EVERYTHING
THEY TOLD YOU IS WRONG
AN ANXIETY CULTURE ANTHOLOGY
How to Build Your Own Personal Media empire

Everything They Told You is Wrong, by Brian Dean, published by Anxiety Culture Publications, October 2002, © Brian Dean. For further information click: www.anxietyculture.com

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION ....................................10
HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN PERSONAL MEDIA EMPIRE ...................... 10

PART ONE: DIY MEDIA ...................... 12
ELECTRONIC PAMPHLETEERING ................13
ISOLATION ............................................. 15 WORK AND ORIGINAL SIN ......................... 15 ORIGINAL SIN AND TECHNOPHOBIA .............. 16 I’M NO GOOD ........................................ 16 TWO CLICHÉS ........................................ 17 THE “FREE MARKET” AND THE “NEW AGE” ... 17 THE COST OF LIVING ............................... 18 LAW OF THE JUNGLE ............................... 18 ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. 1 ............... 19 INDULGE LAZINESS OR SUFFER APATHY ........ 21 INTERNAL RESISTANCE .............................. 21 TEETH GRINDING .................................... 21 INTERNAL DISTRACTION ............................. 22 HIT SQUADS .......................................... 22
3

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

INSIDIOUS STRESS ................................... 23 LABOUR SAVING ..................................... 24 SERIOUS BREAKFAST ............................... 25 WORK ETHIC LAZINESS ............................ 25 EVIL EVERYWHERE SYNDROME ................... 26 FEAR OF TECHNOLOGY ............................. 27 ECONOMICS AND PSYCHOLOGY .................... 28 ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. 2 ............... 30 STARVING ARTISTS .................................. 30 REWARDS OF THE MARKET ........................ 30 DEFINITION OF A GENUINE ARTIST IN A MARKET ECONOMY ......................... 30 CONTRADICTIONS .................................... 31 ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. 3 ............... 32 GORE, BUSH AND NADER ......................... 33 ECONOMIC CONTRADICTION ....................... 34 NOBODY IS INTELLECTUALLY IMMUNE ............ 34 YOUR VALUE HIERARCHY .......................... 35 CRAP MANAGERS .................................... 36 HUMAN RIGHTS ...................................... 37 DESTRUCTIVE SELF-PRESERVATION .............. 38 PRETEND FREE ENTERPRISE ...................... 39 USURY ................................................. 40 “RECESSION” ......................................... 40 TRICKLE-UP FEAR .................................. 41
4

50 GUILT COMPLEX ......................................................Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ WORK AND COMPETITION ..... 50 THE SECRET OF SUCCESS ............... 48 PERENNIAL FEARS ............... 43 MORAL ARGUMENTS OF ANTI-CONSUMERISM ................. 52 DECONSTRUCTING CRAP TV REPORTING ....... 41 OBSTACLES TO CHANGE ....... 4 ............................... 55 A MODEST PROPOSAL ....................................... 53 POLITICAL HUMOUR ......................... 61 ARGUING WITH WELL-INTENTIONED FOOLS ........................ 45 THE REAL BIO-TERRORISTS .. 48 ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO....... 62 TWO TYPES OF SELF-RELIANCE ........... 44 PITY ................................................ 47 DOCTORS ON DRUGS .............. 54 THE WRONG HUMAN RIGHTS? .......................... 59 FAMILY SELF-INTEREST ............................................................ 53 VIRTUAL HUMAN CONTACT ............... 42 INVISIBLE POVERTY .... 49 CONFUSING “SIMPLICITY” WITH POVERTY ............ 51 NEWSPAPERS ATTACK THE IDLE .................................................... 63 5 ....................... 54 MANAGERS WANT TO WORK LESS ................. 57 SPECULATIVE ECONOMICS .......................... 60 ARGUING WITH ILL-INTENTIONED FOOLS . 56 A “CHRISTIAN” PARABLE ..................

........................................ 74 THE GUARDIAN (2) ............... 75 RADIO TIMES (2) ......NET ....... 80 THE SUN (2) .................................................................................................... 71 FORTEAN TIMES (2)................... 65 WRITING TO NEWSPAPERS ......... 76 THE IDLER ........66 NEWS OF THE WORLD ................................................................ 68 FORTEAN TIMES .... 77 THE INDEPENDENT (2) ............ 79 THE GUARDIAN (3) .............................................. 64 PART TWO: PUBLISHED LETTERS ...................................................................................... 68 RADIO TIMES ..................................... 69 .................................. 72 THE SUN ....................... 70 FINANCIAL TIMES ....................Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ WATCH OUT! ............ 63 WHO PAYS? ............................. 71 THE INDEPENDENT ...................................................................................................... 82 6 ............. 79 BBC RADIO 4 PM NEWS ....... 73 THE CHRONICLE ......................... 73 THE GUARDIAN ...................

...................... 118 FAKE ORGANISATIONS ................................. 82 THE GUARDIAN (4) . 83 THE INDEPENDENT ......................................................89 INTERVIEW WITH THE FACE .... 109 CHANNEL 4: “FRONTAL” ..................... 107 BASIC INCOME FORUM ............ 83 BBC RADIO 4 TODAY (ONLINE) ....................... 114 PART FOUR: BL~ISS BULLETIN OF LEISURE ............................................................. 84 LOCAL NEWSPAPERS ...95 INTERVIEW WITH THE INDEPENDENT ...... 88 BBC RADIO WALES INTERVIEW ....................... 82 THE DAILY EXPRESS & THE INDEPENDENT ............................................................ 85 PART THREE: INTERVIEWS .....................................Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE SUN (3) ........ 121 7 ......................... 84 ..................... 120 THE END OF WORK .. 119 BL~ISS .......................NET (2) .....

. 122 LEISURE IN SPACE ............. 130 BASIC INCOME ......................... 127 PART FIVE: PUBLISHED ARTICLES ........................... 137 THE DIGITAL ECONOMY .......................................................................... 132 NEGATIVE INCOME TAX ... 123 THE WORKERLESS SOCIETY .......... 130 GUARANTEED INCOME ... 139 ECONOMIC “AUTHORITY” ............ 124 THE INDEPENDENT SPACE SECTOR .......... 126 PLANET-SURFACE UNEMPLOYMENT ...... 133 WILLINGNESS TO WORK? .................Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ FUTURE HISTORY OF THE INDEPENDENT SPACE SECTOR ..... 129 ALTERNATIVE ECONOMICS ..... 136 STAMP SCRIP ............................................................. 138 THE TOBIN TAX ................................................................ 130 NO SHORTAGE OF ALTERNATIVES .. 140 8 ................ 133 ZERO-INTEREST CURRENCY ........................ 134 ALTERNATIVE CURRENCIES .........................

............. 171 DEBT CULT .............. 157 NAIVETY TV .............................. 196 THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF WORK ................. 191 OBSOLETE FREE-MARKET METAPHORS .. 177 ANXIETY ATTACK ....................... 184 THE PURITAN WORK ETHIC . 204 9 .................... 156 OFFICE RAT MAZE ......................................................... 142 THE COMPROMISED ANTI-CONSUMERIST ........... 154 SUMMARY/CONCLUSIONS ................... 163 RIGHT TO MOAN .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ SEX ROBOTS ....................................... 149 CORPORATE WEAKNESSES .......................................

opening up all sorts of creative avenues for DIY-media enthusiasts like myself. I started off publishing a low-budget magazine called Anxiety Culture. in each case. and since I have no contacts in the media (except for a few acquaintances who produce publications as obscure and unknown as my own) it’s very much an “outsider” project. Setting up your own media empire doesn’t necessarily require launching a magazine or website.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INTRODUCTION HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN PERSONAL MEDIA EMPIRE This book records my modest attempts to infiltrate the media with “unusual” material. I wrote down my 10 . Ron Hubbard. You can now become an “expert” or “authority” just by having a website specialising in a given subject (I’ve been approached by several TV and radio programmes – including BBC2’s Newsnight – just on the strength of the Anxiety Culture website). Basically. The ease with which anyone can fake expertise and simulate “popularity” would delight Orson Welles and L. All of the material collected in this book was published through other channels. being a lot less than Amazon’s. Since I’m not a journalist or media-person. Then the Internet happened. The size of my audience was dependent on advertising expenditure – which. if they were still alive. meant that the operation grew no bigger than the laser printer in my living room. with some stickers and gimmicky graphics.

I gave a few interviews. and. then pressed a button to send them off to whatever destination offered the best prospect of publication – from newsgroups (guaranteed publication) to national newspapers (lower probability of publication). I used written articles. 11 . letters to newspapers (and magazines and radio/TV). And not even Rupert Murdoch’s world-spanning corporations can compete with the information processing capability of an individual human brain. low-resource individual’s experiments in empire-building. I’ve extracted the best bits from all this stuff.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ viewpoints or ideas. With the exception of the newsgroup postings chapter (DIY Media) and a few other noted cases. all of the material has been published by newspapers or magazines (or broadcast by radio or TV). postings to newsgroups and forums. and edited it into this book. when asked. So this is a record of one unimportant.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ PART ONE DIY MEDIA 12 .

Jonathan Swift and George Orwell. One has complete freedom of expression. or.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ELECTRONIC PAMPHLETEERING Whenever I read about pamphleteers from earlier times – “eccentrics” who spent a lot of time and money trying to publicise their ideas (eg thinkers like Thomas Paine. if one chooses. to be more detailed. serious and ‘high-brow’ than is ever possible in a newspaper or in most kinds of periodicals” 13 . including. on the other hand. and weird religious heresies and cults such as the Rosicrucians. and seditious. the freedom to be scurrilous. despite remaining shrouded in mystery and anonymity). abusive. I wonder how they would utilise the possibilities of the Internet. Orwell himself described pamphleteering in terms which resonate with the aims of creatively inclined Internet users: “The pamphlet is a one-man show. whose pamphlet-manifestos proved remarkably influential.

the only real link between each piece is an intention to challenge “normal” consensus viewpoints. newsgroups and public access projects. Extraneous content (eg references to ongoing newsgroup discussions.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ The material in this section was originally written as a sort of electronic pamphleteering – all of it was published electronically as contributions to web forums. etc) has been edited out. It covers a wide range of subjects and although there are some recurring themes (such as work and anti-consumerism). so that the ideas presented are self-contained and easy to read. 14 .

of course. A great deal of what is most ferocious in the medieval Church is traceable to his gloomy sense of universal guilt. so. 15 . Obviously this belief was seen as a threat to authority.. Eastern beliefs (and western heresies) held that every individual manifests the divine. Bertrand Russell says this about St Augustine: “. I don’t feel isolated by my home computer and modem. and that “we shall be as gods”. the Original Sin doctrine originated either with St Paul or St Augustine. Even a superficial analysis of the language we use to talk about work reveals that our minds are still haunted by the idea of sin – the “sin” of laziness.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ISOLATION I’ve heard much talk about the supposed “isolation” of people working from home (usually accompanied by the suggestion that work in a “proper social environment” is much healthier).” The original sin (in the doctrinal sense) was Adam’s sin of pride. WORK AND ORIGINAL SIN The dark spectre of “Original Sin” remains one of the main sponsors of the work ethic in our allegedly secular society. it had to be a “sin”. According to Christians..he really believed new-born children to be limbs of Satan. surrounded by people I dislike. I feel isolated by having to spend eight hours a day chained to a desk in a sterile corporate office.

We deserve all good and only good. Many modern people claim to be untroubled by such thoughts. You can apply this to individuals or society. guilt. anger. depending on whether you believe (consciously or subconsciously) in Original Sin: 1. We are evil and depraved by nature. I’M NO GOOD Cognitive psychology focuses on “automatic” thoughts which lead to depression. The belief in Original Sin led to a complex of automatic thoughts.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ In other words. much else) indicate otherwise. ORIGINAL SIN AND TECHNOPHOBIA One of the modern manifestations of Original Sin is the generalisation that “man-made” things are less “good” than “natural” things. “Man-made” stuff (eg technology) is seen as tainted (by man’s “bad” essence). there seem to be two basic religious beliefs about the “worth” of human beings. and we can expect nothing but eternal punishment. guilt-free application of our will. We can replace pain and suffering with happiness and peace – all it takes is the relatively effortless. We are all divine beings. when trimmed of theology. which. 16 . toil and suffering (eg full-time employment). 2. boil down to the idea: “I’m no good”. The only escape is to receive God’s grace – but this is about as likely as winning the lottery. etc. but defensiveness and sensitivity to criticism (and much. anxiety.

If we had a “land of opportunity”. I probably need to explain this. THE “FREE MARKET” AND THE “NEW AGE” There are structural similarities between Free Market beliefs and New Age beliefs. both fail to recognise social variables. it’s because he/she hasn’t worked hard enough at it. “Success” is seen as emanating entirely from the individual. 17 . Both are highly individualistic viewpoints – they take no account of what is going on outside the individual.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ TWO CLICHÉS The economic clichés: “land of opportunity”. like lime juice and mineral water. the individual doesn’t have to worry too much about social context. and “don’t quit your day job” contradict each other. it’s because you haven’t healed your psyche enough. Free Market entrepreneurial guru-speak and New Age guru-speak blend easily into each other. regardless of social context. so here goes: Free-market adherents claim that hard work will guarantee an individual’s success. nobody would’ve dreamt up the phrase “don’t quit your day job” – in fact everyone would be quitting their day jobs to take up all those “opportunities”. For example. When the social context is very conducive to individualism. If you don’t achieve success. Both beliefs tend to flourish most in highly prosperous areas of the planet – eg wealthy Californian districts. If the individual doesn’t succeed. New Agers claim that healing your own psyche will guarantee your success.

£24. Worse. but would have to earn £80. LAW OF THE JUNGLE It’s odd how competition is justified in terms of “survival of the fittest”. whose wages are now only 110 times what they were in 1900. In terms of Darwinian “survival of the fittest”. 18 . the rodent survival strategy seems to be: idleness. whereas house prices have increased by 375 times. One example given is teachers. Judging from the behaviour of the mice in my house.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE COST OF LIVING An interesting newspaper story (Guardian 18/12/99) shows that since 1900 average wages have increased by 250 times. cowardice and parasitical behaviour. Teachers currently earn £15. (Note: Since 1999 the cost of rent/housing has shot up again – way above wage increases). whereas other valid survival strategies – eg parasitical behaviour – are completely demonised.000 a year to match the house purchasing power of teachers in 1900.500 . And it’s worse for lowincome occupations. these qualities are inherently no worse than “competition”.000 a year (1999 figures). You’d therefore think that those who base their worldview on “survival of the fittest” (quite a lot of people apparently) would actually admire “cowards”. rents have increased by 500 times – ie double the increase in wages. “parasites” and the “idle”.

frustrated workers looking for adventure and excitement). consumer products start to represent the only novelty (the advertisers know this – most products are aimed at bored.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. and in a (doomed) attempt 19 . After several years the income gradually increases (if they’re lucky). In a life of job-induced drudgery. the boredom sets in. But the initial motivation for getting a full-time job is to “grow up”. that is). Most people start at the bottom of the job ladder. I base this claim on three perceptions: 1. 2. But by then we’ve probably started a family and have become dependent on a regular income (if we’re statistically average. Studies also show that people with little free time tend to buy expensive consumer products in order to “reward” themselves. This is a very common viewpoint in forums on anticonsumerism. Studies show that people who have jobs watch more TV (as a proportion of their leisure time) than those who don’t have jobs. become an adult and leave the “parental nest”. It’s not about consumer products to start with – we’re happy if the job simply pays the rent. and we start to see that jobs are soul-destroying. My own viewpoint reverses the cause and the effect: People are addicted to expensive consumer products because of the unfulfilling nature of their jobs. Eventually the novelty wears off. It’s a growing-up ritual. at a very low income. 1 “People are dependent on jobs because of their addiction to expensive consumer products”.

20 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ to pack as much possible enjoyment into the little spare time they have. there were no “consumer products” in the sense that we understand them today. Employment is just a modern form of slavery. Consumerism is a symptom of this state. As if high spending will increase the intensity of the pleasure in the short time they have free. but what good did judgement ever do? The reality is that. on the other hand. statistically. so they don’t compulsively buy stuff. Employees are probably too tired in the evening to do anything but collapse in front of a TV (and of course. They also have more time and energy to do things that take time – like read a classic piece of literature. by anti-consumerist logic. Slavery has been around a lot longer than consumer products. Leisured people. feel no need to compress their life’s enjoyment into a few hours a week. We can be judgemental and say “snap out of it – consumer products are no good”. but they’re not the cause of the slavery. 3. not a cause. Not so – the workers were badly exploited precisely because they were dependent on their jobs for a survival income. people in jobs don’t have the time or energy to know how to change themselves. etc. So. At the start of the industrial revolution. you would expect that people wouldn’t have been dependent on jobs. this means they’re subjected to TV adverts in their exhausted state). Consumer products function as a distraction from the slavery.

we tell ourselves what to do (eg to achieve a goal). We distract ourselves to avoid feeling resistance. whereas chronic distraction makes pursuit of any goal impossible. There’s so much apathy inside corporations that employees are sent on motivational courses in an unsuccessful (and laughable) attempt to simulate enthusiasm. When we’re adults. TEETH GRINDING “Rising stress at work is causing increasing numbers of young professionals to grind their teeth while they sleep” (Guardian 21/1/2000). The only effective solution to apathy is planned laziness. Advertising aims to turn your resistances into distractions – it’s about weakening your will. boredom. INTERNAL RESISTANCE When we’re children. teeth-grinding sounds the most apt: The daily grind Grinding boredom Nose to the grindstone. but resistance is not the enemy – distraction is. listlessness). people tell us what to do all the time – and we covertly build a resistance to being told what to do. You can feel resistance yet still pursue a goal. etc 21 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INDULGE LAZINESS OR SUFFER APATHY Apathy occurs when we’re not allowed to be lazy. and then run into subconscious resistance (inertia. Of all work-related stress symptoms (and there are many).

) We’re not human beings with individual needs. undisturbed and quiet. Possible remedy: buy a cheap electronic kitchen timer. Nothing satisfies. 22 . Irritation. “there is no excuse” for people not to slot straight into a job. is the most popular newspaper amongst UK college students. With the timer. Isolate yourself in your room.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INTERNAL DISTRACTION Distraction first appears from outside (TV. The point of the timer is so you don’t have to worry about the time while you’re practising the technique. Impatience.1 UK unemployed into the million-plus job vacancies. HIT SQUADS “In a tough crackdown on hardcore unemployment”. (Above quotes are taken from the Daily Mail (28/2/00) – a “respectable” conservative tabloid which. Negative mood. According to the government. “hit squads” will be used to slot each of the 1. etc). Then everything seems trivial and futile. set a 15-30 minute period to practice some form of brain-calming technique (eg a deep breathing or meditation technique – get a decent book on the subject). then becomes internalised – your mind creates the distraction. sadly. talk. noise. desires and abilities – we’re interchangeable units for fitting into job slots. Otherwise we’re financial liabilities to be quickly removed. food.

because it makes resolution of a stressful problem almost impossible.) “Those members of society most prone to stress are also those least likely to be in a position to resolve their problem.” “There is another option. Quitting the rat race is a very effective way of lightening the load in the short term. and costs British industry around £80 billion a year. Which explains why stress is less of a problem in high-flying executives than in people on the factory floor. relaxation or no relaxation.” He continues: “Harmful stressors share a number of characteristics: they tend to be pronounced. long term and beyond the individual’s control. The latter is the most important characteristic.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INSIDIOUS STRESS A BBC TV celebrity doctor says: “Stress-related illness is responsible for 40 million lost working days. the stress continues. Relaxation helps. but if resolution of the stress-inducing problem never occurs. and the longer it goes on the more likely it is to do damage.” (It’s a well-supported finding in the social sciences that stress most affects those “low” in social status – contrary to the popular myth of bosses and leaders being the most stressed. But it tends to be an option only for the privileged and can cause even worse problems in the long run. of course – you can jump ship.” (Source: Radio Times 28/10/2000) 23 .

24 . like corporations. we can ignore it and keep insisting that everyone works fulltime. we can reject it completely and live in mud huts with no running water. But I think the main objection to it will be the belief that people have a moral obligation to work for a living. Negative Income Tax.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ LABOUR SAVING Human labour is an increasingly minor part of many productive processes. We could embrace the labour-saving aspect of technology and put it to social good. National Dividend. The economic logic for introducing such a scheme seems very convincing to me. Various schemes have been proposed by economists: Basic Income. Or. Or. Large layoffs (of thousands of workers) already occur on an almost weekly basis. like the “primitivists”. Human labour becomes an increasingly minor part of production (and of many services). The idea of an income which is not conditional on work isn’t new. The idea is that everybody receives a guaranteed survival income. Obviously. regardless of whether they work or not. since human labour is no longer a significant factor. etc. Let’s assume that we embrace technological advance. Distribution of wealth can no longer be based on the idea of “reward for human labour”. this implies the need for a system of wealth distribution which is different from anything we’ve seen before: income not based on work. like the politicians. (See Alternative Economics in the Published Articles section for more details). or. we can regard it as merely another competitive weapon in an economic battlefield.

My dictionary defines “lazy” as “unwilling to work”. we conceptualise that state as “not doing any work” – ie we’re still categorising things in terms of the work ethic. in a magazine article. weighed by each individual asking themselves: “will I be caught?” (that’s where privacy comes in). WORK ETHIC LAZINESS I regard the work ethic as the main cause of laziness. I think most people in our society have internalised the work ethic. that many UK breakfast cereals have adopted sensible names (eg: Sustain. Just Right. Advantage) in place of fun names. even while we are being “lazy”. Children will be eating Precise for breakfast. a social commandment – although it may have had practical origins in threats to slaves: eg “do my bidding. Whether people go ahead and fulfil the desire to be lazy is another matter. That doesn’t mean they don’t feel like taking it easy and resting all the time – it just means they label such inactivity as “laziness” (a “bad” thing for most people). The work ethic is a man-made moral rule. These questions wouldn’t exist without a work ethic. “can I justify it?” etc. I’ve since found that Sainsburys sells a cereal called Precise. One can hardly imagine the amount of psychological damage this will cause. Without a work ethic we’d have no concept of “lazy”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ SERIOUS BREAKFAST I once mentioned. I think the work ethic is omnipresent in our culture. 25 . or the gods will punish you”. “do I care if I’m caught?”.

But luckily there’s a solution: you can demonstrate your purity by pointing the finger of accusation at other corrupted souls. it’s seen as absolutely evil. and he will deceive you and insinuate himself into your life.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ EVIL EVERYWHERE SYNDROME I occasionally receive disapproving messages about the Anxiety Culture website. Except that it’s a corporate Satan. Because he’s a very clever. It’s like “Satan is everywhere” Christian paranoia. telling me I shouldn’t use GIF images (GIFs being another representation of Corporate Evil) on my website. someone pointed the accusing finger at me. Like the Christian Devil. and thereby remain free from accusation yourself (just like in The Crucible). But there’s a problem: whatever good works you do. so the intensity of his disapproval surprised me. No moral relativism here – you’re either on the side of good or you’re on the side of evil. Only recently. however virtuous you think you are. For example. although not usually concerned with the content. somebody is going to catch you trafficking with the Corporate Devil. I have a theory about the type of stridently disapproving attitude displayed by Steve. someone called Steve emailed me to say he was “sickened” by my use of Macromedia Flash (one of the most commonly used graphic/animation formats on the net). This type of destructive psychology (which I call ‘Evil Everywhere Syndrome’) is identifiable by its insistence 26 . tricky Devil. It was news to me that Macromedia was on anyone’s shit list.

That seems like medieval logic to me. It manifests in various ways: a dislike of advanced technology. No inbetween. suspect. as a GIF is absolute evil. No fuzzy grey areas allowed. neophobia often distorts the ‘negative vs positive’ argument concerning technology. Not to over-dramatise. unnatural. but many people talk as if technology itself is tainted. corrupt. the feeling that everything’s going to hell. thirsty for blood and toasted human flesh. FEAR OF TECHNOLOGY There are many malign uses of technology. Unfortunately. a preference for “natural” things. Not one little GIF. but I suspect that this kind of psychology has historically been responsible for more bloodshed. because technology itself is neither good nor bad – it just serves the will of those creating and using it. That sounds obvious. causing many people to see only the menacing aspects.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ on absolutes. fear of “moral decline”. etc. But malignancy isn’t inherent in technology. etc. 27 . nostalgia. But there’s not much point in comparing lists of “good” and “bad” technology. atrocity and suffering than all modern corporations and dictators combined. Neophobia (fear of the new) is very widespread. Either you’re pure or you’re corrupted with Corporate Evil. It’s a sad irony that many well-intentioned anti-corporate campaigners end up like Grand Inquisitors. sense of being overwhelmed by change.

” Economists have a concept called “revealed preference”. The irony is that psychology has shown the economic assumption of “rationality” to be deeply flawed. In a whole library of economics textbooks it’s unlikely that you’d see a single reference to psychology. which means simply that consumers reveal their true preferences by their actual purchasing decisions.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ If I have faith in the positive potential of technology. Corporations see technology as just another way to gain competitive advantage. ECONOMICS AND PSYCHOLOGY Conventional economics sees humans as having “wants”. The only economist I’ve come across who pays attention to psychology is Professor Paul Ormerod. but that’s the closest it ever gets to forming a psychological model of human beings. and that the psychology behind those decisions is irrelevant 28 . So who does that leave to promote the cause of truly beneficial technology? Individuals like ourselves. Which is odd for a subject which “endeavours to explain human behaviour” (a phrase from an authoritative economics manual). and as having the ability to make rational choices. that doesn’t mean I have faith in corporations to use technology positively. They’re not interested in altruistic uses. We shouldn’t be defeatist about technology just because corporations have no vision beyond profit. who quotes a recent psychological study demonstrating that: “People are far more co-operative and less competitive than the postulates of economic theory assert rational individuals should be.

