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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the freedom to be scurrilous. 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. if one chooses. on the other hand. and seditious.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. and weird religious heresies and cults such as the Rosicrucians. including. serious and ‘high-brow’ than is ever possible in a newspaper or in most kinds of periodicals” 13 . whose pamphlet-manifestos proved remarkably influential. abusive. I wonder how they would utilise the possibilities of the Internet. or. despite remaining shrouded in mystery and anonymity). One has complete freedom of expression. to be more detailed.

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

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

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

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

whereas other valid survival strategies – eg parasitical behaviour – are completely demonised. cowardice and parasitical behaviour. “parasites” and the “idle”. You’d therefore think that those who base their worldview on “survival of the fittest” (quite a lot of people apparently) would actually admire “cowards”. In terms of Darwinian “survival of the fittest”. 18 . Worse.500 . but would have to earn £80. And it’s worse for lowincome occupations. One example given is teachers. Teachers currently earn £15. whereas house prices have increased by 375 times. rents have increased by 500 times – ie double the increase in wages. the rodent survival strategy seems to be: idleness.£24. Judging from the behaviour of the mice in my house. LAW OF THE JUNGLE It’s odd how competition is justified in terms of “survival of the fittest”.000 a year to match the house purchasing power of teachers in 1900. whose wages are now only 110 times what they were in 1900.000 a year (1999 figures). (Note: Since 1999 the cost of rent/housing has shot up again – way above wage increases). these qualities are inherently no worse than “competition”.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.

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

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

You can feel resistance yet still pursue a goal. listlessness). whereas chronic distraction makes pursuit of any goal impossible. TEETH GRINDING “Rising stress at work is causing increasing numbers of young professionals to grind their teeth while they sleep” (Guardian 21/1/2000). etc 21 . people tell us what to do all the time – and we covertly build a resistance to being told what to do. When we’re adults. INTERNAL RESISTANCE When we’re children. There’s so much apathy inside corporations that employees are sent on motivational courses in an unsuccessful (and laughable) attempt to simulate enthusiasm. boredom. and then run into subconscious resistance (inertia. but resistance is not the enemy – distraction is. The only effective solution to apathy is planned laziness. We distract ourselves to avoid feeling resistance.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. 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. Of all work-related stress symptoms (and there are many).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

most of them quickly learn to disguise their poverty. Another factor which hides poverty is debt. To better appreciate poverty. By borrowing money you can disguise the fact that you are poor. 43 . microwave ovens. is below the minimum wage. Since poor people tend to be treated with pity or contempt. everyone has a colour TV – the economic system must be working”. Welfare. They fail to recognise that owning a TV (which can be bought second-hand for a few dollars. The minimum wage is a poverty level wage for a family of four. 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). of course.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INVISIBLE POVERTY Affluent people tend not to see the extent of poverty in “developed” nations. (Current average debt per UK household: £5.300. consider income levels. All they see is the omnipresence of luxurious electronic goods: DVDs. Homeless people may be wearing digital watches. The vast majority of jobs being created are minimum wage. etc. and lasts for years) does not mean that you can afford to pay hundreds of dollars rent every month. Then they probably think: “Hey. but they’re still homeless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

