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

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

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

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

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

Then the Internet happened. meant that the operation grew no bigger than the laser printer in my living room. in each case. The ease with which anyone can fake expertise and simulate “popularity” would delight Orson Welles and L. I wrote down my 10 . I started off publishing a low-budget magazine called Anxiety Culture. 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). if they were still alive. The size of my audience was dependent on advertising expenditure – which. being a lot less than Amazon’s. 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. with some stickers and gimmicky graphics. Since I’m not a journalist or media-person. All of the material collected in this book was published through other channels.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. opening up all sorts of creative avenues for DIY-media enthusiasts like myself. Setting up your own media empire doesn’t necessarily require launching a magazine or website. Ron Hubbard. Basically.

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

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

the freedom to be scurrilous. and seditious. whose pamphlet-manifestos proved remarkably influential. I wonder how they would utilise the possibilities of the Internet. One has complete freedom of expression. if one chooses. including. Jonathan Swift and George Orwell. serious and ‘high-brow’ than is ever possible in a newspaper or in most kinds of periodicals” 13 . on the other hand. despite remaining shrouded in mystery and anonymity). abusive. Orwell himself described pamphleteering in terms which resonate with the aims of creatively inclined Internet users: “The pamphlet is a one-man show. or. and weird religious heresies and cults such as the Rosicrucians.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. to be more detailed.

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. so that the ideas presented are self-contained and easy to read. newsgroups and public access projects. Extraneous content (eg references to ongoing newsgroup discussions. etc) has been edited out. the only real link between each piece is an intention to challenge “normal” consensus viewpoints. It covers a wide range of subjects and although there are some recurring themes (such as work and anti-consumerism). 14 .

of course.he really believed new-born children to be limbs of Satan. Eastern beliefs (and western heresies) held that every individual manifests the divine.. 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. According to Christians. the Original Sin doctrine originated either with St Paul or St Augustine..” The original sin (in the doctrinal sense) was Adam’s sin of pride. 15 . Obviously this belief was seen as a threat to authority. surrounded by people I dislike. and that “we shall be as gods”.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). A great deal of what is most ferocious in the medieval Church is traceable to his gloomy sense of universal guilt. it had to be a “sin”. I feel isolated by having to spend eight hours a day chained to a desk in a sterile corporate office. so. 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. Bertrand Russell says this about St Augustine: “. I don’t feel isolated by my home computer and modem.

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

When the social context is very conducive to individualism. Free Market entrepreneurial guru-speak and New Age guru-speak blend easily into each other.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ TWO CLICHÉS The economic clichés: “land of opportunity”. THE “FREE MARKET” AND THE “NEW AGE” There are structural similarities between Free Market beliefs and New Age beliefs. 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”. Both are highly individualistic viewpoints – they take no account of what is going on outside the individual. it’s because you haven’t healed your psyche enough. and “don’t quit your day job” contradict each other. If the individual doesn’t succeed. it’s because he/she hasn’t worked hard enough at it. regardless of social context. so here goes: Free-market adherents claim that hard work will guarantee an individual’s success. like lime juice and mineral water. Both beliefs tend to flourish most in highly prosperous areas of the planet – eg wealthy Californian districts. If you don’t achieve success. New Agers claim that healing your own psyche will guarantee your success. I probably need to explain this. 17 . If we had a “land of opportunity”. the individual doesn’t have to worry too much about social context. For example. “Success” is seen as emanating entirely from the individual. both fail to recognise social variables.

One example given is teachers. but would have to earn £80.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.500 . cowardice and parasitical behaviour. In terms of Darwinian “survival of the fittest”. whose wages are now only 110 times what they were in 1900. the rodent survival strategy seems to be: idleness.£24.000 a year (1999 figures). rents have increased by 500 times – ie double the increase in wages. LAW OF THE JUNGLE It’s odd how competition is justified in terms of “survival of the fittest”. Judging from the behaviour of the mice in my house. 18 . And it’s worse for lowincome occupations. (Note: Since 1999 the cost of rent/housing has shot up again – way above wage increases). Teachers currently earn £15. these qualities are inherently no worse than “competition”. Worse. 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”. whereas other valid survival strategies – eg parasitical behaviour – are completely demonised. whereas house prices have increased by 375 times. “parasites” and the “idle”.000 a year to match the house purchasing power of teachers in 1900.

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

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

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

Then everything seems trivial and futile. Otherwise we’re financial liabilities to be quickly removed. is the most popular newspaper amongst UK college students. undisturbed and quiet. Irritation. Possible remedy: buy a cheap electronic kitchen timer. “there is no excuse” for people not to slot straight into a job. food. With the timer. desires and abilities – we’re interchangeable units for fitting into job slots.1 UK unemployed into the million-plus job vacancies. Nothing satisfies. HIT SQUADS “In a tough crackdown on hardcore unemployment”. Impatience. noise. (Above quotes are taken from the Daily Mail (28/2/00) – a “respectable” conservative tabloid which.) We’re not human beings with individual needs. etc). then becomes internalised – your mind creates the distraction. sadly. Isolate yourself in your room. “hit squads” will be used to slot each of the 1. 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). 22 .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. According to the government. talk. Negative mood.

” “There is another option. long term and beyond the individual’s control. But it tends to be an option only for the privileged and can cause even worse problems in the long run.) “Those members of society most prone to stress are also those least likely to be in a position to resolve their problem. Relaxation helps. the stress continues.” (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. and costs British industry around £80 billion a year. Quitting the rat race is a very effective way of lightening the load in the short term. of course – you can jump ship. The latter is the most important characteristic. and the longer it goes on the more likely it is to do damage. Which explains why stress is less of a problem in high-flying executives than in people on the factory floor.” He continues: “Harmful stressors share a number of characteristics: they tend to be pronounced.” (Source: Radio Times 28/10/2000) 23 .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. because it makes resolution of a stressful problem almost impossible. but if resolution of the stress-inducing problem never occurs. relaxation or no relaxation.

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

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

Because he’s a very clever. It’s like “Satan is everywhere” Christian paranoia. Like the Christian Devil. somebody is going to catch you trafficking with the Corporate Devil. someone pointed the accusing finger at me. and he will deceive you and insinuate himself into your life. telling me I shouldn’t use GIF images (GIFs being another representation of Corporate Evil) on my website. it’s seen as absolutely evil. It was news to me that Macromedia was on anyone’s shit list. tricky Devil.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ EVIL EVERYWHERE SYNDROME I occasionally receive disapproving messages about the Anxiety Culture website. however virtuous you think you are. 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. But there’s a problem: whatever good works you do. For example. This type of destructive psychology (which I call ‘Evil Everywhere Syndrome’) is identifiable by its insistence 26 . 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). Except that it’s a corporate Satan. But luckily there’s a solution: you can demonstrate your purity by pointing the finger of accusation at other corrupted souls. and thereby remain free from accusation yourself (just like in The Crucible). although not usually concerned with the content. I have a theory about the type of stridently disapproving attitude displayed by Steve. Only recently.

