Author Walter Prescott Webb saw in 1937 a world of people in chains, stating that: “Wherever I turn in the South and the West I find people busily engaged in paying tribute to someone in the North.” Henry Ford then ran a feudal chain that gave him a great private fortune, making him lord and master over millions of people across the country.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Changing Masters Rather Than Systems
“History tells us that the position of the serf on the feudal manor was a humble one and that he had little to show for his labor. History adds with emphasis, however, that he enjoyed an unalienable security. He was attached to the land that nourished him and he could not be separated from it. His children inherited his security.
When we compare his lot with that of the clerks in a chain store (leaving aside what they have to show for their labor) we find that in point of security the serf had the better of it. Though the land was not his, he was the land’s, and from it he could make a livelihood. The chain or corporate employee does not own the store and is not owned by it. He can be kicked out at any time. He has no contract, either by law or by custom, and he enjoys no security.
With our theory of equality between a real and corporate person, the tie between them can be broken by either at will. What the law loses sight of is that the tie is as strong as the chains of necessity for one and as weak as a distant, impersonal will for the other.
The feudal world set great store by symbols, insignia and uniforms. Every man’s station was announced by what he wore. The jester had his cap and the fool had his bell. The knight was distinguished by his armor, the king by his crown. A member of the high orders of chivalry was known by the fraternity pin he wore.
As I look out upon the South and the West I not only see men everywhere in chains, but I see thousands wearing the insignia of their allegiance to their overlords. Boys clad in blue or brown and wearing caps with the symbols of the telegraph companies are hurrying along on bicycles. In oil stations young men in puttees and jackets exhibit the insignia of Standard Oil, Texaco, Humble, and Andy Mellon’s Gulf.
Tire punctures are recommended by men in long dusters which have Goodyear or Firestone woven in bright red letters across the back. Most of these are doubtless conscious that they are under unseen control; to a man, they must long for independence, for something they can call their own.
Some of them do not conceal their resentment. “These damn corporations dont give a man a chance,” says one. “I’m through with these oil companies,” said another. “I am doing my best to get a job with the International Business Machine Corporation.” Thus they exchange masters, but rarely systems.
(Divided We Stand, The Crisis of a Frontierless Democracy, Walter Prescott Webb, Farrar & Rinehart, 1937, pp. 114-116)