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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cowardice and parasitical behaviour. And it’s worse for lowincome occupations. Worse. whose wages are now only 110 times what they were in 1900. whereas other valid survival strategies – eg parasitical behaviour – are completely demonised. Teachers currently earn £15. these qualities are inherently no worse than “competition”. LAW OF THE JUNGLE It’s odd how competition is justified in terms of “survival of the fittest”.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.£24.500 . rents have increased by 500 times – ie double the increase in wages. whereas house prices have increased by 375 times. “parasites” and the “idle”. 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”. One example given is teachers. but would have to earn £80. 18 . Judging from the behaviour of the mice in my house. (Note: Since 1999 the cost of rent/housing has shot up again – way above wage increases).000 a year to match the house purchasing power of teachers in 1900. the rodent survival strategy seems to be: idleness.000 a year (1999 figures). In terms of Darwinian “survival of the fittest”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words. Given the rising world population level. for example. This is something that anti-technology groups often tend to ignore or forget. etc. Of course. 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. 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).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. condemning millions to starvation (ie millions more than are currently starving). technology is necessary for us to reach “post-scarcity”. Abandoning technology would return us to scarcity. Wars and violent revolutions have the potential to increase scarcity. So people dismantle factories. Let’s say. that in the next 20 years we have an ecological catastrophe followed by a violent movement against technology (since people will blame technology). that makes sense from the Capitalist point of view. 38 .

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Then you’ve got two increases in scarcity: one caused by the eco-disaster. Any increase in scarcity makes the situation worse. but when push comes to shove. 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. 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. and another caused by the dismantling of production-increasing technology. Noam Chomsky: “Although there’s a lot of talk about capitalism. free enterprise and free markets. 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). It’s fine for afterdinner speeches and editorials. So would an ecological disaster. PRETEND FREE ENTERPRISE Here’s a good quote from the famous political dissident. Fighting for scarce resources and for control of those resources is the underlying motivation of the Capitalist system. In other words.” 39 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

for example. In “respectable” society. But that’s missing the point slightly. That’s a well-supported finding in the social sciences. The point is that steepness of social hierarchy correlates with unhappiness in a society.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ material deprivation. Social-status comparison is a very strong influence on our behaviour – after all. No doubt this is a result of decades of advertising and “education”. we evolved from hierarchically social mammals. 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. social status seems correlated with financial status.” That’s the “free market” in action – busy creating more and more inequality. In the UK. 46 . Many studies have been conducted into the level of income-inequality (a measure of the steepness of social hierarchy). steeper and steeper social hierarchy. as reflected in all those surveys you see on stress levels. Trying to “rationalise” it away seems like a bad strategy. It’s going to push our buttons whether we like it or not. much of this behaviour is hard-wired into our nervous systems. Of course. conditioning us to associate symbols of wealth (“status symbols”) with elevated position in the social hierarchy. 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 average level of debt per household is £5.300 (not including home loans). 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). etc. 47 . It’s the extreme winner-loser. reported recently by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation). anxiety disorders. that seem to be the most damaging element of this social inequality. flu or other bug.5 million people can’t afford adequate housing conditions (according to the biggest. THE REAL BIO-TERRORISTS The real bio-terrorists are those who go to work with a cold. making us unhappy. One in 4 people are now living in poverty. Poverty in Britain rose sharply between 1979 and the late 1990s. reducing serotonin levels. with money as the measure of winning/success. 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.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ depression epidemics. most comprehensive study of UK poverty in the last decade. 9. success-failure polarities. Help prevent terrorism: stay at home and phone in sick. The reaction of pity towards someone perceived as being low(er) on the social/financial ladder seems an automatic reflex in most people. tranquilliser addictions.

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

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

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

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

disability allowances and income support for lowpaid working people (as opposed to “workshy” people). just one week before the above headlines.” Strangely enough.800 in The Daily Telegraph. That £96 billion figure is the total welfare budget. including old-age pensions. 19/3/98). Welfare for unemployed people accounts for only 5% of the total welfare budget. 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. 52 . More strangely still.383. the actual figure for the cost of welfare to unemployed people is only £5 billion per year. not £96 billion as the Daily Mail claims.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. the official number of unemployed was the lowest for 18 years (given as 1.

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

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

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

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

A “CHRISTIAN” PARABLE Imagine you’re 2. with a hypnotist sitting close to your left ear.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Economic sanctions and bombs just increase fear – they obviously solve nothing. 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. why not instead drop bananas into the mouths of the hungry. the hypnotist gave you the following hypnotic suggestions. Every day for the first 1800 years or so. 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.000 years old. Somehow I don’t think a dictator would last long in a nation of millionaires. to bring all the citizens upto the living standard of millionaires. the rest of the world should send so much wealth into that country immediately. I’d take this a step further by suggesting that whenever an evil dictatorship arises.