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

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

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

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

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CONTRADICTIONS The “mainstream” worldview seems full of contradictions. Unemployment: we’re told we have the lowest unemployment for three decades. Standard of living: we’re told we have a better standard of living than ever before. 31 . For example: The economy: we’re told that our economic system is doing well. and that people are required to work much longer hours than in the 1970s. creating great prosperity. Then we’re told that crime is decreasing. we can no longer afford basic social services. Opportunity: we’re told there are great opportunities for everyone – prosperity is there for the taking. and must create subsidised jobs at huge public expense. as “competition” implies fighting over scarce resources). Then we’re told that it’s increasing again. Then we’re told that poverty levels have risen drastically since the 1970s. All in the space of one month. Crime rate: we’re told that crime is increasing. and that even the most vulnerable individuals must fend for themselves. 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. as a society. Then we’re reminded of the increasingly “brutal” world and the increasingly “competitive” market (which would seem to indicate a scarcity of opportunities.

3 “Anti-consumerism hurts big corporations” Most anti-consumerism doesn’t target corporations – it targets individual consumers. Surely it’s a matter between the individual and her/ his lust for consumer goods. 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. wages. 32 . If an individual’s freedom is determined entirely by how greedy that individual is. 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. The above is one aspect of anti-consumerism. They’re disapprovals of individual lifestyles – recommendations for alternative individual trade-offs between work and possessions.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. 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. We have seen many examples of this on web forums. etc – that’s an entirely different focus. or the advertising industry. etc. It’s an entirely different thing to criticize corporate practices. why would a corporation have any responsibility towards that individual – eg in terms of working conditions. or political lobbying or corporate welfare.

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

But the reverse is apparently true with poor people – if you give them government handouts it makes them “dependent”. Or you can apply Galbraith’s quote to corporate welfare. 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). The typical justification for giving huge government handouts to corporations is that it helps those corporations remain competitive in a difficult market.” (From the economist J. “soft” and less able to compete in a difficult job market.” (John Maynard Keynes) 34 . both when they are right and when they are wrong. are more powerful than is commonly understood.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. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men. who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences. are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.K. NOBODY IS INTELLECTUALLY IMMUNE “The ideas of economists and political philosophers.

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

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

to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. the implication is that the government won’t be able to withdraw a jobless person’s benefits without running up against Human Rights legislation. 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. 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). as they should. Unemployed people do not currently have their welfare claims ultimately decided by an independent organisation.” Apparently the UK is in breach of these laws.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. Reading between the lines.

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

PRETEND FREE ENTERPRISE Here’s a good quote from the famous political dissident. 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.” 39 . Fighting for scarce resources and for control of those resources is the underlying motivation of the Capitalist system. In other words. but when push comes to shove. and another caused by the dismantling of production-increasing technology.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Then you’ve got two increases in scarcity: one caused by the eco-disaster. So would an ecological disaster. Noam Chomsky: “Although there’s a lot of talk about capitalism. free enterprise and free markets. Any increase in scarcity makes the situation worse. It’s fine for afterdinner speeches and editorials. no one who’s actually involved in the business world believes a word of it. an anti-technology revolution would ultimately serve Capitalism by perpetuating scarcity. It justifies conflict and “competition” (which would otherwise look silly in a world of abundance). 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

making us unhappy. The reaction of pity towards someone perceived as being low(er) on the social/financial ladder seems an automatic reflex in most people. 9. reported recently by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation). 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. One in 4 people are now living in poverty. 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). Poverty in Britain rose sharply between 1979 and the late 1990s.300 (not including home loans). that seem to be the most damaging element of this social inequality. 47 . success-failure polarities.5 million people can’t afford adequate housing conditions (according to the biggest. Help prevent terrorism: stay at home and phone in sick.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ depression epidemics. reducing serotonin levels. etc. It’s the extreme winner-loser. most comprehensive study of UK poverty in the last decade. with money as the measure of winning/success. The average level of debt per household is £5. anxiety disorders. flu or other bug. tranquilliser addictions. THE REAL BIO-TERRORISTS The real bio-terrorists are those who go to work with a cold.

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

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

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

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

just one week before the above headlines.383. More strangely still. the actual figure for the cost of welfare to unemployed people is only £5 billion per year. disability allowances and income support for lowpaid working people (as opposed to “workshy” people). not £96 billion as the Daily Mail claims. 19/3/98). the official number of unemployed was the lowest for 18 years (given as 1. Welfare for unemployed people accounts for only 5% of the total welfare budget. 52 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ NEWSPAPERS ATTACK THE IDLE Here are some headlines from March 27. which suggests (if you believe official figures) that the so-called “dependency culture” isn’t such a big problem after all.” Strangely enough.800 in The Daily Telegraph. That £96 billion figure is the total welfare budget. including old-age pensions. 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.

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

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

and you mustn’t lift a finger – or we’ll throw you in prison”. In which case. sweatshops. 55 . that human-rights abusing nations were stopping people from working. You can just imagine some Third World storm-troopers kicking down someone’s door as he/she prepares to go to work. a basic human right should be: “The right to REFUSE work”. Then they say: “You must stay in bed all day.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. 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. etc. And perhaps another basic human right should be: “The right to a basic survival income. forced labour factories. from this. regardless of work status” But maybe that’s a little bit too close to home.

in 15 seconds or less. here’s a proposal of mine that will definitely take more than 15 seconds to explain to people. Historically. 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. because they know that anyone who argues with them. Anyway. 56 . Noam Chomsky. whereas new ideas take a lot of explaining. politicians use the word “tough” a lot – eg “tough on drugs”. survival anxiety. mass economic nervousness. since it allows only soundbites of 15 seconds or so – it’s difficult to communicate a new idea in 15 seconds. 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. reinforces the status quo. he said. is going to look merely “soft”. Dictators flourish in climates of fear. has remarked that old ideas – conventional pieties – need only a few sentences to communicate.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. “tough on crime”. TV. this is the fertilizer for raising dictators – fear.

the hypnotist gave you the following hypnotic suggestions. I’d take this a step further by suggesting that whenever an evil dictatorship arises.000 years old. with a hypnotist sitting close to your left ear. to bring all the citizens upto the living standard of millionaires.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Economic sanctions and bombs just increase fear – they obviously solve nothing. Somehow I don’t think a dictator would last long in a nation of millionaires. Every day for the first 1800 years or so. why not instead drop bananas into the mouths of the hungry. For most of your life you’ve been in a semi-conscious state. The United Nations inspectors could be used to check that nobody falls below millionaire level. A “CHRISTIAN” PARABLE Imagine you’re 2. 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 . 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. the rest of the world should send so much wealth into that country immediately.

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

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

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

Mission accomplished for the fool. 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. If someone is unable to fend for themselves then that is just too bad. Think not what your country can do for you. Why should I pay for them. I have got my own family to look after without supporting feckless people.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. who are more interested in stone cladding and lottery cards than raising worthwhile citizens. etc. For example. It’s not my fault they were born thick or had bad parents. Old folk should make provisions for their retirement. The best strategy for dealing with fools is to ignore them (in physical terms. As Kennedy said. and was presumably intended to provoke hostility: “There shouldn’t be any welfare handouts – period. but think what you can do for your country!” And provoke hostility it did – the usual descent into personal abuse. 61 . leave the room). 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?”. in the above example.

