Enclosure, Capitalism & The "Kiss My Ass" Farm
"America touts itself as the land of the free, but the number one freedom that you and I have is the freedom to enter into a subservient role in the workplace. Once you exercise this freedom you've lost all control over what you do, what is produced, and how it is produced. And in the end, the product doesn't belong to you. The only way you can avoid bosses and jobs is if you don't care about making a living. Which leads to the second freedom: the freedom to starve."
Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine
One of the major lacunas, or blind spots, in our education and understanding of the economic system within which we live, has to do with the history of land enclosures and its effect upon our natural freedom and the very structure of "free market" capitalism.
American history and social structure flow directly from our British history and experience of earlier centuries, as is also the case with a great part of the world experiencing outside intervention in their cultural affairs as a result of centuries of colonialism.
Enclosure, in brief, refers to the privatization of once common land – i.e., the Commons – upon which mankind existed, often cooperatively, for millenia. Against this trend is the enclosure and privatization of property by small farmers and many an imperialist, slave-driving, Caesar transforming a once free landscape into latifundia the size of nations.
Now, the salient point here is not about private property, which is also the engine of freedom, creativity and profit, but rather its relative distribution and the effects upon the relation between capital for an increasingly landless "labor."
To have any free market worthy of the term, its participants must relate with an equal degree of freedom – i.e., freedom to come and go from the marketplace as they please. Otherwise, any degree of dependence and subservience by one "factor" or the other grossly distorts not only the relation, but economy, society, and environment as well.
For millenia, such natural freedom existed via our landed private estate, our patch upon the Commons, or within a communal enfranchisement. These freedom estates provided the foundation for our ability to live an independent existence, however sparse, and to come and go from the marketplace as we saw fit.
Given such natural freedom we could then bargain, on an equal footing, with capital and entrepreneurs who needed labor or venture partners. As a result, bargains struck between partners of equal enfranchisement and natural freedom may well mean partnership as opposed to wage employment dictated by a more powerful other.
On the other hand, without such a landed estate or "kiss my ass farm" we are then dependent upon a wage – often brutally, and under terms of an "at will" employment determined by more powerful and well-capitalized others.
"Give me control over a man's economic actions, and hence over his means of survival, and except for a few occasional heroes, I'll promise to deliver to you men who think and write and behave as I want them to."
Benjamine A. Rooge
In effect, it is centuries of imperialist enclosure movements as well as urbanizations, both forced and free, throughout history that have resulted in removing the natural freedom of the great majority of once landed and enfranchised people whom we now refer to as "labor." While we also may choose an urban lifestyle we do not, as a consequence, also choose neo-slavery, subservience to capital, and obeisance to a society controlled by the few rather than the many.
Nevertheless, the very nature of the "free market" has greatly changed from the days of John Locke and Adam Smith. No longer does the great majority have a landed estate and a once far more common natural independence allowing for a truly fair relations between capital and labor. It is this very corruption of the economic equation and history of the rise of severe "factor imbalance" which I explore in depth in my book Cap-Com, The Economics Of Balance.
Due to the nature of modern industrial society with its roots in enclosure and imperialism, and to offset the resulting relative impotence of labor, for the modern free market to have any real meaning and stability we must then have a societal structure which compensates for this disparity and so permits a systemic factor balance within its institutions. Otherwise, the "free market" is simply corrupt, imprisoning, counter-productive, perverse, leading to oligarchy and oligopoly, and finally to revolt and revolution.