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Minimum wages in the Known World

by James Mishler

You have to remember one thing: the very concept of modern capitalism did not evolve until very recently. Like so very many revealed religions (and I include Marxism among those), it has certain assumptions that may not necessarily obtain, and too, like all religions, acts as an opiate for the masses.

And that's all I'll say about the real world in this...

As to the Known World, remember, the cultures thereof are a mish-mash of cultures from different eras and regions. Each will tend to have very different ideas about "what is good in life" beyond the mere monetary, and will have vastly different forms of social organisation. Let's look at this in the order of the first three Gazetteers:

Karameikos: Karameikos is a divided nation. The native Traladarans are, for the most part, a mish-mash of what we would consider dark age Romanians and Russians, with a strong dash of Romany thrown in for good measure. The operative phrase here, though, is Dark Age. Prior to the invasion of the Thyatians in 900 AC, the Traladarans were divided up into tribal territories and "city-states" (none larger than 5,000 people all told), with vast tracts of monster-ridden lands in between. The only source of wealth was the land. It was held generally by serfs, people who were beholden to the land, and thus "owned" to an extent by the master of those lands. When the Thyatians arrived, they broke up the local power base, and eliminated the practice of serfdom, instituting true slavery. When a local robber-baron was captured, he and his family and supporters (those that survived) were thrown into slavery. His lands were broken up and divided among the former serfs, now peasants, though not all peasants were given land - generally only those who worked with the Thyatians were given lands. Those lands not distributed to the peasants were owned by the Empire itself, managed by Thyatian governors, and worked by landless peasants or slaves. The Thyatians enforced their ideals of primogeniture, and thus only the eldest son or daughter could inherit the family lands. This caused a swelling of the population of Marilenev, bringing about a true city culture. During the last hundred years, the various peasant families have intermarried, lands have changed hands, and new lands have been carved through the forests - as peasants have seen the value of working for themselves in the last several generations. With the coming of Stefan Karameikos, a different type of feudalism has re-appeared. The peasants still hold their lands, but now they are also expected to work the lands of their feudal overlord (if they have one) as a form of tax (adventurers and city folk still get the normal 25% tax burden every quarter). Thus, though they are not serfs, they still owe work-service for their protection. They have no concept of "wages." Even those who are not family members who work the fields are paid in kind, not coin. Coins are rare in the rural areas, silver generally all that is known in common day usage. Peasants mostly hope to bear many healthy children, to help them work the fields and praise the Immortals, and have enough to give their younger children a small stake before they leave to find their own farms or leave for the city. Meanwhile, gold and silver are considered the normal mode of trade in Specularum, where several small factories have been started with all the extra labour swelling the city ranks. In the city, the Traladarans hope at best to earn enough to keep together life and limb, and maybe save enough to buy their own land some day. Karameikans (Thyatians and Thyatian/Traladaran half-breeds) are pretty much in the same boat, though with their "better" ancestry, they hope to someday rise through the military and either earn a post or a knighthood. Otherwise, they hope to make enough to buy a small business and maintain several Traladaran craftsmen under their patronage, or a larger number of unskilled labourers in one of the new factories.

Ylaruam: The Alasiyani are divided into two major groups: the urban folk and the nomads. The nomads are, relatively speaking, a simple folk. They want to find enough good pasturage to keep their camels, horses, and goats healthy, hunt enough critters to keep flesh on their own bones, and raid enough enemies to live well. Life for the nomad consists of keeping lions and monsters away from the herds and the tents, and defending both from other clans. They have no concept of "wages." Successful nomads survive; those who are not, die. Truly successful nomads become respected, and earn the title "sheik," are given greater portions of the treasures from raids, and can have more wives - conversely, they are responsible for more people, especially more sons and daughters! The urban folk are more like the urban folk of Karameikos (or anywhere, for that matter). They are base labourers or craftsmen, for the most part, and need to produce their goods or use their muscles to earn enough in coin to buy the goods they need to survive. This is classical capitalism at its best: work for a day, earn a few dirhams. Save enough dirhams to buy some raw materials, hire someone to work for you, sell the goods he produces for you, and pay him only half what you sold the good for: now that's a deal! With the relatively low population of Ylaruam, wages are high for good workers. A wealthy merchant is most respected, provided he remembers to spend time in the mosque honouring the Immortals.

Glantri: Glantri is much like Karameikos, before the Thyatian invasion. Every principality has a mixture of serfs and peasants working the fields, or peasants doing other brute labours (lumber, mining, animal husbandry, etc.). Probably about half the rural population are serfs, the rest peasants. Serfs just hope their lord does not decide to use them in some experiment or feed them to the werewolves, while peasants do their best to stay out of their lord's sight and make enough to pay the tax man every quarter. Otherwise, peasants in Glantri are not dissimilar to those in Karameikos. The urban folk are much like those in Karameikos and Ylaruam, mostly craftsmen and base labourers, though with the far stricter control the wizard princes maintain over their lands and the various guilds maintain over their domains (as compared to the various amirs in Ylaruam and barons in Karameikos), there is even less upward mobility... save, of course, for those trained in magical skills. Coin is king here, too, then, as it is a mark of status as well as wealth. But the best most craftsmen can hope for is to become a master in their own craft, as investment and growth outside one's craft is frowned upon by the guilds, and it tends to get too messy for the likes of the princes, who prefer things quiet and simple.