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

exploiting anxieties.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ TWO TYPES OF SELF-RELIANCE Many rightwingers oppose welfare on the basis that it diminishes self-reliance. 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).” 63 . Much of what goes into our heads looks harmless.. but it has a depressing effect. 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.. But does welfare diminish the type of self-reliance which results from a supportive and nurturing environment? It seems unlikely. the con-man. the fraudster. Watch out for the adverts! A 1980 UNESCO report stated that advertising is guilty of “simplifying real human situations into stereotypes. 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.

My answer to the question would be: “people following their natural abilities/enthusiasms. 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. It’s not supported by society withholding a basic income from those struggling financially (for whatever reason. I think the question “who pays?” shows a misunderstanding of the problem.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. Let’s rephrase the question: “Who creates the life-support wealth?” That distinguishes “real wealth” from “money wealth”. 64 . “job” or “quick return on the investment”. building on the staggering amount of real wealth (intellectual and material) already created”. It’s not supported by valuing only one type of wealth creation – “hard work”. including so-called laziness).

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

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

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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.”
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NEWS

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

however. My letter (published on 15 July 2000) was an attempt to expose the public cost of this “success”.000 elderly women will be attacked. The New Deal has created 50. But it cost over £5 billion to set up.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Only one in 4. That means each job created cost the taxpayer £100. vehicle recovery services. And turn off that alarm which is hurting my ears. There are far greater risks in life than crime: car crashes. The risk of a car crash is 50 times greater than the risk of serious crime. workplace accidents. alarms. etc. they’d make powerful enemies in the corporate sector.000 jobs which otherwise wouldn’t exist. 75 . If. Dear Editor. mobile phones. There are many groups with vested commercial/political interests in making you afraid of crime. Advertisers love scaremongering TV programmes because they boost sales of insurance policies. Statistics like these tend to be reliable. 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. unlike the overall crime rate. 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. health problems. So I ask you: don’t succumb to their fearful propaganda. etc.000. security devices. eg workplace accidents and stress-related illness. they pointed to more common risks. which is often criticised for being unreliable.

in which he expressed contempt for the depiction of “TV-appropriate soundbites” and “shockhorror antisocial behaviour”. since it contained the main point of my letter).” In one interview. This wasn’t about poverty. Radio Times published a reader’s letter responding to mine. and will consequently have no insight into the causes/effects of poverty. which was billed as a documentary on child poverty in Britain. Yeah. (Note: Radio Times edited out the last sentence. a boy who looked about four years old gleefully described how he “hotwires” cars. I’ve included it. Dear Editor. and his mother sprinkles heroin on his cornflakes. 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. The following week. it was about programme-makers getting young children to utter TV-appropriate soundbites. 25 September) on Eyes of a Child. right.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. which not only misrepresented my views. 76 . 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 Eyes of a Child was supposed to be about poverty but it seemed merely an excuse to show children confessing shockhorror “antisocial behaviour.

I have been taught not to make assumptions about people. 77 . including the postscript. Also.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. was published in the August-September 1998 edition of the Idler. Dear Idler. only 9 percent* of welfare expenditure goes on the unemployed. but I find myself accused of being a suburb-dweller who denies the existence of extremes of social deprivation. I suppose. According to the DSS’s own figures. is that not only can you not trust editors to print your letter intact (in a way that doesn’t distort your views). but neither can you trust them to not to print responses to something you didn’t actually say. Did anyone notice the weird contradiction between those newspaper headlines blaming “spiralling” welfare costs on the “workshy”. 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. and the official unemployed count showing the lowest figure for 18 years. I know that children like those shown in the documentary do exist. THE IDLER The whole of this letter. and that apparently includes benefit fraud. From her experience. The moral.

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

Dear Editor. Coercion can always create full employment. Dear Editor. and the government’s intention to create a “work first” culture. 79 . 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. the minister talked patronisingly (like a schoolteacher lecturing kids) about the social benefits of work. Hitler provided full employment. they play a dangerous game of scaremongering.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 way this government talks about work reminds me of the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes One free”) Nazi concentration camp entrance sign. When newspapers interpret an increase in cell phone theft as “crime spiralling out of control”. 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. It was published on 26 April 2002. One reason for the popularity of the Far Right in France is public fear about crime. Prison workshops have full employment. I wrote it in response to an interview with a government minister (Alistair Darling) from their programme the previous night.

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

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

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

83 . I hear Bush and Blair are nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Dear Editor.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ dramatically during the technological revolution? Didn’t national wealth soar? So where is all the money going. respectively). The government has overlooked an obvious way to tackle road congestion: give employers financial incentives to allow staff to work from home. we’d notice a significant reduction in road traffic (and pollution). you should remain impartial and use the phrase “alleged Iraqi atrocities”. If only 10% of office staff worked one day a week at home. 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. The context is the Bush/Blair war on Iraq. Why do you label certain incidents as “friendly fire”? The Iraqi regime hasn’t yet proved its innocence with regard to these incidents. Dear Editor. Until it does. 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). BBC RADIO 4 TODAY (ONLINE) The following two letters were published by BBC Radio 4 online (7 April 2003 and 13 May 2003.

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

Many or most are on minimum wage or benefits. From what I can gather most (if not all) printed it. the TV licensing operation has targeted local newspapers with press releases intended to frighten “licence dodgers”. The BBC prosecutes 130. In the past. Dear Editor. There is now a growing campaign against the heavy-handed practices of the TV licensing brigade.000 people a year for watching TV without a licence. Local newspapers will print anything. LOCAL NEWSPAPERS I sent this letter (on BBC TV licensing) to over 80 regional newspapers in the UK.) 85 . inappropriate bitmaps and gaudy backgrounds. (You are not allowed to receive other channels that are not funded by the licence without first having a licence to watch the BBC. The licence interferes with your right to receive information. 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. Anything to get away from the corporate designer-elite mentality.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. I’d also encourage web designers to check out the “Lowbrow” art movement for visual inspiration. The BBC thus needlessly criminalises poverty. Opinion polls consistently show 65–81 percent of the public opposed to the licence fee as a method of funding.

I would ask you please to bear in mind the above points. Greg Dyke says there is “no alternative“ to the licence fee. For example.biz or http://www. And it has suppressed debate on the future of the licence fee. for most of which there is no demonstrated demand. It is also launching many new radio stations and internet/digital services. Many of those prosecuted for not having a licence cannot afford the services which the BBC would spend their licence money on. All with money extracted under threat of criminal prosecution. Director General. In fact. A senior adviser to the government recently accused the BBC of being a “cultural tyranny”. Going by the polls. etc.com 86 . 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. I think the majority of your readers would thank you for not publishing their threateningly worded material.bbcresistance. A further concern is the claimed “neutral".tvlicensing. “public service” nature of the BBC. For further details on the campaign. 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. but he told the Media Society in 1993 that it was possible to finance the BBC through subscription. the licence fee does not make the BBC independent but completely dependent on government. Please visit http:// www. “independent”. The BBC produces a large range of services. including at least 10 television stations. 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 tracked me down to do an interview. it’s clearly your belief that we are living in an anxiety culture. 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”. One of the journalists from the show had seen my cartoon ads for Anxiety Culture in Fortean Times magazine. God knows what the respectable BBC radio listeners of suburban Wales made of the broadcast. What exactly do you mean by that? 89 . 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. which has on the cover the earth from space. and is aimed at what’s called ‘the anxiously inclined’. Borderlines regular Richard Holland has been to investigate further. It’s Anxiety Culture. just find an enjoyable way to receive it.” Richard Holland: Some of the philosophy to be found in the Anxiety Culture magazine produced by Brian Dean. 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. From the transcript of the Borderlines shoe: Borderlines Host: I have the first edition of a new magazine in front of me now.

