There were compensations for the smallholder, not so much in the numbers that were protected from expropriation, for it was usually the market rather than the courts that made the difference between failure and survival, and protection from the market was limited. The real compensatory factor was that the process of commercialization and consolidation of holdings might bring more general economic benefits, offering subsistence to those who were losing their independent position in rural society and becoming labourers. Although wage rates tended to fall during the period, the threat of famine became gradually less severe, in part because employees were often fed at work. During the earlier manifestation, to follow customary lines and was not naturally innovative. Enclosure, on the other hand, was by its very nature a means of applying new methods and increasing productivity, which made it especially important in the sixteenth century, when improvement was in its infancy.