So perhaps conventional economics is catching up at last. However. studies in psychology show many fundamental cases where this consistency in people’s preferences breaks down. October 2002). However. A psychologist. The economic term for this rational consistency is “transitivity”. 29 . on the other hand. if someone prefers Coca-Cola to Pepsi. Stop press: The 2002 Nobel prize for economics was awarded to Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University for “bridging the gap between psychology and traditional economics” (Nature. To put this in concrete terms: If Person A spends a lot of cash on Product X. “revealed preference” only works in economic predictions if individuals have internally consistent preferences. This effectively undermines economic predictions – the market mechanism fails when preferences are “non-transitive”. and Pepsi to lemonade. In other words.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ to the functioning of the market mechanism. then he/she is deemed to prefer Coca-Cola to lemonade. might say that Person A has been brainwashed into buying a useless piece of crap by an advertising campaign which exploits his psychological naivety. economic theory says that Person A has made a rational choice in comparing the usefulness of Product X to other products of similar price.

but I’ve not seen any comment in the media about how Harry Potter wouldn’t have been written if Ms Rowling had been employed in a job. Successful marketing these days requires large-scale corporate marketing budgets. We can’t have normal. 30 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. REWARDS OF THE MARKET The market doesn’t reward artistry or merit. working-class people recording their perspectives on video – leave that technology to the rich people in Hollywood. it rewards the successful marketing of artistry/merit. DEFINITION OF A GENUINE ARTIST IN A MARKET ECONOMY A creative unemployed person. Maybe it would have been better for those in power if consumer camera technology was frozen at the still camera stage. The Rodney King beating was captured on video. STARVING ARTISTS I’ve heard the stories about JK Rowling writing Harry Potter inside cafés because she couldn’t afford to heat her home. the best way to keep power concentrated in the hands of the rich is to freeze technology. 2 “Technological progress benefits nobody but the rich” On the contrary.

Then we’re told that welfare expenditure is such a big problem that we can’t afford to be “soft” on unemployed people. Then we’re told that. and that even the most vulnerable individuals must fend for themselves. Then we’re told that crime is decreasing. we can no longer afford basic social services. Standard of living: we’re told we have a better standard of living than ever before. Crime rate: we’re told that crime is increasing. and must create subsidised jobs at huge public expense. Unemployment: we’re told we have the lowest unemployment for three decades. and that people are required to work much longer hours than in the 1970s. Then we’re told that poverty levels have risen drastically since the 1970s. Then we’re told that it’s increasing again. For example: The economy: we’re told that our economic system is doing well. creating great prosperity. Opportunity: we’re told there are great opportunities for everyone – prosperity is there for the taking. All in the space of one month. as a society. as “competition” implies fighting over scarce resources). Then we’re reminded of the increasingly “brutal” world and the increasingly “competitive” market (which would seem to indicate a scarcity of opportunities.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CONTRADICTIONS The “mainstream” worldview seems full of contradictions. 31 .

Surely it’s a matter between the individual and her/ his lust for consumer goods. why would a corporation have any responsibility towards that individual – eg in terms of working conditions. They’re disapprovals of individual lifestyles – recommendations for alternative individual trade-offs between work and possessions. 32 . Many of the anti-consumerist arguments posted on the web make no attempt at intelligently analysing the wider economic system – they simply express distaste and disapproval for individuals who buy lots of stuff – ie “materialistic” people. eg: “If people didn’t buy so many consumer products they could quit their awful jobs” “People shouldn’t be so greedy and materialistic – if they lived simply they’d be happier” These viewpoints may be valid. If an individual’s freedom is determined entirely by how greedy that individual is. The anticonsumerist ideology tends to place the burden of responsibility on the individual consumer rather than the corporation. but they’re not a critique of corporate practices. It’s an entirely different thing to criticize corporate practices. or the advertising industry. etc – that’s an entirely different focus. or political lobbying or corporate welfare. The above is one aspect of anti-consumerism.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. 3 “Anti-consumerism hurts big corporations” Most anti-consumerism doesn’t target corporations – it targets individual consumers. etc. We have seen many examples of this on web forums. wages.

So why should I give you a pay rise”. A common perception among white. GORE. 33 . 90% voted for Gore. hardly any black people voted for Nader.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ To claim that the solution to wage-slavery lies with the individual’s choice to buy less material goods is not a critique of capitalism – it’s an argument for capitalism. middle-class Americans – that “there’s no real difference between Bush and Gore” – seems less common among black people. It appears that non-white. BUSH AND NADER (Written shortly after the 2000 US presidential election) Apparently. and therefore the ones most likely to vote for someone like Nader. poor or non-American people may experience more sensitivity to the differences between Bush and Gore. In fact “individual choice” is exactly the argument capitalists have always used: “if you don’t like your 50hr-aweek minimum wage job. I’ve heard many white. but I’ve not seen many black people so relaxed about the prospect of a Bush victory. Ironically. people from “mainstream” white. Of black voters. then you always have the choice to quit. middle-class Americans exclaim: “so what if Bush wins – Gore is just the same anyway”. middle-class society seem the ones most disgusted with Gore for inhabiting the mainstream (ie conservative) ground.

K. who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. The typical justification for giving huge government handouts to corporations is that it helps those corporations remain competitive in a difficult market. Or you can apply Galbraith’s quote to corporate welfare. NOBODY IS INTELLECTUALLY IMMUNE “The ideas of economists and political philosophers.” (From the economist J. Practical men. Galbraith) I assume Galbraith is commenting on the conservative rationale for increasing the income to rich people (eg through tax cuts) while decreasing the income to the poor (eg cuts in welfare entitlement). But the reverse is apparently true with poor people – if you give them government handouts it makes them “dependent”. are more powerful than is commonly understood. both when they are right and when they are wrong.” (John Maynard Keynes) 34 . “soft” and less able to compete in a difficult job market.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ECONOMIC CONTRADICTION “It always boils down to the highly improbable case that the rich aren’t working because they have too little income and the poor because they have too much. are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.

But perhaps the reason you don’t spend every morning in bed is because you value “security”. then that’s probably because you currently do value security over freedom. try to explain your actions (for a typical day) in terms of your hierarchy of values. So for example. “respectability” or “control” more than you value comfort. but as they currently are. So. The main point is not to list your values as you would like them to be. 2. 3. The only “sin” here would be deluding yourself that you prefer freedom over security. don’t kid yourself – if your current lifestyle appears to indicate a preference for security over freedom. for example. when all your actions indicate otherwise. 35 . 4. 5. That’s no sin. you might list as follows: 1. List them in the order of their importance to you. Survival Comfort Freedom Service to a cause Love That’s just one possible selection among an infinite number.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ YOUR VALUE HIERARCHY Here’s an experiment. Next. In other words. perhaps that was because you value physical comfort and occasional indulgence. if you spent the whole morning in bed. List the five fundamental values that are most important to you.

A memo was later issued. struggling for dominance in our minds. ingestion of mind-altering substances (including sugar and caffeine). But when you suggest ways they could improve working conditions (such as introducing shorter or more flexible working hours). “proactivity”. and they hate “excuses” and “whining”. “challenge”. it’s amazing how quickly they come up with hundreds of excuses for not doing it. 36 . etc – but a given hierarchy of values has a certain stability within a person’s life (for a while anyway). etc. CRAP MANAGERS Managers like to think they’re big on “initiative”. No mention of working from home. They whine about how it might affect “competitiveness”. The last time I suggested something practical to a manager was when his company (a branch of a large corporation) was having car parking-space problems. advising people to share cars. but are more productive. I gave him some statistics showing that many people not only enjoy working from home. I suggested they let people work from home. social conditioning. otherwise we’d all be extremely unpredictable and inconsistent in our actions. environment. I hear they are still having car-parking problems. His response was: “I don’t think that would be good for people”. depending on our physical and mental states.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Our various internal values seem to be undergoing constant negotiation with themselves. The manager shrugged his shoulders and went off to another meeting.

Unemployed people do not currently have their welfare claims ultimately decided by an independent organisation. Reading between the lines. the implication is that the government won’t be able to withdraw a jobless person’s benefits without running up against Human Rights legislation. to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. as they should.” Apparently the UK is in breach of these laws. taken from a recent newspaper article: “The European Convention on Human Rights says everyone is entitled to a fair hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal when decisions are being made about their civil rights (including rights to benefits). Here’s another interesting Human Rights issue. This seems particularly relevant at a time when the UK government is threatening to withdraw benefits as a punishment for “antisocial” behaviour (presumably they think making people homeless is a cure for antisocial tendencies?) 37 .” Somehow I don’t think the UK government’s approach of: “take any lousy job or lose your benefits” quite measures up to these Human Rights ideals.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ HUMAN RIGHTS From Article 23 of the UN’s universal declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to free choice of employment.

Abandoning technology would return us to scarcity. Of course. that makes sense from the Capitalist point of view.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ DESTRUCTIVE SELF-PRESERVATION Can society reach “post-scarcity” (ie abundance for all. This is something that anti-technology groups often tend to ignore or forget. and the consequent social transformation) before ecodisaster or war returns the planet to a state of scarcity? The latest on global warming looks bad. etc. technology is necessary for us to reach “post-scarcity”. Let’s say. since Capitalism is based on the idea of scarcity – an end to scarcity means an end to Capitalism (check any economics textbook to see the important role of “scarcity” or “limited resources” in supply-and-demand economics). 38 . In other words. Given the rising world population level. So people dismantle factories. Wars and violent revolutions have the potential to increase scarcity. for example. condemning millions to starvation (ie millions more than are currently starving). that in the next 20 years we have an ecological catastrophe followed by a violent movement against technology (since people will blame technology). global warming is a perverse kind of self-preservation for Capitalism. It’s almost as if the current economic system is creating exactly the conditions (pollution/conflict) to ensure we never reach post-scarcity.

an anti-technology revolution would ultimately serve Capitalism by perpetuating scarcity. no one who’s actually involved in the business world believes a word of it. but when push comes to shove. the sectors of the economy that work and the industrial economies that are successful are those that have a substantial state coordinating and subsidizing component. The same businessman who will make a passionate speech about free trade in an after-dinner speech will also go off to Washington and make sure that the subsidies keep flowing. free enterprise and free markets.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Then you’ve got two increases in scarcity: one caused by the eco-disaster. It’s fine for afterdinner speeches and editorials. and another caused by the dismantling of production-increasing technology. PRETEND FREE ENTERPRISE Here’s a good quote from the famous political dissident. In other words. It justifies conflict and “competition” (which would otherwise look silly in a world of abundance).” 39 . So would an ecological disaster. Fighting for scarce resources and for control of those resources is the underlying motivation of the Capitalist system. Noam Chomsky: “Although there’s a lot of talk about capitalism. Any increase in scarcity makes the situation worse.

etc. no slackening of our belts. b) Corporations to tell their employees to work harder and longer. expect to pay more to government. surprise. no softening of working conditions. it’s the idea of getting something for nothing. 40 . surprise: no easing up on work. expect less from government. The people who pay the interest are the poor and the people who gather the interest are the rich. Secondly.” “RECESSION” Ominous talk about “recession” in the news again. You lend the money. Firstly it makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. but you get wealthy upon it. The last big “recession” (roughly a decade ago in the UK) seemed an excuse for: a) The government to tell everyone to lower their expectations. etc. and the people who borrow the money are the poor people. from Peter Russell (author of The Global Brain): “It’s called usury in many of the old religions. There’s no useful work done by lending money. when we came out of the “recession”. because the people who lend the money are the rich people. work harder.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ USURY Here’s another good quote. So those who have money just get wealthier by doing nothing. no pay rises. tighten their belts. you do nothing. and expect harsher working conditions. expect no pay rises. Then. Recession? Bullshit.

etc). WORK AND COMPETITION The number of hours people have to work probably won’t decrease until “competition” decreases. Low inflation benefits rich bankers. because it keeps inflation low (because workers are too insecure to risk asking for better wages/conditions). etc. They don’t sound happy.) I call it trickle-up fear. etc. 41 . because their income remains low relative to their debt. how the market is “brutal”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ TRICKLE-UP FEAR “Worker insecurity” doesn’t just affect low earners. This is an openly-admitted economic policy: frighten people in order to keep inflation low. the more fear trickles upwards. bondholders. but is terrible for debt-stricken poor people. abundance for all means the end of the competitive market (which is why the market will probably never provide it). I don’t want to end up like that – I’d better hold onto my job. cuts in social services. I’d better not rock the boat. Alan Greenspan has said that “worker insecurity” is a good thing. “competition” is an essential part of the “freemarket” religion. But. high earners seem fearful too (notice their paranoid language about how competition is “fierce”. by definition. and think: “Shit. creditors.” So the tougher we make it for the poor (harsh welfare regimes. But unfortunately. Professional middle-class people look down on the poor. The antidote to “fierce competition” is abundance for all.

actually relate to each other. compulsive (anxietyinduced) consumerism would fall. human-to-human. fear of losing position of relative wealth and power.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ OBSTACLES TO CHANGE 1. Malthusianism (eg belief in the inevitable scarcity of resources). Crime would fall. the very rich. over time. health costs would fall. Social Darwinism (eg “survival of the fittest”). 2. to benefit all sectors of society (except. who might have to survive on a few million rather than a few billion). Free time would rise. environmental destruction would fall. Market Fundamentalism (eg the belief that all income should be generated and distributed solely by the commercial market). not conditional upon work) which proves itself.) Plus a few other factors. I argue that it would lead to a true free market – ie one based on true choice rather than financial desperation and survival-anxiety. Although Basic Income seems to be against all conventional “free market” wisdom. possibly. “The Conservative Instinct” (resistance to change. and. rather than grudgingly as rushed. people would have more time to inform themselves. 4. Outdated work ethic. health & happiness would probably rise. The best solution to these obstacles that I can see is a phased-in scheme of Basic Income (guaranteed income. pursue their true interests. therefore. stressed wageslaves. 42 . 5. 3.

The minimum wage is a poverty level wage for a family of four. (Current average debt per UK household: £5. Then they probably think: “Hey. According to the latest figures (as of July 2002) more than one in four households live in poverty in the UK. To better appreciate poverty. Another factor which hides poverty is debt. microwave ovens. Since poor people tend to be treated with pity or contempt.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INVISIBLE POVERTY Affluent people tend not to see the extent of poverty in “developed” nations. everyone has a colour TV – the economic system must be working”. By borrowing money you can disguise the fact that you are poor. and lasts for years) does not mean that you can afford to pay hundreds of dollars rent every month. of course. but they’re still homeless. The vast majority of jobs being created are minimum wage. They fail to recognise that owning a TV (which can be bought second-hand for a few dollars. etc.300. Homeless people may be wearing digital watches. 43 . All they see is the omnipresence of luxurious electronic goods: DVDs. is below the minimum wage. consider income levels. most of them quickly learn to disguise their poverty. not including home loans). Welfare.

uses identical language). very much concerns me. Again. It seems important to separate the two arguments (ie moral and economic). My position on anti-consumerism is to distance myself from these simplistic morals. “TAINTED”. etc). in which he criticised consumerist society in these terms: “ROTTING”. etc. or “pure”. “DIRTY”. that’s not a political/ economic argument. it’s the language of moral disapproval. dehumanising working conditions. I also hear anti-consumerists talk in terms of “materialistic” versus “spiritual” (or “natural”. decadent.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ MORAL ARGUMENTS OF ANTI-CONSUMERISM Someone called Doug Dowd wrote an article for ZNet magazine. 44 . On the other hand. etc. to maximise profits whilst ignoring environment consequences. since economic/political adversaries (eg left green-anarchists and right Conservative Christians) often use exactly the same moral argument against consumerism (namely that it’s materialistic. That’s not the language of economic analysis. “DECADENT”. the economic/political issue of how corporations use advertising saturation through ownership of media. It appears obvious that there is a separation between moral and economic arguments. etc). for example. “CESSPOOL”. and influence of governments. “TOXIC”. I see this kind of simplistic moral language coming from both the political left and right (the Conservative “Moral Majority”. “CORRUPT”. unnatural.

PITY It’s a curious feeling to be “pitied” – it tends to trigger defensiveness. stress. Tony Blair often said: “The killing of civilians is unfortunate. despite 45 . but it’s necessary”. for a tiny ruling elite). It’s something that poor and unemployed people have to deal with a lot. but there’s also not much inequality – everyone is at the same income level. In fact.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ I’m not claiming that moral arguments are invalid. of course. It’s often been commented by visitors to poor countries that everyone seems happier than in the “civilised” West – ie there’s more of a sense of “happy community”. but that doesn’t change my argument. but it’s “necessary” only in terms of Blair’s own politics. To explain what I mean: Everyone in a poor country may suffer from “absolute poverty”. just that they should be clearly differentiated from political/ economic arguments. anxiety. Statements like that are a propagandist mix of morals and politics – the killing is “unfortunate” in a moral sense. but Blair’s statement is linguistically structured to imply that it’s as morally necessary as it is morally unfortunate. which I think explains why various forms of misery (eg depression. etc) correlate with “relative poverty” more than “absolute poverty” (according to sociology). more or less (except. Politics/economics has moral consequences. perhaps. I think the Afghanistan situation (the so-called “war on terrorism”) could have benefited from a clear differentiation between moral and political arguments. Killing civilians is certainly not morally necessary.

Trying to “rationalise” it away seems like a bad strategy. And the result is high levels of human misery. much of this behaviour is hard-wired into our nervous systems.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ material deprivation.” That’s the “free market” in action – busy creating more and more inequality. Of course. But that’s missing the point slightly. some anti-consumerists might see this as supporting their claim that consumer goods don’t make people happy. 46 . conditioning us to associate symbols of wealth (“status symbols”) with elevated position in the social hierarchy. No doubt this is a result of decades of advertising and “education”. That’s a well-supported finding in the social sciences. social status seems correlated with financial status. for example. Social-status comparison is a very strong influence on our behaviour – after all. It’s going to push our buttons whether we like it or not. steeper and steeper social hierarchy. The point is that steepness of social hierarchy correlates with unhappiness in a society. we evolved from hierarchically social mammals. as reflected in all those surveys you see on stress levels. In the UK. In “respectable” society. Many studies have been conducted into the level of income-inequality (a measure of the steepness of social hierarchy). the 1994 Borrie commission reported that the gap between the earnings of the highest paid and the lowest paid were “greater than at any time since records were first kept in 1886.

most comprehensive study of UK poverty in the last decade. 9. tranquilliser addictions. with money as the measure of winning/success. The average level of debt per household is £5. I have a file of newspaper clippings from a correspondent who lives in America – full of studies which show that the poverty situation in the US is as bad as the UK (if not worse). One UK psychologist even wrote a book (Britain on the Couch by Oliver James) claiming that the steep social hierarchy created by “advanced capitalism” is drastically affecting our brain chemistry. that seem to be the most damaging element of this social inequality. 47 . Help prevent terrorism: stay at home and phone in sick. success-failure polarities. making us unhappy.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ depression epidemics. It’s the extreme winner-loser. The reaction of pity towards someone perceived as being low(er) on the social/financial ladder seems an automatic reflex in most people. reported recently by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation). THE REAL BIO-TERRORISTS The real bio-terrorists are those who go to work with a cold. Poverty in Britain rose sharply between 1979 and the late 1990s. flu or other bug.5 million people can’t afford adequate housing conditions (according to the biggest. One in 4 people are now living in poverty. etc. anxiety disorders. reducing serotonin levels.300 (not including home loans).

000 practising doctors are dependent on alcohol or drugs. who lived from 467 to 400 BC.. 48 . (Socrates was himself accused of being “an immoral corrupter of youth”). They love luxury. How much earlier were people making similar remarks. but we’ve all become enslaved to it”. Worries about technological development have been accompanied throughout history by worries about moral decline. it helps move things faster. These words were written by Socrates.. have bad manners. disrespect for elders. According to a recent British Medical Association statistic. A third of callers claimed problems with anxiety and stress. and tyrannise their teachers”. Consider the following quote: “Boys and girls are dressing alike. At the “dawn of civilisation”.. crime etc. The BMA set up a 24 hour telephone Helpline to deal with the problem.. show contempt for authority. Those who voice the same complaints today don’t seem to realise that this “moral decline” has been perceived in all ages. 1850) Thoreau’s “anti-consumerist” remark was made 150 years ago. PERENNIAL FEARS We have become tools of our tools (Henry David Thoreau. show disrespect for their elders. one wonders. 13. impoliteness.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ DOCTORS ON DRUGS One of the most overworked groups is doctors. lowering of standards. they contradict their parents. did people worry: “Sure. when the wheel was first invented.

If you believe that we shouldn’t want more than we need. environment. Why should intelligent creatures be content with only meeting needs – ie mere physical survival? Living in a cave. then all of civilisation looks like a moral decline. etc). (That’s not to say there aren’t real. It seems that anxieties relating to uncertainty and social instability have always been expressed in terms of either “moral decline” or “technology taking over”. economics. I think the same can be said for many (but not all) worries about technology. if managed intelligently. I want to watch movies. Anti-consumerism is interesting in that it seems to combine fears about moral decline (“greed”. ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. Civilisation is an expression of wants which are beyond mere needs. so the above logic would dictate that we shouldn’t want anything more than living in a cave. with no running water or electricity satisfies our needs (people survived that way for millennia). I see an ages-old recurring tendency for people to project their anxieties in the form of a perception of moral decline. valid issues in anti-consumerism concerning resources. “materialism”. I want books to read.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ I don’t see any moral decline. 49 . the planet contains enough ecologically sustainable resources to provide a high standard of living for every person on the planet. etc) with fears about technology. 4 “People shouldn’t want more than they need” Why not? Contrary to Malthusian economics. dressed in animal skins.

Poverty implies removal of choice. If you can’t afford to pay the electricity bill. But if that were the case you’d expect guilt to disappear once you get into the habit of conforming morally and socially.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CONFUSING “SIMPLICITY” WITH POVERTY I have heard followers of Voluntary Simplicity claim that poverty can be a good thing. That seems to be fundamentally different than being in the position of choosing a lifestyle in which you don’t use electricity. you don’t have a choice about receiving electricity. It’s a lifestyle choice. even if they’ve never behaved particularly immorally. common sense is not always correct (“the Earth is flat” and “sex is dirty” used to be common sense). All cultures have certain beliefs which are regarded as “common sense”. But do they know what they are talking about? Voluntary Simplicity is not the same as poverty. I suspect they don’t understand poverty. However. Poverty is nowhere defined as a lifestyle choice. When people confuse a personal economic choice (eg Voluntary Simplicity) with a social economic outcome (eg poverty). GUILT COMPLEX Guilt is commonly believed to arise from the unfavourable comparison of oneself to social expectations (particularly regarding moral codes). Any belief which is held by a society for thousands of years eventually becomes “common sense”. 50 . not freeing up choice. Often the most socially conformist people continue to be plagued by guilt.

and probably fatal for the person showing the disrespect. we take for granted) and the emotion (eg guilt). Guilt arises from living unquestioningly (“on automatic”) in a certain type of dysfunctional society with irrational beliefs. The answer may be that we continue to be emotionally triggered. without realising the history of why disrespect for authority was not only “bad”. Did they go from rags to riches? Apparently not. which many people regard as “common sense”. but we don’t understand why – because we don’t make the full connection between the belief (which being common sense. and most of them lived in expensive. but a sin against the gods.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ What happens when emotion-triggering beliefs – such as the belief in “sin” – become common sense? (eg when we automatically regard a certain behaviour as “sinful”). And the remedy is not to conform. THE SECRET OF SUCCESS Management Today magazine recently looked at the backgrounds of the people behind Britain’s 25 top business startups. trendy areas of London. but to continually question and unravel “common sense”. 51 . An example would be the belief that we should have “respect for authority”. The one thing they had in common was that they came from wealthy families.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ NEWSPAPERS ATTACK THE IDLE Here are some headlines from March 27. not £96 billion as the Daily Mail claims. 1998 (following government’s announcement of welfare reforms): “WELFARE WAR ON WORKSHY” (Daily Mail) “THOU SHALT NOT SHIRK” (The Express) “BLAIR IN WELFARE WAR ON THE IDLE” (Daily Telegraph) “SHAKE-UP IN WELFARE HITS THE WORKSHY” (The Times) The stories accompanying these headlines mentioned “spiralling” welfare costs – eg the Daily Mail said the government’s welfare reform was “a bid to smash the dependency culture that has seen benefit spending rocket to £96 billion a year. the actual figure for the cost of welfare to unemployed people is only £5 billion per year. More strangely still. 52 . which suggests (if you believe official figures) that the so-called “dependency culture” isn’t such a big problem after all. 19/3/98). just one week before the above headlines. the official number of unemployed was the lowest for 18 years (given as 1. including old-age pensions. Welfare for unemployed people accounts for only 5% of the total welfare budget.383.800 in The Daily Telegraph. disability allowances and income support for lowpaid working people (as opposed to “workshy” people).” Strangely enough. That £96 billion figure is the total welfare budget.

And what about “Yeltsin’s generation” – presumably they’re a homogeneous lump too. fulfilling experience. 53 . millions of differing opinions. physical space-time) is implicitly superior to the “virtual” (ie via electronic interface). I heard a BBC reporter say the following about Russian young people:“The young no longer have any faith in Yeltsin or his generation”. when Boris Yeltsin was in power in Russia.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ DECONSTRUCTING CRAP TV REPORTING Once. We’re talking about millions of individual human beings here. but look more closely and you can see some quite stupid generalisations (which seem common in TV reporting). how does one generation have “faith” in another generation? And. I used to participate in little communities called “weekly progress meetings” (at work). That seems a fairly innocuous statement at first. anyway. For example. it implies that “the young” of a country are a homogeneous lump with only one opinion. faith in them to do what exactly? VIRTUAL HUMAN CONTACT I don’t see any sense in which the “real” (ie local. But it wasn’t a rich. which were very “real” in the sense of people being together in close physical proximity. And.

But you don’t blame the tree (unless you’re very superstitious). So. POLITICAL HUMOUR A few years ago. one in four managers would accept a pay cut in order to reduce the amount of time they work. it can be – but so can trees.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ For as long as I can remember. 54 . it’s not going to help your relationships. More than a fifth of those questioned said that the long hours were not justifiable (or were only partly so) in terms of productivity. If you sit up in a tree all day. and that people are paid too much – those are the reasons for the economic problems of the country. MANAGERS WANT TO WORK LESS According to a survey quoted in The Times (1st June 1998). people have been telling me that computer technology is a danger to “real” human relations. Yes. The government then said that current economic weaknesses in the UK are due to the fact that UK workers are less productive than in Europe or the USA. These government statements were widely announced in the media – with straight faces all around and not a trace of irony. basically they are saying that people aren’t working hard enough. the UK government blamed the interest rate rises on the fact that people are demanding too much in wage increases.

sweatshops. Isn’t the real situation the exact opposite of this? I thought the real human-rights abuses were in forcing people to do jobs that are unsuitable or dangerous or appallingly low-paid? Slave-labour. forced labour factories. that human-rights abusing nations were stopping people from working. a basic human right should be: “The right to REFUSE work”. regardless of work status” But maybe that’s a little bit too close to home. Then they say: “You must stay in bed all day. from this. and you mustn’t lift a finger – or we’ll throw you in prison”. etc.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE WRONG HUMAN RIGHTS? The following phrases kept coming up in media coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration: “The right to work” “The right to a job” You would think. You can just imagine some Third World storm-troopers kicking down someone’s door as he/she prepares to go to work. And perhaps another basic human right should be: “The right to a basic survival income. 55 . In which case.