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

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

But it doesn’t matter if anxiety makes people more suggestible or not. So there are a lot of people who benefit from widespread public anxiety. It’s not the actuality. tend to look back to a golden age. But that’s the point – they felt safe. since it’s obvious that it makes people compulsive consumers. They might say to you: “Oh yes. you can say that. From that you can see that advertisements work best on anxious people. in those days you could go out after dark and feel safe”. which is the belief. But people will always say: “Ah yes. though. 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. that that’s something we’ve increased in anxiety over. RH: So it does sound that as far as crime or fear of crime is concerned. RH: How do they make use of this anxiety? In advertising. Do you think that reflects a general increase of anxiety in society? BD: Yes. That’s a fact when you look at the figures. Is that true? BD: But I think it’s a question of belief rather than a question of actuality.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ RH: A lot of people. what techniques do they use to grab the anxious and make people more anxious? 92 . for example. And research has shown that people who are anxious are also more suggestible. but in my young day there wasn’t all this crime”. You can go a step further and say that it’s in the interests of advertisers to have an anxious public.

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. 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.” RH: Now that was a negative thought loop which we’ve just heard. Female voice (reading the ‘negative thought loop’ from Anxiety Culture issue 1): “It’s too hard. and you’re suggesting that a lot of us – perhaps most of us – are caught up in this. it’s exploiting people’s feeling of inadequacy. The question. 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. which makes the adverts all that more effective. there’s too much to do. is if we’re all anxiety-driven and propelled by negative thoughts in this way. I think most people would deny being influenced by advertisements. but obviously people are influenced on a massive scale when you look at the amounts of money involved in advertising.. then you’re 93 . which you quote in your magazine.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BD: In advertising. mainly. I think. of course. because nobody is thinking about the effect on themselves..

” 94 . you believe in a universe that is fundamentally safe. fine. we’ll leave people with the positive thought loop. thanks Brian very much. my response is that nobody has yet invented a way to objectively measure how safe the universe is. RH: Right.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ going to be constantly experiencing a state of panic and anxiety. 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 in case we’ve left everybody feeling terribly depressed and anxious. If. which is the way you feel we all ought to be thinking. what about objectivity?”... on the other hand. you’re going to feel comfortable. so people are free to interpret their safety in a way that advantages them rather than disadvantages them. you obviously feel helpless. So it’s a question of belief. then for the most part. because with a lack of safety on that scale. And if people say “well. But for now.

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.” 95 . But it’s the concluding section from The Face’s article that I like most. ‘The bourgeoisie has picked up on these humorous activities’ frets George Mckay. I played up the idea that “we” are an “organisation”. their article quotes a youth marketing consultancy firm called Informer. Anxiety Culture and all the other groups have huge resources of creativity. I gave them a long.. in-depth interview (which is printed below) – this was used to provide material for the article. author of DIY Protest: Party and Protest in Nineties Britain. 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”. disruptive ideas of their own. ‘That’s really worrying.. anger and an endlessly swelling band of acolytes with innovative. Anxiety Culture was one of the “organisations” they covered. as it seems to portray Anxiety Culture as one of the leading prankster-anarchist organisations in the country: “However weird. marginal or self-indulgent they may sound. their techniques often adopted by the very forces they oppose. since I thought that was probably what they wanted to hear. the activities of the pranksters continue to be hugely influential. Among other things. rather than printed in interview format.’ Yet Luther Blissett.

We’d like to see “maximum leisure” replace “full employment” as an achievable political goal. For example. The aim is to stop people in their tracks through irony. Anyway. We’d like to see this notion discredited. survival anxieties. laziness.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). Pranksterism is an important element – but not in the sense of throwing eggs at rich people. satire etc – using as much intelligence as we can muster. We’d appreciate it if the 96 . here is the interview conducted by Christian Koch for The Face: CK: Can you give a brief summary of what Anxiety Culture is about. etc). poverty. it’s about psychological gimmicks and economic taboos (welfare. what your aims and manifestos are? BD: Anxiety Culture is about the fear and paranoia behind the smiling mask of “normal” society. 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”. CK: What does Anxiety Culture hope to achieve? BD: There are some specific things. politicians see “jobs” as a cure-all for social ills.

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

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

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ net. I think there’s much more creativity at large than stuffy politicians could imagine. Nottingham Psychogeographical Unit)? BD: A cynical answer would be that people are jumping on bandwagons. you’d think that the only economic choice available was between Adam Smith and Karl Marx. On the other hand I can see how the “prankster” element – and the Situationist take on the media – appeals to people. CK: Why are there so many neo-Situationist groups at the moment (eg guerrilla gardening. Adam Smith’s “classical free-market economics” is 200 years out of date. 99 . CK: What does the fact that there are organisations such as Anxiety Culture tell us about ‘traditional’ politics. Luther Blissett. Another comment I’d make about politics is that sometimes. Marxism is 100 years out of date. Young people want novelty and relevance. 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). Perhaps this explains why some of the Situationist stuff seems unoriginal and a bit dreary. from watching TV. 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.

The article seemed to have struck a chord. A BBC2 Newsnight editor phoned me about appearing in a Newsnight debate.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. as in “Blair Witch [the popular film] owes its success to word-of-mouth”. 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. I think the mainstream media will increasingly make use of material from sources like Anxiety Culture. So yes. I also found that media people began to contact me. So to answer your question. someone from Carlton TV wanted me to go on a discussion programme about stress and the rat-race. a BBC Radio 4 journalist wanted my input on a programme he was creating. I’d have to look at the times when Anxiety Culture has appeared in the mass media. 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 Irish Independent and the Big Issue in Scotland reprinted it. Success at that scale results only from “word-of-mass-media”. I don’t believe in “word-of mouth”. 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 . etc.

Another example: A 1996 government report found that people working over 48 hours per week have double the risk of coronary heart disease. Fiddles in Whitehall were costing the taxpayer £5 billion a year. 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. and was promptly forgotten. you’d think. “Avoid Meetings – Stupidity is Contagious” stickers in boardrooms etc. A fairly important story. but the media pretty much ignores it – even though it has important implications. Except that the story was buried. according to an independent report. 101 . The report was suppressed – it made a few column inches at most. “Crap Job Watch” stickers in Job Centres. To give you an example – a few years ago BBC Radio 4 had a story about government fraud. It happens often: I see a news item that raises my eyebrows. This was deeply embarrassing given the Conservative government’s position on the EU ruling on working hours.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”. The plan is to create an online database containing news items that contradict consensus beliefs.