including old-age pensions. 19/3/98). the actual figure for the cost of welfare to unemployed people is only £5 billion per year. 1998 (following government’s announcement of welfare reforms): “WELFARE WAR ON WORKSHY” (Daily Mail) “THOU SHALT NOT SHIRK” (The Express) “BLAIR IN WELFARE WAR ON THE IDLE” (Daily Telegraph) “SHAKE-UP IN WELFARE HITS THE WORKSHY” (The Times) The stories accompanying these headlines mentioned “spiralling” welfare costs – eg the Daily Mail said the government’s welfare reform was “a bid to smash the dependency culture that has seen benefit spending rocket to £96 billion a year. the official number of unemployed was the lowest for 18 years (given as 1. That £96 billion figure is the total welfare budget.” Strangely enough. More strangely still.383. which suggests (if you believe official figures) that the so-called “dependency culture” isn’t such a big problem after all. just one week before the above headlines. not £96 billion as the Daily Mail claims. disability allowances and income support for lowpaid working people (as opposed to “workshy” people). Welfare for unemployed people accounts for only 5% of the total welfare budget.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ NEWSPAPERS ATTACK THE IDLE Here are some headlines from March 27. 52 .800 in The Daily Telegraph.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The way this government talks about work reminds me of the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes One free”) Nazi concentration camp entrance sign. Coercion can always create full employment. 79 . When newspapers interpret an increase in cell phone theft as “crime spiralling out of control”. It was published on 26 April 2002. Dear Editor. 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. Hitler provided full employment. Dear Editor. I wrote it in response to an interview with a government minister (Alistair Darling) from their programme the previous night. they play a dangerous game of scaremongering.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE INDEPENDENT (2) This letter was written just after the 2002 election success of the (basically fascist) Jean-Marie Le Pen in France. the minister talked patronisingly (like a schoolteacher lecturing kids) about the social benefits of work. Prison workshops have full employment. In this interview. 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). One reason for the popularity of the Far Right in France is public fear about crime. and the government’s intention to create a “work first” culture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 .

and tracked me down to do an interview. God knows what the respectable BBC radio listeners of suburban Wales made of the broadcast. it’s clearly your belief that we are living in an anxiety culture. Borderlines regular Richard Holland has been to investigate further. 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. One of the journalists from the show had seen my cartoon ads for Anxiety Culture in Fortean Times magazine. 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”. just find an enjoyable way to receive it. What exactly do you mean by that? 89 .” Richard Holland: Some of the philosophy to be found in the Anxiety Culture magazine produced by Brian Dean. which has on the cover the earth from space. and is aimed at what’s called ‘the anxiously inclined’. It’s Anxiety Culture. Now Brian.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BBC RADIO WALES INTERVIEW The first media interview I ever gave (not long after publishing issue one of Anxiety Culture in 1995) was for a BBC Radio Wales show called Borderlines.

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

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

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

. there’s too much to do – because – life is tough – because – the universe isn’t safe – because – that’s what I believe – because – that’s what I am taught to believe – because – I have to be taught rather than just believe what I want – because – I can’t have what I want – because – I don’t deserve to have what I want – because – I’m not good enough – because – I haven’t earned it yet – because – I can’t – because – It’s too hard. The question. which you quote in your magazine. because nobody is thinking about the effect on themselves. which makes the adverts all that more effective. it’s exploiting people’s feeling of inadequacy.. 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. I think most people would deny being influenced by advertisements.” RH: Now that was a negative thought loop which we’ve just heard. To give an example – if you believe that the universe is fundamentally unsafe. of course. 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.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BD: In advertising. then you’re 93 . mainly. I think. is if we’re all anxiety-driven and propelled by negative thoughts in this way. Female voice (reading the ‘negative thought loop’ from Anxiety Culture issue 1): “It’s too hard. there’s too much to do. and you’re suggesting that a lot of us – perhaps most of us – are caught up in this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So to answer your question. etc. The Irish Independent and the Big Issue in Scotland reprinted it. 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. So yes. someone from Carlton TV wanted me to go on a discussion programme about stress and the rat-race. as in “Blair Witch [the popular film] owes its success to word-of-mouth”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CK: What effect do you think Anxiety Culture has had on mainstream culture? Where do you think your influence is most evident? BD: Good question. The best response I had was when the Guardian printed a long article of mine – I received literally hundreds of enthusiastic letters and emails. Success at that scale results only from “word-of-mass-media”. A BBC2 Newsnight editor phoned me about appearing in a Newsnight debate. The article seemed to have struck a chord. I think the mainstream media will increasingly make use of material from sources like Anxiety Culture. I also found that media people began to contact me. 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. 100 . 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). a BBC Radio 4 journalist wanted my input on a programme he was creating.

