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Freedom is Feudalism


Perlstein is great on Rick Santorum’s grandfather’s alleged escape from fascism into “freedom”:

So, from the unfreedom of Mussolini, he marched into the rosy-fingered dawn of American freedom—which Santorum described thusly:

“He left to the coal fields of Southern Pennsylvania. He worked in the mine at a company town, got paid with coupons, he used to call them.”

Let us dwell on that. Grandpa Santorum lived in a company town where he was paid in “scrip” in lieu of cash. That means what his grandson calls “freedom” was, well and truly, something more like slavery.


To put it plainly: miners like Rick Santorum’s grandfather were enslaved to their companies, tied by feudal bonds to the company towns where they lived and worked. First off, quite simply, because they had no money to go elsewhere (remember, they didn’t get paid in money, but in coupons only redeemable at the “single local general store”; and how can you move if you don’t have cash-money?). And secondly, yet more sinisterly, corrupt accounting systems typically kept families perpetually in debt—making moving to another place of one’s choosing, the basic act of a free human being, a jailing offense. There was no “freedom.” No market economy.

I also strongly recommend the concluding analysis, which is as good a refutation of the kindergarten-libertarianism that currently dominates Republican discourse as you’ll find anywhere. Not only is there not necessarily a contradiction between state power and freedom, the former is sometimes necessary to establish the latter in any meaningful sense. An absence of government regulation, for most people, just means domination by unconstrained private actors.

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