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

BD: I like that kind of thing – but it has to be well done. I’d never pull a stunt which would hurt or disadvantage anyone. informing them of his own death. His pranks include sending spoof letters to local newspapers about the virtues of having a pet lobster or covert leftist propaganda. Gentle irony and satire is what I prefer – where everyone can be in on the joke. CK: Do you seriously advocate that people should not read newspapers. I wouldn’t advise people to put turf on a statue of a national hero. That kind of thing is for would-be media celebrities. The problem is I don’t really like to deceive people. otherwise it backfires. as the cynical mindset of hacks infects the content? How are people supposed to keep abreast of current events? 103 . not just puerile self-aggrandisement or selfpublicity. For example. BD: I have toyed with the idea of producing bogus stuff. 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. It has to be intelligenceraising. CK: There is an NHS library assistant in Leicester who operates under the pseudonym of Henri Beauchamp.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.

I’ll also be progressing the “Memory Lapse” database. 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. say for a few weeks. 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. and secondly because I’m not in the habit (I hope) of telling people what they should and shouldn’t do. etc. harassed state at work. I think that’s a good metaphor. 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. For example. 104 . William Burroughs talked about “the word” acting as a virus. But I think it’s a good idea to take a break from “media noise” occasionally – to completely avoid it. due to constant performance pressures or deadlines. as a temporary psychological experiment. writing some articles and expanding the website. Language doesn’t just affect us consciously – it also has a hypnotic effect.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BD: My viewpoint on this probably needs a bit of explaining. employees often seem to be in a rushed. There are a number of psychological tricks which will relieve this – but they’re just temporary practices. not a set of “Thou Shalts”.

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

we’d better make sure it works”. the government killed that particular advert.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Another argument is that the corporate world is simply “co-opting” everything the satirists and pranksters do. I noticed recently that the ultra-trendy advertising agency. Not surprisingly. This was supposed to attract employers into the New Deal scheme. 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. 106 .

I enjoy work. in which two people gave opposing views on a particular issue. In the 20th March 1999 edition. that’s what matters. the issue was “presenteeism” (the opposite of “absenteeism” – eg spending all your time at the office. He owns a hotel business. There’s no point in sitting around: life’s too short. You have to stay one step ahead of the others”. were compiled (and edited) from interviews. I work for myself. Actually. The world is becoming increasingly competitive. and a self-made millionaire called Firoz Kassan argued in favour of it. As long as you’re sincere in what you do. Our arguments. and he said: “I work from seven in the morning until nine in the evening every day and most weekends. as printed. I made several points against presen- 107 . With free movement of labour in Europe now it’s going to get worse. In fact they asked me if I knew anyone who would be prepared to take a propresenteeism position. Life is about working hard and playing hard. I argued against presenteeism. with people coming in who are prepared to work harder. 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. I suggested the PR spokesperson from the Institute of Directors (but then I’ve got a warped sense of humour). regardless of actual work demands).Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INTERVIEW WITH THE INDEPENDENT ON “PRESENTEEISM” The Independent newspaper had a weekly section called Cross Words.

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

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

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

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

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

113 . Remember. also. obviously. There are different options to choose from. 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. would be that it avoids all the complicated conditions that make the welfare system such a costly. I personally like the idea of “negative income tax” as a way of gradually introducing Basic Income. which you stop receiving once you get a job). that you get to keep your Basic Income payments after you get a job (unlike welfare. the income is raised until people do come forward to take the job. in which the worse jobs are also the lowest paid is surely an economic perversion which only torturers and sadists would approve of. The current system.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ to rethink – perhaps build in a few conditions (although the point. bureaucratic mess). 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. If nobody comes forward to do the job. That’s how the “labour market” should always have worked.

Frontal. Lisa Rogers: I work totally hard. 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). They asked for a copy of my “Propaganda Kit” to use in the review. The Frontal producers contacted me about featuring Anxiety Culture in their review section. 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. Judging from the chaotic nature of the show (presenters talking over each other. Natasha Bell: I think we do. dealing with fringe popular culture”. videos. drawing a large national (UK) audience. etc) it was broadcast live. I wasn’t interviewed (I sent them a copy of my interview with The Face magazine to answer their questions about my background).Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CHANNEL 4: “FRONTAL” Channel 4 described their late-night TV show. 114 . The review format was three presenters – James Hyman. but I think the transcript of the review is worth including here for amusement value. as “a combination of cutting-edge music. Channel 4 advertised the show heavily. technology and the Internet. film.

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

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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).

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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...
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PART FOUR

BL~ISS: BULLETIN OF LEISURE

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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

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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. who. BL~ISS is short for “Bulletin of Leisure ~ Independent Space Sector”. Some people might think that all this obscure. who actually enjoy most of what’s on TV. smallscale creativity is entirely pointless. will kill whomever they are told to kill. who obey orders. if drafted. 120 ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ . It was basically a put-on. school. 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. corporation. The remainder of this section contains the full text of the BL~ISS leaflet. who believe what they are told by those above them in the power structure (family. etc).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). 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). although the leaflet itself was carefully designed and convincing in appearance – and it contained some valid information and ideas.

from his book. 121 . 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. Economists have calculated that an annual market growth of 5-10% is necessary to replace the jobs lost through technology. To quote Jeremy Rifkin.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. The End of Work: We are rapidly approaching a historic crossroads in human history. Technology is already shedding jobs faster than markets can expand to create new jobs. 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. No developed Earth nation can sustain this kind of growth.

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

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

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

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

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

Sears. ie 4% of the gross national product. At the time of writing this BL~ISS bulletin. serfdom and wage employment. In hindsight we can see that it required the neurological shift induced by zero gravity to bring about this transformation of human culture. activity in this sector is not coerced or reduced to financial motives of fear or greed.000 jobs from its merchandising division. we heard that Electrolux announced they are cutting 12. This was in a year when sales revenue rose by more than 10%.000 jobs over the next 127 . 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. shed 50. Unlike slavery. There are more than 350.000 voluntary organisations in the UK. But those who had tasted space were inevitably drawn back to the BLISS cultures of the independent space communities. February 24th. The vast majority of planet-tied people remained addicted to territorial security-anxiety and continued to perpetuate the earthbound culture of fear. The independent non-profit sector came into full flower when territorial-dominance imperatives started to atrophy in the humans who ventured into space. 1994) In 1993 the US retail giant.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ unrepresented in the mass media. with a total income in excess of £17 billion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josiah Warren and Benjamin Tucker. 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. This idea originated with early anarchists such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. This would remove the coercion of taking “lousy” jobs. hence the willingness-to-work condition. true interest would be zero). since even the lowest paid jobs significantly increase one’s disposable income under a Basic Income scheme.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. Van Parijs concludes that the best solution would be a Basic Income scheme with no willingness-to-work condition. but retain the incentive to take decent low-paid jobs. 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. As Benjamin Tucker explains: 134 . the cost of credit could in theory fall to a rate well below 1% (the cost of administering the credit. 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. but according to Proudhon.

It’s a good argument to use on “leave it to the market” types. In fact. With zero-interest credit. 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. then point out that a genuinely free market. 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 anarchists claim that zero-interest currency would 135 . without any monopoly. he assures us. Tucker responds that in forming a network of such banks. and if this bank of issue unites with other similar banks for clearing purposes. losses by depreciation of securities. because nobody would give money away to landlords if purchasing was cheaper. is the economic recipe for an Individualist Anarchist utopia. expenditure for paper and printing. housing rent would effectively disappear. rent of building. the business people would establish a collective credit with circulating power. The irony of this idea is that it follows conventional “free market” theory to logical conclusions.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ “If a thousand men engaged in different lines of business unite to form a bank of issue. 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. would be a more than sufficient motivation.

