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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can’t have normal. Successful marketing these days requires large-scale corporate marketing budgets. 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. 30 . working-class people recording their perspectives on video – leave that technology to the rich people in Hollywood.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. it rewards the successful marketing of artistry/merit. Maybe it would have been better for those in power if consumer camera technology was frozen at the still camera stage. 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. REWARDS OF THE MARKET The market doesn’t reward artistry or merit. The Rodney King beating was captured on video. 2 “Technological progress benefits nobody but the rich” On the contrary. DEFINITION OF A GENUINE ARTIST IN A MARKET ECONOMY A creative unemployed person.

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

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

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

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

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

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

the implication is that the government won’t be able to withdraw a jobless person’s benefits without running up against Human Rights legislation.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. as they should.” 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. 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 . Unemployed people do not currently have their welfare claims ultimately decided by an independent organisation.” Apparently the UK is in breach of these laws. taken from a recent newspaper article: “The European Convention on Human Rights says everyone is entitled to a fair hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal when decisions are being made about their civil rights (including rights to benefits). Reading between the lines. to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. Here’s another interesting Human Rights issue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So to answer your question. I also found that media people began to contact me. I was also interviewed by the Independent newspaper – but that didn’t get as much response as the Guardian article (probably because the Independent forgot to print my contact details or web address). The best response I had was when the Guardian printed a long article of mine – I received literally hundreds of enthusiastic letters and emails. someone from Carlton TV wanted me to go on a discussion programme about stress and the rat-race. A BBC2 Newsnight editor phoned me about appearing in a Newsnight debate. I think the mainstream media will increasingly make use of material from sources like Anxiety Culture. The Irish Independent and the Big Issue in Scotland reprinted it. I don’t believe in “word-of mouth”. I’d have to look at the times when Anxiety Culture has appeared in the mass media. a BBC Radio 4 journalist wanted my input on a programme he was creating. 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. The article seemed to have struck a chord.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. etc. Success at that scale results only from “word-of-mass-media”. as in “Blair Witch [the popular film] owes its success to word-of-mouth”. So yes. 100 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Certainly I don’t think there was the intensity of hostility towards welfare recipients that you see now. but in Britain it was possible to live on the dole for long periods without getting any hassle from the government. In those days. and refuse to do any work. 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. without any work requirement). I don’t know what the exact situation was in the US. I was asked to defend the concept of a Basic Income (a universal guaranteed income paid to everyone. and a well-paid computer programmer) who lived for ten years on the dole in his youth. The amount of the dole. He is proud of his “drop-out” years. He says all he had to do was “sign on” each week – there were no other conditions for receiving the dole. was much higher then than now. Nobody but a few rightwing spoilsports questioned any of this at the time. I know someone (who’s over 50 now. 12 April 2001). Questioner: You presumably recognize that we can’t all pay ourselves a Basic Income. relative to the “cost of living”. Or are you counting on people to continue working after a Basic Income is implemented? BD: Firstly. 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). 109 .

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

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

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

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

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

for under ten pounds. LR: Yeah! (Backdrop changes to “Crap Job Watch” graphic from Propaganda Kit). NB: I like that “Crap Job Watch” (pointing to backdrop). (Backdrop changes to the Propaganda Kit page from the Anxiety Culture website)... LR: (indecipherable interruption). NB: If you’re unhappy with your job. LR: Noooooo! JH: Enjoy your life. (holds up another postcard) and “Turn on. You can put this. 115 . blame James first... JH: Listen to this – “working more than forty eight hours doubles the risk of coronary heart disease”. tune in. resign”. Enjoy your life.. JH: “Don’t be a slave to someone else’s purpose” – have your own purpose. Enjoy your life more. 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. We should enjoy life more. They produce lots of stills [I think he meant stickers] – a Propaganda Kit. JH: Look at that (holds up postcard from Propaganda Kit) – “Team spirit means mob mentality”..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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BL~ISS is short for “Bulletin of Leisure ~ Independent Space Sector”. school. if drafted. 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. etc). It came about because I read Jeremy Rifkin’s book. 120 ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ . 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). will kill whomever they are told to kill. The remainder of this section contains the full text of the BL~ISS leaflet. Some people might think that all this obscure. I combined the ideas of Rifkin and the AAA (probably without doing justice to either) into a weird mix. corporation. who actually enjoy most of what’s on TV. 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 obey orders. It was basically a put-on. smallscale creativity is entirely pointless. although the leaflet itself was carefully designed and convincing in appearance – and it contained some valid information and ideas. who believe what they are told by those above them in the power structure (family.Everything They Told You is Wrong BL~ISS BL~ISS was an “organisation” I created to distribute a leaflet in the late nineties. who.

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. from his book. Economists have calculated that an annual market growth of 5-10% is necessary to replace the jobs lost through technology. 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. The End of Work: We are rapidly approaching a historic crossroads in human history. To quote Jeremy Rifkin. Global corporations are now capable of producing an unprecedented volume of goods and services with an ever smaller workforce. 121 . Technology is already shedding jobs faster than markets can expand to create new jobs. 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.

