Foras long as there has been people, there has been an aristocracy who believethemselves to be the rightful rulers. Their desire, some would say lust, toretain their power has led this capitalist class to create laws and takeadvantage of economic circumstances in order to preserve and even heightentheir influence. This is displayed in no better fashion than in the vagrancylaws the middle of the last millennium. In 1274, the law was such that religioushouses (churches, temples, etc.) were given funds to house and feed travelers.This was out of the decency of humanity without any regard to profits ormonetary temptations. 120 years later, by 1394, the law changed in favor of thearistocracy.
It was now illegal to give aid or charity to those unemployed whoare still able to work, meaning they were healthy mentally and physically. Itwas now also a crime to leave a job or “service” while one was still able toperform the tasks asked of them. Punishment for vagrancy escalated in order toenforce these laws. The original punishment was fifteen days in prison, then itbecame a short time in the stocks, followed by three days and nights in thestocks 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 had decimated labor forces throughout Europe, coupled withmany serfs who went to work in factories in cities created a severe scarcity inavailable workforces. The vagrancy laws were created and gradually strengthened(according to William Chambliss) to ensure this ruling class a cheap andconstant workforce who would comply with whatever wages or conditions they wereoffered. Put simply, the laws were put in place to intimidate people intotaking low paying jobs because the alternative was imprisonment or banishment.This was one of the most overt examples of a wealthy class creating laws tobenefit them economically. In a more modern day example, the housing collapsein 2008. Banks were able to bet on certain areas of the market and make moneyeven at the extreme expense of their customers and investors. This onlyoccurred because the people who made the laws “regulating” the financial industryhad and continue to have a direct stake in its well-being.
The capitalist class was and has notbeen content to stop at simply creating laws to boost their economic endeavors.They bypassed restrictions on their business, primarily on their factories. Anexample of this, one that Karl Marx discusses at length, is the English FactoryActs from 1833 and 1847. These acts were designed to protect factory workers,but primarily the women and children.
Such as, it was illegal to have childrenunder the age of nine working in a factory. The acts limited the work days ofthose between the ages of thirteen and eighteen to only twelve hours a day. Children between the ages of nine andthirteen were limited to eight hours a day. The work days of everyone else waslimited to fifteen hours.
(In 1847, it was made law that anyone between theages of thirteen and eighteen and all females could not work more than 11hours). These (among others) all seem like excellent things for workers and, atface value, it appears like these laws would be implemented and obeyed withoutquestion. However, as Marx points out, the laws only bolstered capitalism. Thelaws passed with some pushback from factory owners but with many exceptions.The hours of women and children were lessened, but this was not true for otherworkers. This caused many smaller factories to close because they simply couldnot afford the comply with these restrictions. Consequently, larger factorieswho could continue doing business got larger because all the workers from thesmaller, now closed, factories came to the larger ones.
Furthermore, therestrictions were often evaded by factory owners who figured out loopholes(such as “relay systems”) to avoid fully submitting to the laws. There was alsosimply not enough money to fully invoke these restrictions. Thus, factories gotto claim that they had better working conditions for workers, but all theyreally had done was find clever ways around a series of laws. This is also seenin the fallout, or lack thereof, of the 2008 financial crisis for the bigbanks’ top employees. While over two million lost their jobs as a result, manyhigh ranking bankers and others in the financial world both made ludicrousamounts of money and most of them got away without a scratch. Because they wereand still are in such high positions of power, they are seemingly untouchableby the legal system.
Capitalism has been legitimized in the United States.This our financial system has evolved society into a purely monetary world.Healthcare is privatized and a optional for U.S.
citizens as opposed to otherdeveloped 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 tosave most of the banks. This whole crisis caused unemployment to rise to 10%and the global stock market plummeted. Granted, the situation would have beendramatically worse had the federal government not given the money to the banks.
Here lies the problem, the banks are so ingrained in our society that we cansurvive without them. Consequently, the men who run and work in this world havetaken advantage of these loopholes to achieve ridiculous amounts of personalwealth. They became so fixed because the men in power for many of the initiallaws of the U.S. were men of finance, notably Alexander Hamilton. Our laws werewritten by bankers and other modern forms of aristocracies and so those lawsdirectly benefit those groups.