Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Friday, April 16, 2004
Down on the fief
A while back some Michigan law students were discussing how feudalism could work in a modern-day setting, prompting one to ponder becoming feudal lord (is the word "lord" gender-neutral? can the word "lady" denote the ruler of a fief?) of Michigan Law School.

Since then I've developed the conviction that Hyde Park is, in the most important aspects, pretty much operating under a feudal system:

1. One owner of property--in medieval feudalism, the state/church, in the case of Hyde Park, the University of Chicago. While the University doesn't own all of the land in Hyde Park, it owns at least 50% of it--much of it it rents out to tenants, a la...
2. The fief system--Much of the real estate the University owns isn't part of the University--instead, it's residential (apartment buildings) and commercial (the Hyde Park Shopping Center, the Harper Court Shopping Center).
3. The buildings that aren't owned by the University are often either owned by or rented by professors--the knights of this fair kingdom, I suppose.
4. Which I guess makes the undergraduate students pages, and the graduate students squires. I mean, look at the deference we pay to professors--our tone of supplicance in the word "Professor" is almost identical to a page's "My lord". The administrative staff are stewards, which means they can boss around the "pages" and "squires".
5. But the University still isn't an independent state. No, it's under the dominion of King Richard the Second of the House of Daley, himself under the dominion of Emperor George the Second of the House of Bush. His Imperial Highness was elected, in the style of the Holy Roman Emperors of old, by a small, odd number of electors (in the HRE, 7; the Supreme Court has 9). Two of these electors, Chancellor Scalia and Chancellor Stevens, have sworn fealty to the University of Chicago.

I haven't even covered the architecture (Gothic) yet, the massive private police force (the palace guards?), and the contentious relations with the bergers and peasants of Hyde Park, Kenwood, and Woodlawn. Or the tournaments (Scav Hunt for the pages, Nobel nominating committees, debates, and peer reviews for the knights).

All that's really needed is a moat. Wait, weren't they once thinking of making the Midway into a canal?

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