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Modern Feudalism

March 1, 2020

Medieval reeve and serfs harvesting wheat, illustration from Queen Mary’s Psalter (c. 1310), British Libarary (PD)

feu·dal·ism (noun) – the dominant social system in medieval Europe, in which the nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service, and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants…were obliged to live on their lord’s land and give him homage, labor, and a share of the produce…in exchange for military protection.

Oxford Dictionary

The complexities of the modern world are giving rise to a new feudalism in which large corporations hold increasing power over individuals.  The Middle Class is particularly at risk.

High Cost of Living

The coronavirus aside, the economy has been booming.  Large corporations have benefited greatly.  Though the unemployment rate can be deceptive, unemployment is the lowest it has been since 1969 [1][2].

Nonetheless, the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, reports that the median annual wage of a male employee will no longer cover the cost of living for a family of four [3].

As of 2018, basic living expenses – housing, transportation, education, and healthcare – totaled $54,441 per year.  According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time male employees required 53 weeks to cover these; full-time female employees, 66 weeks.  Unfortunately, there are only 52 weeks in a year.

Changing Property Rights

Internet-enabled devices are now common.  These range from smartphones and personalized fitness trackers; to doorbell cameras; smart televisions and refrigerators; robotic vacuum cleaners; and internet enabled thermostats, fish tanks, and picture frames.

Not only can these devices be hacked, many are pre-programmed to share private information with advertisers over back-channels of which we may not be aware [4].

Some companies are taking this a step further.  John Deere, for instance, has informed farmers they do not actually own their tractors.  They simply license the software, so cannot repair farm equipment themselves or take it to an unauthorized repair shop.

In effect, companies are using intellectual property law to control not only ideas, but the physical objects consumers have purchased [5].

God as Sovereign

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness,
The power and the glory…
Both riches and honor come from You,
And You reign over all” (1 Chron. 29: 11-12).

All this can make us feel extremely small and insignificant.  God is not, however, diminished by such trivialities.  He remains Sovereign over all.  Even buffeted by economic winds, we can safely place our trust in Him.

[1]  Quartz, “If the US unemployment rate included everyone who says they want a job, it would be nearly double” by Dann Kopf, 1/5/17,

[2]  White House, “US Unemployment Rate Falls to 50-Year Low”, 10/4/19,

[3]  Business Insider, “The typical US worker can no longer afford a family on a year’s salary, showing the dire state of America’s middle class” by Hillary Hoffowar, 2/25/20,

[4]  Newsweek, “Silicon Valley and the New Feudalism: Why the ‘Internet of Things’ Marks a Return to the Middle Ages” by Joshua Fairfield, 9/6/17,

[5]  A right-to-repair movement is gaining momentum.  See, Bloomberg Businessweek, “Farmers Fight John Deere Over Who Gets to Fix an $80,000 Tractor” by Paul Waldman and Lydia Mulvany, 3/5/20,


  1. I hate cell phones, and wwaaasps, do people acually listen to each other?
    Just my dumb take on whatever I wrote,
    Love ya! Anna
    It is the crazy priest, but I believe I did make some sense.
    Appreciate you very much, you seem like a nice lady, you are sorry, not even a Priest is perfect.
    Take care

  2. Shaking my head…
    But you are absolutely right, God is above all.
    Blessings, Anna!

  3. The great challenge, as I see it, is to somehow raise our voices above the rhetoric being bandied about so that the people can hear the Good News that “we can safely place our trust in Him”.

    If we all do our part to be heard, as you are Anna, who can tell how much difference can be made in the lives of those so desperate for hope?

    • You give me too much credit, Ron. Mine is a very small voice. But I do agree that Christians must speak out in these critical times.

  4. Truly disheartening, as everyone everywhere seeks to increase
    their control over everyone everywhere else 😱And yet… these things
    are the signal to lift up our heads listening for the trumpet call,
    as our eternal relief draws near!!! 😇🎶✝️🙏💜 Jackie@KWH

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