Piecemeal feudalism and its consequences

This idea comes from the observation that college tuition is like healthcare now: you either get it paid through your employer (or comparable), or it doesn’t get paid and you go without. I don’t pay for college, my mom gets free college from Uber and gives it to me. I don’t think I’ve talked to anyone in my software engineering program that’s paying for it themselves, they’re all getting it through Starbucks. This is our hack fix to the student loan and tuition hyperinflation crisis: bulk corporate deals parceled out to employees in place of higher wages. (If you’re a minority then the government is effectively your employer in this model.) Similarly, I believe I mentioned before there’s a running shop near me that houses the store’s clerks. So we can expect this model to be used for employee rent in the future as well.

This is obviously a more viable economic model for covering the basics like food, etc. than microfinancing your pizza. So this is the Schelling timeline: everyone is going to start making employment choices based less on the salary, which can’t actually buy you what you need (healthcare, etc.), and more on the oddball benefits.


  • People will strategize their employment to get the essentials: Starbucks for school, Costco for healthcare, something else for gas, something else for the company laptop (and so on)
  • Covering all the basics this way as just one person is impossible, so we may see extended family structures reinvigorated (e.g. Mom covers healthcare for the family, cousin supplies welfare laptops, I work at Starbucks to put everybody through college, that sort of arrangement.)

So far it’s all been stuff everybody agrees on: we all continue working, getting stuff, and sacrificing future generations to avoid dealing with our problems. Those things are going to happen because everybody is in cooperation to do short-term copes. The following predictions, where social competition enters the picture, are where the Schelling timeline thing starts really getting interesting. So the way to think about these next predictions is not that they’re going to happen, per se, but that these are things that would happen in the complete absence of human foresight, and are therefore a future people will feel coming at some point and react to with more or less foresight.

  • What follows, linearly, from piecemeal feudalism is a model of aggressive corporate lobbying driven by the lowest-level workers whose continued existence is dependent on government handouts to their employers. We’re talking a categorically different level of looting.
    Competitive corporate looting with full-throated union support.
  • The rise and fall of corporations and such would then be expected to follow the too-big-to-fail model. If working at Costco is the only way to get your rent paid, then if Costco goes out of business you’re putting all those people on the street with no recourse.
    Tens of thousands of voters immediately become forever homeless.
  • Therefore, only large businesses can exist, and they can only be allowed to fail in response to some large external catastrophe like Covid where people can throw up their hands and say “nobody could have done anything, it’s just a natural disaster, that’s how it goes”.
  • That creates the conditions for an engineered problem-response-solution cycle to regulate the market and close the really dysfunctional large businesses, just like how Covid took out a lot of less prestigious colleges.

Again, this is just the expected linear progression. It’s only really absolutely predictable when people are backed into an existential corner, like when your king is in check (so you generally only have zero, one, or two moves), or when everyone is as stupid on average as in Africa. Like all good predictions, one of the first things we can note about this model is that it’s already happening a little bit. And arguably all of it has already happened and this is the world we already live in, more or less.

About Aeoli Pera

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7 Responses to Piecemeal feudalism and its consequences

  1. bannedhipster says:

    All of these collective functions were once provided via Civil Society institutions, fraternities, churches, and civic clubs. These institutions were neither the state, nor were they ‘capitalist’ or commercial.

    Diversity and TV killed what was left of them after WWII.

    I’ve read the AMA was founded more or less specifically to end the common practice of a fraternity having a doctor on their payroll who provided health care to the members and their families.

  2. aiaslives says:

    Get ready for company towns!
    You get paid, only to give it back to the company. AmazonBucks.

  3. Pingback: Socioeconomic roles in piecemeal feudalism | Aeoli Pera

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