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

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

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

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

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

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). But does welfare diminish the type of self-reliance which results from a supportive and nurturing environment? It seems unlikely. exploiting anxieties. but it has a depressing effect. the fraudster. the con-man.” 63 . 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.. Much of what goes into our heads looks harmless. 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. Watch out for the adverts! A 1980 UNESCO report stated that advertising is guilty of “simplifying real human situations into stereotypes..

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

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

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

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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

OF THE

WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Editor. 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. 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. Dear Editor. you should remain impartial and use the phrase “alleged Iraqi atrocities”. respectively). 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 hear Bush and Blair are nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ dramatically during the technological revolution? Didn’t national wealth soar? So where is all the money going. If only 10% of office staff worked one day a week at home. 83 . The context is the Bush/Blair war on Iraq. 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).

2. This is usually based upon technological capability rather than quality of imagination. Let me see if I've got this right: 1. Dear Paul. etc). Where is the line drawn between news and satire? . And. of course.NET (2) This well-known UK internet magazine printed recommendations by the “world’s top designers” on how websites should look. I was unimpressed by the corporate mentality behind their views. no groovy textures or tiled backgrounds. In 84 . I also notice a sort of design snobbery which draws a bogus line between “professional” and “amateur” sites. 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. upon a set of anal design rules (no large text. They confirmed my suspicion that “success” in web design is currently more about conforming to corporate respectability than true creativity. Britain bombs Iraq without UN legitimacy. Dear Editor. No wonder so many corporate sites look identical.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE INDEPENDENT Printed on 18 April 2003 (in the context of the 2003 Iraq war). I was unimpressed by the “world’s top designers”. They spoke the usual banalities (“Design is about communication”).

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

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

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

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

which has on the cover the earth from space. it’s clearly your belief that we are living in an anxiety culture.” Richard Holland: Some of the philosophy to be found in the Anxiety Culture magazine produced by Brian Dean. What exactly do you mean by that? 89 . Now Brian. a satellite and a supermarket trolley – and across the inside back cover the message “Your home is at risk if you do not keep up payments on a mortgage or other loan secured on it”. God knows what the respectable BBC radio listeners of suburban Wales made of the broadcast.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. and is aimed at what’s called ‘the anxiously inclined’. 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. It’s Anxiety Culture. One of the journalists from the show had seen my cartoon ads for Anxiety Culture in Fortean Times magazine. and tracked me down to do an interview. Borderlines regular Richard Holland has been to investigate further. just find an enjoyable way to receive it.

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

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

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

To give an example – if you believe that the universe is fundamentally unsafe.. then you’re 93 . is if we’re all anxiety-driven and propelled by negative thoughts in this way. 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.. The question.” 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. of course. there’s too much to do. and you’re suggesting that a lot of us – perhaps most of us – are caught up in this. I think. because nobody is thinking about the effect on themselves. which makes the adverts all that more effective. I think most people would deny being influenced by advertisements. mainly. but obviously people are influenced on a massive scale when you look at the amounts of money involved in advertising. which you quote in your magazine. how do we get out of it? BD: One of the main things we’re trying to get across is that your level of anxiety doesn’t depend upon what’s happening out there so much as what you believe about what’s happening. it’s exploiting people’s feeling of inadequacy. 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.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BD: In advertising.

But for now. RH: Right. you’re going to feel comfortable. you obviously feel helpless. 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.. If. So in case we’ve left everybody feeling terribly depressed and anxious. because with a lack of safety on that scale. And if people say “well. then for the most part.. 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. on the other hand. you believe in a universe that is fundamentally safe.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ going to be constantly experiencing a state of panic and anxiety. which is the way you feel we all ought to be thinking. what about objectivity?”. So it’s a question of belief. so people are free to interpret their safety in a way that advantages them rather than disadvantages them. fine.” 94 .

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

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

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

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

from watching TV. Marxism is 100 years out of date. CK: What does the fact that there are organisations such as Anxiety Culture tell us about ‘traditional’ politics. 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. I think there’s much more creativity at large than stuffy politicians could imagine. Another comment I’d make about politics is that sometimes. Nottingham Psychogeographical Unit)? BD: A cynical answer would be that people are jumping on bandwagons. its appeal to youth and the politicisation or otherwise of young people? BD: I think this is covered by what I said before about traditional politics having obsolete categories (right v left) and limitations (Capitalism/Socialism). Young people want novelty and relevance. Adam Smith’s “classical free-market economics” is 200 years out of date.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ net. Perhaps this explains why some of the Situationist stuff seems unoriginal and a bit dreary. CK: Why are there so many neo-Situationist groups at the moment (eg guerrilla gardening. Luther Blissett. 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. 99 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

106 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Another argument is that the corporate world is simply “co-opting” everything the satirists and pranksters do. the government killed that particular advert. I noticed recently that the ultra-trendy advertising agency. we’d better make sure it works”. 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.

