Firstly, I’ve no wish to define people by accidents of birth and then condemn them for the effects of those accidents – by accent, dress, or other filial habits. Whichever class we’ve been born into remains as our original soil. Parenthood, love, loyalty and some behavioural codes, grow from that sacred ground. There’s nothing we can do about our entry into the world, or our remaining gratitude for it. However, as adults (if we accept that rite of passage) we must look about at the wider world – our connections to and our effects within it.
I’d like you to consider that the current middle class is a defended enclosure by those whose income is largely composed of rent. Perhaps as powerful as land enclosure, I ask you to contemplate a modern enclosure – status property. I leave aside the historical middle class – the yeoman, guildsman, bourgeoisie… I think they may have passed away.
The negative effects of land enclosure are copiously documented by well-known economic philosophers, dating back at least as far as the Reformation (Thomas More). The negative effects of what I’ve chosen to call status enclosure, as far as I can tell, are not documented at all. I speculate that status enclosure may be an even greater drain on a community than land enclosure. At any rate they’ve a similar weight in the scales (and scales of injustice).
I propose that the gathering of rent for status is the central process by which we become middle class.
Status enclosure is the means to a monopoly of services. Lawyer, dentist, GP, architect and so on have gained right of enclosure to impose a large rent for their very existence – not for what their labour may provide.
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