.  We can learn about them as they grow and thrive.  We learn of the small issues that enter in, and soon, like the runner who doesn’t drink enough, they cramp up and fall.  How is it that we have all this knowledge and seem to have such a tough time learning?

As I look at our society today, I see a society that is very set on material things.  Elections seem to be based on the economy alone.  We pridefully go into debt to buy a new boat while our neighbor is out of work and justify in our minds that the government will take care of him.  Even if we wanted to help, we have nothing to give, due to our own choices.  We hear the words of class warfare, the rich who don’t want to help, and the poor who will use government to take from the rich.  Brotherly love is replaced by suspicion.  Political divisions have pushed from disagreement to hate, and even worse, apathy.

I could dwell on the situation, but there is no sense.  I’ll jump to my controversial conclusion:  If our country (and possibly the better part of the world) were me, doing my 20 mile training run, I would say this is about mile 15.  We are starting to feel the fatigue, and I believe it is only about a mile down the road (who knows when?) that we cramp and fall.  We can re-elect Obama.  We can put our faith in Romney.  The problem is that we are not who we need to be.  We didn’t drink enough in the first 10 miles and nothing from there to now.  Our families are broken.  Our apathetic treatment of others is staggering.  Our desire for material things has destroyed our gratitude.  Our faith, once in God (and it need not be defined who’s god that may be), is now in government or not at all.

If we are to continue, I say right now, we need to stop and drink.  Don’t worry about the race.  Leave materialism behind.  Concentrate on ourselves and then our families to rebuild our faith.  Follow the advice of those societies that have been down this path before.  If we don’t, we will cramp and fall.  If we fail, then analyze what we did wrong, humble ourselves, and start on a better path, perhaps it will be as positive a step as was my training run failure!

 

Does The Tail Wag The Dog?

Looking at the political season that is upon us and looking at the inevitable discussions we have, I have to question if we often get things backward.  Do we hold certain political ideals because of our understanding of truth, or do we manipulate our understanding of truth because of ceretain political ideals that we hold?

For an example, to many of my faith who hold Conservative ideals, it seems obvious that we need the large military that we have to defend against our enemies and protect our interests in the world.  Is this something that has been taught by the Gospel or is it a belief that springs from a political agenda?  I recently read a talk by Spencer W. Kimball called The False Gods We Worship (Ensign, June 1976).  In it he states:

“We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord.   When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel–ships, planes, missiles, fortifications–and depend on them for protection and deliverance.  When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. (Matt. 5:44-45)

“We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us–and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Ne. 1:7)–or he will fight our battles for us (Ex. 14:14; D&C 98:37, to name only two references of many)….”

This is just one example of the contradiction between the agendas of the political parties and what the gospel teaches.  I would hope that we could look beyond our attachment to politics and try to find the truth.  When the Savior returns will we accept his rule, even at the cost of our own political ideals?

“The human brain is like a good defense lawyer.  It is less interested in getting at the facts than it is in defending its client, namely you.”  -Harry Hughes