The Free Agent would like to take a break from her usual contemplation of how people may live together in peace and prosperity to ask: If a small number of people wished to enslave the majority, how best to go about it?
Through most of history, would-be despots have favored brutality, but The Free Agent sees this as problematic. Under feudalism, the masses were held in place by a hierarchy headed by no less an authority than God. While the feudal system lasted longer than capitalism has so far, in the end, God’s chosen leaders squandered their wealth and loyal subjects on wars. In Nineteenth Century America, not only did slavery require more middle management than the British Raj and royally piss off the upstairs neighbors, but its profits couldn’t compete with the burgeoning industrial North, manned by infinitely more productive near-slaves.
The Twentieth Century finally got it right. Joseph Stalin killed almost everyone he knew, at least ten million he didn’t, but died peacefully in bed, mourned by the masses who believed all the necessities of life came directly from him. While the Soviet economy might have been nothing to write Forbes about, never have so many lived on so little for so long. Yes, as far as low-maintenance slavery is concerned, The Free Agent can think of no better shackles than free milk.
Britain first authorized free milk for children and pregnant women during the rationing years of World War II. Since then, the age of recipients has worked downwards (Margaret Thatcher is still known in some quarters as “Milk Snatcher” for lowering eligibility to age seven in 1971) to the present scheme which doles out 1/3 pint per day for approximately 1.3 million children aged five and under in “approved day care”. The suggestion by UK Health Minister Ann Milton that this transfer of 21 cents’ worth of milk at a cost to the taxpayers of 27 cents is not justifiable, that a smaller amount targeted to needy children would do the job better, served Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron his first crisis in office.
Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon defended the plan that apprentices UK toddlers for a lifetime on the dole. “I think it would have been deeply, deeply damaging for nursery school children to have had the milk that they get removed. I believe that there is evidence that milk in a child’s development is very important.”
“Milk good,” concurred Mrs. Frankenstein.
Pilloried in the press by such logic, Cameron threw Milton under the bus at a press conference and reaffirmed the scheme to milk the taxpayers. Members of the Labour party sighed with relief, reassured there is no more philosophical difference between them and the Conservatives than there is between Democrats and Republicans.
Throw those old shackles on the scrap heap—the workers of the world demand chains of milk.