It will be interesting to see how governments react to alternative electronic currencies springing up in cyberspace. there have been hundreds of attempts to issue alternative currencies.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ eventually remove all forms of usury. from economic transactions. 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). LTERNATIVE ALTERNATIVE CURRENCIES Although it’s normally illegal. 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. including “profit”. and of course there are experiments that we don’t know about because of their secrecy. Workers would be fully compensated for their work at last. and not a Marxist or Collectivist in sight. During the 1930s depression in America. 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. The government mostly turned a blind eye unless currencies threatened to cross state lines. 136 . hundreds of alternative local currencies were issued.

the distortions in the system caused by hoarding and other forms of usury would be removed. 137 . money can be hoarded – temporarily withheld from the market for speculative purposes – without exposing its holder to losses. For example. Gesell believed that money is fine as a medium of exchange. which required a stamp to be affixed to the back of a money note each month. capable of dominating and distorting the market. With money behaving more like real material wealth. but that it tends to be used as an instrument of power. can’t be hoarded without significant costs – either in the natural deterioration of the goods. The most well-known form of this currency was “stamp scrip”. would result in people receiving the full proceeds of their own labour. to bring about an “organic reform” of the monetary system. 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. Real material goods. or in the cost of storage.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. Gesell proposed “rusting bank notes” (a metaphor for negative-interest money). he argued. This. In order to encourage the natural circulation of wealth instead of speculative hoarding. on the other hand.

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

low growth and low wages – in other words. but when speculators bleed vast sums from the digital economy. THE TOBIN TAX James Tobin. By far the biggest profits come from currency speculation. For example. but through transacting in a sort of abstract wealth. Short-term financial speculation tends to create economies of high profit. foresaw the detrimental effects of escalating currency speculation during the 1970s. 139 . they’re labelled as “spongers”. 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. a Nobel laureate economist.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. without producing anything of value. low investment. We have some strange notions about the respectability of certain types of income. conjured up by supercomputers which transact fast enough to exploit microfluctuations in exchange rates. and thus help to prevent instability in the global financial system. 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. it’s detrimental to the lives of most ordinary people. we congratulate them on their skill. He proposed a small tax on foreign currency transactions that would put “sand in the wheels” of international speculative finance. When poor people receive modest welfare payments without producing anything of value.

Or. A good ploy.1 to 0.25 percent. an estimated $100 – $300 billion per year would be generated. As a result. advocates of such alternative schemes are likely to be exposed to arguments such as: “if it’s such a great idea. who said: “I believe that the future will 140 . Currency speculators trade over $1. For example.8 trillion dollars each day across borders. 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. therefore. the French. Only the endorsement by a conventional authority will convince them. Supporters of the Tobin Tax say this revenue should be used to tackle world social and environmental problems. why hasn’t it already happened?” It’s important to realise that the people making these objections are never convinced by logical reasoning. Silvio Gesell’s concept of negative-interest money was supported by John Maynard Keynes. With the tax set at the very low proposed rate of 0. is to quote foreign authorities – European countries in particular seem more open to new economic ideas.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ One big advantage of the Tobin Tax is the amount of revenue it would generate. Belgian and Canadian parliaments have already voted in favour of a Tobin Tax. the Irish government has seriously considered a Basic Income scheme. etc. For example. depending on the formula used. 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. you can quote intellectual authorities.

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

If we ever reach a state in which everyone can enjoy oceans of sensual bliss without the worry of a ticking clock. grey. The mainstream intellectual coverage of sex isn’t much better – most of it seems backward-looking. Perhaps they were blocked by the authorities. 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. At any rate. from puritanical censorship to overblown sex-obsession. then maybe we can claim. it’s exploiting explicit sexual imagery to boast audience figures. finally.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ SEX ROBOTS Most people think a sexual revolution occurred in the late 20th century. we continue with our tired. robotic routine. Work-related stress and road rage don’t seem conducive to sensual pleasure. as if everything of importance has already happened. fully believing in the mass delusion that we’re sexually liberated. in schizophrenic fashion. or perhaps society wasn’t ready. that something important has occurred. 142 . the media lurches. Meanwhile. Perhaps nothing important has happened yet. When it isn’t issuing prim warnings about TV shows which contain “scenes of a sexual nature”. There have been attempts to start a sexual revolution – to release us from our humdrum lives of work and worry – but they apparently failed.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ It’s certainly long overdue. Centuries ago. 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. but state authorities have always regarded Eros as a threat to “national security”. Perhaps they held the keys to the sexual revolution that never happened. The more overt forms of the Inquisition have since died out. For that reason. Timothy Leary and Wilhelm Reich. 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. One wonders why certain individuals should be singled out for official wrath at a time of ostensible sexual liberalisation. sexual heretics hid their ideas in occult symbolism and poetry. anyone who mentioned eroticism in public risked imprisonment or torture by the Inquisition. It’s worth taking a look at the ideas of state-persecuted sex-revolutionaries. Even in recent decades there have been cases of sexual heretics being treated as “enemies of the state” – including imprisonment. book-burning (by order of the US authorities). in one case. Reich was the one who had his books and scientific papers incinerated). 143 . Three significant examples come to mind: Osho Rajneesh. These three figures were controversial in many ways. harassment by government agencies and.

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

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

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

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

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. Or perhaps the explanation is simply that most people aren’t ready to lose their domesticated values. sensual pleasures of life. many people in authority would get nervous. issue 30. “duty”. If a sexual revolution succeeded in diminishing the social value placed on domesticated sex-roles. Summer 2002. 148 . but because we’ll finally have enough time to enjoy the simple. etc – sound hollow from outside a domesticated sex-role. “honour”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ kind that raises children to be too stupid or neurotic to see through the domesticated adults’ hypocritical bullshit. 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. Whatever the reason for its postponement. 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. The values used to motivate people to work like slaves or support bogus wars – “responsibility”.

regard it as healthy. Unlike the other articles in this anthology. magazines and websites. The corporate absorption of counterculture ideas is the subject of an increasingly large number of books. Ever since Sprite’s “image is nothing. but it’s another thing to regard everybody within ten miles of a 149 . the cooler they seem. “some of them are savvy enough to know that the more they sponsor messages that attack [mindless consumerism]. author of Children of Chaos. These “anti-advertising” ad campaigns have proven popular with many corporations.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. They’re amoebae. According to advertising critic Leslie Savan. ad agencies have churned out a sort of watered-down anti-consumerism aimed at the youth market. they can constantly take in anything and come off seeming hip” (quoted in Stay Free! magazine).” There’s a fine line between concern and paranoia when it comes to the belief in an all-consuming corporate monster. thirst is everything” TV commercial. but most echo Negativland’s Mark Hosler. like Douglas Rushkoff. It’s one thing to feel dismayed at seeing a talented comedian doing a beer commercial. 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. Some. it was never published – the magazine backed out at the last moment and never paid me.