“tough on crime”. mass economic nervousness. is going to look merely “soft”. he said. has remarked that old ideas – conventional pieties – need only a few sentences to communicate. 56 . here’s a proposal of mine that will definitely take more than 15 seconds to explain to people. survival anxiety. since it allows only soundbites of 15 seconds or so – it’s difficult to communicate a new idea in 15 seconds. Historically. And to explain why “soft” doesn’t necessarily mean “bad” would also take more than 15 seconds to explain. “tough on the workshy” etc. For example.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ A MODEST PROPOSAL The famous political dissident. The idea is as follows: A universal Citizen’s Income can be used to get rid of evil dictators. Noam Chomsky. This usually begins as economic fear – people are scared that if they don’t do as they’re told they’ll be living in poverty or worse. Dictators flourish in climates of fear. reinforces the status quo. Anyway. this is the fertilizer for raising dictators – fear. politicians use the word “tough” a lot – eg “tough on drugs”. because they know that anyone who argues with them. in 15 seconds or less. whereas new ideas take a lot of explaining. TV.

to bring all the citizens upto the living standard of millionaires. Every day for the first 1800 years or so. the rest of the world should send so much wealth into that country immediately.000 years old. The comedian Bill Hicks was onto something when he suggested that if we have the technology to drop bombs with pinpoint precision down air vents. A “CHRISTIAN” PARABLE Imagine you’re 2. with a hypnotist sitting close to your left ear. why not instead drop bananas into the mouths of the hungry. For most of your life you’ve been in a semi-conscious state. I’d take this a step further by suggesting that whenever an evil dictatorship arises. the hypnotist gave you the following hypnotic suggestions. over and over: “You “You “You “You “You “You “You are a son/daughter of Adam who betrayed God” betrayed God by being born” are evil in essence” are no good” are lower than low” are totally depraved” are damned” 57 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Economic sanctions and bombs just increase fear – they obviously solve nothing. The United Nations inspectors could be used to check that nobody falls below millionaire level. Somehow I don’t think a dictator would last long in a nation of millionaires.

but an outward sign of your virtue and redemption would be possession of capital. you’re everything you’re supposed to be: a hard worker. receive redemption.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ These are followed by a series of instructions: “If you cleanse yourself with a life of suffering (denying pleasure) and obedience to the priests. There’s no sign of the hypnotist any more.m. Laziness and a lack of property are sure signs that you are damned eternally to hell. and you feel a sudden. obedient corporate teamplayer. You don’t understand why – after all. according to the views of Protestantism: “You may earn redemption if you work hard. It’s 8. you may.15 a. for centuries. Then. 58 . you pass a vagrant.000 years old and have woken up a bit. these vague uneasy feelings disappear. And you’ve got a lot of nice. On your way to work. with God’s grace. there is no absolute guarantee of this.” (See sociologist Max Weber’s writings for the link between Protestantism and Capitalism). Despite a weekend of buying nice new furniture. intense anger towards this lazy “good-for-nothing. you still feel vaguely depressed and unsatisfied. when you were about 1700 years old. However. But once you get to your desk and have a few cups of coffee.. expensive consumer products.” This goes on every day. and you’re driving to work.” Then a little later you have a vague feeling of guilt. so you can do your job. the instructions changed a little. a loyal. There’s still no guarantee of redemption. Now you’re 2.

Welfare recipients take welfare money and then give it all away in spending. they want them to keep the habit of “consuming”. after work. 59 . (Usually they give it to companies which pay the salaries of taxpayers). ready for another early morning start. Welfare is often described (by those who oppose it) as “taking without giving”. a few glasses of whisky numb those troubling feelings. so that when you go to bed you can sink into oblivion. “Original sin” means absolutely nothing to you. the vague feelings of depression and futility return – but happily. spent on cheap home produce. Companies don’t want their customers to starve. Because. In monetary terms this is a false argument. if unemployed people don’t have money.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Later. SPECULATIVE ECONOMICS Welfare was probably invented by the rich to keep money circulating. utilities and rent. Most welfare money isn’t “lost” – it goes straight back into the economy. In purely monetary terms. welfare recipients probably “give” a greater proportion of their income than taxpayers (since they rarely save or invest). how can they buy things? Welfare is how you keep the economy functioning under conditions of recession or depression. we all give money to the same extent that we take it. and to prevent the economy from collapsing – ie it results from self-interest as much as from altruism. Apart from saved/invested money.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ This is obviously a hocus-pocus argument. labour (“earning”) is the true measure of the price of real wealth. then you have to be consistent in your argument. interest and land rent – are not made through earning but through forms of usury. And “selfless” parents think they’re justified in lecturing their kids about the inappropriateness of selfishness. and of earning the rewards of real wealth. but then our economic system is based on hocus-pocus. And these parents wonder why children become rebellious and resentful in their teens. Career-striving to earn money for luxury status symbols is supposedly “selfless” when you’re a parent – because it’s all for “the family”. As Adam Smith pointed out. Therefore. But we live in a competitive society which favours the free-market doctrine of self-interest. How many anti-welfare advocates are committed to such a revolutionary economic upheaval? FAMILY SELF-INTEREST By definition. the argument for removing welfare because it’s unearned must logically extend to removing all components of profit. If you wish to avoid the hocus-pocus and talk in terms of “real wealth” (rather than money). interest and land rent from the economy also. The other components of price – profit. and of making such reward conditional upon earning (eg abolishing welfare). “decent” people aren’t supposed to be selfish. Competition means applied selfishness. 60 .

As Kennedy said. For example.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ARGUING WITH ILL-INTENTIONED FOOLS The following rant was posted to an Internet forum set up to discuss themes from the TV show of UK comedian and activist Mark Thomas. Old folk should make provisions for their retirement. but think what you can do for your country!” And provoke hostility it did – the usual descent into personal abuse. It’s not my fault they were born thick or had bad parents. If someone is unable to fend for themselves then that is just too bad. who are more interested in stone cladding and lottery cards than raising worthwhile citizens. etc. 61 . The next best strategy is to question their beliefs (rather than stating your own beliefs). Why should I work hard and better myself so that I can give money indirectly to a load of scroungers and lazy bastards. Think not what your country can do for you. The best strategy for dealing with fools is to ignore them (in physical terms. I have got my own family to look after without supporting feckless people. leave the room). in the above example. you could ask:“How many welfare recipients do you know personally?” “What percentage of welfare recipients are people who lost their jobs due to downsizing?” “Are you equally opposed to corporate welfare?”. Mission accomplished for the fool. Why should I pay for them. and was presumably intended to provoke hostility: “There shouldn’t be any welfare handouts – period.

But if the film critic said that the director was “a piece of garbage”. it might even be bad criticism.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ARGUING WITH WELL-INTENTIONED FOOLS It’s amazing how often Internet debates descend into personal abuse. That makes sense – after all. “personal abuse” is directed against the person. I’ve seen well-known critics use “bad” language to intensify criticism. creations. That might be bad criticism. To criticise a viewpoint as “stupid” is therefore not to imply that the person who said it is stupid. Imagine a film critic describing a film as “a piece of garbage”. but it’s not “personal abuse”. The problem is that most people can’t distinguish between criticism and personal insult. but it’s not personal abuse. even among well-intentioned people who basically share the same viewpoints. As a rule of thumb. then that would be personal abuse. etc – the output from a person. If people could just identify the dividing line between criticism and abuse. whereas criticism is directed against the views. arguments. That might be harsh criticism. the quality of debate would be much higher across the whole damned Internet. “Bad” language is not necessarily an indication of “personal abuse”. 62 . an intelligent person is obviously capable of saying something stupid.

. the con-man. Much of what goes into our heads looks harmless. It’s true that welfare diminishes the kind of “self-reliance” which results from a life of desperation and struggle (for the obvious reason that welfare reduces desperation and struggle). Do rich people feel that their self-reliance is diminished by having access to trust funds and inheritances? Do corporations feel that their self-reliance is inhibited by receiving government subsidies? What type of “self-reliance” do conservatives wish to encourage by removing welfare? The desperate selfreliance of the criminal. the crack dealer – or the respectable self-reliance of the comfortably affluent? WATCH OUT! What you put in your head is bound to affect how you feel. exploiting anxieties.. Watch out for the adverts! A 1980 UNESCO report stated that advertising is guilty of “simplifying real human situations into stereotypes.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ TWO TYPES OF SELF-RELIANCE Many rightwingers oppose welfare on the basis that it diminishes self-reliance. the fraudster. but it has a depressing effect. But does welfare diminish the type of self-reliance which results from a supportive and nurturing environment? It seems unlikely.” 63 .

64 . Let’s rephrase the question: “Who creates the life-support wealth?” That distinguishes “real wealth” from “money wealth”. building on the staggering amount of real wealth (intellectual and material) already created”. I think the question “who pays?” shows a misunderstanding of the problem. including so-called laziness). It’s not supported by society withholding a basic income from those struggling financially (for whatever reason.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ WHO PAYS? Who pays if everyone takes? That’s a common question in debates on welfare or Basic Income. The next logical question would be: “how is that encouraged and supported?” We can answer in the negative by saying it’s definitely not supported by letting people starve or get sick. “job” or “quick return on the investment”. My answer to the question would be: “people following their natural abilities/enthusiasms. It’s not supported by valuing only one type of wealth creation – “hard work”.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ PART TWO PUBLISHED LETTERS 65 .

But then The Guardian published no less than five reader’s letters. security firms and the new sweatshops. the UK’s Labour government gave a press conference in which they boasted of their record on employment – of “getting people into jobs”. As a result.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ WRITING TO NEWSPAPERS Letters pages in newspapers seem the most interesting sections of the mainstream media. mindnumbing and soul-destroying. call centres. some unusual and subversive letters are often printed. whereas journalists and editors are conscious of how their own published viewpoints will affect their careers – which results in a sort of respectable cautiousness. Readers say what they think.” All of the letters were eloquent and forceful. 66 . with descriptions of appallingly awful low-paid jobs and vivid portrayals of Britain as a sort of deeply unpleasant forced-labour camp. all on the same day. Most newspapers covered this in exactly the same language as used by the government’s press release. The reason for this is probably that editors feel less responsibility for the views of readers than for the main editorial/journalistic content. demoralising. One of them said: “The situations vacant are low-paid. with little criticism or scrutiny. attacking the government’s claims in remarkably scathing terms. A few years ago. and every word rang true – unlike the PR syrup from the government and the pathetic journalists’ acquiescence. unrewarding graft in fast food joints.

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

Writing letters to newspapers can be very therapeutic when media coverage angers you. Distil your anger into a few concise paragraphs, then send to all the newspapers (newspaper email addresses are given on the Anxiety Culture website’s Letters to Newspapers page). Even if your letter isn’t printed, you have the satisfaction of knowing that the letters editors on all these newspapers have read your views (which might influence their future choice of letters for publication). You can also recycle the material you’ve written – eg post it to Internet newsgroups. I sometimes use a pseudonym when writing letters to newspapers, but it’s a good idea to give a real contact address and telephone number (they’re usually required as a condition of publication). Of all the letters I’ve had published, there were only two occasions when they checked my contact details (the Financial Times and The Times phoned me), so you can probably get away with giving bogus details. Surprisingly (given what I write), I’ve had several letters published by The Sun. Since I don’t usually bother checking this newspaper, I only find out when they send me a prize (of £15) a few weeks later. It amused me to see that the usual paranoid and sensationalist style of The Sun (forever exposing “cheats” and “love rats”, etc) extended to their letter, which said: “... Our payment system allows two weeks after publication of letters so that any ‘doubles’ can be spotted and payments cancelled. We know that our honest contributors will approve, but we apologise for the delay.”
67

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

NEWS

OF THE

WORLD

In order to get letters published in tabloid newspapers, it pays to fake your identity. Claiming to be “young and unemployed” probably helped getting this printed (on 10 December 2000). It refers to two subjects which were heavily discussed by politicians in the media at the time. Dear Editor, The way politicians talk, you’d think welfare fraud and juvenile delinquency were the two greatest threats to civilisation. Being young and unemployed, I feel more threatened by politicians.

RADIO TIMES
The Radio Times is the BBC’s official TV listings magazine, with a mass audience in Britain. My letter was printed as “Letter of the week” in the 17-23 July 1993 issue. It refers to a scaremongering BBC programme on crime called Crimewatch UK. Back in the dark days of 1993, most people really did believe that crime was “spiralling out of control”, although in the decade since many people have become sceptical about media crime hype. Dear Editor, The coverage of crime on Crimewatch UK contributes to a climate of fear out of all proportion to the real threat of crime for most people. We keep hearing about the “rising tide of crime”, but why can’t the crime rate figures be explained in detail (perhaps with graphics such as those used by the BBC on election nights)? This would take into account factors like the vastly improved crime detection technology and the creation of new laws, both of which increase the official crime rate, without any increased threat to the public.

68

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

FORTEAN TIMES
Fortean Times is a popular magazine covering unexplained/anomalous phenomena and weird popular culture. The letter I wrote addressed a columnist’s critical remarks about a group of optimistic futurists calling themselves “Extropians”. It was printed in the December 1996 issue. Dear Editor, Toby Howard’s article on the Extropians was the third example I’ve seen recently of people with ‘alternative’ optimistic beliefs being accused of selfishness. Timothy Leary was described as ‘an optimist’ and ‘selfish’ in his Times obituary (1 June), and on a recent BBC2 Newsnight some ‘joyful’ hermits were criticised for ignoring ‘social responsibilities’ (which is a polite way of calling them selfish). There’s probably nothing new in this, but it should come as a reminder to Forteans that anyone made happy by entertaining beliefs which aren’t consensually approved as normal runs the risk of being labelled self-centred. There are two ways of avoiding this accusation: either don’t talk about anything odd, or don’t look too happy while you do. Ironically, the epitome of normality these days seems to be the world of business, which in the UK and the US (following classical economic theory) puts the individual’s self-interest above any notions of community or selflessness. The rationale for this is expressed by Adam Smith’s paranormal-sounding metaphor of the ‘invisible hand’ which apparently ensures that unhindered self-interest ultimately benefits everybody.

69

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

.NET
.NET is the UK’s best-selling Internet magazine. My letter
was printed as “Letter of the month” in January 2000. Dear Editor, I’m concerned by reports of a trend towards search engines which retrieve only “official” or “popular” websites. Although, on the surface, this may sound like a good idea, I’d like to start some alarm bells ringing. The rationale for such search engines is, of course, that people dislike wading through website dross – the facility to filter out rubbish is seen as desirable and marketable. Separating quality from dross is, however, a highly subjective process. I fear that by listing only official and statistically popular sites, the search engines will be favouring large corporations and institutions – which is no guarantee of quality content. I assume that the “popularity” of a website will be measured by the number of links to it. Unfortunately, the biggest factor in attracting links is advertising, not merit. This means that “popularity” will be largely a measure of advertising expenditure. Until now, search engines have given us a level playing field – you don’t need to be a newspaper tycoon to put your message out. This is what raises the Internet above the other mass media. If the new generation of official/popular search engines becomes the standard, the playing field will definitely be tilted in favour of the big players. Currently, web searches occasionally dredge up garbage, but that’s a small price to pay for the odd gems that appear. The big corporate sites will never give us diversity, eccentricity, satire, integrity – content which isn’t about selling something.
70

benefiting the rich. by the Chancellor. Let’s put them to work. they can be employed in telesales or supermarket trolley shepherding. Of that. refers to comments made about unemployment by the UK government (and. Yet there is widespread poverty amongst old people. People actually burn up fossil fuels travelling to these pointless jobs. no resources or services useful to human life. (They would’ve printed it on 2 August 2000). low-paid jobs? THE INDEPENDENT This letter. So it’s the only letter here that wasn’t published – but it came close. Dear Editor. If they can use a phone or walk a dog. Gordon Brown). Dear Editor. These pointless jobs (many in financial services) have no effect except to move money around in databases. I admitted that I’d sent the same letter to ten other newspapers. in particular. Many of the elderly are able-bodied. printed on 16 March 2001. Next time I’ll be prepared to lie. £44 billion goes to the elderly. Why should only the young benefit from pointless. Problem is. The total cost of welfare is £99 billion per year. That’s ten times the amount spent on Jobseekers Allowance.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ FINANCIAL TIMES The Financial Times wanted to print this letter. In an uncharacteristic moment of honesty. It used to be called usury. Gordon Brown says full employment is achievable. half of UK jobs produce no “real wealth”. There’s no excuse for laziness and dependence. 71 . but unfortunately they followed a policy of phoning me to ensure that I’d written it exclusively to them.

A recent 72 . Wesleyans and other nonconformist religious cults were greatly over-represented among the early industrialists. Instead of mass suicides. we spend most of our waking hours performing tasks that bore and frustrate us. haste and urgency – can be traced to the Puritans’ perception of there being a perilously short time in which to build God’s Kingdom on Earth. We tend to see cult members as weak. Dear Editor. Les Prince made a very interesting comparison of religious cult members and corporate employees. feel stressed and underpaid. gullible types. on the other hand. In fact. and see their work as pointless. respectable society could be viewed as a crazy work cult which persecutes anyone not sharing its unhealthy obsession with toil. We. According to Ashton’s History of the Industrial Revolution. 60 per cent of employees dislike their jobs. as employees. That’s why. Our normal. manipulated into performing actions which aren’t in their best interest. we have the slow torture of boredom and bureaucracy. The beliefs which underlie our work ethic are thought to originate with Protestant sects such as the Calvinists and Puritans. Our modern obsession at work – with deadlines. are in control of our lives. Presbyterians.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ FORTEAN TIMES (2) Here’s another letter I had published by Fortean Times (in their March 1998 issue). I think there’s more to this than meets the eye. According to a recent BSA (British Social Attitudes) survey. Quakers. It begins by commenting on a previous article in the magazine. working as an employee can be as dangerous as joining a cult.

needs to provide a financial incentive to its readers. Dear Editor. Taking time off sick is seen as a bad career move. 73 . work-orientated employee-slaves. On average. unlike most other newspapers. The media obsession with paedophiles distorts perceptions of risks to children. so call in sick before you get ill.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Department of Health report. THE GUARDIAN This letter (published on 12 January 2000) commented on the flu epidemic sweeping through Britain at the time. Last year’s Government clamp-down on “sick-note culture” was regrettable. with the result that everyone in the office catches flu. kill or seriously injure several thousand children every year. revealed that people who work more than 48 hours per week have double the risk of coronary heart disease. less than ten children are killed each year by strangers in England and Wales. THE SUN I feel very proud to have letters printed by The Sun (this one on 26 July 2000). Road accidents. My advice: prevention is better than cure. however. I sent it in the midst of yet another overblown media scare over paedophiles. according to government figures. Dear Editor. Personality assessment techniques have long been used in industry to ensnare a stable supply of obedient. most of whom find difficulty in stringing more than two sentences together). Mental Health and Stress in the Workplace. And I received a £15 prize (I guess that The Sun.

According to government statistics. It only seems that there are more of these “stranger-danger” murders because the newspapers wallow in every single case. Dear Editor As I write. yet another burglar alarm is wailing in the background. the local burglary rate has decreased each year by about 30%. The risk to children has actually fallen by a third since 1988. hurting my eardrums. Even if you’re sceptical about short-term crime statistics. They print virtually anything – in fact most letters. stop watching Crimewatch UK and get a life. as it was printed at the top of the letters page. on average – more are killed by parents. Despite what the scaremongers say. only six children are killed each year by strangers.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE CHRONICLE This was one of several letters I had published in my local weekly newspaper in the late nineties. 74 . there is strong evidence that crime is less common now than 100 or 200 years ago (those who doubt this should spend a few years researching the historic data on crime). saying: “Stop the Alarms”. from most people. seem to complain about dog turds on the pavement and rude taxi drivers. The murder rate is the same now as it was in 1857. My advice is: disconnect the alarm. with a big headline. When did we all decide it was necessary to install these demonic devices? For the last five years. crime is definitely not escalating. I think the editor liked my letter. yet people continue to install burglar alarms.

Dear Editor. mobile phones. My letter (published on 15 July 2000) was an attempt to expose the public cost of this “success”. 75 . THE GUARDIAN (2) A government press release about the “success” of the New Deal welfare-to-work scheme boasted about all the jobs it had created. health problems. That means each job created cost the taxpayer £100. But it cost over £5 billion to set up.000 jobs which otherwise wouldn’t exist. If.000. There are far greater risks in life than crime: car crashes. they pointed to more common risks.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Only one in 4. So I ask you: don’t succumb to their fearful propaganda. There are many groups with vested commercial/political interests in making you afraid of crime. vehicle recovery services. unlike the overall crime rate. etc. And turn off that alarm which is hurting my ears. etc. eg workplace accidents and stress-related illness. Statistics like these tend to be reliable. however. they’d make powerful enemies in the corporate sector. Advertisers love scaremongering TV programmes because they boost sales of insurance policies. workplace accidents. security devices. The New Deal has created 50.000 elderly women will be attacked. which is often criticised for being unreliable. alarms. The risk of a car crash is 50 times greater than the risk of serious crime. yet more than a third fear going outside their own homes. Politicians point to crime more than other risks simply because it’s politically advantageous to do so – it offends nobody.

Radio Times published a reader’s letter responding to mine.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ RADIO TIMES (2) My second letter published in Radio Times (25 September 1999 issue) was in response to a BBC programme called The Eyes of a Child. but also attacked me personally (in a polite way of course – this is a BBC magazine): Dear Editor I am writing in protest to Brian Dean’s letter (RT. and will consequently have no insight into the causes/effects of poverty. Gullible viewers will have been led to think the issue is moral (this is the usual reaction when people are shown images of delinquency). The following week. since it contained the main point of my letter). in which he expressed contempt for the depiction of “TV-appropriate soundbites” and “shockhorror antisocial behaviour”. right. (Note: Radio Times edited out the last sentence. 76 . which was billed as a documentary on child poverty in Britain.” In one interview. This wasn’t about poverty. Dear Editor. 25 September) on Eyes of a Child. Yeah. it was about programme-makers getting young children to utter TV-appropriate soundbites. I’ve included it. a boy who looked about four years old gleefully described how he “hotwires” cars. which not only misrepresented my views. The Eyes of a Child was supposed to be about poverty but it seemed merely an excuse to show children confessing shockhorror “antisocial behaviour. and his mother sprinkles heroin on his cornflakes.

The moral. I have been taught not to make assumptions about people. I know that children like those shown in the documentary do exist. 77 . is that not only can you not trust editors to print your letter intact (in a way that doesn’t distort your views). only 9 percent* of welfare expenditure goes on the unemployed. and that apparently includes benefit fraud. and the official unemployed count showing the lowest figure for 18 years. Also. but I find myself accused of being a suburb-dweller who denies the existence of extremes of social deprivation. Did anyone notice the weird contradiction between those newspaper headlines blaming “spiralling” welfare costs on the “workshy”. including the postscript. According to the DSS’s own figures. but I feel compelled to ask: which suburb of Chester is Mr Dean from? Laura Webster Funny – I thought I’d criticised a TV programme. but neither can you trust them to not to print responses to something you didn’t actually say.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ My mother has taught at an inner-city Bradford school since before I was born and her pupils in the past have ranged from heroin babies to 13-year-old pimps. Dear Idler. I suppose. THE IDLER The whole of this letter. was published in the August-September 1998 edition of the Idler. From her experience.

The total annual welfare expenditure on the unemployed is a mere £8. But maybe it also serves to distract us from the real “scandals” such as the billions lost through the gaping loopholes in the tax system which make tax virtually optional for the super-rich. Whatever the reasons for the increasing attacks on the idle. PS.2 billion. only Portugal. it sounds like the imposition of an outdated and unhealthy Puritan morality. So why this frenzied media attack on people without jobs? To me. In the EU. as at 2002: approximately 5 percent (about £5 billion) of the total welfare budget (approximately £100 billion) goes on the unemployed. Ireland and Greece spend less on welfare.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ In fact. two recessions and the falling wages of the low-paid. “DSS” refers to the Department of Social Security. welfare spending rose. which has since been renamed the Department for Work and Pensions. given an ageing population.7 billion* (according to DSS figures). from a total annual welfare budget of £96. The total cost of the scheme is £5. 78 .5 percent – a small amount. at least we can see that the economic justifications for these attacks are completely without foundation. Did you know that the government’s advertising budget for their New Deal welfare-to-slavery scheme is £18 million (of taxpayers’ money). * The current figures. Britain is near the bottom of the league table of developed nations in terms of welfare spending.2 billion*. by only 2. relative to GDP [Gross Domestic Product]. During the four terms of Tory government. Keep up the great stuff in the Idler. welfare spending isn’t spiralling out of control.

Prison workshops have full employment.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE INDEPENDENT (2) This letter was written just after the 2002 election success of the (basically fascist) Jean-Marie Le Pen in France. The British media should learn from this that exaggerating the crime problem doesn’t merely sell newspapers – it can have damaging repercussions for society too. they play a dangerous game of scaremongering. Dear Editor. One reason for the popularity of the Far Right in France is public fear about crime. the minister talked patronisingly (like a schoolteacher lecturing kids) about the social benefits of work. It was published on 26 April 2002. When newspapers interpret an increase in cell phone theft as “crime spiralling out of control”. and the government’s intention to create a “work first” culture. 79 . Coercion can always create full employment. I wrote it in response to an interview with a government minister (Alistair Darling) from their programme the previous night. Hitler provided full employment. BBC RADIO 4 PM NEWS The BBC read out part of the following letter on their main evening radio news programme (on 4 July 2001). In this interview. Dear Editor. The way this government talks about work reminds me of the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes One free”) Nazi concentration camp entrance sign.

he said that he felt uneasy about it. I’m not surprised Alan Davies feels uneasy about doing bank commercials. but I made an exception for TV celebrity/comedian Alan Davies. Are they insane? You can probably guess which paragraph they read out. Given that he’d already successfully crossed over into mainstream TV and was appearing as the star of a high-ratings prime-time BBC TV series. Davies should take the advice of Bill Hicks: “If you do a commercial you’re off the artistic roll call.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ What happened to leisure? We’ve seen incredible advances in labour-saving technology over the last 30 years. and when asked about the highly lucrative TV advertisements he was doing for Abbey National. I found this unbelievable. but that he did them for financial security and that he needed the money. you’re a corporate whore. Dear Editor. My letter was printed in the Guardian’s Weekend supplement the following Saturday (8 September 2001). THE GUARDIAN (3) I generally avoid personal criticism. but the whole point of celebrity endorsements is that the celebs are flush to begin with – they don’t need the extra cash. 80 . Celebrities cite “financial security” as a reason for doing ads. And now government ministers want to promote a “work first” culture. and which paragraph they cut. He was interviewed in the Guardian’s Weekend magazine supplement. end of story”. yet working hours have risen during this period. every word you say is suspect.