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

102 . Stewart Home. But if you look at the Internet. it looks like nothing is changing. but I don’t have any associations with them. It read: Dear Editor – The New Deal has created 50.000 jobs which otherwise wouldn’t exist. Santarchy et al? BD: I’m aware of their existence. The Guardian published another letter of mine a few days ago. young people won’t have 40 years of low-paid wage-slavery ahead of them. unemployed people won’t be stigmatised. I occasionally correspond with some of the “Neoist” people. The changes I’m interested in will alleviate survival anxieties – people will know they can always rely on a survival income. and have had a surprising amount of success. That means each job created cost the taxpayer £100. CK: Is Anxiety Culture associated with any other factions such as Luther Blissett. less bureaucratic interference in your private life. CK: Has targeting local newspapers had any success (I saw the examples on the website)? BD: I’ve been concentrating on national newspapers.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. But it cost over £5 billion to set up. it looks like everything is changing. etc – I don’t see progress towards these things as “destabilising”. I’m not too keen on the word “destabilise”. there’ll be more leisure time.000.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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I combined the ideas of Rifkin and the AAA (probably without doing justice to either) into a weird mix. Some people might think that all this obscure. will kill whomever they are told to kill. and then sent a batch of the finished leaflets to small press distributors (who generally like to include free flyers and other odd stuff in their parcels to customers). if drafted. 120 ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ . who. who actually enjoy most of what’s on TV. 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). The remainder of this section contains the full text of the BL~ISS leaflet. who obey orders. 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). school. 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. It was basically a put-on. corporation. smallscale creativity is entirely pointless. BL~ISS is short for “Bulletin of Leisure ~ Independent Space Sector”. It came about because I read Jeremy Rifkin’s book.

The clash between rising population pressures and falling job opportunities will shape the geopolitics of the emerging high-tech global economy well into the next century. Economists have calculated that an annual market growth of 5-10% is necessary to replace the jobs lost through technology. 121 . Global corporations are now capable of producing an unprecedented volume of goods and services with an ever smaller workforce. To quote Jeremy Rifkin. 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.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. No developed Earth nation can sustain this kind of growth. Technology is already shedding jobs faster than markets can expand to create new jobs. from his book. The End of Work: We are rapidly approaching a historic crossroads in human history.

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

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

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

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

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

ie 4% of the gross national product.000 jobs over the next 127 . There are more than 350. Unlike slavery. February 24th. serfdom and wage employment. activity in this sector is not coerced or reduced to financial motives of fear or greed. The vast majority of planet-tied people remained addicted to territorial security-anxiety and continued to perpetuate the earthbound culture of fear. EARTHBOUND GRAPPLING WITH THE PAINFUL ISSUE OF PLANET-SURFACE UNEMPLOYMENT “Technological advances are now so rapid that companies can shed far more workers than they need to hire to implement the technology or support expanding sales” (Wall Street Journal. shed 50.000 voluntary organisations in the UK. 1994) In 1993 the US retail giant. At the time of writing this BL~ISS bulletin. In hindsight we can see that it required the neurological shift induced by zero gravity to bring about this transformation of human culture. Sears. with a total income in excess of £17 billion.000 jobs from its merchandising division. we heard that Electrolux announced they are cutting 12. The independent non-profit sector came into full flower when territorial-dominance imperatives started to atrophy in the humans who ventured into space.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ unrepresented in the mass media. But those who had tasted space were inevitably drawn back to the BLISS cultures of the independent space communities. This was in a year when sales revenue rose by more than 10%.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example. ECONOMIC “AUTHORITY” Most alternative economic ideas – even those as benign and sensible as the Tobin Tax – have been floating around for decades without being implemented. why hasn’t it already happened?” It’s important to realise that the people making these objections are never convinced by logical reasoning.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ One big advantage of the Tobin Tax is the amount of revenue it would generate. is to quote foreign authorities – European countries in particular seem more open to new economic ideas. the Irish government has seriously considered a Basic Income scheme.8 trillion dollars each day across borders. the French. depending on the formula used. As a result. Only the endorsement by a conventional authority will convince them. And it’s interesting to note that the UN and World Bank estimated in 1997 that the cost of removing the worst forms of poverty and providing basic environmental protection would be about $225 billion per year. advocates of such alternative schemes are likely to be exposed to arguments such as: “if it’s such a great idea. Currency speculators trade over $1. Belgian and Canadian parliaments have already voted in favour of a Tobin Tax. who said: “I believe that the future will 140 .1 to 0. For example. Supporters of the Tobin Tax say this revenue should be used to tackle world social and environmental problems. an estimated $100 – $300 billion per year would be generated. Or. you can quote intellectual authorities. therefore. etc. Silvio Gesell’s concept of negative-interest money was supported by John Maynard Keynes. A good ploy. With the tax set at the very low proposed rate of 0.25 percent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

