An English In Kentucky


















Sunday September 1st 2019Tim Candler9


     One way to think about English, as opposed to Welsh or Scottish, Land Law is to go back to around the time the Roman Legions left the Island and wait around patiently for the Saxons, the Angles, the Jutes and a bunch of others that included the indigenous Britons to achieve some sense of the national identity that came to be England, and realize that the law England inherited wasn't so much about ownership of land as it was about negotiated rights. You didn't own land, the king, the great protector, the guy with the biggest army, owned the land. What you owned was rights in land. Some people of course had many fewer rights than others, but it was that idea of rights, some of which you could pass along to your entail, that dominated the dialogue. For a long time the number of different rights to different parts and products of land baffled the mind and the further development of English Land Law was a slow process of achieving a set of unifying rules that covered everyone, no matter where they lived. Then a couple of generations after the Black Death, with the feudal system desperate for labor, most people had been freed from the rights and obligations of bondage, and if they wanted something like firewood, which traditionally had been a rights and obligations question, they had to either steal it or buy it with the money they'd earned from selling their labor. And in time everyone was allowed to buy rights in land, either by renting them for money or buying the right to pass it on to offspring, prized Pekinese or whoever they wanted to. Worth noting the Feudal System lingered into the Industrial Revolution with manufactures building towns for happy, clean and hygienic rent paying workers. The Great Western Railway had a whole system of educational night courses and free hair cuts for their workers. It could also be argued that National Health Services have a Feudal origin, and despite rumors to the contrary you have to think of the legal standing of rights and obligations as being kind of central to a more Social Democracy. And yet after all these years "naked in tooth and claw" still figures large enough to return us to "short and brutal" pretty damn quick courtesy of an amendment in a bill of rights in some parts of the world.


     "Is there a point, please!" There could well be a point if you're inclined to try to get a handle on the idea of a "Guaranteed Wage."  The whole business of wages arose in the wider society, or most of us, as a consequence of land owners competing for a resource and discovering that it was actually simpler to pay people than it was to be endlessly obliged to them. In Feudal Times the great majority of us belonged to a land owner, and more often than not we had very little to say about our fate, but to service the obligations our landlord had to kings and dukes and various princes as they went about their own awful sort of existence, we bonded people had to be roughly functional which meant food, shelter, a degree of enthusiasm at the prospect of being sent off to war and there was the immortal soul and stuff. Today if you look around you might be forgiven for suspecting that our society is on a crash course with something like New Age Feudalism. A couple of truly aggressive and thoroughly obnoxious people appear to own everything, and we simple folk who basically just want to be left alone are being dragged into their machinations and dreams of avarice, some of us kicking and screaming. Meanwhile the more traditional kinds of work with the promise and struggle for better and better circumstances which has sustained us through the course of the Industrial Revolution, is at loggerheads with a system that would dearly love to replace us all with totally obedient and servile machines, of interest the fast food industry has an increasingly expensive staff turn over problem, and the more traditional sense of obligation to our wellbeing has been dismissed as not their problem and none of their business ever since we started being paid for our labor. We apparently are obliged to "find a way."  If in 1137 you told your lord you wanted to be paid to gather firewood for him, he'd probably have had the right to cut your head off for being a disobedient blackmailing dastardly villein, which would be the correct spelling. Same reaction today from them up there with limited imagination to even the whisper of "Guaranteed Wage." You ask who pays for it, in the end rich people do. Why? They won't unless they are obliged to. Obliged? It's a tricky negotiation in a more Liberal Democracy.


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