81 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Letters published in The Independent (16/3/01) on the theme of pointless jobs. It always helps if someone else writes a letter with a similar perspective to your own.

But didn’t productivity rise 82 . Dear Editor. Dear Editor. maybe it’s time to close the tax loopholes exploited by the super-rich. This country is much wealthier than in the 1970s. The context was a media debate about charging college students for their education. Dear Editor. when most students paid nothing for their education. THE GUARDIAN (4) Printed by the Guardian on 19 December 2002. but by a dubious political ideology. The “funding crisis” in higher education is created not by lack of funds. none for publicsector wage increases or students. no public money to improve pensions. and precious little for improving public transport. THE SUN (3) Another one printed in the sleazy tabloid (on 28 January 2003). That should generate around £85 billion (according to previous press reports) – more than enough to fund generous public sector pay rises. So.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE SUN (2) I was surprised that The Sun printed this letter (on 28 November 2002 – during the national firefighters’ strike). I assume that their letters editor forgot that Rupert Murdoch (who owns the newspaper) is one of the worst offenders when it comes to tax avoidance in the UK. If Tony Blair thinks we can’t afford the firefighters’ 16% pay rise.

BBC RADIO 4 TODAY (ONLINE) The following two letters were published by BBC Radio 4 online (7 April 2003 and 13 May 2003. I hear Bush and Blair are nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. you should remain impartial and use the phrase “alleged Iraqi atrocities”. Dear Editor. Given their selfless sacrifice of thousands of Iraqi lives and $100 billion of taxpayers’ money – plus their miraculous ability to speak truth when lying – surely nothing less than sainthood is acceptable. Until it does. 83 . and what happened to the dream of increased leisure? THE DAILY EXPRESS & THE INDEPENDENT Both of these newspapers printed my letter on the same day (13 December 2002). respectively). The government has overlooked an obvious way to tackle road congestion: give employers financial incentives to allow staff to work from home. If only 10% of office staff worked one day a week at home. Why do you label certain incidents as “friendly fire”? The Iraqi regime hasn’t yet proved its innocence with regard to these incidents.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ dramatically during the technological revolution? Didn’t national wealth soar? So where is all the money going. we’d notice a significant reduction in road traffic (and pollution). Dear Editor. Dear Editor. The context is the Bush/Blair war on Iraq.

This is usually based upon technological capability rather than quality of imagination.NET (2) This well-known UK internet magazine printed recommendations by the “world’s top designers” on how websites should look. upon a set of anal design rules (no large text. In 84 . I was unimpressed by the corporate mentality behind their views. Where is the line drawn between news and satire? .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE INDEPENDENT Printed on 18 April 2003 (in the context of the 2003 Iraq war). Dear Editor. The British government warns France and Germany not to undermine the UN over the rebuilding of Iraq. Dear Paul. etc). I also notice a sort of design snobbery which draws a bogus line between “professional” and “amateur” sites. No wonder so many corporate sites look identical. of course. Britain bombs Iraq without UN legitimacy. I was unimpressed by the “world’s top designers”. no groovy textures or tiled backgrounds. They spoke the usual banalities (“Design is about communication”). They confirmed my suspicion that “success” in web design is currently more about conforming to corporate respectability than true creativity. clichés (“The user rules”) and gobbledegook (“Push the boundaries as far as possible while maintaining a commonality in design”). And. 2. Let me see if I've got this right: 1.

(You are not allowed to receive other channels that are not funded by the licence without first having a licence to watch the BBC.) 85 . In the past. the TV licensing operation has targeted local newspapers with press releases intended to frighten “licence dodgers”. Dear Editor. Anything to get away from the corporate designer-elite mentality. Opinion polls consistently show 65–81 percent of the public opposed to the licence fee as a method of funding. inappropriate bitmaps and gaudy backgrounds. There is now a growing campaign against the heavy-handed practices of the TV licensing brigade. From what I can gather most (if not all) printed it. The BBC prosecutes 130. Local newspapers will print anything. Perhaps the only way for web design to progress is by going through a sort of “postmodernist” phase (don’t laugh) in which anything goes – even large text. The licence interferes with your right to receive information.000 people a year for watching TV without a licence.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ many ways I prefer the old “amateurish” look – it had a naive charm which I find preferable to corporate-conformity slickness. LOCAL NEWSPAPERS I sent this letter (on BBC TV licensing) to over 80 regional newspapers in the UK. The BBC thus needlessly criminalises poverty. Many or most are on minimum wage or benefits. I’d also encourage web designers to check out the “Lowbrow” art movement for visual inspiration.

And it has suppressed debate on the future of the licence fee. Please visit http:// www. for most of which there is no demonstrated demand. Director General. Should the TV licensing people come to you with press releases.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ The BBC is not accountable to those who pay its bills – they must pay without choice. The BBC produces a large range of services. Going by the polls. a study quoted by the Guardian (22/4/2003) accuses the BBC of broadcasting government propaganda and failing to reflect the high level of public dissent over the Iraq issue. etc. All with money extracted under threat of criminal prosecution. It is also launching many new radio stations and internet/digital services. Greg Dyke says there is “no alternative“ to the licence fee. I would ask you please to bear in mind the above points. “independent”. A senior adviser to the government recently accused the BBC of being a “cultural tyranny”. but he told the Media Society in 1993 that it was possible to finance the BBC through subscription.biz or http://www. I think the majority of your readers would thank you for not publishing their threateningly worded material. including at least 10 television stations. the licence fee does not make the BBC independent but completely dependent on government. In fact.bbcresistance. Many of those prosecuted for not having a licence cannot afford the services which the BBC would spend their licence money on. For further details on the campaign. “public service” nature of the BBC. For example.com 86 .tvlicensing. A further concern is the claimed “neutral". which renews the fee and appoints the Chairman.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ A letter of mine published in a local newspaper called The Standard (written under a pseudonym). 87 .

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ PART THREE Interviews 88 .

and is aimed at what’s called ‘the anxiously inclined’. From the transcript of the Borderlines shoe: Borderlines Host: I have the first edition of a new magazine in front of me now. which has on the cover the earth from space. One of the journalists from the show had seen my cartoon ads for Anxiety Culture in Fortean Times magazine. Now Brian.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BBC RADIO WALES INTERVIEW The first media interview I ever gave (not long after publishing issue one of Anxiety Culture in 1995) was for a BBC Radio Wales show called Borderlines. Female voice (reading quote from Anxiety Culture): “There is more than enough to go around – you don’t have to fight or suffer for it. a satellite and a supermarket trolley – and across the inside back cover the message “Your home is at risk if you do not keep up payments on a mortgage or other loan secured on it”. God knows what the respectable BBC radio listeners of suburban Wales made of the broadcast. What exactly do you mean by that? 89 .” Richard Holland: Some of the philosophy to be found in the Anxiety Culture magazine produced by Brian Dean. and tracked me down to do an interview. Borderlines regular Richard Holland has been to investigate further. It’s Anxiety Culture. it’s clearly your belief that we are living in an anxiety culture. just find an enjoyable way to receive it.

The way we put it is that we’re looking at the anxieties encoded in the building blocks of mainstream culture – anxieties about work. anxieties about whether your life is as exciting as people tell you it should be – that kind of thing.. anxieties about money. anxieties about crime. Anxiety Culture is a magazine which focuses on the way mainstream society tends to overdose on anxiety... people would rather watch hours of shock-horror news stories which are going to leave you anxious and depressed. concerning anxiety in the workplace. (recording garbled) . in your opinion? BD: There are lots of interesting facts and figures. At the very least. which we quoted. BD: To give you an example. And the most amazing one that I came across was a major survey commissioned by the 90 . Forty million working days are lost every year through stress. we shows that six out of ten people in the country are profoundly unhappy with their jobs – they feel stressed and insecure. for instance. two percent of the gross national product is lost through stress-related diseases. rather than doing something which is going to give you a beneficial effect. There’s a major BSA (British Social Attitudes) survey. and they see their work as not being of any service to society.. RH: You use the phrase “anxiety junkies” which you accuse us all of being..Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Brian Dean: Well. RH: What sort of negative influences are there then..

RH: Right. from 1983 to 1993. However you have other examples to suggest we really do seem to want to be looking for these negative things to stress us out – like crime. to me. the number of children under sixteen that were murdered each year averaged eighty-six. on average. which is amazing really. we all need to work. But the more interesting statistic. Firstly. 91 . Now. per year were murdered by strangers. since 1973. BD: Yes. if you look at the real crime statistics rather than focusing on television and newspaper hysteria. Secondly. I think it becomes more and more apparent that the phrase “rising tide of crime” is absurdly inappropriate in some cases. the child murder rate has fallen by almost a half. I think. Of course. there are some interesting statistics about crime which I think say a great deal about how our fears about crime are somewhat misplaced. I think it’s obvious that the corporate culture really is an anxiety culture. The figures that I quote are official figures from the Sunday Times. is that out of those eighty-six murders.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ government which shows that one in seven people suffer from neurotic disorders – mainly anxiety or depressive disorders. was one example you gave. only five. 6th August this year [1995]. most people would argue that though we might be stressed. And that’s also reflected in the statistics for the number of prescriptions for sleeping pills and antidepressants – the figure I saw was eighty million prescriptions issued per year.

for example.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ RH: A lot of people. But it doesn’t matter if anxiety makes people more suggestible or not. Do you think that reflects a general increase of anxiety in society? BD: Yes. RH: So it does sound that as far as crime or fear of crime is concerned. you can say that. but in my young day there wasn’t all this crime”. Is that true? BD: But I think it’s a question of belief rather than a question of actuality. in those days you could go out after dark and feel safe”. what techniques do they use to grab the anxious and make people more anxious? 92 . So there are a lot of people who benefit from widespread public anxiety. And research has shown that people who are anxious are also more suggestible. that that’s something we’ve increased in anxiety over. If you look back at the statistics there’s nothing to suggest that people were any safer going out after dark in the thirties or in the fifties. But people will always say: “Ah yes. They might say to you: “Oh yes. since it’s obvious that it makes people compulsive consumers. But that’s the point – they felt safe. tend to look back to a golden age. It’s not the actuality. That’s a fact when you look at the figures. You can go a step further and say that it’s in the interests of advertisers to have an anxious public. which is the belief. RH: How do they make use of this anxiety? In advertising. though. From that you can see that advertisements work best on anxious people.

..Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BD: In advertising. and you’re suggesting that a lot of us – perhaps most of us – are caught up in this.” RH: Now that was a negative thought loop which we’ve just heard. because nobody is thinking about the effect on themselves. I think most people would deny being influenced by advertisements. there’s too much to do. how do we get out of it? BD: One of the main things we’re trying to get across is that your level of anxiety doesn’t depend upon what’s happening out there so much as what you believe about what’s happening. it’s exploiting people’s feeling of inadequacy. which you quote in your magazine. is if we’re all anxiety-driven and propelled by negative thoughts in this way. Female voice (reading the ‘negative thought loop’ from Anxiety Culture issue 1): “It’s too hard. of course. which makes the adverts all that more effective. mainly. I think. but obviously people are influenced on a massive scale when you look at the amounts of money involved in advertising. then you’re 93 . The question. It’s become a bit of a cliché these days that people in advertisements are all suntanned and perfect and beautiful – so nobody gives it all that much thought. To give an example – if you believe that the universe is fundamentally unsafe. there’s too much to do – because – life is tough – because – the universe isn’t safe – because – that’s what I believe – because – that’s what I am taught to believe – because – I have to be taught rather than just believe what I want – because – I can’t have what I want – because – I don’t deserve to have what I want – because – I’m not good enough – because – I haven’t earned it yet – because – I can’t – because – It’s too hard.

But for now. my response is that nobody has yet invented a way to objectively measure how safe the universe is. If. you’re going to feel comfortable. you believe in a universe that is fundamentally safe. which is the way you feel we all ought to be thinking. then for the most part. fine. So in case we’ve left everybody feeling terribly depressed and anxious. you obviously feel helpless. And if people say “well. we’ll leave people with the positive thought loop. because with a lack of safety on that scale.. So it’s a question of belief. RH: Right. what about objectivity?”. Female voice (reading the ‘positive thought loop’ from Anxiety Culture issue 1): “It’s unnecessary for anyone to have less than they desire – because – there is an unlimited supply of all the desired things – because – the universe is abundant enough to support the prosperity of all – because – the universe is safe and infinitely supportive – because – that’s what I have decided to believe – because – I can believe what I want to believe – because – I can do all the things I want – because – I deserve to do all the things I want – because – everyone deserves all that they desire – because – It’s unnecessary for anyone to have less than they desire. so people are free to interpret their safety in a way that advantages them rather than disadvantages them. thanks Brian very much.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ going to be constantly experiencing a state of panic and anxiety.” 94 .. on the other hand.

Anxiety Culture was one of the “organisations” they covered. ‘The bourgeoisie has picked up on these humorous activities’ frets George Mckay.” 95 .. disruptive ideas of their own. the activities of the pranksters continue to be hugely influential. marginal or self-indulgent they may sound.’ Yet Luther Blissett.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INTERVIEW WITH THE FACE The Face (a popular glossy trend magazine) printed a long article called Pranking is Anarchy in their October 2000 edition. author of DIY Protest: Party and Protest in Nineties Britain. since I thought that was probably what they wanted to hear. Anxiety Culture and all the other groups have huge resources of creativity. their techniques often adopted by the very forces they oppose. whose spokesperson says: “Groups like Anxiety Culture do farcical things with heavy political issues which make us laugh and sit with our need to be entertained – it’s not about dogma and you don’t need a Guardian-reading mentality to appreciate it”. their article quotes a youth marketing consultancy firm called Informer. ‘That’s really worrying. anger and an endlessly swelling band of acolytes with innovative. Among other things. rather than printed in interview format. I played up the idea that “we” are an “organisation”. in-depth interview (which is printed below) – this was used to provide material for the article. I gave them a long.. But it’s the concluding section from The Face’s article that I like most. as it seems to portray Anxiety Culture as one of the leading prankster-anarchist organisations in the country: “However weird.

Pranksterism is an important element – but not in the sense of throwing eggs at rich people. We’d like to see “maximum leisure” replace “full employment” as an achievable political goal. survival anxieties. For example. satire etc – using as much intelligence as we can muster. CK: What does Anxiety Culture hope to achieve? BD: There are some specific things. We’d appreciate it if the 96 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ A lot of marketing agencies and fashion gurus read The Face in order to keep up with youth trends – so I’m waiting to have some of my material ripped off by marketers (in the same way that the Idler’s slogan. “for those who live to loaf” was ripped off by the advertisers of a popular brand of cider). what your aims and manifestos are? BD: Anxiety Culture is about the fear and paranoia behind the smiling mask of “normal” society. here is the interview conducted by Christian Koch for The Face: CK: Can you give a brief summary of what Anxiety Culture is about. politicians see “jobs” as a cure-all for social ills. poverty. Anyway. laziness. it’s about psychological gimmicks and economic taboos (welfare. It’s about gentle subversion of bureaucratic authority and work-obsessed corporate craziness. We want to see basic survival anxieties alleviated by the introduction of something like a “Basic Income” or “National Dividend”. The aim is to stop people in their tracks through irony. We’d like to see this notion discredited. etc).

say. dislike of the paranoid-competitive nature of the business world. many facts. creativity. Plus frustration with my job. as it seems to have tapped into a rich vein of ideas. Newspapers used to report scientific studies claiming that cannabis was highly toxic and addictive. I think a similar thing could happen with the kinds of issues Anxiety Culture is concerned with – in fact I think it’s already happening. I’ve continued with the Anxiety Culture theme. And there are many. 97 . I think. CK: What motivated you to found AC? And why do you preside over the organisation now? BD: Idealism. I’ve not seen any reports like that for a long time. that we’d like to bring into public awareness. you can see how things have shifted over the last decade. perspectives. etc. The reason. viewpoints. We wish business people had a better grasp of the history of so-called “free market” economics – instead of ignorantly regurgitating simplistic “market” slogans. CK: What is the likelihood of Anxiety Culture achieving it? BD: If you look at public attitudes towards. less gullible public. plenty of ideas. causing brain damage etc. dissatisfaction with the media. figures. statistics. cannabis.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ mainstream media would begin to question a dominant economic worldview which is two centuries out of date. is a better informed. It also seems to strike a chord with people.

I ended up doing computer and business consultancy work for large financial services companies. CK: Where does Anxiety Culture fit in on the political spectrum? Would you claim that you are anarchist or neo-Situationist. but boring. and I like their ideas – but I haven’t met them or collaborated with them. It’s “authority hierarchies” at one end of this axis and I’m not sure what is at the other end. CK: A lot of AC’s ideas share similarities with the ethos of Decadent Action (especially Phone In Sick Day). or hard-line agit-prop? BD: To be honest.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CK: What is your own background? (I’m familiar with your work in the Idler – are you a journalist/academic?) BD: I trained as an architect. I quit full-time work in the early nineties. I got a good view of how large companies operate. The reason I’m not sure what’s at the other end is because for thousands of years we’ve only ever experienced authority hierarchies. I don’t identify myself with any of those categories. then I worked for several years in the computing industry. and a big taste of the soul-destroying nature of office jobs. Have you ever been associated with that flamboyant clique? BD: I’ve corresponded with them a few times. but occasionally went back to do consultancy work (if I could get it) whenever my money ran out. I think there’s an axis which runs perpendicular to the right-wing/left-wing axis. Still. Highly paid. The closest thing we’ve got to the other end of the axis is the Inter98 .

Nottingham Psychogeographical Unit)? BD: A cynical answer would be that people are jumping on bandwagons. So I think it’s a good thing that there are these newer alternatives like Situationism – at least it forces people to think outside of the Capitalism/Communism polar mentality.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ net. 99 . I think there’s much more creativity at large than stuffy politicians could imagine. On the other hand I can see how the “prankster” element – and the Situationist take on the media – appeals to people. Perhaps this explains why some of the Situationist stuff seems unoriginal and a bit dreary. Marxism is 100 years out of date. Another comment I’d make about politics is that sometimes. Adam Smith’s “classical free-market economics” is 200 years out of date. CK: Why are there so many neo-Situationist groups at the moment (eg guerrilla gardening. from watching TV. Luther Blissett. you’d think that the only economic choice available was between Adam Smith and Karl Marx. its appeal to youth and the politicisation or otherwise of young people? BD: I think this is covered by what I said before about traditional politics having obsolete categories (right v left) and limitations (Capitalism/Socialism). Young people want novelty and relevance. CK: What does the fact that there are organisations such as Anxiety Culture tell us about ‘traditional’ politics.

Success at that scale results only from “word-of-mass-media”. as in “Blair Witch [the popular film] owes its success to word-of-mouth”. a BBC Radio 4 journalist wanted my input on a programme he was creating. So yes. The best response I had was when the Guardian printed a long article of mine – I received literally hundreds of enthusiastic letters and emails. 100 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CK: What effect do you think Anxiety Culture has had on mainstream culture? Where do you think your influence is most evident? BD: Good question. The Guardian website links to Anxiety Culture on several pages – and I noticed that the other links which the Guardian lists on these pages have been lifted straight off my own links page. A BBC2 Newsnight editor phoned me about appearing in a Newsnight debate. etc. someone from Carlton TV wanted me to go on a discussion programme about stress and the rat-race. So to answer your question. The Irish Independent and the Big Issue in Scotland reprinted it. I’d have to look at the times when Anxiety Culture has appeared in the mass media. I think the mainstream media will increasingly make use of material from sources like Anxiety Culture. I don’t believe in “word-of mouth”. I was also interviewed by the Independent newspaper – but that didn’t get as much response as the Guardian article (probably because the Independent forgot to print my contact details or web address). The article seemed to have struck a chord. I also found that media people began to contact me.

To give you an example – a few years ago BBC Radio 4 had a story about government fraud. This was deeply embarrassing given the Conservative government’s position on the EU ruling on working hours. according to an independent report. Another example: A 1996 government report found that people working over 48 hours per week have double the risk of coronary heart disease. CK: Have you ever managed to gauge public reaction to Anxiety Culture’s stunts? BD: I’ve had a lot of people telling me the amusing places they’ve applied my stickers. Fiddles in Whitehall were costing the taxpayer £5 billion a year. “Avoid Meetings – Stupidity is Contagious” stickers in boardrooms etc. 101 . It happens often: I see a news item that raises my eyebrows. you’d think. The plan is to create an online database containing news items that contradict consensus beliefs.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CK: What has Anxiety Culture been up to recently? Where have you done this and why? BD: I’m working on an ambitious project called “Memory Lapse”. and was promptly forgotten. “Crap Job Watch” stickers in Job Centres. The report was suppressed – it made a few column inches at most. but the media pretty much ignores it – even though it has important implications. Except that the story was buried. A fairly important story.

102 .000 jobs which otherwise wouldn’t exist. The changes I’m interested in will alleviate survival anxieties – people will know they can always rely on a survival income. I’m not too keen on the word “destabilise”. But if you look at the Internet. young people won’t have 40 years of low-paid wage-slavery ahead of them. it looks like nothing is changing. and have had a surprising amount of success. Santarchy et al? BD: I’m aware of their existence. CK: Is Anxiety Culture associated with any other factions such as Luther Blissett. The Guardian published another letter of mine a few days ago. it looks like everything is changing. unemployed people won’t be stigmatised.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CK: Are things genuinely being destabilised? Have you got any examples? BD: If you look at TV and newspaper headlines. It read: Dear Editor – The New Deal has created 50. I occasionally correspond with some of the “Neoist” people.000. But it cost over £5 billion to set up. Stewart Home. etc – I don’t see progress towards these things as “destabilising”. CK: Has targeting local newspapers had any success (I saw the examples on the website)? BD: I’ve been concentrating on national newspapers. That means each job created cost the taxpayer £100. there’ll be more leisure time. less bureaucratic interference in your private life. but I don’t have any associations with them.

The problem is I don’t really like to deceive people. There are some pranks which approach “performance art” and which have a kind of poetic resonance in their own right – but they are quite rare. not just puerile self-aggrandisement or selfpublicity. CK: There is an NHS library assistant in Leicester who operates under the pseudonym of Henri Beauchamp. otherwise it backfires.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CK: Ever thought about sending bogus press releases to newspapers? Stewart Home once deceived the Big Issue into running a story about Salman Rushdie burning copies of the Koran on the fifth anniversary of the fatwa and has submitted spoof obituaries to broadsheets. It has to be intelligenceraising. I wouldn’t advise people to put turf on a statue of a national hero. Gentle irony and satire is what I prefer – where everyone can be in on the joke. BD: I like that kind of thing – but it has to be well done. That kind of thing is for would-be media celebrities. informing them of his own death. BD: I have toyed with the idea of producing bogus stuff. I’d never pull a stunt which would hurt or disadvantage anyone. For example. CK: Do you seriously advocate that people should not read newspapers. His pranks include sending spoof letters to local newspapers about the virtues of having a pet lobster or covert leftist propaganda. as the cynical mindset of hacks infects the content? How are people supposed to keep abreast of current events? 103 .

104 . as a temporary psychological experiment. There are a number of psychological tricks which will relieve this – but they’re just temporary practices. harassed state at work. writing some articles and expanding the website. employees often seem to be in a rushed. CK: What has Anxiety Culture got planned for the next six months? BD: There’s a book in the works – sort of Anxiety Culture: The Book.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BD: My viewpoint on this probably needs a bit of explaining. I think that’s a good metaphor. But I think it’s a good idea to take a break from “media noise” occasionally – to completely avoid it. etc. Language doesn’t just affect us consciously – it also has a hypnotic effect. For example. It would be absurd for me to tell people they “should not” read newspapers or watch TV – firstly because I read newspapers and watch TV myself. not a set of “Thou Shalts”. I’ll also be progressing the “Memory Lapse” database. due to constant performance pressures or deadlines. Anxiety Culture advocates the use of psychological tools (gimmicks) – little experiments that can bring shifts in consciousness in environments which are otherwise fairly “controlling” – such as the workplace. and secondly because I’m not in the habit (I hope) of telling people what they should and shouldn’t do. say for a few weeks. William Burroughs talked about “the word” acting as a virus.

conservative companies are not always too happy about the images used by the advertisers. It’s this state of affairs which led to my “The corporate image gets a little too trendy” postcard design. so it’s a difficult balancing act for them. as the “real world” has gone beyond satire. but they wish to reach the youth market. Obviously. So it’s amusing to see corporations copy pranksters in order to appeal to the youth market. the street teams in New York who run into the street to disrupt the traffic. those people from Scanner (CHK) who stood outside Virgin with placards saying ‘Overpriced CDs sold here’. Where does this leave groups like Anxiety Culture? BD: A Conservative politician (Norman Tebbit. Some people say there’s nothing to satirise any more.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CK: It seems that a lot of marketing techniques are becoming increasingly influenced by anarchist pranks – for instance. waving placards publicising the latest record. you have opportunities for satire and pranksterism. There are some interesting stories of advertising agencies “pushing the envelope” in order to communicate with cynical youth – and then running up against opposition from the companies whose products they’re advertising. Sometimes they axe the advertising campaign for “going too far”. I can see what they mean. authority and stupidity. Wherever you have bureaucracy. 105 . I think) said satirists and pranksters don’t contribute anything to society. but I don’t agree.

106 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Another argument is that the corporate world is simply “co-opting” everything the satirists and pranksters do. the government killed that particular advert. Not surprisingly. This was supposed to attract employers into the New Deal scheme. we’d better make sure it works”. I noticed recently that the ultra-trendy advertising agency. St Lukes (they did the adverts for the government’s New Deal) has a “Work Sucks” page on their website – and they even have a link to Anxiety Culture! One of the adverts they made for the New Deal effectively says: “since the New Deal cost billions.