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. FUTURE HISTORY OF THE INDEPENDENT SPACE SECTOR As corporations and states attempted to exploit the commercial possibilities of space. More and more people are choosing to live in the Independent Space Sector – in preference to the earthbound. space corporations quickly gave up on human labour and instead invested heavily in laboursaving space technology. This has evolved and grown from what used to be called the non-profit sector. 122 .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. gravity-depressed government and market sectors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. Silvio Gesell’s concept of negative-interest money was supported by John Maynard Keynes. 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.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ One big advantage of the Tobin Tax is the amount of revenue it would generate. the Irish government has seriously considered a Basic Income scheme. Or. depending on the formula used. For example. therefore. Supporters of the Tobin Tax say this revenue should be used to tackle world social and environmental problems. why hasn’t it already happened?” It’s important to realise that the people making these objections are never convinced by logical reasoning. an estimated $100 – $300 billion per year would be generated. you can quote intellectual authorities. is to quote foreign authorities – European countries in particular seem more open to new economic ideas.8 trillion dollars each day across borders. Belgian and Canadian parliaments have already voted in favour of a Tobin Tax. etc. advocates of such alternative schemes are likely to be exposed to arguments such as: “if it’s such a great idea. A good ploy. Only the endorsement by a conventional authority will convince them. the French. who said: “I believe that the future will 140 . For example. Currency speculators trade over $1.25 percent. With the tax set at the very low proposed rate of 0.1 to 0. As a result.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

time and motion studies emphasised observable. Modern psychology. In the early 1900s.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ buildings. Scientific management was also criticised: studies conducted in the 1930s showed that worker productivity was not determined entirely by the workplace. behaviourism revolutionised psychology by focusing entirely on objectively measurable human responses to stimuli. Captains of industry have forever been on the lookout for ways to increase management control of worker productivity. industry has always had this problem. 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. in particular. One branch of psychology in particular has provided important advances in management control. has been a happy hunting ground for company bosses wanting to maximise performance and discipline. how do you keep them productive. 158 . At the same time. mechanistic view of people. and it wasn’t too long before Gestalt psychologists challenged this reductionist. week after week. Behaviourism treated humans like rats in a maze. 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. To an extent. measurable worker behaviour. in activities which insult their intelligence? It seems like a huge management problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bear in mind that a new British-US fighter plane has a development price-tag of £250bn. Many elderly people are able-bodied. 170 . As a cost comparison. Winter 2000/1. This article was first published in The Idler. 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.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ on unemployment benefits. Naive Question: Who really wants strong leaders? Foolish Answer: Only sexually repressed people want strong leaders (according to psychologists). issue 27. Naive Question: Why should people get pensions? Foolish Answer: The cost of state pensions is huge. yet there is widespread poverty amongst old people. they can take jobs in telesales or supermarket trolley shepherding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

000. the problem is you. some people do use credit to fund greedy lifestyles. edited version of this article was published in Sleaze magazine (formerly Sleaze Nation). but according to recent research at least one in five people in Britain resorts to debt to cover basic living costs. excluding mortgages. but often misleading. 177 . Their PR dovetails with that of lying politicians. painting a picture of an economy compromised only by feckless consumers who exploit and abuse the system.3 Part of this increase is due to highly seductive. Britons spend nearly three times more on their credit cards than the rest of the EU put together. they’re quick to lecture us on responsibility. not them. June 2004. The average debt per UK household is around £7. According to the Office of Fair Trading. with politically sensitive issues such as student loans in the news.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. one in five credit card ads breaks the law – usually involving misleading information on interest charges. The government doesn’t want you to think about this.2 Of course. credit card advertising. The nation’s credit card bill has increased by 76 percent since 1998.4 While banks and credit companies make record profits from criminally misleading promotions. but overall spiralling debt has more to do with Britain’s low-wage culture and high poverty level.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vast quantities of tranquillisers and anti-depressants are prescribed in the UK – eighty million prescriptions in 184 . affecting 7 percent of people. When so many people seem to enjoy being economic slaves. I prepared myself to return to work for a large bureaucratic company. 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. useful idiots can be identified by their claim to like their jobs. The prospect of going back into the corporate world filled me with dread. According to a recent major survey commissioned by the government. after resting for a year. more than 10 percent of the population suffer from a neurotic anxiety disorder1. a term used by the intelligence community. rather than financial dilemma and survival anxiety. while still believing in their own freedom and autonomy. Financial anxiety turns most of us into “useful idiots”. or at least pretend to. In the everyday world of tedious wage-slavery.” The interviewer seemed convinced that I was there out of free choice and enthusiasm. We’re living in an anxiety culture and we’re driven by fear.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ANXIETY ATTACK Recently. This involved hiding all my real motivations and feelings. meaning those who unwittingly end up serving the purposes of others. take a look at some figures. If that sounds like an exaggeration. and over-using words like “opportunity” and “challenge. I got the job after a successful act of deception at the job interview. The most common problem is a mixed anxiety and depressive disorder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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