Thursday, September 14, 2006

The new latifundia

2000 years ago, the Roman Empire was fed by latifundia, large rural estates, the first example of industrialised agriculture in the world. The workers on these estates were slaves. The prosperity of Rome and its ability to maintain a highly cultured urban population depended on a brutal system of agricultural slavery in which people were treated as property and killed, maimed or tortured on a whim.

Today, the system of latifundia still exists. So do the slaves. Only instead of using Dacians and Africans and Slavs captured in battle or through conquest, they use illegal immigrants from Romania, Africa and Poland. They treat them just the same though - the account of Fabrizio Gatti in L'espresso of his life amongst the slaves of Puglia would be easily recognisable to any ancient slave - or to any American one:

To protect their affairs, farmers and landowners have created an army of ruthless gang masters: Italians, Arabs, and Eastern Europeans. They lodge their workers in makeshift shacks that are avoided even by stray dogs. Without water or electricity, in disgusting hygenical conditions. They make the men work from 6 AM to 10 PM. And they pay them only - when they pay them - 15 or 20 Euros per day. Complaints are dealt with by beatings with a steel bar. Some workers decided to seek the assistance of the Police, in Foggia: thanks to the Immigration Law named after Umberto Bossi and Gianfranco Fini, they were arrested or expelled from Italy because they didn't have the necessary work permits.

Others ran away. The gang masters searched for them all night long. It was a scene similar to the manhunts in Alan Parker's film, "Mississippi Burning." In the end, some of them were captured and some of them were killed.

There's more, and its worse. People being beaten for dropping a case of tomatoes. people being beaten for talking to outsiders. People being beaten and killed for shopping somewhere other than the company store, with its inflated prices and rotten meat.

The fact that this is still happening in Europe is absolutely abhorrent. And there are two causes. The driving force is what Rutherford Waddell called "the sin of cheapness" - the drive for lowest cost production in order to maximise profits. But the thing that really makes it possible is harsh laws against illegal immigration, which prevent illegal immigrants from complaining to the police about their treatment, and effectively place them beyond the protection of the law. Assault, murder and slavery are all illegal under Italian law, but it does no good if no-one can ever complain about them.

Now, at least, someone is beginning to notice: the Polish government is kicking up a stink about 123 Polish citizens who have disappeared while working as farm labourers in Italy. Some farms have been raided and some gangmasters arrested. But the core problem of illegal immigrants being denied the protection of the law remains, and as long as that is the case, so will this form of slavery.


Actually, unrestricted immigration when combined with a welfare state will wind up with draconian anti-immigration laws, leading to a Police State, as Reisman argues here:

Immigration Plus Welfare State Equal Police State

The solution, of course, is to deregulate immigration while at the same time dismantling the welfare state.

You can't have both liberal immigration laws and a welfare state.

Posted by Duncan Bayne : 9/14/2006 04:02:00 PM

aaahhh, so THAT'S the problem!

these people go to another country seeking an easy life on the dole, and they end up as a slave getting beaten and murdered by private militias who never have to answer for their crimes...

and so if we just got rid of the "welfare state" and immigration laws, the slave drivers would just pack up their bags and never be seen again. i knew their was an easy solution. gosh, silly me, why didn't I think of this first!?

Posted by Anonymous : 9/14/2006 08:02:00 PM

> But the thing that really makes it possible is harsh laws against illegal immigration

Any even vaguely effective law against immigration will stop reporting - you either have no boarder at all or that isn’t a real solution.

What you could do however is punish those who engage in these things -
I notice that in general it is common knowledge that these peopel are importing immigrant 'slave labour' (and I hesitate to use the quotation marks) but don’t really punish them.

If you really go after these guys they can’t hide - they stick out like sore thumbs, you just need to really deal to some of them.

Of course you would probably find you couldn’t do that without breaching their rights after all they don't own any of their trusts and they aren’t responsible for what their companies do and they are just trying to help some poor people and its their free choice and so on...

But I'd make an example of them anyway.

Posted by Genius : 9/14/2006 09:20:00 PM