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

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

He says all he had to do was “sign on” each week – there were no other conditions for receiving the dole. 12 April 2001). In those days. 109 . Or are you counting on people to continue working after a Basic Income is implemented? BD: Firstly. 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. I was asked to defend the concept of a Basic Income (a universal guaranteed income paid to everyone. and refuse to do any work. was much higher then than now. He is proud of his “drop-out” years. but in Britain it was possible to live on the dole for long periods without getting any hassle from the government. without any work requirement). relative to the “cost of living”. 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. But obviously all this has changed over the last 25 years.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BASIC INCOME FORUM This electronic debate took place on a special Internet forum discussing work issues (Why Work?. college students could spend all their holiday periods on the dole. Certainly I don’t think there was the intensity of hostility towards welfare recipients that you see now. Nobody but a few rightwing spoilsports questioned any of this at the time. 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). The amount of the dole.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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who. I combined the ideas of Rifkin and the AAA (probably without doing justice to either) into a weird mix. who believe what they are told by those above them in the power structure (family. 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. The remainder of this section contains the full text of the BL~ISS leaflet. BL~ISS is short for “Bulletin of Leisure ~ Independent Space Sector”. although the leaflet itself was carefully designed and convincing in appearance – and it contained some valid information and ideas. 120 ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ . smallscale creativity is entirely pointless. It was basically a put-on. It came about because I read Jeremy Rifkin’s book. will kill whomever they are told to kill. 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). who actually enjoy most of what’s on TV. 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). who obey orders. etc). school. corporation. Some people might think that all this obscure. if drafted.Everything They Told You is Wrong BL~ISS BL~ISS was an “organisation” I created to distribute a leaflet in the late nineties.

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. Economists have calculated that an annual market growth of 5-10% is necessary to replace the jobs lost through technology. The End of Work: We are rapidly approaching a historic crossroads in human history.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE END OF WORK It seems likely that most work will soon cease to exist on the planet surface. 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. No developed Earth nation can sustain this kind of growth. from his book. Technology is already shedding jobs faster than markets can expand to create new jobs. To quote Jeremy Rifkin. 121 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve selected a handful of my own favourites. and concentrated more on the art of bluffing than this version. The main difficulty is sifting through them all to find the best ones. amended version of an article I wrote for the Idler (issue 31. BASIC INCOME A Basic Income is an income paid to all individuals. without work requirement or means test.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ALTERNATIVE ECONOMICS This is a shorter. eg self-employment or jobs. NO SHORTAGE OF ALTERNATIVES There are hundreds of economic ideas which fall outside conventional capitalist and socialist theories. Several ways have been suggested to fund a Basic Income. As a starting point for people new to alternative economics. Nobel prize-winning economist James Meade proposed a social dividend funded from the return on publicly owned productive assets. The Idler article was titled: A Bluffer’s Guide to Revolutionary Economics. State Bonus. Some economists think that funding should 130 . Universal Benefit. Winter 2002/3). 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. which is funded from royalties on Alaska’s vast oil fields. Over the last two centuries this idea has been independently proposed under a variety of names – Citizen’s Income. An existing example of a Basic Income funded this way is Alaska’s dividend scheme.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

issue 29. This article was first published in The Idler. 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. Winter 2001/2.

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

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

Naive Question: Why is welfare spending so high? Foolish Answer: The total yearly UK welfare budget is £99bn. Only £5bn is spent annually 169 . They’re quite happy to see everybody else (particularly the less well off) be regulated and controlled. working over 48hrs per week doubles the risk of coronary heart disease. The amount spent on pensions is increasing because the population is getting older. 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). Naive Question: Why do successful business people want less regulation and smaller government? Foolish Answer: Ironically. But when they talk of “cracking down on dependency culture” or “getting tough on the workshy”. captive labour.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). Many business people love the US system. Naive Question: Is unemployment high or low at the moment? Foolish Answer: When governments talk about their performance in managing the economy. where the government is powerful enough to fill the prisons with millions of relatively harmless people who are then available to corporations as cheap. Business people don’t really want less regulation and smaller government – they just want less state interference in their own activities. unemployment is “high”. unemployment is “low”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the problem is you. Britons spend nearly three times more on their credit cards than the rest of the EU put together. one in five credit card ads breaks the law – usually involving misleading information on interest charges.3 Part of this increase is due to highly seductive. 177 . with politically sensitive issues such as student loans in the news. they’re quick to lecture us on responsibility. The average debt per UK household is around £7. but overall spiralling debt has more to do with Britain’s low-wage culture and high poverty level. The nation’s credit card bill has increased by 76 percent since 1998. According to the Office of Fair Trading.4 While banks and credit companies make record profits from criminally misleading promotions.000. but according to recent research at least one in five people in Britain resorts to debt to cover basic living costs. painting a picture of an economy compromised only by feckless consumers who exploit and abuse the system. but often misleading. Their PR dovetails with that of lying politicians. credit card advertising. June 2004.2 Of course. excluding mortgages. some people do use credit to fund greedy lifestyles. edited version of this article was published in Sleaze magazine (formerly Sleaze Nation). The government doesn’t want you to think about this. not them.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ DEBT CULT A shortened.1 Politicians want us to believe this is due to irresponsible spendthrifts abusing easy credit. In other words.

