A Look at Simple Medieval Solutions to Complicated Problems

Cleric-Knight-Workman-293x300 A Look at Simple Medieval Solutions to Complicated Problems

A Look at Simple Medieval Solutions to Complicated Problems

There was a time when the role of Congresses and Parliaments was not to come up with massive programs or interfere in the lives of the people. Rather their function was to judge the merit of cases and provide simple solutions to the problems of daily life. Those were simpler times but they reflected a Christian order long lost.

In his recent book, Before Church and State: A Study of Social Order in the Sacramental Kingdom of St. Louis IX, historian Andrew Willard Jones recounts many cases of how ordinary people in medieval France could have recourse to Parliament to obtain their rights in cases of conflict. He tells of the arguments and procedures employed by the chamber whether the case be great or small. Parliament would often rule as to “who had a right to the trees that fell in a certain wood, or who had the right to pasture their pigs in a certain field in June and in August.”

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Thus, for example, there is the picturesque case of the peasants of a certain village who cut down dead trees for firewood every spring at a nearby forest. When a local knight guarding the forest stopped them and took their carts laden with wood, the villagers protested. From time immemorial, they objected, they had taken firewood from this forest. The knight replied that they had always taken one cart of wood not the two they were then taking.

The villagers took their case to Parliament. An inquest was carried out and Parliament found that over the course of the previous forty years, the peasants had usually taken one cart and sometimes two. Parliament promptly declared the knight acted wrongly and ordered him to make amends.

This is how hundreds of thousands of people engaged in their activities and transactions in those times. When conflict arose, officials looked to the customs of the people and sought to find original solutions based on what had always been done. “All of these activities,” writes Dr. Jones, “the way the population went about all its business, constituted the society’s order, known as “the peace.”

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  • Jonathan Grant

    In medieval times, intelligence was not a criteria for finding work. The primary criteria for work was an able-bodied man. Today, in the post-industrial world, intelligence is a primary criteria for work. If you do not have sufficient intelligence and conscientiousness, then you risk falling behind, impoverished and jobless, in a world that is progressing rapidly.

    How do you reconcile the dignity of work with those who will not have the intellectual capacity to compete in the labor force? Should the most pragmatic model of a modern Christian society provide some form of living assistance, or menial service for livelihood? What can those jobs be, that employ as much as 1/3 of the labor force, those who are intellectually noncompetitive, without automation or mass poverty?

    Karl Marx’s socialism is only likely to increase in demand as more people on the lower half of the IQ bell curve fall further behind. This is a grave predicament emerging for the Church. The Church runs the risk of being replaced by worship of man, if a solution is not found in America. What are your thoughts?

    • Michael Dowd

      We, of course, have to consider that half the population is below average intelligence and most are working. Intellectual intelligence is over-rated. Hard work and perseverance are the primary keys to success. Besides that their are many kinds of intelligence; emotional intelligence is the primary key to success combined with perseverance.

      • Jonathan Grant

        You are deeply mistaken regarding intelligence.

        Firstly, there are not multiple kinds of intelligence. Intelligence is a single unity, that can be measured, within the mind. Emotional “intelligence” is actually an aspect of personality, albeit one’s own intelligence can be applied to it. But that’s exactly my point, half the population falls below the median, making them less competitive in a world that increasingly requires a bachelor degree or higher. The kinds of bachelor degrees that make one sufficiently skilled to provide invaluable labor to the economy, require sufficient intelligence, that would easily place the individual in the top 15% of the population.

        The military will not take anyone in the bottom 15% of the population, because they would damage military readiness and effectiveness. Easily as much as 1/3 of the population will be automated out of work in the foreseeable future. 1/3 of the population do not have sufficient intelligence to compete in an intellectually demanding world, which demands more of one’s intellect every day.

        Dr Jordan B Peterson, a clinical psychologist of the University of Toronto, has talked much about intelligence in short lectures that you can find on YouTube. Search Controversial Facts About IQ. The first result should be of the same name. You should watch this. IQ is the best indicator of success in life. The personality trait, conscientiousness, is a good indicator of success in life, but IQ is much better. The modern labor market is intelligence based, first and foremost. IQ and The Job Market is another video lecture you should watch.

        • Jonathan Grant

          Structural unemployment is a serious problem facing society. Increasingly, the kind of labor that workers on the low end of the IQ bell curve provide, falls short of the work available. Structural unemployment in modern society is fueled by a mismatch of intelligence to labor. I’ve noticed that Marxist’s tend to garner support when structural unemployment is high. America will see the like of a President Bernie Sanders one day if a solution is not found. What of medieval times could be offered up as a solution to this modern problem?

          • Michael Dowd

            Thanks Jonathan. By the way, I am a fan of Jordan Peterson. The tech system will have to accommodate the low IQ folks as we enter the time of massive labor redundancy. Maybe a back to the farm movement would help. Regardless the times ahead will be perilous for many.

      • Jonathan Grant

        It is true that half the population is below what is considered average intelligence and most are employed, but their incomes are much lower, stagnated, and decreasing in purchasing power due to inflation. Many of the jobs available to a portion of this population will be automated by tech companies. The vast majority of these jobs provide median or lower income for the household, little to no health insurance coverage, and few prospects. Also, many of these jobs are dependent on economic growth, and provide only seasonal or part-time work.

        Tech companies are working like mad to automate simple jobs like driving. Driving jobs employs millions of people who would otherwise be jobless. Also, the unemployment rate is not a good indicator of unemployment, because it does not consider those who have given up seeking a job, aka retired years before retirement age.

    • Philip Viverito

      I would respectfully disagree. You are selling Medieval society short. In fact what we call the dark and middle ages were nothing of the kind. The Catholic Church saved knowledge through the scriptoriums. Established the first university at Bologna and these spread across Europe. The hospital system developed through the monastery as did many other basic economic ideas. For example by the 11th century the medieval farmers were able to produce more food per acre than did any period of Roman history. This was due to the introduction of a new harness system for pulling plows with horses rather than oxen as well. The medieval man was not just aware body without intelligence.

      I agree with you. We should always care for those less fortunate. As an educator I can tell you the instruction of students is making them less qualified for jobs. Who does a PHD call at three am another PHD or a plumber who makes 50 abhor or more? Our youth are not being directed to either to a productive educational formation or a work ethic of any kind both of which society requires. Few of our current students receive a truly liberal arts approach to education. There is little special about specialization. We cured polio in 10 years yet today we cannot cure the common cold and cancer research is just a place to gain funding.

      I would agree society is all about me and not public service to a better social end. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church it is made clear that a practicing Catholic cannot be a socialist of communist or a radical capitalist. We must realize that we are becoming very socialist and we even use socialist words such as capitalist to describe ourselves. Terms reveal much about ourselves. So I presume that if our children are not properly catechized then we should expect nothing better than a socialist society.

      Finally the twentieth century began taking the western world out of it’s Christian traditions in all manner of ways. unfortunately the Church has constantly fought battles within itself. If we cannot destroy this single institution which survived Classical Rome I doubt if anything or power or principality can. But then the devils work is never done is it?

      • Jonathan Grant

        Firstly, no prior statement I have made necessarily contradicts anything you have retorted here. You are preaching to the choir, and it seems, you have presumed what I think, without me telling you. On what basis?

        There is much out of context with your reply, that I must assume you have not actually read anything that I have posted, and that you are only trolling.

  • Frank

    Was the French parliament not a representative assembly (that I believe was the Estates General), but rather a court (or more than one) of law?