In the 20th March 1999 edition. There’s no point in sitting around: life’s too short. You have to stay one step ahead of the others”. and he said: “I work from seven in the morning until nine in the evening every day and most weekends. In fact they asked me if I knew anyone who would be prepared to take a propresenteeism position. As long as you’re sincere in what you do. I argued against presenteeism. With free movement of labour in Europe now it’s going to get worse. and a self-made millionaire called Firoz Kassan argued in favour of it. He owns a hotel business. in which two people gave opposing views on a particular issue. that’s what matters. as printed. Life is about working hard and playing hard. I suggested the PR spokesperson from the Institute of Directors (but then I’ve got a warped sense of humour). I work for myself. Firoz Kassan argued in favour of hard work rather than “presenteeism”. My guess is that The Independent couldn’t find anyone to argue in favour of presenteeism. the issue was “presenteeism” (the opposite of “absenteeism” – eg spending all your time at the office.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INTERVIEW WITH THE INDEPENDENT ON “PRESENTEEISM” The Independent newspaper had a weekly section called Cross Words. regardless of actual work demands). The world is becoming increasingly competitive. Actually. were compiled (and edited) from interviews. I made several points against presen- 107 . with people coming in who are prepared to work harder. Our arguments. I enjoy work.

six months on and six off. The old ideas are carrying on and nobody’s questioning them. I had 20 days’ paid leave a year but I needed more. About five years after joining the rat race I started feeling extremely frustrated. 108 . But if you ask them if they’d still do it if they didn’t have to.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ teeism. The concept was created at the beginning of the industrial revolution in an attempt to get people to work in factories. Now I work as a contractor. work. Here is what they printed: Presenteeism is not natural. they say no.” Technology is a big part of the issue: we’re constantly getting more from less. By definition an enjoyable thing is something you’d do whether you were paid or not. and the factory owners found it difficult to make them come in and work consistently. A study by Proctor & Gamble showed that people working reduced hours are significantly more productive. I left and took a year off. but productivity was the same. During the Edward Heath government we had a three-day week. work. People should spend as little time as possible at work. but no one’s benefiting. but the edited version of my comments which they printed is more of a general argument against the Protestant work ethic. People were accustomed to taking a day off every holy day. so why are we working more? Production output has trebled in the last decade. the idea that to be virtuous you must work. The idea that you had to suffer to be virtuous was translated into. In fact productivity increases among people who work less hours. I asked my boss for some unpaid leave and he looked at me as if I was mad. If you ask most people whether they enjoy their work they say yes. We live by an idea that is out of date: the Protestant work ethic. If people started admitting they didn’t enjoy their jobs we’d have a much healthier situation. “You have to work to be virtuous.

and a well-paid computer programmer) who lived for ten years on the dole in his youth. 109 . But obviously all this has changed over the last 25 years. 12 April 2001). relative to the “cost of living”. Questioner: You presumably recognize that we can’t all pay ourselves a Basic Income. and refuse to do any work. without any work requirement). In those days. let’s go back to when welfare (called the “dole” in Britain) was more generous and virtually an unconditional entitlement (ie prior to the reign of Mrs Thatcher).Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BASIC INCOME FORUM This electronic debate took place on a special Internet forum discussing work issues (Why Work?. I know someone (who’s over 50 now. I don’t know what the exact situation was in the US. He says all he had to do was “sign on” each week – there were no other conditions for receiving the dole. The amount of the dole. I was asked to defend the concept of a Basic Income (a universal guaranteed income paid to everyone. college students could spend all their holiday periods on the dole. Certainly I don’t think there was the intensity of hostility towards welfare recipients that you see now. but in Britain it was possible to live on the dole for long periods without getting any hassle from the government. He is proud of his “drop-out” years. Nobody but a few rightwing spoilsports questioned any of this at the time. was much higher then than now. Or are you counting on people to continue working after a Basic Income is implemented? BD: Firstly.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Somebody told me recently that the successful horrorfiction author. probably never considered quitting their jobs even for a moment. A recent BSA (British Social Attitudes) survey revealed that 60% of employees find their work “of no use to society”. I can easily believe that figure. spent nine years on the dole in his youth. But. productivity remained virtually the same. Society didn’t fall apart. we had a “three-day week” during the time when Edward Heath was Prime Minister. Some people took advantage of the situation. Having worked in pointless Financial Services jobs myself. Clive Barker. Also. society didn’t fall apart. was a good investment in human creativity). That’s a bit before my time. Whatever you think of “Britpop” (I always found it dreary and banal myself). going back to those pre-Thatcher years: despite the easy availability of dole. but I’m told that despite all work being cut by 40%. revealed that virtually all of the musicians involved in the “Britpop” scene (Oasis. Most people stayed in their jobs. as I mentioned above. having families and work ethics. and claimed they spent this time developing their musical skills. Pulp etc) spent years on the dole. but most people. a survey in a popular music magazine (NME). More recently. in this case. Even if all these people voluntarily quit their jobs (which they probably 110 . there’s no doubt that it brought in a lot of tax revenue (it seems the dole.

I doubt there’d be any noticeable social effects in terms of lack of services or lower quality of life. Such is the impact of automation. where people feel obliged/coerced into taking a job they dislike due to basic survival anxiety. we might finally have a true “labour market” rather than a corporate-employment dictatorship. And remember. that more approximates a true “free market” (ie people choosing the work/activity they want) than the system we have now. If people can make rational choices based on their wants and needs.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ wouldn’t). 111 . For me. even in worst-case scenarios. of course) is because: a) it’s very bad PR (although it’s usually good news for the shareholders). So. and remain functioning as normal. Financial Services companies could lose 70% of their human workers. I don’t think Basic Income would create any big problems. rather than desperate choices based on fear and stress. b) they pay people such low wages that they can sometimes make a spurious costjustification case for keeping them on. The only reason they don’t sack thousands of employees (sometimes they do. the people most likely to quit their jobs under a Basic Income scheme would be those who currently hate their jobs most. taking all the above factors into account. and c) it would mean a big change in internal organisational/political structure – something that’s resisted within companies (unless someone fresh is brought in at a high level – this often does result in huge job losses).

depending on the practical details of how you work it. It could be tested in a small area for a year or two. The administrative apparatus already exists to implement it – eg the tax system or the welfare system. as is the French 35-hour week experiment. In both cases. then obviously you’d have 112 . By introducing the minimum wage at a very modest level. have a much better idea of how it will work in practice. it was possible to test these things with minimum risk. experiment with it in the laboratory of social reality. rather than merely in the theory of economists (who usually get things wrong anyway). and by introducing the French scheme on a gradual basis (it didn’t apply to small firms at first). But we wouldn’t know this if they hadn’t been tried out for real. If you found that everyone in the area took advantage of it by simply quitting their jobs. we should have a fairly good idea about whether something will work. The minimum wage is a case in point. conservative economists swore these schemes would end in disaster. while closely monitoring the results. as a society. but the only way to do this is by trying it out in some way – to test it. They didn’t – on the contrary. Yes. they’ve so far been successful. Or is that just timidity? BD: I think it’s timidity if we don’t even get to the stage where we try things on a small scale or gradually-implemented basis.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Questioner: But before a scheme like Basic Income is implemented shouldn’t we. The same can be done with Basic Income – at minimum expense.

There are different options to choose from. would be that it avoids all the complicated conditions that make the welfare system such a costly. which you stop receiving once you get a job). The current system. Remember. that you get to keep your Basic Income payments after you get a job (unlike welfare. bureaucratic mess). the income is raised until people do come forward to take the job. If nobody comes forward to do the job. 113 . obviously.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ to rethink – perhaps build in a few conditions (although the point. Questioner: How do you get people to do the “dirty” jobs if they can support themselves on a Basic Income? BD: The answer is simple: the marketplace – ie supply and demand. That’s how the “labour market” should always have worked. I personally like the idea of “negative income tax” as a way of gradually introducing Basic Income. in which the worse jobs are also the lowest paid is surely an economic perversion which only torturers and sadists would approve of. So the purely financial incentive to take a job – even a low-paid job – is greater under a Basic Income scheme than under current welfare systems. also.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CHANNEL 4: “FRONTAL” Channel 4 described their late-night TV show. Judging from the chaotic nature of the show (presenters talking over each other. but I think the transcript of the review is worth including here for amusement value. 114 . dealing with fringe popular culture”. I wasn’t interviewed (I sent them a copy of my interview with The Face magazine to answer their questions about my background). as “a combination of cutting-edge music. drawing a large national (UK) audience. Natasha Bell: I think we do. videos. Natasha Bell and Lisa Rogers (who later became one of those glamorous female celebrities who adorn men’s magazine covers) – discussing the reviewed material against a giant projected backdrop. Frontal. The Frontal producers contacted me about featuring Anxiety Culture in their review section. They asked for a copy of my “Propaganda Kit” to use in the review. Here’s the transcript (the review was featured in the show broadcast on 1st September 2000): James Hyman: I think we all work too hard – do you not agree? (Backdrop changes to the hypno-spiral TV animation from the intro page of the Anxiety Culture website). The review format was three presenters – James Hyman. Lisa Rogers: I work totally hard. Channel 4 advertised the show heavily. film. technology and the Internet. etc) it was broadcast live.

.... NB: You’ve got a kit here – what do you do with it? JH: You’ve got a kit – you get a lot of stickers. LR: (indecipherable interruption).Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ JH: Anxiety Culture dot com – this is targeting corporate culture. Enjoy your life. JH: Look at that (holds up postcard from Propaganda Kit) – “Team spirit means mob mentality”. They produce lots of stills [I think he meant stickers] – a Propaganda Kit. LR: Noooooo! JH: Enjoy your life. JH: Listen to this – “working more than forty eight hours doubles the risk of coronary heart disease”. NB: I like that “Crap Job Watch” (pointing to backdrop). 115 . (Backdrop changes to the Propaganda Kit page from the Anxiety Culture website). LR: Yeah! (Backdrop changes to “Crap Job Watch” graphic from Propaganda Kit). We should enjoy life more.. You can put this. blame James first. (holds up another postcard) and “Turn on. resign”. for under ten pounds. JH: “Don’t be a slave to someone else’s purpose” – have your own purpose. NB: If you’re unhappy with your job. Enjoy your life more. tune in..

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

One of the postcard designs from the Propaganda Kit referred to in the review NB: I never thought about you as a hippy, James. JH: I like to enjoy life – you don’t have to be a hippy to enjoy your life... Just be aware of corporate culture. NB: So you put these stickers all over your computer? JH: Put them in job centres, boardrooms, whatever. NB: Do you think this sticker campaign will knock down global corporations? JH: No, but it’ll help... it’ll help. LR: (indecipherable interruption).

116

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

JH: Can I just say a couple of their manifestos (reads from print-out) – “the more we dwell on responsibilities, the more responsibilities we get”. “Postpone worrying”. Why wake up in the morning thinking “I’m going to get the sack”? LR: So do you have to pay... do you actually have to pay for this? JH: You can pay for the kit... but read their manifestos. LR: You pay for the kit... so their manifesto means they get ten quid when you join... JH: Read. Read. Knowledge is power.

POSTSCRIPT
The implication from one of the Frontal presenters that Anxiety Culture is a grubby money-making exercise was particularly ironic, under the circumstances. I sold, in total, less than ten Propaganda Kits (including after the publicity I received from this TV show). My original intention was that if I sold enough kits, I could save money on printing costs per kit. As it turned out, I printed out each kit individually (home colour inkjet printers are great quality, but the inks and the special inkjet cards, etc, are very expensive), making only £2 profit on each kit sold. Considering the amount of time I put into creating the content of the Propaganda Kit (and into physically assembling each kit) – weeks of effort – the amount of money I made (less than £20 in total) doesn’t really put me in the exploitative money-grabbing bracket. But I’m working on it...
117

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

PART FOUR

BL~ISS: BULLETIN OF LEISURE

118

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

FAKE ORGANISATIONS
Creating fake organisations to serve as the ostensible “authors” of your work attracts more attention and provokes more thought than presenting your material simply as “a bunch of ideas by Joe Smith”. I recommend creating at least two fake organisations and appointing yourself Director or CEO of each. In a sense they are no more “fake” than a high proportion of legitimate businesses (which often use “trading as” names to hide the real name) or “front organisations” for political or corporate interests (which are far more common than most people suspect). Having a website address for your “organisation” adds authenticity (and can be set up for around £10), but otherwise you can just sign-off your emails, letters, newsgroup postings, etc, with the name of your “organisation”. Media people, in particular, are suckers for “organisations”. It adds credibility to their work when they can quote organisations rather than lone individuals. Lone individuals tend to be seen as cranks and crackpots, whereas “organisations”, at the very worst, are seen as cool jokes (eg group-created spoof and satire). Brian Dean Assistant Director, CANPP Campaign to Abolish the Nobel Peace Prize Osmo, Stockholm

119

who actually enjoy most of what’s on TV. if drafted. The remainder of this section contains the full text of the BL~ISS leaflet. BL~ISS is short for “Bulletin of Leisure ~ Independent Space Sector”. The End of Work at the same time that I read the flyers of a weird group called the Association of Autonomous Astronauts (AAA for short). It was basically a put-on. It came about because I read Jeremy Rifkin’s book. I combined the ideas of Rifkin and the AAA (probably without doing justice to either) into a weird mix. etc). smallscale creativity is entirely pointless. who. Some people might think that all this obscure. But they are probably the same people (to paraphrase Robert Anton Wilson’s description of “Pinks” in Everything is Under Control) who never have an original or rebellious thought. who believe what they are told by those above them in the power structure (family. although the leaflet itself was carefully designed and convincing in appearance – and it contained some valid information and ideas. corporation.Everything They Told You is Wrong BL~ISS BL~ISS was an “organisation” I created to distribute a leaflet in the late nineties. and then sent a batch of the finished leaflets to small press distributors (who generally like to include free flyers and other odd stuff in their parcels to customers). school. will kill whomever they are told to kill. 120 ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ . who obey orders.

No developed Earth nation can sustain this kind of growth. The End of Work: We are rapidly approaching a historic crossroads in human history.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE END OF WORK It seems likely that most work will soon cease to exist on the planet surface. To quote Jeremy Rifkin. 121 . from his book. The new technologies are bringing us into an era of near workerless production at the very moment in world history when population is surging to unprecedented levels. Global corporations are now capable of producing an unprecedented volume of goods and services with an ever smaller workforce. The clash between rising population pressures and falling job opportunities will shape the geopolitics of the emerging high-tech global economy well into the next century. Technology is already shedding jobs faster than markets can expand to create new jobs. Economists have calculated that an annual market growth of 5-10% is necessary to replace the jobs lost through technology.

122 . gravity-depressed government and market sectors. FUTURE HISTORY OF THE INDEPENDENT SPACE SECTOR As corporations and states attempted to exploit the commercial possibilities of space.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ The most important aspect of this cultural transformation is the emergence of the Independent Space Sector. they were sharply awakened to a neurological fact: the parameters of human psychological functioning alter drastically in zero gravity – obedience and conformity are difficult behaviours to maintain in space. space corporations quickly gave up on human labour and instead invested heavily in laboursaving space technology. More and more people are choosing to live in the Independent Space Sector – in preference to the earthbound. Frustrated by the misbehaviour of their employees. This has evolved and grown from what used to be called the non-profit sector.

puritanical mentality which linked the concept of self-worth to work (despite the fact that human labour had no commodity value – for years cheap technology had outperformed human labour in every mundane task). accounting. There followed a vast migration of human workers from agriculture to manufacturing. Inevitably. law. LEISURE IN SPACE Work ended in three stages. insurance. however: whilst Earth had unemployment. etc) was growing and could absorb the 123 . there was a continuous migration of workers from manufacturing to the service sector.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ One effect of this was the high availability and low cost of such technology. Cost was not the only thing in their favour. In contrast. Earth-dwellers still had the archaic. The second stage occurred when technology became advanced enough to replace most of the functions of human labour in the manufacturing sector. Independent space colonies flourished. space habitats had leisure. In the first stage. technology became advanced enough to replace human labour in the agricultural sector. the space colony inhabitants fully realised that outmoded notions of work had no place in the future of human evolution. airlines. so it could absorb the displaced workers. Between the mid-fifties and the early eighties. the cost of living in space became cheaper than on crowded Earth. The service sector (banking. Manufacturing was a growth sector.

technology had overtaken the human migration from sector to sector. The early space corporation workers were rebellious and non-conformist compared to their more domesticated earthbound colleagues. making human management. The third stage occurred when computer technology advanced sufficiently to accomplish most of the functions of the service sector. and a mode of existence incompatible with the traditional culture.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ displacement from manufacturing. Technology replaced human labour in the space sector before human labour had even really begun to migrate there. Advanced industrial society is in permanent mobilization against this possibility” (Herbert Marcuse. nine out of ten jobs in a typical modern city were in the service sector. Speech recognition software was already in widespread use in the mid-nineties. Artificial intelligence soon followed. Space corporations thus had more incentive to invest in labour-saving technology. By the time the space sector appeared. The result would be a radical transvaluation of values. THE WORKERLESS SOCIETY “Automation threatens to render possible the reversal of the relation between free time and working time: the possibility of working time becoming marginal and free time becoming full time. error-ridden and slow. in Eros and Civilization – our emphasis) 124 . clerical. By the late eighties. and secretarial labour look inefficient.

however. not based on their labour. the average weekly wage in the US was $387 – by 1989 it was $335 (and that is average. This is part of the reason why wages have become lower and lower at the bottom end of the earth market. or had work which provided insufficient income. poverty and epidemic anxiety. The failure of earthbound institutions to take account of these trends led to economic stagnation. With the exception of a small group of “knowledge professionals”. high-efficiency electronic automation. In 1979. 75% of the work force in most earthbound industrial nations engage in work that is little more than simple repetitive tasks. New approaches to providing wealth to individuals. the traditional link between work and adequate income no longer applied. The vast majority of these tasks can be automated. human beings sold their labour as a commodity in the ‘open’ marketplace. people were either workless. When human labour became increasingly worthless compared to high-speed. Human labour was no longer an important part of the production cycle.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Marcuse made this prophetic observation five decades ago – he couldn’t have predicted the rapid advances in space technology which gave birth to the Independent Space Sector and its non-formal economy of leisure and pleasure. The value of human labour is diminishing rapidly. not low-paid!) In traditional planet-surface economic thinking. growing inequality. In the Independent Space Sector. became necessary. many communities 125 .

Corporations and nation-states are. theatres) were originally created by the independent. creatures of the industrial era” (Jeremy Rifkin. libraries. The result of this was that the wealth. The reason for this was simple: there was a lot of material abundance (resulting from decades of production-increasing. they found it difficult to function as territorially dominant animals. in The End of Work) Many of the benefits of civilisation now credited to the government or market sector (eg schools. without ulterior motives of quick profit. in space. These two institutional forces have come to so dominate every aspect of our lives that we forget how limited their role was in the life of society just one hundred years ago. Meanwhile. wealth-hording personalities stayed on earth – without gravity. non-profit sector – communities of people pursuing common goals. labour-saving technology). the power-obsessed. yet it goes 126 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ experimented with providing material abundance to individuals in ways not based on hours worked. Conventional earth-scarcity ‘wisdom’ such as “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. THE INDEPENDENT SPACE SECTOR “Most people would find it difficult to imagine a society in which the market sector and the government play less of a role in day-to-day affairs. voluntary. and “if it isn’t hurting. became much more fairly distributed than on the planet surface. but no work to be done (most mundane tasks were automated). after all. hospitals. The non-profit sector is vast. it isn’t working” became raw material for many of the jokes told in space.

Unlike slavery.000 jobs over the next 127 . This was in a year when sales revenue rose by more than 10%. shed 50. The vast majority of planet-tied people remained addicted to territorial security-anxiety and continued to perpetuate the earthbound culture of fear. Sears. But those who had tasted space were inevitably drawn back to the BLISS cultures of the independent space communities. ie 4% of the gross national product. At the time of writing this BL~ISS bulletin. serfdom and wage employment.000 jobs from its merchandising division. activity in this sector is not coerced or reduced to financial motives of fear or greed. with a total income in excess of £17 billion. 1994) In 1993 the US retail giant.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ unrepresented in the mass media.000 voluntary organisations in the UK. In hindsight we can see that it required the neurological shift induced by zero gravity to bring about this transformation of human culture. we heard that Electrolux announced they are cutting 12. February 24th. There are more than 350. The independent non-profit sector came into full flower when territorial-dominance imperatives started to atrophy in the humans who ventured into space. EARTHBOUND GRAPPLING WITH THE PAINFUL ISSUE OF PLANET-SURFACE UNEMPLOYMENT “Technological advances are now so rapid that companies can shed far more workers than they need to hire to implement the technology or support expanding sales” (Wall Street Journal.

However. and is thus distorted every time the conditions for receiving benefits are tightened – the true unemployed figure is estimated to be four times higher). The official figure uses the benefit claimant count. Unemployment has more than doubled in the UK since 1979. this figure is widely mistrusted – by the Labour Party. and even by the Royal Statistical Society. back in the UK. before they came into government..Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ two years. “Hitler provided full employment. The claim that unemployment can be conquered by sustained economic growth has little supporting evidence.. Europe’s economy grew by 70% in the last 25 years but only 10% new jobs were created. Meanwhile. in Economics in One Lesson) 128 . nine out of ten jobs created since 1992 have been temporary or part-time. Prisons and chain gangs have full employment. (2002 note: Since writing the BL~ISS leaflet. the official unemployment figure has come down to below one million – claimed as the lowest figure for three decades. Coercion can always provide full employment” (Henry Hazlitt. Large layoffs such as these are becoming increasingly common as the technological revolution restructures corporate culture.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ PART FIVE PUBLISHED Articles 129 .

and concentrated more on the art of bluffing than this version. I’ve selected a handful of my own favourites. NO SHORTAGE OF ALTERNATIVES There are hundreds of economic ideas which fall outside conventional capitalist and socialist theories. An existing example of a Basic Income funded this way is Alaska’s dividend scheme. Nobel prize-winning economist James Meade proposed a social dividend funded from the return on publicly owned productive assets.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ALTERNATIVE ECONOMICS This is a shorter. The Idler article was titled: A Bluffer’s Guide to Revolutionary Economics. without work requirement or means test. Over the last two centuries this idea has been independently proposed under a variety of names – Citizen’s Income. People are free (but not obliged) to top it up with income from other sources. State Bonus. Winter 2002/3). which is funded from royalties on Alaska’s vast oil fields. amended version of an article I wrote for the Idler (issue 31. Some economists think that funding should 130 . eg self-employment or jobs. As a starting point for people new to alternative economics. Universal Benefit. The main difficulty is sifting through them all to find the best ones. BASIC INCOME A Basic Income is an income paid to all individuals. Social Credit and National Dividend – usually with the aim of remedying social problems such as poverty and unemployment. Several ways have been suggested to fund a Basic Income.

whereas the income from such work is subtracted from your dole under the current system. In fact. voluntary work. etc – are penalised or even criminalised under the current welfare system. perhaps not generating enough for a person to survive on at first. because they interfere with the condition of “continuous availability for work. making the idea of a universal income seem all the more affordable. whereas the welfare system aborts it.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ come from redistributive income taxation or a tax on land. whereas you would lose your dole. Many worthwhile activities – adult education. These ideas aren’t new – as far back as 1796. Many people argue that a Basic Income would remove the incentive to work and nurture an idle underclass. With Basic Income it’s more financially rewarding to move from unemployment into a job – because you keep your Basic Income payments. parttime or self-employed work – increase your disposable income under a Basic Income scheme. 131 . Of course. which he saw as belonging to everyone. compared to the existing welfare system. starting a business.” Most wealth-creating activity begins modestly. technology has led to vast increases in national wealth since Paine’s era. Many common types of work – eg low-paid casual. Thomas Paine favoured a state-provided universal income to compensate for the inequitable division of land. Basic Income nurtures such activity. Basic Income provides a strong financial incentive for creative and productive activity.

Every individual is guaranteed a minimum income (set above the poverty level) – if your income falls below this level.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ GUARANTEED INCOME Guaranteed Income is sometimes confused with Basic Income. but as your personal income increases. Theobald was concerned about the effect of technology and increasing automation – he thought it was time to dissolve the traditional link between income and work. is not conditional upon work. you automatically get a top-up from the government. the amount of top-up decreases. 132 . Guaranteed Income. since most work would eventually be automated. Theobald’s proposal’s were taken quite seriously by the US administrations under Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Nixon adopted Guaranteed Income proposals as part of his “Family Assistance Plan” bill (which was unfortunately defeated in the Senate). Several variations of Guaranteed Income have been proposed. the most well known being Robert Theobald’s 1964 scheme for “Basic Economic Security”. In fact. like Basic Income. but the important difference is that it uses a means test.

whom many regard as being on the right of the economic spectrum. via the tax system. This is a different approach from most conventional economists. but which avoids the degrading nature of welfare. fulfilling or “stepping stone” jobs – and that the best people to make this distinction are the ones doing the jobs. who tend to see all market-created jobs as “good” and “worthwhile”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ NEGATIVE INCOME TAX One variation of Guaranteed Income is the Negative Income Tax. Friedman’s intention was to create a system that costs less than the current welfare system. without the willingness-to-work condition. Employers can currently exploit the willingness-to-work condition by providing what Van Parijs calls “lousy jobs”. we should make the distinction between pointless. The Belgian political theorist Philippe Van Parijs argues that when we assess willingness-towork. WILLINGNESS TO WORK? Many so-called “guaranteed minimum income” schemes restrict entitlement. do you get people to take jobs which are essentially 133 . that Negative Income Tax was proposed by Milton Friedman. It should be pointed out to those who see this as a “soft” leftist idea. dead-end jobs and useful. how. among the unemployed. to those below a certain income level. which people are forced to accept. which would provide government top-ups. to those “willing to work” – a condition similar to that of current welfare systems. On the other hand.

true interest would be zero). since even the lowest paid jobs significantly increase one’s disposable income under a Basic Income scheme. but according to Proudhon. The current legally enforced money-issuing monopoly (eg the Bank of England or the Federal Reserve) keeps interest at an artificially high level – if free competition was allowed in the creation and distribution of alternative currencies. Van Parijs concludes that the best solution would be a Basic Income scheme with no willingness-to-work condition. As Benjamin Tucker explains: 134 . Josiah Warren and Benjamin Tucker. This idea originated with early anarchists such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. hence the willingness-to-work condition. Free trade is supposed to drive down prices through open competition. Warren and Tucker there is a fundamental flaw in the existing system: a lack of competition in the issuance of currency. the cost of credit could in theory fall to a rate well below 1% (the cost of administering the credit. This would remove the coercion of taking “lousy” jobs. but retain the incentive to take decent low-paid jobs.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ decent but low-paid? Under a Guaranteed Income scheme there is little financial incentive to take low-paid work. ZERO-INTEREST CURRENCY A different type of non-coercive redistribution of wealth comes from the old Individualist (as opposed to Collectivist) Anarchist approach of allowing free trade to drive down the cost of “borrowing” money.

is the economic recipe for an Individualist Anarchist utopia. With zero-interest credit. losses by depreciation of securities. It’s a good argument to use on “leave it to the market” types.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ “If a thousand men engaged in different lines of business unite to form a bank of issue. rent of building. The irony of this idea is that it follows conventional “free market” theory to logical conclusions. would be a more than sufficient motivation. expenditure for paper and printing. because nobody would give money away to landlords if purchasing was cheaper. the anarchists claim that zero-interest currency would 135 . and if said bank lends its naturally well-known circulating credit… do these loans of the bank’s credit cost the bank anything beyond the salaries of manager and assistants. the business people would establish a collective credit with circulating power. Tucker responds that in forming a network of such banks. and if this bank of issue unites with other similar banks for clearing purposes. enabling them to borrow money at less than one per cent – which. Get them to acknowledge that a currency monopoly is at odds with free market philosophy. housing rent would effectively disappear. In fact. without any monopoly. then point out that a genuinely free market. and sundry incidentals? Do not statisticians and economists agree that a discount of one-half of one percent covers the expenses referred to?” When asked why business people would be motivated to issue their own currency at a cost not exceeding running expenses and incidental losses. he assures us.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ eventually remove all forms of usury. LTERNATIVE ALTERNATIVE CURRENCIES Although it’s normally illegal. hundreds of alternative local currencies were issued. in which case they put a stop to it. The British government suppressed an attempt to distribute lowinterest currency in the American colonies (prior to the revolution) and quashed a similar attempt by Scottish banks – in order to preserve the monopoly of the Bank of England. The government mostly turned a blind eye unless currencies threatened to cross state lines. and not a Marxist or Collectivist in sight. It will be interesting to see how governments react to alternative electronic currencies springing up in cyberspace. including “profit”. Workers would be fully compensated for their work at last. from economic transactions. 136 . There are published records of experiments in issuing private currencies by the American Individualist Anarchists (eg True Civilization by Josiah Warren and Mutual Banking by William Greene). Adam Smith’s principle of “labour being the true measure of price” would thus come into effect through free competition driving out all usurious components of price. there have been hundreds of attempts to issue alternative currencies. and of course there are experiments that we don’t know about because of their secrecy. During the 1930s depression in America.

money can be hoarded – temporarily withheld from the market for speculative purposes – without exposing its holder to losses. would result in people receiving the full proceeds of their own labour. For example. he argued. the distortions in the system caused by hoarding and other forms of usury would be removed. can’t be hoarded without significant costs – either in the natural deterioration of the goods. Gesell proposed “rusting bank notes” (a metaphor for negative-interest money). 137 . With money behaving more like real material wealth. In order to encourage the natural circulation of wealth instead of speculative hoarding. but that it tends to be used as an instrument of power. which required a stamp to be affixed to the back of a money note each month. or in the cost of storage. on the other hand. to revalidate it. and would enable large sections of the population to quit wage slavery and work in an autonomous manner in private and co-operative enterprises. to bring about an “organic reform” of the monetary system. capable of dominating and distorting the market.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ STAMP SCRIP In 1891 an Argentinian businessman and economist named Silvio Gesell went one step further than the Individualist Anarchists by proposing a system of negative interest currency. This. Gesell believed that money is fine as a medium of exchange. The most well-known form of this currency was “stamp scrip”. Real material goods.