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

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

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

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

182 .12 Do you ever get the feeling you’re being ripped off? You’re not paranoid – you really are being ripped off. 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. This is partly due to the remarkable ability of large corporations to utilise offshore tax havens and tax loopholes. Most of the country’s wealth is sucked up by big business and never returns as tax revenue. The free-market bible. the monopolisation of wealth by a small minority. Personal debt isn’t just big business – it’s central to the system. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. not Marx – worth remembering whenever defenders of the existing system try to pigeonhole its critics as communists. But such is the insidious power of corporate propaganda. Proportional to growth in national wealth. it’s remarkable that anyone would feel like a failure for going into debt – or feel irresponsible for walking away from a debt. Don’t swallow this lie. it maintains the status quo. Given this structural role of debt. It also warned that monopolies distort the market so that it’s no longer free. 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. warned that whenever merchants meet they tend to conspire against the general public. This is Adam Smith. The problem isn’t lack of money.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ that corporate Britain requires.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quality thought (efficient reception. You are effectively programming yourself to experience hurt and hardship if you accept this idea of “no pain. As knowledge-intensive markets grow in proportion to labour-intensive industry. The human brain processes complex information better when the person is relaxed and happy (adrenaline addiction notwithstanding). don’t do it”. I observed employees in busy offices rushing so much to get things done.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ (the religious beliefs which originally gave rise to this mindset. As a business analyst. A popular cliché says “nothing worthwhile is easy”. 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”. information is becoming the primary source of wealth. they also program our expectations. that they never stopped to consider if there was any point to it. According to classical economic theory. it isn’t working”. no gain”. If you drill for oil. 193 . labour and capital. Increasingly though. Another version of the same idea has been used as a political slogan: “if it isn’t hurting. information is overtaking labour (ie hard work) as an important wealth-creating factor. Beliefs like these don’t only describe viewpoints. don’t permit you to relax until after you’ve died). wealth is created from land. you need precise information about where to drill. integration and transmission of information) doesn’t usually result from hard work and stress. or “if you can’t enjoy it.

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

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

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

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

He goes as far as saying that little in standard economics texts is known to be true. They argue that market forces depend on specific cultural contexts and shouldn’t be seen to act in an impersonal. The Seven Cultures of Capitalism. etc). the market ‘mechanism’ is regarded as a sort of universal scientific law by classical economists and business people in Britain and America. as if predicting economic effects is a simple problem of physics.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. Professor Paul Ormerod. Their book is rich in examples which contradict the fundamental assumptions of mainstream British economics. 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. 198 . classical economic metaphors obviously reflect the Newtonian mechanical view of the world. 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. 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. of the Henley Centre forecasting organisation. letting off steam. and that orthodox economics still has no effective answer for basic problems such as unemployment. universal way.

Similarly.4% in Japan. manufacturing grew by 33. If business is necessarily a ruthless struggle between selfinterested competitors. how did Sweden’s “softness” (social equality.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Sweden. 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. This tendency hasn’t harmed the economic growth of these countries (from 1979 to 1991. it is outside the “socialist” categorisation). in Germany. insulated exception to universally harsh economic laws. and working conditions and labour-management relations have generally been excellent. humanitarianism. but. with substantial government control moderating economic fluctuations. has been something of an enigma to classical economists. in fact. 199 . Also.3% in Germany and 60. GDP per capita in Britain continued to lose comparative advantage with these countries during this period). A strong social democratic welfare state. rather than simply a hoped-for effect of the market mechanism. for example. has put Sweden in the “soft” category of capitalism (but with very little industry nationalised.000 higher than in the UK). customers and local communities) is very much part of their economic strategies. since the late nineteenth century Sweden has been a world economy highly exposed to international trends. compared with 4.9% in Britain. Holland and Japan. benevolence towards ‘society’ (as expressed towards employees. Economists rationalised that Sweden was a small.

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

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

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

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

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

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