Stupidity compounds. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:
It was late spring of 1348 when a small ship departed from the port of Gascony in Southwestern France, destined for Dorset County on the English Channel.
The ship was carrying basic provisions and goods for trade.
But unknown to the sailors, dockworkers, and the locals in Dorset County, the ship was infested with a nasty bacteria called Yersinia pestis, also known as the Black Death.
The disease spread rapidly; it vanquished Briston, then London, then eventually all of England. And modern historians estimate that between 40% and 60% of England’s population died as a result of the Black Death pandemic.
The economic fallout was devastating. Most people were terrified to leave their homes. And the few people who were willing to work demanded higher wages.
But King Edward III wasn’t having any of that.
So on June 18, 1349, King Edward issued the Ordinance of Laborers, which specifically forbade workers from earning any more than their pre-pandemic wages.
Essentially the king was trying to fix an extreme labor shortage by imposing wage controls. Genius!
Not to be outdone by her predecessor, Queen Elizabeth passed the Statue of Apprentices more than two centuries later in 1563.
Similar to the Ordinance of Laborers, the Queen’s law made it compulsory to work. She also fixed wages and made it illegal to either quit your job or to fire an employee.