In fact. shortly after the dismantling of the gold standard and the Bretton Woods system (which regulated international currencies). a new water system. But when hundreds of other Austrian towns came up with plans to copy the successful Wörgl scheme. 138 . etc. THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Apart from the possibility of alternative electronic currencies. The resulting currency. The first electronic money-trading system was opened by Reuters in 1973. so people spent the money as fast as possible. 90% of capital transactions had involved the “real economy”. most “digital economy” propaganda looks like standard Reaganite or Thatcherite economics disguised by techno-gibberish. the central bank panicked because of the threat to its monopoly. the “digital economy” hasn’t delivered much of revolutionary economic impact. a ski jump. Wörgl stamp scrip. repaved streets. From earliest records up until then. ie trade and investment. with 95% being short-term speculation. with only 10% being speculation. was designed to automatically earn negative interest. Each month its holders had to pay a stamp fee of 1% of the value of the note. during the depression. Wörgl effectively ran out of money. so the mayor of the town printed his own. and it soon became illegal to issue alternative currency in Austria. This resulted in a huge increase in “real wealth” – new houses.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ A successful experiment with Gesell’s theories took place in the Austrian town of Wörgl in 1932. By 1995 a staggering reversal had taken place – trade and investment accounted for only 5% of capital transfers. a new bridge.

By far the biggest profits come from currency speculation. they’re labelled as “spongers”. For example. We have some strange notions about the respectability of certain types of income. it’s detrimental to the lives of most ordinary people.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Electronic trading networks have developed a virtual economy in which most of the money is made not through actual investment. Short-term financial speculation tends to create economies of high profit. low investment. but through transacting in a sort of abstract wealth. conjured up by supercomputers which transact fast enough to exploit microfluctuations in exchange rates. huge profits can be made from a rumour about an indirect effect of a future transaction – but the future transaction doesn’t necessarily have to happen for the profits to be made. a Nobel laureate economist. He proposed a small tax on foreign currency transactions that would put “sand in the wheels” of international speculative finance. we congratulate them on their skill. low growth and low wages – in other words. When poor people receive modest welfare payments without producing anything of value. THE TOBIN TAX James Tobin. 139 . and thus help to prevent instability in the global financial system. Very little of this virtual-economy profiteering produces anything of value in the sense of “real wealth” – ie things of real value to human lives. but when speculators bleed vast sums from the digital economy. foresaw the detrimental effects of escalating currency speculation during the 1970s. without producing anything of value.

Supporters of the Tobin Tax say this revenue should be used to tackle world social and environmental problems. an estimated $100 – $300 billion per year would be generated.25 percent. depending on the formula used. With the tax set at the very low proposed rate of 0. A good ploy. therefore. who said: “I believe that the future will 140 .1 to 0. For example. Currency speculators trade over $1. is to quote foreign authorities – European countries in particular seem more open to new economic ideas. And it’s interesting to note that the UN and World Bank estimated in 1997 that the cost of removing the worst forms of poverty and providing basic environmental protection would be about $225 billion per year. advocates of such alternative schemes are likely to be exposed to arguments such as: “if it’s such a great idea. the French. Or. ECONOMIC “AUTHORITY” Most alternative economic ideas – even those as benign and sensible as the Tobin Tax – have been floating around for decades without being implemented. etc. Belgian and Canadian parliaments have already voted in favour of a Tobin Tax. As a result. the Irish government has seriously considered a Basic Income scheme. For example. you can quote intellectual authorities. why hasn’t it already happened?” It’s important to realise that the people making these objections are never convinced by logical reasoning.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ One big advantage of the Tobin Tax is the amount of revenue it would generate. Silvio Gesell’s concept of negative-interest money was supported by John Maynard Keynes.8 trillion dollars each day across borders. Only the endorsement by a conventional authority will convince them.

With a little ingenuity it’s possible to link a Nobel economist to any economic theory. for the Idler. why not seriously think about it? If the Tobin Tax can. you can always base your argument on compassion.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ learn more from the spirit of Gesell than from that of Marx”. If you have no authorities to quote. other than a total sadist. would not want to consider such a scheme? If zero-interest currency provides higher wages for workers. save millions of lives. For example. who would be so inhuman as to complain about the minor impracticality of the idea? Written in Autumn 2002. if a Guaranteed Income costs less than welfare and humiliates recipients less than welfare. quite literally. who. 141 .

Work-related stress and road rage don’t seem conducive to sensual pleasure. finally. fully believing in the mass delusion that we’re sexually liberated. the media lurches. it’s exploiting explicit sexual imagery to boast audience figures. or perhaps society wasn’t ready. robotic routine. then maybe we can claim. If we ever reach a state in which everyone can enjoy oceans of sensual bliss without the worry of a ticking clock. grey. Perhaps nothing important has happened yet. There have been attempts to start a sexual revolution – to release us from our humdrum lives of work and worry – but they apparently failed. from puritanical censorship to overblown sex-obsession. The mainstream intellectual coverage of sex isn’t much better – most of it seems backward-looking. we continue with our tired. When it isn’t issuing prim warnings about TV shows which contain “scenes of a sexual nature”. At any rate. but if it did occur why does no-one have time to enjoy the erotic side of life? Average working hours increased over the last three decades – which means we have less time than ever to enjoy our bodies. that something important has occurred. 142 . Meanwhile.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ SEX ROBOTS Most people think a sexual revolution occurred in the late 20th century. Perhaps they were blocked by the authorities. in schizophrenic fashion. as if everything of importance has already happened.

in one case. One wonders why certain individuals should be singled out for official wrath at a time of ostensible sexual liberalisation. book-burning (by order of the US authorities). Timothy Leary and Wilhelm Reich. Reich was the one who had his books and scientific papers incinerated). Three significant examples come to mind: Osho Rajneesh. but they are of particular interest here because of their revolutionary socio-sexual theories and the remarkably harsh treatment they received from governments (they were each sent to prison and expelled from countries. sexual heretics hid their ideas in occult symbolism and poetry. The more overt forms of the Inquisition have since died out. Even in recent decades there have been cases of sexual heretics being treated as “enemies of the state” – including imprisonment. but state authorities have always regarded Eros as a threat to “national security”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ It’s certainly long overdue. anyone who mentioned eroticism in public risked imprisonment or torture by the Inquisition. Centuries ago. harassment by government agencies and. It’s worth taking a look at the ideas of state-persecuted sex-revolutionaries. 143 . For that reason. Recently released MI5 files express the sheer horror felt by the British establishment towards the “depravity” of James Joyce and the “open sexuality” of certain Hollywood actresses. These three figures were controversial in many ways. Perhaps they held the keys to the sexual revolution that never happened.

we must pay a high social price. according to Rajneesh.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Rajneesh. His solution was for children to learn meditation as a form of pre-sexual self-induced bliss (transcendental masturbation. so to speak). lasting changes in society. the imprinting of sex-roles occurs in three stages: adolescence. but he also produced some innovative work on imprinting. According to Leary. and they saw the transformation of sex as a way to trigger social evolution. festering resentments and wider social problems such as violence all stem from our unhealthy dependence on sex as the only means of blissful release. etc – turns us into socially-controlled sexrobots. Timothy Leary was famous for psychedelic research. one way or another. repression. Leary and Reich each approached sex from the viewpoint of radical sociology. They wanted to create deep. This would reduce the dependency on sex and make the emerging adult sex-role less compulsive. Here Rajneesh echoes neurological “imprint” theory – the idea that one’s early sexual experiences “imprint” the nervous system with a “sex-role” which is acted out automatically and repetitively throughout one’s life. Rajneesh claimed that sex is usually a person’s first experience of “bliss”. In order to get bliss through sex. economics. and that we become too dependent on sex as a route to bliss. This over-dependence. sex-role convention. Dysfunctional families. adult domestication and 144 . His meditation techniques are intended to immunise against an imprint of heavy dependence. combined with the social control of sex – through domestication. morality.

It should also be noted that a domesticated adult sex-role doesn’t necessarily imply a “straight” erotic preference – as press reports of the private lives of politicians often demonstrate. year after year. Sex-role has wider social implications than erotic preference. Adolescent sex-roles range from wild promiscuity to puritanical renunciation. the medieval tarot card The Hermit. someone who spends 40 hours a week in a tedious job. Edgar Hoover and Pope Paul are the staunchest supporters of family life”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ menopause. the key to evolution”. a higher role”. leading to conformist.. Leary. He also stressed the “evolutionary” importance of extended adolescence. in order to provide “security” for their family. Consider.. herd-like behaviour. He adds that this represents the “genetic blossom of the successful species. for example. 145 . The domesticated adult sex-role is usually imprinted at the start of parenthood. including the careful use of psychedelic enhancement. That’s an example of a sex-role of “responsibility” and “commitment” within a nuclear family. noticed that most adult sex-roles tend to be robotic. for example. J. teachers. He mentions. To quote Leary: “Many non-parental roles are harnessed together in the domesticated society – nurses. Leary’s remedy for domesticated sex-roles was experimentation with various forms of self-induced bliss. but the role selected is not necessarily parental. which he says portrays a figure who “rejects or postpones hive-parental responsibility and searches for a new way. like Rajneesh.

Statistics show that increasingly large numbers of people want fundamental social changes: shorter working hours. The hostility of the authorities towards these revolutionary approaches makes sense from a sociological perspective. everyone brought up in a sexually repressive society. and his writings about “patriarchal capitalism” seem to foreshadow aspects of radical feminism. violence. prejudices. family values. fascist tendencies. Reich’s therapy. These 146 . unlike psychoanalysis. and often this would have a completely transforming effect on the personality. Reich argued that society would remain authoritarian until character armour (ie dysfunctional sexual imprinting) could be reduced in most of the population. more liberal drug laws. etc. But an equally large group resists such changes.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Wilhelm Reich is less well-known than Leary or Rajneesh. worked directly on the body to dissolve deep-seated muscular and respiratory tensions. but he had a big influence on the New Age movement. sense of duty. Character armour is an inhibiting psychological defense mechanism which manifests as chronic “uptight” muscular tension – it affects. Reich believed that the social effect of character armour was “emotional plague” – a term he invented for the all irrational bigotries. so prevalent in supposedly “civilised” society. in varying degrees. Dissolving character armour would free people from rigid socio-sexual imprints. etc. Reich’s method for transforming sex was a form of therapy designed to dissolve “character armour”. Those who wish to preserve the status quo fear a perceived “breakdown” in morals. etc.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ moral anxieties come from individuals with relatively conservative sex-roles. etc. Or at least that seems to be the hope of certain tabloids. but the more robotic the sex-role. rather than be psychologically terrorised by a set of absolute “rights” and “wrongs” imposed by a group of people with a “moral guardian” sex-role. the conservative media can easily use this concept to stir up hysteria. meditation. The only kind of “decency” under threat is the kind that’s rigidly defined by paranoid authoritarian types. The only kind of “family life” under threat is the 147 . The only kind of “love” and “respect” under threat from a sexual revolution is the kind based on fearful conformity. people would think for themselves. In other words. who tend to monopolise the notion of “morality”. Morality seems to be a function of the domesticated adult sex-role. Children and adolescents don’t create morals. Unfortunately. Only a total robot could fail to be sceptical about the sentimental notions surrounding so-called “family values”. the result is as predictable as pressing the buttons on a mechanical device. family life. It follows that releasing people from sex-role robotry – with the help of therapy. De-robotised individuals will question this media hysteria. the more predictable the morals. etc – would tend to “loosen” morals. Morality differs with various types of adult sexrole. drugs. decency. They simply equate “moral relativity” with an attack on love. Once you press the “moral outrage” buttons of the domesticated readership. respect.

domesticated way? The understandable reluctance of the authorities to lose robotic control of the domesticated herd perhaps explains why the sexual revolution has been postponed. “honour”. Summer 2002. but because we’ll finally have enough time to enjoy the simple. we’re sure to notice when the sexual revolution finally arrives – not because of a sudden flood of porn or a “breakdown” in family life. sensual pleasures of life. etc – sound hollow from outside a domesticated sex-role. 148 . An alternative version of this article was published in The Idler. How do you control people if they don’t respond to these values in a pre-programmed.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ kind that raises children to be too stupid or neurotic to see through the domesticated adults’ hypocritical bullshit. If a sexual revolution succeeded in diminishing the social value placed on domesticated sex-roles. The values used to motivate people to work like slaves or support bogus wars – “responsibility”. Whatever the reason for its postponement. many people in authority would get nervous. Or perhaps the explanation is simply that most people aren’t ready to lose their domesticated values. “duty”. issue 30.

” There’s a fine line between concern and paranoia when it comes to the belief in an all-consuming corporate monster. the cooler they seem. According to advertising critic Leslie Savan. who says (in an interview with Savan): “I just don’t know where we can go with our art because they’re just absorbing it. The corporate absorption of counterculture ideas is the subject of an increasingly large number of books. but it’s another thing to regard everybody within ten miles of a 149 . magazines and websites. thirst is everything” TV commercial. They’re amoebae. Ever since Sprite’s “image is nothing. Some. regard it as healthy. These “anti-advertising” ad campaigns have proven popular with many corporations. It’s one thing to feel dismayed at seeing a talented comedian doing a beer commercial. but most echo Negativland’s Mark Hosler. they can constantly take in anything and come off seeming hip” (quoted in Stay Free! magazine). “some of them are savvy enough to know that the more they sponsor messages that attack [mindless consumerism]. like Douglas Rushkoff. ad agencies have churned out a sort of watered-down anti-consumerism aimed at the youth market.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE COMPROMISED ANTI-CONSUMERIST This article was commissioned by a magazine (which will remain nameless) with a high circulation among the London club scene. author of Children of Chaos. Unlike the other articles in this anthology. it was never published – the magazine backed out at the last moment and never paid me.

we can use the opponent’s weaknesses to unbalance him. But first we must recognise our own weaknesses. Instead of obsessing over corporate strengths. This is individualistic. Advertisers have plenty of experience selling those things. if an individual hates working at a particular job. so as to become less dependent on a regular salary. On the surface. simpler lifestyle. Perhaps there are weaknesses in the anti-consumerist message which allow it to be appropriated so easily by corporations. frugality and environmentalism. Like a kung fu master. the solution is for that individual to adopt a cheaper. the anti-consumerist approach seems reasonably sound: individuals can choose not to buy into a lifestyle which perpetuates the capitalist system and destroys the environment. It might seem reasonable to diagnose paranoia when. for example. Are there any weaknesses in this approach which can be exploited by corporate advertising? Probably – at least at a superficial level. Any approach which advocates an individual lifestyle is obviously fodder for advertisers. Identifying all the ways in which corporations co-opt and corrupt does nothing but reinforce the idea of corporate invincibility. It hardly matters that the lifestyle in question is one of simplicity. a person suspects all liberals and mainstream journalists of working for the Corporate Devil. it might be more effective to tune into their weaknesses. Paranoia is not a good strategy. bottom-up thinking: anti-consumerists believe it’s naive to expect governments or corporations to improve in a top-down way. 150 . So.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ corporate logo as suspicious.

anti-consumerists are part of a broad libertarian tradition which has always been an easy target for advertisers. Or. By contrast. It’s quite difficult to imagine. The free-market philosophy. is about individuals doing their own thing and taking personal responsibility for their financial situation. “free-enterprise” entrepreneurs have no faith in governments or top-down solutions. If you feel underpaid then maybe you should adopt a less expensive lifestyle or find another job” – which. is similar to what an anti-consumerist might say. state welfare. where a maximum 35 hour working week has been introduced. though not impossible: “Social concern. which supposedly underlies capitalism. consider the opposite: a top-down “social” approach. a capitalist employer would say “your financial situation is your own individual responsibility. it’s much easier to imagine anti-consumerist ideas being co-opted because they fall into the American ethos of rugged individualism – of responsible. etc. and the great taste of Pepsi!” Maybe not. Now try to imagine an American ad agency co-opting the ideas behind these top-down social policies in order to sell consumer products. France. heroic individuals taking a stand and proudly refusing social charity. a European socialist government which implements a generous welfare system. Faced with a poverty-stricken employee. oddly. To put the individualistic. For example. In that sense.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ At a deeper level it should be recognised that an individualistic. bottom-up approach underlies not just anticonsumerism but also free-market economic thinking. bottom-up approach in perspective. 151 . Like the anti-consumerists. say.

Her answer was: “I believe that the most fundamental core belief of this movement is self-determination”. author of No Logo. decadent. She repeated the term “self-determination” a few times as being the best strategy against corporate dominance.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ One further example will hopefully make this point clear: Naomi Klein. from the popular anti-capitalist magazine ZNet. described modern consumer society as a rotting. corrupt. an article called Rotting Away: The Political Economy of Corruption and Decadence. and is a fetish of entrepreneurs. Ironically. tainted. This kind of language sounds very similar to rightwing Protestant Christians condemning “immoral” society. Another potential weakness of anti-consumerists is their moralistic attitude towards the “instant gratification” of consumerism. For example. social and economic – from arbitrary encrustations of moral and spiritual correctness. toxic cesspool. The problem is that “self-determination” is also part of the ethos of capitalism. So it’s difficult to see how preaching “self-determination” is a solution to a capitalist system which has been preaching “self-determination” for years. After all. It helps to distinguish valid anti-consumerist arguments – eg environmental. one person’s “purity” is another person’s “corrup152 . was recently asked in a newspaper interview how the anti-consumerist movement could best fight the corporate system. In fact. much of the language used by anti-consumerists when disapproving of “materialism” and approving of “simplicity” reminds me of Protestant ethics. dirty. the foundations of the capitalist edifice were built by Protestant industrialists who had a similar disliking of decadence and instant gratification.

then mightn’t it also work for anticonsumerists? “Co-opt” doesn’t mean Adbusters-style parody – it means bringing something onto your own side.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ tion”. The fact that ad agencies have already started to exploit the popularity of “simplicity” and “purity” should be sufficient evidence of this. co-opting works so well as a tactic for corporations. Anti-consumerists have a problem with this because bringing on board anything remotely “capitalist” is regarded as “compromising” and “corrupting” rather than co-opting. Here’s another quote from the advertising critic Leslie Savan.” If. etc – are automatically seen as the enemy. and therefore rejected. They just become bigger and bigger and more powerful. mainstream TV producers. as Savan claims. us-and-them terms. This is the result of thinking strictly in black-and-white. they’ve incorporated the critique so they can go beyond that. Spiritual judgements are highly subjective and therefore easily appropriated by advertisers. The critique has to rise to another level and then they’ll incorporate that. as that would pollute the purity of the anti-corporate ideals. They’ve surmounted it. Grey areas are not allowed. There is no attempt made to co-opt them. People who inhabit the grey areas – woolly liberals. describing how corporations co-opt everything (taken from Stay Free! magazine): “We can throw anti-commercial messages at them and they incorporate it and become immune to it. by 153 . Corporations.

” And. anti-wage slavery movement is a bush fire waiting to ignite. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment. stressedout corporate employees want escape. whereas it now appears finite and corrupt. Most of these individuals dislike being wage slaves and see their work as drudgery. by having sufficient leisure time to experience that enjoyment.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ contrast. 154 . pro-pleasure. especially when activists themselves make frequent use of computer technology. are not pursuing ideological purity. CORPORATE WEAKNESSES Now let’s expose the soft underbelly of the corporate empire. importantly. Ironically. To quote William Blake: “the whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy. but collections of thousands of individual human beings trapped in bureaucratic monotony. There is one other potential flaw in anti-consumerism: lack of consensus over technology. Millions of bored. the main vulnerability of corporations is that they are not vast dunghills of evil. The pro-leisure. when taken to a logical conclusion. and thus appear to be fundamentally hypocritical. express an anti-technology viewpoint – some even advocate a return to a pre-industrial society. so they own the grey areas by default. which gives them a big advantage. This strand of anti-consumerism can easily be attacked. Many anti-consumerist arguments.

But what if these convenient intellectual theories were widely discredited? What if a popular philosophical revolution kicked away all the respectable intellectual justifications for greed? The corporate world’s biggest weakness is its phony intellectual self-justification. If youth culture reflects artistic and intellec- 155 . which means they want to be liked and respected. literature. So when a couple of marketing consultants (Janine Lopiano-Misdom and Joanne De Luca) publish a book called: “Street Trends: How Today’s Alternative Youth Cultures are Creating Tomorrow’s Mainstream Markets”. Even billionaire capitalists like George Soros criticise the logic of the corporate economic worldview (which Soros calls “market fundamentalism”).Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ But what about the corporate chiefs? The tiny minority of humans who head corporations are rich and powerful. And in order to be respected. but they’re probably not James Bond-type megalomaniac villians. Many contemporary movements in science. there’s no reason to be paranoid about “co-opting”. art. they justify their greed and ruthlessness in intellectual terms – usually by a combination of neo-classical economics and Social Darwinism. They have human weaknesses such as vanity. psychology. popular music. its increasingly hollowsounding “free-market” rhetoric. It’s no longer just political dissidents who sneer at market economics – everybody is starting to sneer. religion. and this trend is seeping into popular culture – especially youth culture. sociology and philosophy are opposed to market fundamentalism.

Their own stupidity will ultimately undermine them. If anything. Meanwhile. in its current forms. but they’re also stupid. Morbid obsession with corporate power is self-defeating and depressing. Valid intellectual dissent is never really “co-opted”. anti-consumerism. Corporations may be huge and wealthy. then even watered-down. it functions as a Trojan Horse when corporations try to “absorb” it. has flaws that can easily be exploited by advertisers and corporate PR agencies. SUMMARY/CONCLUSIONS Paranoia is not a good strategy – it turns you into an eternal victim. Written in January 2001. co-opted youth culture can undermine corporate fundamentalism in unpredictable ways.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ tual innovation. 156 .

The extensive use of the Wonderlic test (it’s the world’s most widely used employee intelligence test) has a sinister implication. Employers who use the Wonderlic test take the threat of over-intelligent workers very seriously. or they might spread a mood of frustration and disenchantment throughout the workplace. etc. But the only guaranteed way to achieve this is mass lobotomy. The idea behind the Wonderlic Personnel Test is that people can be too stupid or too bright for a job. For example. After herding people into office 157 . many US police force job applicants have been rejected for scoring too highly in the test (one applicant sued in federal court for unfair disqualification). If too bright. office administration. they might become bored and leave. The corporate world seems fully aware that most jobs require relatively low intelligence.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ OFFICE RAT MAZE Intelligence tests are often used by employers to weed out brainless job candidates. otherwise their employers won’t profit. High intelligence is seen as a hindrance. because there’s no way that intelligent people would tolerate 40 hours of tedious monotony every week. but an increasing number of UK companies use a test designed to identify candidates who are too smart. It follows that full employment – the holy grail of conservative politicians – would require low intelligence in most of the population. the frustration they feel must be managed and contained. If large numbers of intelligent people are forced into tedious jobs. security guards. The majority of jobs being created seem to be low-paid and soul-destroying: telesales.

Subjective mental states like happiness or boredom were dismissed as irrelevant to the scientific process. Behaviourism treated humans like rats in a maze. and it wasn’t too long before Gestalt psychologists challenged this reductionist. mechanistic view of people. in activities which insult their intelligence? It seems like a huge management problem. but had as much to do with the feelings and perceptions of workers. how do you keep them productive. 158 . a scientific management approach was taking hold in industry – for example. Modern psychology. One branch of psychology in particular has provided important advances in management control. In the early 1900s.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ buildings. time and motion studies emphasised observable. week after week. has been a happy hunting ground for company bosses wanting to maximise performance and discipline. behaviourism revolutionised psychology by focusing entirely on objectively measurable human responses to stimuli. industry has always had this problem. Captains of industry have forever been on the lookout for ways to increase management control of worker productivity. Scientific management was also criticised: studies conducted in the 1930s showed that worker productivity was not determined entirely by the workplace. At the same time. To an extent. measurable worker behaviour. in particular. The job of both the psychologist and the manager was to manipulate the human environment to produce the desired results.

largely due to the work of B. For example. Skinner made some important advances on classical Pavlovian conditioning (he developed the concept of “operant conditioning”). behaviourism became popular again. Cognitive dissonance is a term for what happens when we think or act in ways which contradict our self-image. Another relevant area of psychology is cognitive dissonance. self-loathing ennui. And we shouldn’t be fooled by company PR about sensitivity to the feelings of employees. In spite of occasional management trends towards a warmer. Skinner’s advanced conditioning techniques found their way into industry by way of organisational behaviour modification and contingency management. but with no distractions available. more humanistic approach (consideration of the needs and goals of individuals. 159 . we experience a kind of restless. read a newspaper. etc).F. behaviourism remains the favourite approach of those who like to be in control.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ During the 1950s. which sheds light on the peculiar psychological torture experienced by many office workers. There’s nowhere to hide anymore. etc). Skinner. After a lot of experimenting on rats and pigeons. Modern office technology provides managers with the ultimate behaviourist tool: continuous remote monitoring of employee activity. We normally escape the discomfort of cognitive dissonance by distracting ourselves (get a coffee. This can be uncomfortable. some job roles require us to behave in an “out of character” way. embarrassing and stressful.