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

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

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

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

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

Many contemporary movements in science. If youth culture reflects artistic and intellec- 155 . psychology. its increasingly hollowsounding “free-market” rhetoric. and this trend is seeping into popular culture – especially youth culture. there’s no reason to be paranoid about “co-opting”. They have human weaknesses such as vanity. It’s no longer just political dissidents who sneer at market economics – everybody is starting to sneer. they justify their greed and ruthlessness in intellectual terms – usually by a combination of neo-classical economics and Social Darwinism. religion. And in order to be respected. art. 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. which means they want to be liked and respected. sociology and philosophy are opposed to 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. 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”. but they’re probably not James Bond-type megalomaniac villians. popular music. literature. Even billionaire capitalists like George Soros criticise the logic of the corporate economic worldview (which Soros calls “market fundamentalism”).

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

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

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

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

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

Most companies promote the idea of freedom with endless corporate jargon about “choice” and “opportunity”. Full “employment” would be recognised as full slavery. But that means making excuses. At most. Cognitive dissonance describes the inner state of mind: confusion. Most people would want to see slavery reduced rather than extended. This is a crude attempt to hide the fact that employees have no free choice. The only real escape from this torture is to quit your job. At 161 . which is even more undignified. more dissonance arises: “I am a free person – I cannot escape this situation”. Cognitive dissonance could be dispersed if we replaced the word “employee” with “slave”. they have an economic dilemma: continue the job or suffer the humiliation of welfare. discomfort and impotence. Together. 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”. If there is no choice but to continue the job (due to money needs and a harsh labour market).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. they contain the potentially vast social discontent resulting from compulsory full employment. A smart person with a boring. Behaviourism describes the external control: the supply or withdrawal of money and social status. We’re rats in a behaviourist maze. Then there’d be no confusion about our slave-identities.

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

Everything They Told You is Wrong
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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
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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

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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.

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

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

captive labour. working over 48hrs per week doubles the risk of coronary heart disease. Roughly half of that goes on pensions. big business depends on a complex legal framework and a powerful state apparatus (to enforce the laws under which businesses and lawyers prosper). The amount spent on pensions is increasing because the population is getting older. They’re quite happy to see everybody else (particularly the less well off) be regulated and controlled. Business people don’t really want less regulation and smaller government – they just want less state interference in their own activities. 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. Many business people love the US system. But when they talk of “cracking down on dependency culture” or “getting tough on the workshy”. Naive Question: Why do successful business people want less regulation and smaller government? Foolish Answer: Ironically. unemployment is “high”. Naive Question: Is unemployment high or low at the moment? Foolish Answer: When governments talk about their performance in managing the economy. Only £5bn is spent annually 169 .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). unemployment is “low”.

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

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

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

lower medical costs and more people enjoying life. One far-sighted solution. hardship and starvation had an enormous impact on economists and 173 . As we zoom into a bright new future. In 1798. Buckminster Fuller. is to advise employees to give each other lifts to work.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ telephone calls to predetermined scripts. Fuller argued that the dominant economic worldview – that of “not enough to go around for everyone” – is seriously flawed. The term “sweatshop” comes to mind. Visits to the lavatory are rationed and monitored. the famous utopian polymath. claimed that this economic argument is just a convenient excuse for government and corporate apathy. less pollution. devised by leading government thinkers. Thomas Malthus predicted that since world population was growing faster than known resources. This lets the government off the hook. The usual argument against utopian social policy is economic rectitude – that. Malthus’s forecast of ongoing scarcity. and dodges important questions such as: “must we always travel to work?”. One of the software packages commonly used by call centre managers is marketed as “Total Control Made Easy”. 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. we can’t afford it. as a society. less stress. traffic congestion and parking space are becoming difficult problems. due to being based on outdated inventories of world resources. poverty was inevitable for the majority of humanity.

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

Scarcity now has to be artificially induced to preserve an obsolete system of “haves” and “have-nots”. All humanity now has the option to become enduringly successful. Fuller regarded the “us versus them” paranoid-competitive business world as a highly destructive combination of Malthus and Social Darwinism. 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. Most people suspect as much when they hear that. Corporations see technology as just another way to gain competitive advantage. but. governments have been paying farmers not to grow food. for decades. was not to fight competitors. Our reflexes have been conditioned to dismiss ‘utopia’ as synonymous with the ‘unrealistic’ or ‘impossible’.” Meanwhile. Fuller’s message is yet to be heard. 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. so the consumers don’t die of fright before they get a chance to buy the products. friendly gloss on all this. Only ten years ago the more-with-less technology reached the point where this could be done.” In 1980. back in bureaucratsville. “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.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ standard for every person on the planet. 175 . as he saw it. Humanity’s real mission. And the function of advertising and PR is to put a warm.

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

but overall spiralling debt has more to do with Britain’s low-wage culture and high poverty level. edited version of this article was published in Sleaze magazine (formerly Sleaze Nation).1 Politicians want us to believe this is due to irresponsible spendthrifts abusing easy credit. painting a picture of an economy compromised only by feckless consumers who exploit and abuse the system. with politically sensitive issues such as student loans in the news.4 While banks and credit companies make record profits from criminally misleading promotions. some people do use credit to fund greedy lifestyles.2 Of course. The government doesn’t want you to think about this. June 2004. not them.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ DEBT CULT A shortened. Their PR dovetails with that of lying politicians. The average debt per UK household is around £7. one in five credit card ads breaks the law – usually involving misleading information on interest charges. 177 . credit card advertising. According to the Office of Fair Trading. excluding mortgages. but according to recent research at least one in five people in Britain resorts to debt to cover basic living costs. the problem is you.000. but often misleading. they’re quick to lecture us on responsibility. The nation’s credit card bill has increased by 76 percent since 1998.3 Part of this increase is due to highly seductive. Britons spend nearly three times more on their credit cards than the rest of the EU put together. In other words.

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

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

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

roads. so parents feel like failures if they don’t conform. pay later”. It’s often targeted at children.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. was reported as saying that insecure workers are good for the economy. prisons. You can’t afford to be choosy about jobs if you’re in debt. etc. making us anything but “free”.10 Saturation advertising increases our insecurities by exerting enormous psychological pressure. due to advancing technology. Yet we’re supposed to believe there’s not enough money to fund the level of education 181 . The people who run the economy see this as a good thing. The message is that depriving your children is more irresponsible than buying on credit. So people choose the “responsible” option of going further into debt. Then the government lectures us on the irresponsibility of “buy now. US Federal Reserve chair. Debt functions in this system as a social control mechanism. PFIs are the ultimate in irresponsible “pay later” funding – Private Eye magazine recently compared them to “taking out a mortgage on a credit card”. rises in productivity. This is the same government that embraced the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) as a way to fund hospitals. Alan Greenspan.11 Politicians are the last people to tell us how we should run our finances. Debt makes us financially insecure. etc. as they keep inflation low (by being too scared to risk asking for wage increases). Student loans are another example of the gross mismanagement of the country’s finances. Britain’s overall wealth continues to grow.

