SurveyInstead of the prevalent feudal system of yore, do you think our ancestors would have been better with a system where you could have as much land as you could work, but no one was allowed to pay others to work instead of you?
      – BorgClown, 2010-01-04 at 04:22:37   (10 comments)

On 2010-01-04 at 04:26:01, BorgClown wrote...
This came to me while I was driving home from our holidays. If you think only about farming, every farmer would be more successful the more he worked, provided he's healthy or has someone to take care of him when he isn't. I haven't given enough thought, but I have the feeling this system doesn't scale well.
On 2010-01-04 at 17:12:24, Lee J Haywood wrote...
Your question relates to the efficiency of agriculture. Today, UK agriculture is intensive and highly mechanised, producing about 60% of food needs with less than 2% of the labour force. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/uk.html It's difficult to know how hard life was when farmers had to create an excess of produce, not just to feed themselves but also their masters and to trade for non-food goods like clothing. I'd guess that any successful farmer has to produce an excess, and that some land is sufficiently unsuitable so as to make getting enough sustenance a real challenge. The main issue is the time it takes to produce each unit of food. It takes a long time for it to grow, yet you have to eat every day - so realistically you need a team of people to gather a harvest from a large plot of land that is otherwise left to itself for months at a time.
On 2010-01-04 at 19:26:57, Melchior wrote...
I don't think the relationship between land size, time, effort and yield is linear. Scaling up works fine, but not down - the effort to grow more than you need is not much higher than the effort to grow just enough. So, poor efficiency. I'm not sure if it would be much different to the old system - not being able to grow much and being hungry, vs growing more and having it taken from you, and then being hungry.
On 2010-01-05 at 04:53:38, BorgClown wrote...
But I was talking of farming as a business, you feed off it and sell the rest, as long as you can take care of the farmland. No farmer working for another farmer is kinda silly nowadays, because you could theoretically plow the filds with machines, but you'll be out of drivers. OTOH, maybe that would be a good regulation against monopolies, instead of hiring drivers you would associate with other farmers.
On 2010-01-05 at 23:25:41, Melchior wrote...
Hmm. Reading the original question I'd have to answer yes, purely because they now own land. But it's an easy answer - the feudal system was meant to keep the land owners rich and screw the poor, not produce happiness for everyone :P So really, anything would have been better for most people. Or would it be? Interesting morality tangent: with the upper-class free to spend their time and money doing whatever they wanted, it allowed the pursuit of science, leading to a gradual improvement in quality of life. If everyone was farming there would have been little time for other things - consequently, we would probably not be where we are today. I'd be interested to see what people think of this...
On 2010-01-05 at 23:56:25, Lee J Haywood wrote...
I cannot say I really understand the original question all that well, but as Melchior says life is better when people specialise at certain tasks. If you look at your modern world you see that you can do your job as, say, a computer programmer precisely because other things like manufacturing and food production are done by others. Division of labour makes most sense when you have more than just farming in the equation. OTOH, society is vulnerable when it depends on a few knowledgeable individuals who could disappear suddenly in a disaster.
On 2010-01-06 at 21:28:35, BorgClown wrote...
It is an interesting point. I knew it wouldn't escalate with civilization, but didn't quite realize humanity could end up stuck in farming forever.
On 2010-01-06 at 22:18:54, Lee J Haywood wrote...
Stuck in farming forever? As opposed to what? If we don't eat farm produce then what would we eat?
On 2010-01-07 at 05:06:34, BorgClown wrote...
Why, meat of course!
On 2010-01-07 at 05:10:57, BorgClown wrote...
As Melchior said, if everyone was a farmer, who would do art and science? Maybe equal association would be a good alternative to employment, everyone would get a proportional share of the profits instead of a few ones making billions. That way, most people could afford to have sabbaticals or more demanding hobbies.