If you spend a lot of time in the same social setting. We regard personal identity as something unchangeable and absolute – a view which ignores the whole of modern psychology.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Office jobs supply the two main ingredients of mental agony: cognitive dissonance and prolonged monotony. expecting to escape office politics. employee pettiness and chronic boredom. leading to vast amounts of stress. Obviously this kind of behaviour doesn’t fit the beliefs we have about ourselves as essentially good. tangled communication. This diabolical combination is probably the biggest source of psychological suffering on the planet. If you join the army with an expectation of remaining aloof from the military mentality. For example: concealing what they’re doing from their boss. acting evasively. is going to have a hard time coming to terms with their own behaviour in that environment. telling lies. Due to the nature of modern workplaces (authority hierarchies. subtly redirecting blame. Individualistic westerners are particularly prone to cognitive dissonance because of our need to see ourselves as stable. decent. politics. Anyone starting an office job. Consequently. reporting that everything is fine when it isn’t. then you’re in for a nasty shock. self-contained beings. feeling intense resentment over trivial matters. making dubious excuses. 160 . Dissonance is the mysterious factor which turns boredom into a major health hazard. employees often do irrational things. rational and professional. corporate-speak. we underestimate the role of social setting in influencing our behaviour. it’s eventually going to get to you. etc. boredom).

At 161 . Cognitive dissonance describes the inner state of mind: confusion. Together. The only real escape from this torture is to quit your job. which is even more undignified. If there is no choice but to continue the job (due to money needs and a harsh labour market). pointless job (ie a fairly typical job) suffers the crippling cognitive dissonance of: “I am intelligent – most of my days are spent in meaningless stupidity”. But that means making excuses. more dissonance arises: “I am a free person – I cannot escape this situation”. Most companies promote the idea of freedom with endless corporate jargon about “choice” and “opportunity”. A smart person with a boring. This is a crude attempt to hide the fact that employees have no free choice. At most.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ How can you come to terms with your pathetic employee-persona if you see yourself as basically honest and dignified? The only way to deal with your “out of character” behaviour is to justify and rationalise it. Cognitive dissonance could be dispersed if we replaced the word “employee” with “slave”. Then there’d be no confusion about our slave-identities. discomfort and impotence. Most people would want to see slavery reduced rather than extended. Full “employment” would be recognised as full slavery. they have an economic dilemma: continue the job or suffer the humiliation of welfare. Behaviourism describes the external control: the supply or withdrawal of money and social status. We’re rats in a behaviourist maze. they contain the potentially vast social discontent resulting from compulsory full employment.

162 . This article was first published in The Idler. Winter 2001/2. issue 29.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ that point there would probably be a social consensus to dismantle the behaviourist mechanisms that keep us enslaved.

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

NAIVETY TV
A few years ago there was a minor public outcry when the BBC admitted to spending millions on the evening news’ opening graphics. These 10 second bursts of visual expensiveness were apparently intended to convey a sense of importance, authority and restrained urgency, so the viewers at home would sit up and pay attention. Judging from this ultra-high spending, TV bosses are anxious to have their news programmes taken seriously. This has led to a presentation of the news which, in its fanfare and gloss, is similar to professionally staged business seminars and political conferences. Unlike those events, however, TV news isn’t meant to be about persuading, hypnotising or dazzling an audience – so why spend millions on its presentation? Well, for one thing it costs money to create a convincing illusion. The news presents one of the most impressive magic tricks since the Emperor’s New Clothes. The illusion is of a serious, businesslike, adult world – economics, politics, stock market indexes and inflation rates – full of “experts” and presided over by “The Authorities”. Naturally we feel powerless as individuals to influence this world since it can be accessed only on TV. The slick presentation of the illusion – immaculate suits, gleaming studios, intimidating presenters and those costly visuals – has the effect of reducing most (relatively shabby) viewers to a state of infantile awe and low self-esteem. This news world is built on “conventional wisdom” – ie “adult” assumptions and clichés which can’t be questioned, because to do so would be an admission of foolishness or childlike innocence. Presenters and pundits
163

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

obviously like to be seen as authoritative, so they tend to fall back on safe assumptions rather than explore unknown areas and risk looking naive. Unfortunately, it’s precisely this lack of naivety and innocence which leads to the stagnation of media debate. These childlike qualities are valuable – they have the potential to embarrass the “experts” and expose the banality behind the adult gloss. For example, a child might ask: “why is Daddy always so tired and sad when he comes home from work?”. As far as I know, no economics pundit has ever provided a satisfactory answer to that question. Taking such “childish” questions as an inspiring starting point, I’ve compiled my own list of “naive” questions and “foolish” answers which I’d like to see featured on a serious news or current affairs show: Naive Question: Is school education a good thing? Foolish Answer: Yes. It’s producing exactly what society needs: economically frightened clones ready to slot straight into low-paid menial jobs. Naive Question: Do we have to be tough on crime? Foolish Answer: Without crime there’d be no need for police, lawyers, courts or prisons. That would mean mass unemployment and the end of society as we know it. The “tough on crime” policy is okay as long as it doesn’t reduce crime. Naive Question: Does advertising make any sense? Foolish Answer: The huge number of car commercials on TV makes no sense at all. How can the UK market for new cars be big enough to justify that amount of adver164

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

tising? It’s not as if everyone can afford a new car – most people have trouble paying their electricity bills. The saturation advertising for Amoy noodles is similarly puzzling. Naive Question: Is the “free market” a good thing? Foolish Answer: Many people claim the existing system is not a “free market” but “Monopoly Capitalism” based on protection rackets (eg land ownership) and usury (eg banking). This apparently goes back to the Bronze Age, when spear-wielding thugs extracted rent from peaceful settlements. These thugs were the first land “owners” (and the first land “lords”, barons and kings). The people they exploited and turned into slaves were the true wealth creators – they grew the food, raised the livestock, made the tools and built the dwellings. Naive Question: Why do adherents of the “free market” support the BBC? Foolish Answer: The market can be trusted to provide our water, food, transport, electricity, gas, communications and refuse disposal, but it can’t be trusted to provide our television programmes. We need the BBC for that.

165

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

Naive Question: Why does the BBC compete for viewers? Foolish Answer: It seems that the BBC is pretending to be part of the competitive market, possibly to disguise the fact that, with its public hand-out funding, it’s essentially the country’s largest welfare recipient. Naive Question: The BBC allegedly employs 2000 journalists. What do they all do? Foolish Answer: That will probably remain a mystery. Naive Question: Is crime the biggest concern people have? Foolish Answer: Statistically, people are more concerned about their dentist appointments than about crime. Naive Question: If TV reflects real-life concerns, why do crime shows outnumber dentistry shows by a thousand to one? Foolish Answer: Exactly! And why do TV shows never feature landlords or bankers? Naive Question: Nobody seems to care when neighbours’ burglar alarms go off. Would it help to restore our sense of civic duty if the alarms had a louder, more piercing sound? Foolish Answer: Research indicates there would be an increase in violent incidents due to noise-related stress. Naive Question: Is food safe? Foolish Answer: If manufacturers can’t prevent traces of nuts getting into food, then what other contaminants can get in? To restore public faith in the honesty of the food producers, warning labels should be extended to say: “may contain traces of nuts, rat faeces, rat urine,
166

etc). It’s not considered cheating to enhance performance with anything worn or surgically implanted (muscle grafts. whereas money is just numbers in a database. Many wealth creators (inventors. fingernails and assorted dormant and active bacteria of known and unknown origin. So they’re fucking with our heads while they rob us blind.” Naive Question: Should we teach children to be competitive (putting self first). human effluvia. Credit card companies make large profits from “late payment” fees. dead insects. human skin. human hair. 167 . Real wealth is what supports and enhances human life. like in the adverts? Foolish Answer: Banks make large profits from “unauthorised overdraft” charges. bionic limbs. But they tell us not to go overdrawn or pay late. artists. live insects. etc) are penniless. mothers. Naive Question: Are banks friendly. organ transplants.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ rat parts. toenails. Naive Question: Are money makers the real heroes of society? Foolish Answer: “Making money” shouldn’t be confused with “creating wealth”. Then we should teach them the importance of behavioural consistency. But otherwise they’re friendly. Naive Question: Is it really cheating if athletes use performance-enhancing substances? Foolish Answer: Only if the substances are ingested. or to be considerate (putting others first)? Foolish Answer: Both. and many money makers are useless bloodsuckers.

Naive Question: If labour-saving technology is getting better and cheaper. 168 .000 jobs which otherwise wouldn’t exist. and has created 50. than work in telesales. Naive Question: Why are there so many beggars in a booming economy like Britain? Foolish Answer: It pays more. “Perfect Balance”. so a politician can tell the country how prudent he is.000. Prisons and chain gangs have full employment.” Naive Question: How much does it cost to create a job? Foolish Answer: The New Deal cost over £5bn. Or to quote Henry Hazlitt: “Hitler provided full employment. “Just Right” and “Advantage”)? Foolish Answer: Because marketing consultants determined that 51% of cereal consumers have anal fixations about diet. flushing creative potential down the economic toilet. Watch out for forthcoming name changes: Bran Flakes to “Nice ’n’ Regular” and Frosties to “Blood-Glucose Boost”. Naive Question: Is there anything bad about full employment? Foolish Answer: Not if you’re happy to condemn half the population to minimum-wage slavery. That means each job created cost the taxpayer £100. why are corporate employees working longer hours? Foolish Answer: Because they’re slaves. and humiliates less.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Naive Question: Why have breakfast cereals adopted sensible names (eg “Sustain”. health and fitness. Coercion can always provide full employment.

big business depends on a complex legal framework and a powerful state apparatus (to enforce the laws under which businesses and lawyers prosper). Naive Question: Is unemployment high or low at the moment? Foolish Answer: When governments talk about their performance in managing the economy. They’re quite happy to see everybody else (particularly the less well off) be regulated and controlled. The amount spent on pensions is increasing because the population is getting older.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Naive Question: Is it true that hard work never hurt anybody? Foolish Answer: According to a government report (Mental Health & Stress in the Workplace). captive labour. working over 48hrs per week doubles the risk of coronary heart disease. where the government is powerful enough to fill the prisons with millions of relatively harmless people who are then available to corporations as cheap. Naive Question: Why is welfare spending so high? Foolish Answer: The total yearly UK welfare budget is £99bn. Roughly half of that goes on pensions. Many business people love the US system. Only £5bn is spent annually 169 . unemployment is “high”. Naive Question: Why do successful business people want less regulation and smaller government? Foolish Answer: Ironically. But when they talk of “cracking down on dependency culture” or “getting tough on the workshy”. Business people don’t really want less regulation and smaller government – they just want less state interference in their own activities. unemployment is “low”.

The amount spent on unemployment decreased by £1bn over the last year. As a cost comparison. bear in mind that a new British-US fighter plane has a development price-tag of £250bn. they can take jobs in telesales or supermarket trolley shepherding.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ on unemployment benefits. issue 27. Naive Question: Who really wants strong leaders? Foolish Answer: Only sexually repressed people want strong leaders (according to psychologists). yet there is widespread poverty amongst old people. This article was first published in The Idler. Winter 2000/1. 170 . so let’s put them to work. Naive Question: Why should people get pensions? Foolish Answer: The cost of state pensions is huge. There’s no excuse for laziness and dependence – if they can use a phone or walk a dog. Many elderly people are able-bodied.

Most company managers. Deep down. Employee discontent should be treated as a valuable resource. This is the medieval logic of “lower expectations”: no complaint is valid. Complaining is taboo in backward societies. Their prejudice is due to a fear of what we represent: the inevitable collapse of the corporate management worldview. communicates utopian “higher expectations”. it’s automatically dismissed or frowned upon. since things can always be worse than they are. unfortunately. authoritarian regimes and modern corporations. as expressed in 171 . Most well-informed people understand that complaints have a positive social function. whereas those favoured by management – the grateful and obedient – belong to a sinking past. Instead. The pointless meetings. the team-bonding horseshit. The reflex management response to staff disgruntlement is: “you should be glad you have a job”. are prejudiced against complainers – they think we should be more grateful. and that dissent should not be buried. in fact. the long hours and lack of time off – all fuel for my endless carping and growing resentment. The PR imagery. Company executives are fond of talk about “vision”. and being grateful. etc – though encouraged in every corporate slave galley. and we should always be grateful. the managers know this – that’s why they’re afraid. but the real vision is in employee disgruntlement. is conspicuously absent from corporate PR.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ RIGHT TO MOAN Office work brings out the complainer in me. the unrealistic deadlines. The complainers. for less pay. represent the future. you see. The “lower expectations” culture – working longer.

stress and overwork”. The high-pressure. but “business leaders” and politicians have no plans to change the situation. industrial-age hierarchical bureaucracies and Fordist production-line methods continue to operate. Protesters were particularly unhappy with the threat of disciplinary action against workers failing to complete calls within 285 seconds. But behind the executive vanity and PR cosmetics. The reality is thousands of workers packed together in giant sheds. Workplaces are still bleak. and ignore rumours of discontent. The Company directors believe their own PR. In November. Their boardrooms are cheerful places – full of optimistic talk. 1999. “the possibilities for monitoring behaviour and measuring output in call centres is amazing to behold – the tyranny of the assembly line is but a Sunday school picnic compared with the control that management can exercise in computer telephony”. impossible targets. TV commercials give a false picture of call centres – they show relaxed employees taking customer calls in pleasant surroundings.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ slogans such as “we’re aiming higher”. centralised production hives. call centre workers held a nationwide strike in protest against “a 19th century management style. etc. high-tech perspectives and futuristic management buzzwords. “the future is bright”. and workers are still treated as insectoid units of productivity. The Guardian quoted a London School of Economics researcher as saying. “now even better”. relentlessly answering 172 . Desks are still lined up in rows. traffic-jam work culture looks more like hell than utopia.

we can’t afford it. poverty was inevitable for the majority of humanity. Thomas Malthus predicted that since world population was growing faster than known resources. The usual argument against utopian social policy is economic rectitude – that. As we zoom into a bright new future. and: “must we always work?” A nationwide survey revealed that 60 percent of workers see their work as being of no use to society – so why not pay people to stay at home enjoying themselves? Think of all the public benefits – less traffic. as a society. lower medical costs and more people enjoying life.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ telephone calls to predetermined scripts. the famous utopian polymath. less stress. One far-sighted solution. Malthus’s forecast of ongoing scarcity. hardship and starvation had an enormous impact on economists and 173 . Fuller argued that the dominant economic worldview – that of “not enough to go around for everyone” – is seriously flawed. less pollution. In 1798. One of the software packages commonly used by call centre managers is marketed as “Total Control Made Easy”. and dodges important questions such as: “must we always travel to work?”. This lets the government off the hook. claimed that this economic argument is just a convenient excuse for government and corporate apathy. due to being based on outdated inventories of world resources. Visits to the lavatory are rationed and monitored. is to advise employees to give each other lifts to work. The term “sweatshop” comes to mind. Buckminster Fuller. traffic congestion and parking space are becoming difficult problems. devised by leading government thinkers.

Current inventories of world resources show overwhelming abundance of sustainable life-enhancing wealth – enough to maintain a high living 174 . he compared a modern communications satellite. Understandably. Of course. Fuller’s claims have been scientifically vindicated. Fuller spent much of his life challenging the Malthusian notion of “not enough to go around”. Politicians continue to remind us that we must “make sacrifices”. rather than raising their expectations. This process of “more from less”. then you should be grateful for what you already have. Over the last few decades. his prediction was cited as a reason not to give welfare to the poor – all attempts to remove poverty were seen as futile. He documented the technological trend of extracting more and more lifesupporting wealth from less and less raw material. is accelerating faster than population growth and is removing scarcity from the planet. Malthus was very popular with the ruling classes.000 tons of transatlantic cable that it replaces and outperforms. For example. with the 75. “cut back”. Malthusianism shames the poor into accepting their situation with stoic resignation. Malthus was later discredited – his forecast was incorrect – but his gloomy influence left economics with a nickname: “the dismal science”. not politicians or the well-off. he said. it’s always the poor people who make the sacrifices. If there isn’t enough to go around. “tighten our belts”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ politicians. etc. weighing a fraction of a ton. For many years. Fuller claimed that the Malthusian ideology of “lower expectations” still pervades mainstream politics and economics.

Humanity’s real mission. Fuller asserted his confidence in the practical realisation of this utopian vision: “For the first time in history it is now possible to take care of everybody at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. Our reflexes have been conditioned to dismiss ‘utopia’ as synonymous with the ‘unrealistic’ or ‘impossible’. “to make the world work for 100 percent of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone. back in bureaucratsville. Scarcity now has to be artificially induced to preserve an obsolete system of “haves” and “have-nots”.” In 1980. was not to fight competitors. Corporations see technology as just another way to gain competitive advantage. so the consumers don’t die of fright before they get a chance to buy the products.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ standard for every person on the planet. 175 . friendly gloss on all this. All humanity now has the option to become enduringly successful.” Meanwhile. And the function of advertising and PR is to put a warm. Fuller regarded the “us versus them” paranoid-competitive business world as a highly destructive combination of Malthus and Social Darwinism. for decades. Most people suspect as much when they hear that. but. Business people think they have the “bottom line” in hard-nosed realism: it’s a brutal world and we must all compete for survival by pecking each other to death like ducks. Fuller’s message is yet to be heard. as he saw it. Only ten years ago the more-with-less technology reached the point where this could be done. governments have been paying farmers not to grow food.

Those who plan to accelerate this process – the complainers. pushing competition to its own boundaries” – a notion very much in tune with what Fuller was saying half a century ago. humans have a habit of trying all the stupid approaches before hitting on the intelligent ones. This article was first published in The Idler. in The Seven Cultures of Capitalism. Unfortunately. fighting for scraps of wealth in a scarcity contrived by our own beliefs. in the English-speaking economies. 176 . a minority of economic commentators are starting to echo Fuller’s arguments. this seems to be a slow process. notes that “we.” Hampden-Turner then suggests that we redefine capitalism as “a function of evolving co-operation. which spreads outward. issue 26. as Fuller claimed. Charles HampdenTurner. Summer 2000.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Fortunately. the dissenters – should be honoured. Perhaps. with a time-lag of decades or centuries before stupidity is acknowledged. are still at war with each other. as they may be our best hope.

edited version of this article was published in Sleaze magazine (formerly Sleaze Nation).000. According to the Office of Fair Trading. Their PR dovetails with that of lying politicians.3 Part of this increase is due to highly seductive. but according to recent research at least one in five people in Britain resorts to debt to cover basic living costs. some people do use credit to fund greedy lifestyles. not them. The government doesn’t want you to think about this. with politically sensitive issues such as student loans in the news. 177 .1 Politicians want us to believe this is due to irresponsible spendthrifts abusing easy credit.4 While banks and credit companies make record profits from criminally misleading promotions. but often misleading. they’re quick to lecture us on responsibility. credit card advertising. Britons spend nearly three times more on their credit cards than the rest of the EU put together. The average debt per UK household is around £7.2 Of course.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ DEBT CULT A shortened. June 2004. the problem is you. In other words. The nation’s credit card bill has increased by 76 percent since 1998. painting a picture of an economy compromised only by feckless consumers who exploit and abuse the system. excluding mortgages. but overall spiralling debt has more to do with Britain’s low-wage culture and high poverty level. one in five credit card ads breaks the law – usually involving misleading information on interest charges.

especially if you’ve left the country. If you default on a debt. but if you can get away with it. you’re free to consider all options. only a small proportion of bad credit card debt is recovered by creditors. Depending on the amount of debt. Don’t allow them to lay a guilt trip on you.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ The first thing to remember if you’re in debt is don’t swallow their lies. then you would have a lot of trouble getting a mortgage or any other sort of credit”. Extreme though it sounds. Don’t let them dictate your “moral” or “responsible” options. the threats are relatively toothless. personal bankruptcy and fleeing the country are valid options for escaping debt. But if you ever want to settle down and buy a house. on average. The Guardian recently quoted an independent financial adviser as saying: “If you want to bum around for the rest of your life. Several UK students have already decided that. you might get away with offering a lump sum settlement of much less than the total amount you owe. leaving them with a “clean slate”. their best option is to declare themselves bankrupt. expect to receive threatening letters. including walking away from your debts. since after six years the record of your bankruptcy is removed from your credit file. They will screw you without a second thought – you owe them nothing ethically. With unsecured debts.5 But that might be overstating things. Once that’s clear. then bankruptcy might not be such a bad idea. Since. Ask not if it’s “responsible”. with tens of thousands of pounds of debt. 178 . it may not be cost-effective for them to pursue you.

bailiffs. one in five households are in debt to water companies. Unless the government fails to read its own reports. You’ll then be less likely to succumb to the stigma and humiliation of financial “failure” – you’ll be less easily pushed around. individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs) and anything else that might affect you. provided they haven’t been inside before. Remember the main reason for spiralling debt – Britain’s low-wage culture. than in the 179 .7 Wages at the lower end of the market are less now. Avoid companies selling “debt management services”. According to the National Consumer Council. Given the entrenched corporate propaganda on the “success” of the so-called free market.6 It seems doubtful these people are sacrificing basic necessities to fund spending sprees. Find out from internet newsgroups what people in similar circumstances have done to escape debt. Despite what they might tell you. Don’t let them frighten you. bailiffs aren’t allowed to force their way into your home. bailiffs. research CCJs. To avoid being scared.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ You may be threatened with a county court judgement (CCJ). this will need explaining. Creditors rely on scare tactics. one in seven can’t afford their energy bills. in real terms. it already knows the truth: that one in five UK households lives on a poverty-level income. etc. and one in twenty have had their phone cut off. Consider yourself naive if you think you live in a free market economy. walking possession orders. The only worthwhile advice applicable to all cases of personal debt is: lose your naivety concerning the role of debt in the economic system.

But this simply diverts us from the real problem: a financecapital system masquerading as a “free market”. the cost of credit would fall to the level needed only to administer it (well below 1 percent). we’re told. too. The truly affluent get into debt. because if competition were allowed in the distribution of alternative currencies. is educating people to handle their finances more responsibly.000 or more fail to clear their credit card debts each month or have other unsecured debts. 180 . This seems to contradict the media image of contemporary Britain as full of affluent yuppies – until you realise the media image reflects how credit enables us to appear affluent even in hardship.8 But the percentage of people in debt gets higher as you move down the income scale. often falling prey to loan sharks or “debt consolidation” firms. This is central to the personal debt problem. while putting everyone else in debt. The existing capitalist system does not – the legally enforced money-issuing monopoly (Bank of England) keeps interest at an artificially high level. whose primary function is to benefit the rich. of course – for example. First they blame consumer irresponsibility. The solution. The identification of capitalism with “free enterprise” is about as accurate as identifying a sweatshop with a stroll in the park. then they blame consumers’ financial illiteracy. the authorities blame anything but the system. 48 percent of people earning £60. As usual.9 The low-paid and unemployed are worst hit. A real “free market” would allow alternative currencies. Debt is disguised poverty. with ominous social problems.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ 1970s.

Debt makes us financially insecure. etc. PFIs are the ultimate in irresponsible “pay later” funding – Private Eye magazine recently compared them to “taking out a mortgage on a credit card”. Then the government lectures us on the irresponsibility of “buy now.10 Saturation advertising increases our insecurities by exerting enormous psychological pressure. This is the same government that embraced the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) as a way to fund hospitals.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ The high level of interest we pay is a monopoly-charge – a forced “tribute” to usurers – it has nothing to do with a free market. Student loans are another example of the gross mismanagement of the country’s finances. The people who run the economy see this as a good thing. etc. Britain’s overall wealth continues to grow. prisons. making us anything but “free”. pay later”. Alan Greenspan. rises in productivity. roads. Yet we’re supposed to believe there’s not enough money to fund the level of education 181 .11 Politicians are the last people to tell us how we should run our finances. as they keep inflation low (by being too scared to risk asking for wage increases). US Federal Reserve chair. The message is that depriving your children is more irresponsible than buying on credit. was reported as saying that insecure workers are good for the economy. Debt functions in this system as a social control mechanism. due to advancing technology. It’s often targeted at children. So people choose the “responsible” option of going further into debt. You can’t afford to be choosy about jobs if you’re in debt. so parents feel like failures if they don’t conform.

it’s remarkable that anyone would feel like a failure for going into debt – or feel irresponsible for walking away from a debt. The problem isn’t lack of money. it maintains the status quo. Don’t swallow this lie. Britain could afford to vastly expand higher education without burdening students with debt. Most of the country’s wealth is sucked up by big business and never returns as tax revenue. Given this structural role of debt. 182 . not Marx – worth remembering whenever defenders of the existing system try to pigeonhole its critics as communists. The Guardian estimated that Britain loses £85 billion per year in corporate tax avoidance – more than enough to pay the country’s higher education costs without a single student going into debt. This is Adam Smith. Proportional to growth in national wealth.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ that corporate Britain requires. This is partly due to the remarkable ability of large corporations to utilise offshore tax havens and tax loopholes.12 Do you ever get the feeling you’re being ripped off? You’re not paranoid – you really are being ripped off. warned that whenever merchants meet they tend to conspire against the general public. But such is the insidious power of corporate propaganda. the monopolisation of wealth by a small minority. It’s no coincidence that record bank profits are announced at the same time as record household debt. Personal debt isn’t just big business – it’s central to the system. It also warned that monopolies distort the market so that it’s no longer free. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. The free-market bible.

(7) Joseph Rowntree Foundation report. December 2003 (2001/2002 figures). Quarterly Bulletin. (11) Private Eye. (6) National Consumer Council report. (5) Guardian Money. 17/3/04. 26/2/1997. (4) Ibid. 183 . Autumn 2003. (10) US Congressional testimony.uk. quoted by Press Association.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ References: (1) Bank of England. 19/3/04. (9) Ibid. 12/4/02. September 2003. 11/8/03. (3) Evening News. 2/9/03. (2) KPMG survey. (12) The Guardian. (8) creditaction.org. Edinburgh. 30/3/04.

