Stakes&Fangs15(New)

Serfdom

Money did not play a significant role in the fortified estates of the feudal economy. The serf owed his lord a certain amount of work, and that work was never transformed into a specific amount of money.

The serfs who were fortunate enough to work in Church estates were assigned a plot of land on which they had to work three days a week for their lord. This meant that they could develop that land for the other three days in their own interests.

Being bound to the land was the essence of serfdom, but being bound to work it for the lord for only three days out of six conferred on the serf a right to use that was tantamount to ownership. This arrangement became the basis of the Germanic-Christian concept of property and property ownership.

Ownership in the Germanic-Christian sense was not absolute; it was based on use. The peasant had a right to 50 percent of what he could produce, but he did not have the right to turn the land into an object of speculation nor could he mortgage it to the detriment of either his lord or his descendants.”

The Guilds

The guilds first emerged in Germany towards the middle of the 15th century, e.g., in Frankfurt, “that of shoemakers and the journeymen tailors in 1453; that of canopy-makers in 1454, of the weaver helpers in 1460, of the cross-bow makers in 1471, of the barbers and the gardeners in 1482, of the stone masons in 1518.”

The guild was autonomous, i.e., it controlled itself, and it was free as far as internal affairs were concerned. The guild insured collaboration and solidarity rather than the instrumentalization of strife, which characterized Anglo-capitalism.

Members of a guild “were supposed to share with one another “all brotherly love and loyalty,” and as a true and proper community to demonstrate brotherly love and loyalty according to what each one has for a lifetime,” “to live peacefully and harmoniously with one another,” and “to keep oneself honorable and friendly in keeping with Christian order and brotherly love,” and all of this is not only in their personal relationships, but also in the high offices and the cities and wherever else it is called for.”

Guild members had to be born legitimately because “the sanctity of marriage is one of the strongest pillars of the social structure.” The guild also operated as a credit association and as a loan fund, for its entire movable and immovable wealth belonged to the corporate body, and it served for the use and purpose of the individuals. The guild regulated competition and insured quality control. The guild prescribed not only its way of working, but also the raw material that was to be used and how it was to be handled, the kind and form and size of the product.

“Any buyer who thought that he was cheated could turn to the head of the guild…in Danzig…the goldsmiths had to come up with four pounds of wax as punishment for poor work.”

In Berlin, incompetent wool weavers and tailors lost the right to carry on their craft; furthermore, their wares were burned. Also, precise prices were set for the merchandise of the crafts, and the sale was regulated with the area, kind and time of the sale determined. ‘Hawking’ and any improper solicitation of the customers of others was forbidden. The individual master could have only one place for selling.

Competition in the ruinous modern sense of the term was prohibited because the guilds controlled the economic terms of engagement. This did not mean the imposition of socialist equality, but it precluded the “race to the bottom” that brought about ruinous price-cutting.

The member of the guild was a free man who could travel, and “every guild lodge had to take him in” because “travel constituted a main component of the journeyman’s life.” He could also bear arms. The journeyman “carries a dagger and weapons like any master.”

As a free man he could negotiate both wages and prices. The guild was responsible for acquiring raw materials setting wages and granting credit. As a result wages were higher in the Middle Ages than after the Reformation.

“In Klosterneuburg (Lower Austria),” for example, “the daily wage of the mason and carpenter journeyman was set at 20 denar for the summer and 16 for the winter, at a time when a pound of beef usually cost 2 denar.” For six days wages, a journeyman mason or carpenter in Miessen could buy himself 3 sheep and one pair of shoes. In pre-Reformation England, a worker earned enough in 3 days so that he and his family could live comfortably for one week.”

In addition, the guild provided social welfare benefits: “With the money in the treasury, not only were the poor and sick inside and outside the guild supported, but advances were also made to the poorer guild members—without payment of interest within the then closed economic order, in accordance with canonical requirements.” As a result, the isolation which is the main characteristic of modern life was unknown in the Middle Ages.

The guild avoided the pitfalls of both socialism and cut-throat capitalism and “brought about a happy balance among conflicting interests,” as was certainly only possible so long as the community stood above egotism, and the regard for honor was above the quest for profit.

The guild was the crowning achievement of the Germanic-Christian economic system. It introduced “free labor” into history. The guild arose from the development of social life in the cities; and the distinction of German handicraft is “the great fact of world history, with its infinite plenitude of blessing.””

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>>>>>>>The 16th Century, Jakob Fugger, and the Mines and German banking

The Fuggers had found the right man for the job when it came to mining technology.

There is no record of how the two titans of the mining industry met.

Thurzo brought his technical know-how into the partnership, while the Fuggers took over the financing. Thurzo was an ingenious inventor who understood the mining industry from top to bottom, and Jakob Fugger possessed the same magnitude of genius in the complementary area of capital and finance, and this marriage of effort took place when silver was more valuable than it had been and more valuable than it would be for centuries to come.

Thurzo, according to Streider, “Understood how…to restore to use mines flooded by water;” he also “understood how to make use of the art of separation of metals” via the Saiger process, which used lead to effect the separation of copper and silver.

The Fuggers agreed to a joint venture with the Thurzos in operating the mines for the next 16 years as well as building a smelter.

In addition to their financial skills, the Fuggers brought their inevitable political connections to the table any time a deal was in the offing.

The Thurzos allowed the Fuggers access to Hungarian soil when foreigners were barred from commerce there.

The Hapsburgs allowed the metal extracted from the mines in Neusohl access to the markets their family controlled throughout Europe.

When difficulties arose, the Hapsburgs had the political clout to make them go away—in exchange, of course, for more loans. Jakob Fugger was content to operate behind the scenes, as long as the operations he financed went smoothly.”

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