Lawrence RaiaLaw & Society – Response Paper 11/18/18 For as long as there has been people, there has been an aristocracy who believe themselves to be the rightful rulers. Those who are in a position of power, especially those who are born into it, believe with every fiber of their being that they are destined to wield power at their discretion. This desire, some would say lust, to retain their power has led this capitalist class to create laws and take advantage of economic circumstances in order to preserve and even heighten their influence. This is displayed in no better fashion than in the vagrancy laws the middle of the last millenium.
In 1274, the law was such that religious houses (churches, temples, etc.) were given funds to house and feed travelers. This was out of the decency of humanity without any regard to profits or monetary temptations. 120 years later, by 1394, the law changed in favor of the aristocracy. It was now illegal to aid or charity those unemployed who are able to work, meaning they were healthy mentally and physically. It was now also a crime to leave a job or “service” while one was still able to perform the tasks asked of them.
Punishment for vagrancy escalated in order to enforce these laws. The original punishment was fifteen days in prison, then it became a short time in the stocks, followed by three days and nights in the stocks consuming only bread and water, and it finally just became banishment. This escalation was not without cause, though the cause may not have been just. The Black Plague decimated labor forces throughout Europe, coupled with many serfs who bought their freedom and went to work in factories in cities created a severe scarcity in available workforces. The vagrancy laws were (according to William Chambliss) created and gradually strengthened to ensure this ruling class a cheap and constant workforce who would comply with whatever wages or conditions they were offered. Put simply, the laws were put in place to intimidate people into taking low paying jobs because the alternative was imprisonment or banishment. This was one of the most overt examples of a wealthy class creating laws to benefit them economically.
Add more polish here, also add modern day examples from movie The capitalist class was and has not been content to stop at simply creating laws to boost their economic endeavors. They bypassed restrictions on their business, primarily on their factories. An example of this, one that Karl Marx discusses at length, is the English Factory Acts from 1833 and 1847. These acts were designed to protect factory workers, but primarily the women and children. Employing children under the age of nine, with some exceptions, is illegal. The acts limited the work days of those between the ages of thirteen and eighteen to only twelve hours a day.
Children between the ages of nine and thirteen were limited to eight hours a day. Also, working night shifts (between 8:30 pm and 5:30 am) was illegal for anyone between the ages of nine and eighteen. The work days of everyone else was limited to fifteen hours. (In 1847, it was made law that anyone between the ages of thirteen and eighteen and all females could not work more than 11 hours). These all seem like excellent things for workers and, at face value, it appears like these laws would be implemented and obeyed without question. However, as Marx points out, the laws only strengthened capitalism.
The laws passed (with some pushback from factory owners) but not fully. The hours of women and children were lessened, but this was not true for other workers. This caused many smaller factories to close because they simply could not afford the comply with these restrictions. Consequently, larger factories who could continue doing business got larger because all the workers from the smaller, now closed, factories came to the larger ones. Furthermore, the restrictions were often evaded by factory owners who figured out loopholes (such as “relay systems”) to avoid fully submitting to the laws. There was also simply not enough money to fully enforce these restrictions. Thus, factories got to claim that they had better working conditions for workers, but all they really had done was find clever ways around a series of laws.
Add examples from movie Capitalism has been legitimized in the United States. There is no way around that fact. This is because of the foundation that was laid during the inception of our financial system. Our system has evolved into a purely monetary world.
Healthcare is privatized and a choice for U.S. citizens as opposed to other developed nations where it is government provided. Something that is government supported, are the banks. In 2008 when the financial crisis happened, some banks closed, but bankers (notably Henry Paulson) asked Congress for $700 million dollars in order to bail out the banks.
This whole crisis caused unemployment to rise to 10% and the global stock market plummeted. Granted, the situation would have been dramatically worse had the federal government not given the money to the banks. Here lies the problems, the banks are so ingrained in our society that we can survive without them.
They became so fixed because the men in power for many of the initial laws of the U.S. were men of finance, notably Alexander Hamilton. This continued a vicious cycle wherein those with the ability to make laws made them to keep themselves in positions of power.
Our laws were written by bankers and other modern forms of aristocracies and so those laws directly benefit those groups. Our laws have been made to foster capitalism and the men and women who work in those realms.