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Re: The Utility of Guilds

Uther writes:

[Clever example of a possible situation for a medieval-style guild
within the SCA removed for brevity]

Your example is very good, but you don't go far enough.  Your shoemakers
could easily gain a monopoly on shoemaking in Atlantia--if they produced
fine period shoes for $35 bucks a pair, nobody could compete.  They would
get their monopoly in the way almost all monopolies are gained--by
crushing the competition economically, not by fiat or law.  If they were
clever, they would attempt to absorb non-guild shoemakers by offering
them a place in the guild, training in skills, and guild recognition
in return for their loyalty to the guild.  If they exhibited sufficient
loyalty, skill, and the like, they might even get promoted to Master
and allowed to run their own shop without supervision.

You don't ever need an official monopoly if you have a stranglehold
on the market by pricing yourself below the competition, or by having
a higher-quality product at a similar price and wider availability.

The Hanseatic League were an association of ship-masters and cart-masters
formed originally at Lu"beck.  They did not start out with a monopoly.
But their ship-masters took carters with them to the northern baltic
markets in fur, timber, amber, and other stuff, and the carters told
them what would sell in the end market; then the goods were transshipped
in Lu"beck to carts and the shipmasters went with the carters to see
what the end market wanted.  This gave them guaranteed sales, so they
never lost time waiting at Lu"beck for a carter who needed to buy X,
and they never lost money shipping X when their was no need for it.
They built bigger ships to handle their greater trade, and over a few
generations they grew to dominate trade through the Baltic.  Their
monopoly was purely economic; they got it by eliminating a middle step
in the trade process.  And all the merchants who still had that
middle step (i.e. were not in the Hanse) could not compete.