The most common problem is a mixed anxiety and depressive disorder. This involved hiding all my real motivations and feelings. According to a recent major survey commissioned by the government. useful idiots can be identified by their claim to like their jobs. more than 10 percent of the population suffer from a neurotic anxiety disorder1. one begins to suspect something beyond deluded sentimentality – something sinister and pathological. affecting 7 percent of people.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ANXIETY ATTACK Recently. rather than financial dilemma and survival anxiety. Vast quantities of tranquillisers and anti-depressants are prescribed in the UK – eighty million prescriptions in 184 . after resting for a year. I prepared myself to return to work for a large bureaucratic company. I got the job after a successful act of deception at the job interview. and over-using words like “opportunity” and “challenge.” The interviewer seemed convinced that I was there out of free choice and enthusiasm. We’re living in an anxiety culture and we’re driven by fear. a term used by the intelligence community. The prospect of going back into the corporate world filled me with dread. meaning those who unwittingly end up serving the purposes of others. while still believing in their own freedom and autonomy. but my money had run out so it looked like I had no choice. If that sounds like an exaggeration. When so many people seem to enjoy being economic slaves. In the everyday world of tedious wage-slavery. take a look at some figures. Financial anxiety turns most of us into “useful idiots”. or at least pretend to.

is to emotionally sensitise social comparison. deodorant. etc) and more external buttressing of their fragile self-image through lifestyle products and status symbols. for example. and so on. mobile phones. self-assured yuppie reality beamed into our living rooms during commercial breaks. The unsubtle targeting of our fears is evident in adverts for vehicle recovery services. not even the marketers themselves – a recent survey shows advertising executives to be “plagued by self-doubt and insecurity”4. There are strong vested interests in keeping public anxiety at a high level. Insurance companies and the whole financial services industry make billions from our financial insecurities. security systems. Employers benefit if the workers fear losing their jobs – fearful people are less likely to complain or rebel. The use of sex in advertising may seem crude and obvious. need more distractions (newspapers. No one is really immune from these social-comparison anxieties. This statistical picture seems at odds with the grinning. Forty three percent have problems sleeping because of work worries. alarms. so people feel humiliated driving old cars. The message is: good sex-bonding is available only to those who live like this. Anxious people make good consumers – they tend to eat and drink compulsively. Sixty percent of employees suffer from feelings of insecurity and anxiety. Fifty four percent fret over inadequate income3. chewing gum. cars. private health care. through repetition. TV. but the effect.. Studies show that people are more suggestible and compliant when anxious. The advertisers portray a world where all normal people drive expensive new cars and smile perpetually. and rapidly rising since2. Politicians quote “public fears” as justifi185 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ 1994.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ cation for more freedom-eroding legislation. the makers of Frontline. In 1995. murdering every passing child. a Channel 4 documentary on crime. Insecure populations show a tendency to elect authoritarian governments. The official statistics present a much different picture. Daily and Sunday Express. This has the ‘advantage’ of directing fear towards ‘bad’ individuals who break the law. on average only five children were murdered by strangers each year in England and Wales. according to Home Office figures6. No. 186 . In a word. People and Star. rather than the institutions which make the laws. The overall murder rate (all ages) is the same now as it was in 1857 (roughly 13 per million of the population per year)7. Over the last 25 years there has been no increase in child murder by strangers. half of those questioned believed that tabloid newspapers have a vested interest in making people more afraid of crime. Between 1983 and 1993. Today. governments and corporations gladly reap the harvests of high public anxiety. Daily Mirror. They all refused to be interviewed5. Most child homicides are in fact committed by the parents. requested interviews with the editors of the Daily Mail. Without necessarily implying any large conspiracy. The news headlines often give the impression of paedophiles or killers on every street corner. to ask how they justified their sensationalised crime coverage. In a recent MORI poll. Sun. it’s true to say that anxiety can be induced in a population by constantly focusing on the threat of crime in an exaggerated way. that wasn’t a misprint – five – check it out. You can probably think of many more examples.

which is our real childhood education. We receive a thorough ‘anxiety conditioning’. On one hand there was the risk of skin cancer. exposure to these fearful beliefs starts in early childhood. the climate of fear being created is out of all proportion to the real threat of crime for most people. the elderly and young children are the groups least at risk from attack — but because the newspapers cover all violent crimes involving the young and the very old. Schools are factories for turning carefree souls into obedient. before we can develop any intellectual defences. Welcome to anxiety society. Statistically. If I take a stroll through the park. 187 . We’re immersed in fearinducing belief systems. rather than external events.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Unfortunately. Children are also exposed daily to the anxious thoughts of their parents – generally known as “parental concern”. but it’s invisible to us. but only one in 4000 will be assaulted8. Meanwhile. Most anxiety results from what we’ve been thinking. will the woman ahead think I’m stalking her? If I see a child in distress. they seem common. and on the other the risk of child sex-abuse accusation. Unfortunately. many people believe the crime hype. although the less sentimentally inclined may prefer to call it neurosis. do I assist or mind my own business? Some school teachers were recently reported to be in difficulty deciding whether to apply sun-protection lotion to young children. A third of elderly women fear going outside. economically frightened clones. like water to fish. One effect of our over-stimulated fear of crime is increased paranoia and suspicion.

The original sin worldview can. or whatever gets you relaxed and high – then take it easier next day. Its poisonous tentacles reach into your mind. Spend the day in bed watching videos. or call in sick as often as possible. It manifests as the idea that you’re infinitely undeserving – that reward.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Parents demonstrate how loving and responsible they are by worrying all the time. For example. in essence. Quit your job and go on holiday. This belief is the enemy of idlers. So what are the main anxiety-inducing beliefs? Perhaps the most insidious is “original sin” – the notion that. causing you to see life as a burden to endure. try believing that you deserve to be paid for doing nothing. will always be contingent upon the endurance of some unpleasant activity such as work. and must redeem ourselves through hard work and suffering. It surfaces as the feeling that you’re not good enough. be subverted with psychological gimmicks. Dismiss the notion that you have to ‘earn’ anything. rather than as a fantastic adventure. You earned your life by being born – now you deserve to relax. eating Belgian chocolates and drinking Green Chartreuse. or that something is wrong with you – a tendency exploited to the maximum by big business. This is regarded as perfectly normal in our society. Go to extremes of laziness and indulge yourself deluxe-style every day. It also makes you feel guilty. ie happiness. we’re morally ‘bad’. 188 . however. Remove all forms of guilt from your mind.

yet all the unfortunate things that happen are your fault. True responsibility would require all-seeing. It’s part of a conspiracy of stupidity undermining claims that we can work less and take it easy. This puts people under tremendous strain. Of course. Any intelligent attempt to drastically cut working hours is resisted on the basis that it’s irresponsible. Responsibility sees everything as a problem needing a solution – usually involving endless work and expenditure. It never occurs to them that their idea of responsibility might not be universal. Many people feel a “responsibility” to quit work in order to widen their knowledge and develop 189 . The attraction of responsibility (all con-tricks have an attraction) is that it allows people total conformity without removing the facade of individuality – it’s the kind of concept that advertising agencies dream about.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Another insidious anxiety-inducer to watch out for is the belief that you should be responsible. the real function of “individual responsibility” is social conformity. As a result we continue to work for a responsible (but arbitrary) 40 hours a week instead of a more sensible 40 minutes. You don’t choose your genetic make-up or the conditions in which you grow up. all-knowing divine power – it’s not something for fallible individuals to attempt. Society holds you accountable if you don’t comply with its definition of your responsibilities. This sense of responsibility is obviously false – you can’t even be responsible for your next thought. Politicians – the experts on responsibility – see joblessness as the ultimate irresponsible lifestyle. It’s a big social con-trick – with the “responsible individual” as dupe.

and also in the Guardian’s “Editor” supplement on 8th October 1999. (6) Sunday Times. work is an “irresponsible” cop-out – a last refuge of the fearful and ignorant. 190 . (8) The Times. 25 Sept 1996. (4) The Times. From this viewpoint. 6 Aug 1995. quoted by World in Action. References: (1) Study commissioned by the Department of Health. (5) Frontline. as reported in The Independent. Oct 1995. 15 Oct 1994. This article was first published in The Idler. 22 Nov 1996. 1999. 4 Oct 1995. (2) World in Action and Radio Times. issue 25.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ their potential. (7) The Independent. 15 Dec 1994. (3) NOP poll. 11 Sept 1996. Channel 4.

This is the typical level of financial re- 191 . US government figures from the eighties showed the average savings of a person reaching retirement age in North America to be less than $500. work is closely related to. ii) That hard work is character building and morally good. and suggests that to operate with integrity. in our society. This is why. has defined hard work as “doing what you don’t want to do”. Puritan sects were greatly over-represented among the early major industrialists (quoted in Ashton’s History of the Industrial Revolution). This is a notion which continues to underlie our attitude towards work even today. led to mundane and spiritual rewards. This revolutionary viewpoint directly opposes certain beliefs which have become codified into our work ethic courtesy of the Puritans. the American financial author. To sweeten their view of work and provide positive motivation. you should forget work and do what you want. if persevered with. and their belief that suffering is required to redeem our ‘original sin’ as human beings became part of their work ethic. The modern equivalents of these archaic religious beliefs are: i) That hard work is the main causative factor in producing material wealth.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE PURITAN WORK ETHIC Phil Laut. guilt. the Puritans believed that honest toil. The available statistics don’t support the belief that hard work leads to wealth – for example. and often motivated by.

and find themselves exhausted by the time they get home. these findings don’t exactly support the idea of work being morally uplifting. The hard work ethic has also conditioned us to see happiness as something that must be earned through toil. a major UK survey (quoted recently by The Guardian) showed that 6 out of 10 British workers dislike their jobs. in fact. In effect. The underlying idea behind this insanity is that you are infinitely undeserving – reward. this is saying you have to suffer in order to get happiness. There is. feel that their work isn’t of use to society. and 43% have problems sleeping because of work. will always be contingent upon the endurance of some unpleasant activity. once and for all. A 1995 National Opinion Poll (NOP) revealed that 50% of British workers say work makes them depressed. or to put it another way. ie happiness. hard work is undoubtedly seen as virtuous – the greatest tribute paid to the deceased seems to be “worked hard all his/ her life”. fret over inadequate income. Whatever its correlation with material wealth.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ward a person can expect for forty years of full-time hard work – based on government data for an entire generation of working Americans. that you’ve worked enough 192 . a lot of evidence to suggest that our work ethic is extreme and pathological in its effects. Unless you regard stress-related illness as character building. The problem with this way of thinking is that it endlessly perpetuates itself – you can never totally relax because nobody ever comes along to say. For example. suffer insecurity and stress. although this epitaph sounds more appropriate for an item of machinery than a human being. you must be unhappy to be happy.

you need precise information about where to drill. A popular cliché says “nothing worthwhile is easy”. You are effectively programming yourself to experience hurt and hardship if you accept this idea of “no pain. If you drill for oil. As a business analyst. Beliefs like these don’t only describe viewpoints. it isn’t working”. As knowledge-intensive markets grow in proportion to labour-intensive industry. don’t permit you to relax until after you’ve died). Increasingly though. I observed employees in busy offices rushing so much to get things done. no gain”. Quality thought (efficient reception. that they never stopped to consider if there was any point to it. How can you despise ease and laziness then not feel guilty when you take a rest? Try an alternative slogan: “anything worthwhile is best done without effort”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ (the religious beliefs which originally gave rise to this mindset. they also program our expectations. or “if you can’t enjoy it. wealth is created from land. The human brain processes complex information better when the person is relaxed and happy (adrenaline addiction notwithstanding). 193 . information is overtaking labour (ie hard work) as an important wealth-creating factor. According to classical economic theory. integration and transmission of information) doesn’t usually result from hard work and stress. don’t do it”. Another version of the same idea has been used as a political slogan: “if it isn’t hurting. information is becoming the primary source of wealth. labour and capital.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ One futurist dream is that technology will eventually free people from the necessity of hard work. This doesn’t mean that all-day leisure and enjoyment would be imposed – those who like being miserable could construct their own simulations of busy offices or noxious factories to work in. This also explains why (according to the US figures quoted above) the average person is prepared to work forty hours per week for no great financial reward – the typical person believes he doesn’t deserve to be paid for enjoying himself. The fact that we are nowhere near manifesting such a dream has more to do with our attitudes and beliefs than with the current state of technology. Presbyterians. 194 . or at least try to look as if we’re enjoying it. is the idea that we should enjoy it. Quakers. enthusiastic and committed). A strange effect of the ‘dark ages’ view of work as atonement. The Information Age is here. But for everybody else. By happily accepting our punishment (ie daily hard work) we demonstrate our moral fibre. but which are still very rare. teleworking etc) which are forward-looking and advantageous to everybody (the Institute of Manpower Studies has found that employees who work ‘non-standard’ hours tend to be more efficient. Wesleyans and other puritanical sects were greatly over-represented among the major industrialists quoted in Ashton’s History of the Industrial Revolution). Currently there are alternatives to the 9-5 work culture (job-sharing. but in terms of work patterns we cling to the attitudes of an mechanicalindustrial culture steeped in the Puritan ethic (Methodists. drudgery and toil would be pointless and obsolete.

195 . Don’t do anything. This article was originally published in In Business magazine.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ In order to more deeply understand current attitudes to work. just lie in bed and doze all day. December 1996. there is an interesting exercise you can try: spend a whole day in bed for no particular reason (ie don’t wait until you are ill or exhausted). This could be the greatest business challenge you have ever faced. without feeling ashamed of your laziness. The acceptance of laziness breaks the link between guilt and work which chains us to primitive patterns from the past.

atomistic consumers and entrepreneurs. seems naive. She apparently meant that “society” can be seen only as an abstraction or cultural metaphor. For instance. If every economic effect is seen to result from the free choices of autonomous. sovereign individuals who freely consume for themselves.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ OBSOLETE FREE-MARKET METAPHORS “There is no such thing as society”. then “society” will be viewed as a nebulous metaphor with little economic relevance. an idealised abstraction whose central premise fails to take into account the vast array of social factors affecting human motivation and behaviour. social phenomena such as advertising. Adherents of free-market economics have often expressed a dislike of terms like “society” and “social concern”. And contrary to free-market thinking. So said Mrs Thatcher. The market system has traditionally had an individualistic bias – its central premise is that the market registers choices made by separate. completely immune from ‘social’ influences. critics of the competitive market system would argue that “free market” is itself a metaphor. Ironically. state education and the mass media inevitably tend to influence the value systems which determine what individual consumers will buy. Those who blame their financial problems on an aspect of “society” are unlikely to receive any sympathy from freemarketeers. The notion of a ‘totally rational’ individual. ‘society’ has aspects which can’t be explained or predicted in terms of 196 .

thus benefiting everyone. The European capitalist model is more ‘communal’ in its emphasis. there are good reasons for the Anglo-American belief that economic self-interest must take precedence over social concern. by the social chapter of the Maastricht treaty.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ the rational choices made by its individual constituents. 197 . The reasons for this are easy enough to follow – self-interest fuels competitiveness and. When we talk in terms of ‘communal’ biases here. according to classical economists. but to cultural perspectives which recognise that wealth-creation may not be an entirely individualistic pursuit. we are not referring to communism or statism. To the Japanese. shifting resources to those who compete successfully and away from those who compete badly is a process which promotes economic growth. Only Britain and the USA put individual self-interest so far above notions of ‘social concern’. for instance. To view a complex phenomenon like a human society as no more than the sum of its parts is to subscribe to a kind of reductionism belonging to the 18th century (which was when classical free-market economic theory originated). the main purpose of business is to benefit society. Meanwhile. as reflected. Of course. Adam Smith observed that merchants acting from selfish motivations tended to produce more of public value than those motivated by benevolence towards society. Japan – possibly the most economically successful of all capitalist nations – has a more communitarian model than even Europe.

universal way. letting off steam. They argue that market forces depend on specific cultural contexts and shouldn’t be seen to act in an impersonal. of the Henley Centre forecasting organisation. Professor Paul Ormerod. He goes as far as saying that little in standard economics texts is known to be true. has pointed out that Western economic theory has been conspicuously unsuccessful at making the kind of accurate predictions you would expect from a scientific discipline. etc). There is a almost mathematical satisfaction to be gained from understanding classical economics. The Seven Cultures of Capitalism. Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars describe Adam Smith’s doctrine of self-interest as “perhaps the world’s leading example of cultural bias and historical circumstance disguised as a principal of science”. So is the classical view of the effectiveness of self-interest within a ‘free market’ a universal law or just a cultural prejudice favouring the greedy and predatory? In their book. 198 . Indeed. classical economic metaphors obviously reflect the Newtonian mechanical view of the world. the market ‘mechanism’ is regarded as a sort of universal scientific law by classical economists and business people in Britain and America. Their book is rich in examples which contradict the fundamental assumptions of mainstream British economics.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ But just as the metaphors of Freudian psychology mirror the technology of the times (eg hydraulic build-up of pressure. as if predicting economic effects is a simple problem of physics. and that orthodox economics still has no effective answer for basic problems such as unemployment.

for example. has put Sweden in the “soft” category of capitalism (but with very little industry nationalised. GDP per capita in Britain continued to lose comparative advantage with these countries during this period). This tendency hasn’t harmed the economic growth of these countries (from 1979 to 1991. Holland and Japan. Also. humanitarianism. it is outside the “socialist” categorisation). how did Sweden’s “softness” (social equality. 199 .9% in Britain. benevolence towards ‘society’ (as expressed towards employees. in fact. Similarly.000 higher than in the UK). Economists rationalised that Sweden was a small. insulated exception to universally harsh economic laws.4% in Japan. in Germany.3% in Germany and 60.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Sweden. but. customers and local communities) is very much part of their economic strategies. and working conditions and labour-management relations have generally been excellent. A strong social democratic welfare state. since the late nineteenth century Sweden has been a world economy highly exposed to international trends. rather than simply a hoped-for effect of the market mechanism. has been something of an enigma to classical economists. with substantial government control moderating economic fluctuations. If business is necessarily a ruthless struggle between selfinterested competitors. welfare and environmental concern) lead to such a strong economy? Sweden has had one of the world’s highest standards of living (in 1992 GDP per person was $12. compared with 4. manufacturing grew by 33.

However. we can’t push and pull simultaneously. and. So. following classical economics. we must choose either co-operation or competition – we can’t have both at the same time. much of European and Japanese industry has learnt how to reconcile co-operation with competition. however.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Britain’s leading companies are extremely profitable. The Japanese see capitalism as a system in which communities serve consumers. using metaphors of “integrated wholes” (eg “organic”. In Germany the pursuit of technical excellence and service to society through producing quality products is more valued than profit making. competitiveness tends to be measured here solely by the level of profit extracted. there is a degree of co-operative activity in German and Japanese industry which is quite alien to the British and American “lean and mean” approach. Or. an industry. With the emphasis less on the short-term profits of the individual. This is an especially important trend in the area of high technology. we choose competition and get rid of co-operation. not the end. individuals competed with 200 . a company. But what does reconciling co-operation and competition mean in practice? The question we should probably ask is: What is the entity that competes? – an individual. to put it in terms of the mechanistic metaphor. indeed. rather than one in which individuals compete to extract profits – profitability is the means. “cybernetic” or “structured network” models). or a nation? Early on in the development of capitalism. is not a common factor in successful economies. Obsession with profit. From the western perspective of analytical ‘either/or’ logic.

. then. rather than ruthless self-interested struggle.. The UK approach derives from a belief in the universal nature of the market mechanism – ie the conviction that all-out competition will work at all levels. particularly in knowledgeintensive markets (eg high technology). which is often not in the interests of the company). Describing economic progress in terms of evolving cooperation. Japan has spread the level of co-operation further still. may have important benefits. the development of capitalism may be seen as “. competition was largely between companies whose employees co-operated (although fierce competition is still encouraged between individual employees in the UK and US – one effect of this is that employees are out to get what they can for themselves. which spreads outward. later. European nations have largely adopted the internally cooperative approach. pushing competition to its own boundaries” (The Seven Cultures of Capitalism). where a co-operative free flow of information throughout a company (or industry) is likely to prove more effective than jealous guarding of privileged knowledge by ambitious individu- 201 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ other individuals. in contrast with the UK. the divisions compete with each other for the funding of the holding company.a function of evolving co-operation. in the keiretsu (a co-operative conglomerate). Thus. and share nothing). whose divisional companies co-operate and share technological knowledge and resources (in Anglo-American conglomerates. where the political strategy has been to increase internal competition. In order to compete successfully at the national level.

Society holds us accountable for not complying with its definition of our individual responsibilities. hierarchy vs equality etc. eg private vs public sector. In fact. This emphasis on the individual’s sole responsibility for achieving success fails to take into account the role of social consensus in defining “success”. the information technology revolution is increasingly leading to commercial scenarios which the mechanistic metaphors of classical economic are unable to deal with. The metaphors we use to describe economic success have a flip side that we can’t easily escape from. reflects the cultural metaphors we use. which is that people should conform to their definition of “contribute”. and despise people who blame their problems on social circumstances. individual vs community. We therefore resent the poor for their lack of individual initiative. market vs social concerns. Countries which insist on clinging to outmoded economic dogmas will very likely fall behind in the technology race. but they rarely say what they mean. then it follows that economic failure must be the fault of individuals who aren’t competing hard enough. The tendency to polarise economic issues. but is it surpris- 202 . Mrs Thatcher was certainly admired for being resolute in her polarisations.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ als. rather than social factors. We often hear politicians talking piously about the responsibility of individuals to contribute to society. If we believe that a competitive and individualistic (rather than co-operative and communitarian) approach is the way to succeed.

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

ing if we find that the combined metaphors of ancient Aristotelian ‘either/or’ logic and 18th century economics are inadequate for the realities of the 21st century? Acknowledgement: This article makes use of some of the ideas expressed in The Seven Cultures of Capitalism by Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars (Piatkus, 1994). The above article was originally published in In Business magazine, July 1997.

203

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF WORK
The workerless society may be much closer than we think. 75% of the work force, in most developed countries, engage in work that is little more than simple repetitive tasks. Most of these jobs are vulnerable to replacement by automation. But that’s not all – technology is increasingly taking over tasks previously thought to require human intelligence. Office workers and managers are now under threat as corporations restructure to take advantage of the huge productivity gains made possible by the new technologies. Economists have traditionally argued against the likelihood of the decline of work, believing that productivity gains produce wealth, which is used to expand markets, thereby creating new jobs. Admittedly, this has been the case in the past. For example, when technology began to displace agricultural workers, a new growing sector – manufacturing – was able to absorb those displaced. Then, between the mid fifties and the early eighties, as manufacturing became increasingly automated, displaced factory workers were absorbed into the growing service sector (banking, insurance, accounting, law, airlines, retail, etc). In most modern cities today, nine out of ten jobs are in the service sector. As we approach the millennium, however, service sector jobs are increasingly falling to advanced technology – without the emergence of any new growth areas of the scale required to absorb the redundant office workers. It has been estimated, for example, that human secretaries currently spend more than 45% of their time filing pa204

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

pers, photocopying, delivering messages, posting letters and waiting for assignments. Electronic office systems make all of this redundant. Sophisticated labour-saving technology is being developed at an accelerating rate. Hundreds of companies now use computer systems to screen job applications. One such system, called Resumix, optically scans incoming CVs, reads and evaluates the applicants’ details, and makes decisions concerning applicant suitability (field tests have shown the Resumix to be as skilled as human personnel managers in evaluating job applicants). Voice recognition software is already being used to replace human customer service telephonists in many companies. These companies face a simple choice: use the new technology or lose competitive advantage and go out of business. In either case job losses will occur. In 1993 the US retail giant, Sears, cut 50,000 jobs from its merchandising division. That same year, its sales revenues rose by 10%. General Electric, a world leader in electronic manufacturing, reduced its global workforce from 400,000 in 1981 to 230,000 in 1993, whilst tripling its sales. The tyre company, Goodyear, cut 24,000 jobs between 1988 and 1992, and increased productivity by 30% in the same period. During the writing of this article, Electrolux announced they would be eliminating 12,000 jobs over the next two years.

205

Everything They Told You is Wrong
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

Large layoffs such as these are becoming increasingly common as the electronic revolution forces corporations to ruthlessly restructure in order to stay competitive. According to renowned management expert, Professor Charles Handy, we are losing more jobs than we can replace. This is inevitable, he says, because developed countries can’t sustain the level of growth needed to create sufficient jobs to replace those lost through technologically enhanced productivity. Automation is shedding jobs faster than markets can expand to create new jobs. Handy remarks that we all need the equivalent of an earthquake to remind us to take nothing for granted in the world of work and economics. Another economic commentator who believes we need a shock to awaken us, is Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, in Washington, DC. According to Rifkin, “not a single world leader seems willing to entertain the possibility that the global economy is moving inexorably toward a shrinking labour market with potentially profound consequences for civilisation”. He criticises the logic behind ‘trickle-down technology’ – the theory, held by most conventional economists, which says that advances in technology and productivity create falling prices, generating greater demand, and thus leading to the creation of more jobs than are lost. In his book, The End of Work, Rifkin presents evidence showing the steady rise of unemployment in most developed nations: “With demand seriously weakened by rising unemployment and underemployment in most of

206

employment wages will become inadequate to live on. neither is it a creature solely of the marketplace – it rightly ‘belongs’ to everyone. which have experienced phenomenal success. As human contributions to production reduce in significance and quantity. This is already occurring – most reports of the last few years indicate that the low-paid are becoming financially worse off. 90% of jobs created have been temporary or part-time). Economic rewards have traditionally been distributed on the basis of contributions to production. relative to automated contributions. The most notable growth area during this period has been the credit card companies. the business community has turned to extending easy consumer credit in an effort to stimulate purchasing power. coinciding with increasing losses of full-time jobs. Unemployment has more than doubled in Britain since 1979. and the vast majority of new jobs created have been temporary or part-time (since 1992. Every technological advance implemented in industry effectively increases wealth – otherwise it wouldn’t be utilised.” Consumer debt has rocketed to alarmingly high levels in both the US and the UK.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ the industrial world. Technological advances continue to have the effect of reducing the commodity value of human labour. Wealth is piling up all around us. 207 . The technological revolution which brought this wealth should be seen as a social phenomenon – it was not created by any one individual or group.

if any. This article was originally published in In Business magazine. August 1997. the economic rewards derived from technology will need to be distributed to people in ways that have nothing to do with the amount of work. they perform.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ In a world of decreasing demand for human labour. THE END PLEASE PROCEED TO THE CHECKOUT 208 .

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful