The feudal lord of the manor mentioned below could have been European, Asian, Arab or African owners of serfs or slaves. A North German serf in Mecklenburg belonged to and worked the land of his lord, owning little more than his clothes and cooking utensils. But he and other serfs were essential to the lord for agricultural production, as in the American South and elsewhere in the world, and thus could not be abandoned.
Feudal Lords, Modern Capitalists and The Dole
“The feudal lord of the manor was quite as much a property owner as the millionaire under modern capitalism. He had property rights in the tools of production, and often directed the processes of production. But unlike the man of property under modern capitalism, he could never make a decision in respect of his property rights, one of the results of which, would be widespread unemployment and destitution, for, as a practical matter, he could not expel the serf from the land or deny him the use of the land and some elementary capital for the production of food, shelter and clothing.
Modern capitalism is the first important system of property rights to allow property owners to make decisions which result in large scale unemployment. The much vaunted freedom of modern capitalism is largely a matter of the freedom of property owners from social responsibility for the consequences of their economic choices. It is a matter of the freedom of property owners not to invest their savings if the profit incentive is not considered sufficient.
To say that it is also a matter of the freedom of the worker to abstain from work is to utter a shallow mockery of human necessity. The rich man is, in a practical sense, free to withhold his savings from investment. The poor man is never free in any but a legal sense and absurd sense to withhold his labor from the highest bidder, however low the bid, if, as the principles of sound capitalism require, so to withhold his labor is to starve.
At the present time, one of the fundamental rules of sound capitalism is being violated by the payment of the dole, which prevents a man from starving and thus enables him to withhold his labor from the highest bidder if the bid is not materially higher than the amount obtainable from the dole.”
(The Coming American Fascism: The Crisis of Capitalism, Lawrence Dennis, Harper & Brothers, 1936, excerpt pp. 22-23)