popular music. sociology and philosophy are opposed to market fundamentalism. its increasingly hollowsounding “free-market” rhetoric. If youth culture reflects artistic and intellec- 155 . art.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ But what about the corporate chiefs? The tiny minority of humans who head corporations are rich and powerful. 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. there’s no reason to be paranoid about “co-opting”. and this trend is seeping into popular culture – especially youth culture. And in order to be respected. 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. religion. Many contemporary movements in science. Even billionaire capitalists like George Soros criticise the logic of the corporate economic worldview (which Soros calls “market fundamentalism”). They have human weaknesses such as vanity. psychology. but they’re probably not James Bond-type megalomaniac villians. So when a couple of marketing consultants (Janine Lopiano-Misdom and Joanne De Luca) publish a book called: “Street Trends: How Today’s Alternative Youth Cultures are Creating Tomorrow’s Mainstream Markets”. literature. It’s no longer just political dissidents who sneer at market economics – everybody is starting to sneer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch out for forthcoming name changes: Bran Flakes to “Nice ’n’ Regular” and Frosties to “Blood-Glucose Boost”. than work in telesales. flushing creative potential down the economic toilet. Naive Question: Is there anything bad about full employment? Foolish Answer: Not if you’re happy to condemn half the population to minimum-wage slavery. That means each job created cost the taxpayer £100. “Just Right” and “Advantage”)? Foolish Answer: Because marketing consultants determined that 51% of cereal consumers have anal fixations about diet. Naive Question: If labour-saving technology is getting better and cheaper. Prisons and chain gangs have full employment.” Naive Question: How much does it cost to create a job? Foolish Answer: The New Deal cost over £5bn. and humiliates less. Or to quote Henry Hazlitt: “Hitler provided full employment. and has created 50.000. health and fitness. Coercion can always provide full employment.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Naive Question: Why have breakfast cereals adopted sensible names (eg “Sustain”. why are corporate employees working longer hours? Foolish Answer: Because they’re slaves. Naive Question: Why are there so many beggars in a booming economy like Britain? Foolish Answer: It pays more. “Perfect Balance”. 168 .000 jobs which otherwise wouldn’t exist. so a politician can tell the country how prudent he is.

Roughly half of that goes on pensions. unemployment is “low”. captive labour.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Naive Question: Is it true that hard work never hurt anybody? Foolish Answer: According to a government report (Mental Health & Stress in the Workplace). Naive Question: Why is welfare spending so high? Foolish Answer: The total yearly UK welfare budget is £99bn. Naive Question: Why do successful business people want less regulation and smaller government? Foolish Answer: Ironically. where the government is powerful enough to fill the prisons with millions of relatively harmless people who are then available to corporations as cheap. working over 48hrs per week doubles the risk of coronary heart disease. They’re quite happy to see everybody else (particularly the less well off) be regulated and controlled. Only £5bn is spent annually 169 . But when they talk of “cracking down on dependency culture” or “getting tough on the workshy”. big business depends on a complex legal framework and a powerful state apparatus (to enforce the laws under which businesses and lawyers prosper). unemployment is “high”. 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. Naive Question: Is unemployment high or low at the moment? Foolish Answer: When governments talk about their performance in managing the economy. Many business people love the US system.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