not Marx – worth remembering whenever defenders of the existing system try to pigeonhole its critics as communists. Don’t swallow this lie. it maintains the status quo. 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. But such is the insidious power of corporate propaganda. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. It also warned that monopolies distort the market so that it’s no longer free. The problem isn’t lack of money. This is Adam Smith. warned that whenever merchants meet they tend to conspire against the general public. Personal debt isn’t just big business – it’s central to the system. The free-market bible. the monopolisation of wealth by a small minority. 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. 182 . Proportional to growth in national wealth. Most of the country’s wealth is sucked up by big business and never returns as tax revenue.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ that corporate Britain requires. Given this structural role of debt. it’s remarkable that anyone would feel like a failure for going into debt – or feel irresponsible for walking away from a debt. It’s no coincidence that record bank profits are announced at the same time as record household debt. Britain could afford to vastly expand higher education without burdening students with debt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responsibility sees everything as a problem needing a solution – usually involving endless work and expenditure. yet all the unfortunate things that happen are your fault. the real function of “individual responsibility” is social conformity. 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. This sense of responsibility is obviously false – you can’t even be responsible for your next thought. It’s a big social con-trick – with the “responsible individual” as dupe. It’s part of a conspiracy of stupidity undermining claims that we can work less and take it easy. Politicians – the experts on responsibility – see joblessness as the ultimate irresponsible lifestyle. You don’t choose your genetic make-up or the conditions in which you grow up. As a result we continue to work for a responsible (but arbitrary) 40 hours a week instead of a more sensible 40 minutes. True responsibility would require all-seeing.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Another insidious anxiety-inducer to watch out for is the belief that you should be responsible. It never occurs to them that their idea of responsibility might not be universal. Society holds you accountable if you don’t comply with its definition of your responsibilities. This puts people under tremendous strain. Of course. Many people feel a “responsibility” to quit work in order to widen their knowledge and develop 189 . all-knowing divine power – it’s not something for fallible individuals to attempt. Any intelligent attempt to drastically cut working hours is resisted on the basis that it’s irresponsible.

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

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

although this epitaph sounds more appropriate for an item of machinery than a human being. fret over inadequate income. In effect. The underlying idea behind this insanity is that you are infinitely undeserving – reward. 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. a major UK survey (quoted recently by The Guardian) showed that 6 out of 10 British workers dislike their jobs. will always be contingent upon the endurance of some unpleasant activity. and 43% have problems sleeping because of work. or to put it another way. There is. suffer insecurity and stress. these findings don’t exactly support the idea of work being morally uplifting. feel that their work isn’t of use to society. and find themselves exhausted by the time they get home. Whatever its correlation with material wealth. A 1995 National Opinion Poll (NOP) revealed that 50% of British workers say work makes them depressed. that you’ve worked enough 192 . Unless you regard stress-related illness as character building.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. The hard work ethic has also conditioned us to see happiness as something that must be earned through toil. 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”. this is saying you have to suffer in order to get happiness. a lot of evidence to suggest that our work ethic is extreme and pathological in its effects. you must be unhappy to be happy. in fact. once and for all. For example.

you need precise information about where to drill. As a business analyst. they also program our expectations. 193 . According to classical economic theory. it isn’t working”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ (the religious beliefs which originally gave rise to this mindset. As knowledge-intensive markets grow in proportion to labour-intensive industry. information is overtaking labour (ie hard work) as an important wealth-creating factor. Increasingly though. labour and capital. don’t do it”. no gain”. wealth is created from land. information is becoming the primary source of wealth. Beliefs like these don’t only describe viewpoints. or “if you can’t enjoy it. 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”. Quality thought (efficient reception. I observed employees in busy offices rushing so much to get things done. A popular cliché says “nothing worthwhile is easy”. don’t permit you to relax until after you’ve died). You are effectively programming yourself to experience hurt and hardship if you accept this idea of “no pain. Another version of the same idea has been used as a political slogan: “if it isn’t hurting. The human brain processes complex information better when the person is relaxed and happy (adrenaline addiction notwithstanding). integration and transmission of information) doesn’t usually result from hard work and stress. If you drill for oil.

enthusiastic and committed). By happily accepting our punishment (ie daily hard work) we demonstrate our moral fibre. A strange effect of the ‘dark ages’ view of work as atonement. 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. 194 . Presbyterians.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ One futurist dream is that technology will eventually free people from the necessity of hard work. 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. Wesleyans and other puritanical sects were greatly over-represented among the major industrialists quoted in Ashton’s History of the Industrial Revolution). drudgery and toil would be pointless and obsolete. but in terms of work patterns we cling to the attitudes of an mechanicalindustrial culture steeped in the Puritan ethic (Methodists. is the idea that we should enjoy it. or at least try to look as if we’re enjoying it. But for everybody else. 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. but which are still very rare. Currently there are alternatives to the 9-5 work culture (job-sharing. 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. The Information Age is here. Quakers.

This could be the greatest business challenge you have ever faced. without feeling ashamed of your laziness. 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). 195 . The acceptance of laziness breaks the link between guilt and work which chains us to primitive patterns from the past.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ In order to more deeply understand current attitudes to work. Don’t do anything. just lie in bed and doze all day. December 1996. This article was originally published in In Business magazine.

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

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’. Meanwhile. When we talk in terms of ‘communal’ biases here. as reflected. there are good reasons for the Anglo-American belief that economic self-interest must take precedence over social concern. according to classical economists. The European capitalist model is more ‘communal’ in its emphasis. Japan – possibly the most economically successful of all capitalist nations – has a more communitarian model than even Europe. To the Japanese. thus benefiting everyone. Adam Smith observed that merchants acting from selfish motivations tended to produce more of public value than those motivated by benevolence towards society. The reasons for this are easy enough to follow – self-interest fuels competitiveness and. 197 . Of course. for instance. by the social chapter of the Maastricht treaty. but to cultural perspectives which recognise that wealth-creation may not be an entirely individualistic pursuit. we are not referring to communism or statism.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ the rational choices made by its individual constituents. 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.

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. There is a almost mathematical satisfaction to be gained from understanding classical economics. etc). 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”. Indeed. The Seven Cultures of Capitalism. He goes as far as saying that little in standard economics texts is known to be true. classical economic metaphors obviously reflect the Newtonian mechanical view of the world. universal way. Their book is rich in examples which contradict the fundamental assumptions of mainstream British economics. 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. as if predicting economic effects is a simple problem of physics. Professor Paul Ormerod. 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. 198 . and that orthodox economics still has no effective answer for basic problems such as unemployment.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. letting off steam. the market ‘mechanism’ is regarded as a sort of universal scientific law by classical economists and business people in Britain and America.

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

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

where the political strategy has been to increase internal competition. pushing competition to its own boundaries” (The Seven Cultures of Capitalism). In order to compete successfully at the national level.a function of evolving co-operation. which is often not in the interests of the company). the development of capitalism may be seen as “. later. Japan has spread the level of co-operation further still. 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). Describing economic progress in terms of evolving cooperation. and share nothing). in the keiretsu (a co-operative conglomerate).Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ other individuals.. Thus. European nations have largely adopted the internally cooperative approach. may have important benefits. in contrast with the UK. then. 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 . 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. whose divisional companies co-operate and share technological knowledge and resources (in Anglo-American conglomerates. rather than ruthless self-interested struggle. the divisions compete with each other for the funding of the holding company.. which spreads outward.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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

August 1997. THE END PLEASE PROCEED TO THE CHECKOUT 208 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ In a world of decreasing demand for human labour. This article was originally published in In Business magazine. they perform. 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. if any.

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