177 . one in five credit card ads breaks the law – usually involving misleading information on interest charges.3 Part of this increase is due to highly seductive.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ DEBT CULT A shortened. not them. credit card advertising. Britons spend nearly three times more on their credit cards than the rest of the EU put together. with politically sensitive issues such as student loans in the news. The government doesn’t want you to think about this. they’re quick to lecture us on responsibility. the problem is you. excluding mortgages. but often misleading. but according to recent research at least one in five people in Britain resorts to debt to cover basic living costs. edited version of this article was published in Sleaze magazine (formerly Sleaze Nation). The average debt per UK household is around £7.4 While banks and credit companies make record profits from criminally misleading promotions.1 Politicians want us to believe this is due to irresponsible spendthrifts abusing easy credit. In other words. but overall spiralling debt has more to do with Britain’s low-wage culture and high poverty level. According to the Office of Fair Trading. some people do use credit to fund greedy lifestyles.000. Their PR dovetails with that of lying politicians.2 Of course. The nation’s credit card bill has increased by 76 percent since 1998. June 2004. painting a picture of an economy compromised only by feckless consumers who exploit and abuse the system.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Currently there are alternatives to the 9-5 work culture (job-sharing.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ One futurist dream is that technology will eventually free people from the necessity of hard work. Quakers. Wesleyans and other puritanical sects were greatly over-represented among the major industrialists quoted in Ashton’s History of the Industrial Revolution). The Information Age is here. 194 . but in terms of work patterns we cling to the attitudes of an mechanicalindustrial culture steeped in the Puritan ethic (Methodists. enthusiastic and committed). Presbyterians. or at least try to look as if we’re enjoying it. 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. 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. A strange effect of the ‘dark ages’ view of work as atonement. but which are still very rare. This doesn’t mean that all-day leisure and enjoyment would be imposed – those who like being miserable could construct their own simulations of busy offices or noxious factories to work in. But for everybody else. 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. is the idea that we should enjoy it. drudgery and toil would be pointless and obsolete. By happily accepting our punishment (ie daily hard work) we demonstrate our moral fibre.

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

an idealised abstraction whose central premise fails to take into account the vast array of social factors affecting human motivation and behaviour. atomistic consumers and entrepreneurs. And contrary to free-market thinking. ‘society’ has aspects which can’t be explained or predicted in terms of 196 . completely immune from ‘social’ influences. then “society” will be viewed as a nebulous metaphor with little economic relevance. social phenomena such as advertising. critics of the competitive market system would argue that “free market” is itself a metaphor. 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”. sovereign individuals who freely consume for themselves. Ironically. state education and the mass media inevitably tend to influence the value systems which determine what individual consumers will buy. seems naive. Those who blame their financial problems on an aspect of “society” are unlikely to receive any sympathy from freemarketeers. So said Mrs Thatcher. For instance. The market system has traditionally had an individualistic bias – its central premise is that the market registers choices made by separate. The notion of a ‘totally rational’ individual. Adherents of free-market economics have often expressed a dislike of terms like “society” and “social concern”. She apparently meant that “society” can be seen only as an abstraction or cultural metaphor.

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

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

9% in Britain. Similarly. and working conditions and labour-management relations have generally been excellent. humanitarianism. Also. A strong social democratic welfare state. with substantial government control moderating economic fluctuations. benevolence towards ‘society’ (as expressed towards employees. has been something of an enigma to classical economists. If business is necessarily a ruthless struggle between selfinterested competitors. in fact. This tendency hasn’t harmed the economic growth of these countries (from 1979 to 1991. since the late nineteenth century Sweden has been a world economy highly exposed to international trends. how did Sweden’s “softness” (social equality. manufacturing grew by 33. welfare and environmental concern) lead to such a strong economy? Sweden has had one of the world’s highest standards of living (in 1992 GDP per person was $12. compared with 4.3% in Germany and 60. Holland and Japan. customers and local communities) is very much part of their economic strategies.4% in Japan. 199 .000 higher than in the UK). for example.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Sweden. rather than simply a hoped-for effect of the market mechanism. Economists rationalised that Sweden was a small. GDP per capita in Britain continued to lose comparative advantage with these countries during this period). but. it is outside the “socialist” categorisation). in Germany. insulated exception to universally harsh economic laws. has put Sweden in the “soft” category of capitalism (but with very little industry nationalised.

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

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

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

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

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

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