Saturday, 8 September 2012

Storming the last citadel of socialism: the pay entitlement delusion

 The following was secretly recorded at a closed session of the Centre for Neoliberalism Studies in London on 5 September.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, five years on from the start of the ‘Great Recession’, or as I prefer to call it, the ‘Great Enlightenment,’ it’s appropriate to take stock of just how far we’ve come.

Across Europe democratically elected governments that have displeased the markets have been summarily deposed. Portugal, Spain and Italy have begun to dismantle those impediments to freedom known euphemistically as “workers’ rights”. And in Greece, in a move that almost brings tears to the eyes, a six day week is about to return, a wistful throwback to the halcyon days of the nineteenth century when liberty meant something and was not suffocated by government red tape.

Here in Britain the progress has been palpable too. The Stalinist tyranny that was the National Health Service is being liberated from state control: the culmination, as my friend Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute has noted, of 20 years’ unrecognised labour. Those shirkers, the disabled, who claim that not being able to see or walk somehow exempts them from the obligation to look for work, are being systematically rooted out. Planning regulations have been ripped up so the countryside can finally be seen as the resource it so obviously is.

But there is hunger for more, I know.

Young and brave Conservative MPs such as Dominic Raab have had the guts to tell the truth. That the British people, pampered by a century of socialism, are a nation of idlers who would rather spend half the day in bed than do a decent day’s work. Statistics that show a quarter of Britons work more than 48 hours a week just demonstrate the indolence of the remaining three quarters who fail to reach even this minimal standard.

Older heads, like David Davis, have recognised that we must cull the slew of regulation holding back business. The fact that, in 2007, the OECD declared Britain one of the most unregulated of all developed economics only shows how much more work in that area needs to be done.

But, to be truly consummated, our economic revolution must confront one last giant citadel of socialist thought.  The idea, so beloved of the totalitarian twentieth century, that workers are automatically entitled to be paid for the “work” they do.

We have already made inroads into this culture of entitlement. Unpaid internships in Britain and US can last for years. The government’s Work Programme in Britain, in which employers generously offer the young unemployed the chance to gain invaluable experience, has challenged the Marxist assumption that work somehow needs to be rewarded with money.

But we need to go much further. For inspiration, we should look to the great Russian-American philosopher, Ayn Rand, herself a refugee from Bolshevism. Some have castigated her as a granite-hearted loon, but I say, you just need to look at her acolytes, like Alan Greenspan, to see her greatness. In any case, as the history of our country demonstrates, granite-hearted lunacy and the determination to change the course of history often co-exist within the same person.

Rand’s great insight was this. Contrary to the Marxist inversion, employers don’t exploit workers. Rather, workers exploit employers.

As the visionary free market economist, Ludwig Von Mises wrote to Rand on completion of her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. “You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them. You are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the efforts of men who are better than you.”

In the early years of the 21st century, the world is belatedly coming to see the profound truth of Rand’s idea. Without wealth creators, more properly “life creators”, workers would be nothing. They would just lie in bed all day unable to do anything. Actually they wouldn’t have beds, because beds are a creation of wealth creators. They would writhe about uselessly on the ground, eventually indulging in unspeakable acts of Marxist cannibalism.

Without wealth creators, like the unfairly maligned Bob Diamond, this would undoubtedly be the fate of the British people. We should not hold back from telling them this uncomfortable truth.

Inspired by Rand, I propose that we end the automatic link between working and getting paid, a remnant of our delusionary socialist past.

Workers should only be paid money if it can be demonstrated, to the satisfaction of their employer, that they have personally contributed to corporate profits. If that matter is in doubt, they should merely be permitted the privilege of continuing to labour unpaid. If they are clearly an unproductive waste of resources, they should be summarily dismissed. “Under-performing” workers, as Dominic Raab has so bravely highlighted, have no place in the British workforce.

This plan, as critics will undoubtedly point out, might produced a sharp spike in unemployment. This is not something to fear. The present government’s attempts to motivate the unemployed through benefit sanctions, though laudable, have not been sufficient. Here is an opportunity to do much more.

I propose, with a nod to David Davis, a healthy dose of “shock therapy”. But I don’t mean it metaphorically. If an unemployed person fails to meet their target of job applications: if they, say, only apply for 39 jobs in one week when they agreed to apply for 40, they should be given an electric shock. Not so powerful as to maim or kill them. That would just be cruel. But strong enough to motivate them to redouble their job seeking efforts.

As the famous Milgram experiment has shown, the public would undoubtedly be keen to help out with this act of social service. The involvement of thousands of public-spirited volunteers in the scheme could give a new lease of life to the concept of the Big Society, which has sadly been allowed to languish.

One last point. I want to anticipate a criticism that will undoubtedly be made by our Keynesian and socialist opponents. That ending the entitlement of automatically receiving wages, would result in a catastrophic collapse of demand. How would people continue to buy goods and services if they no longer automatically received wages for the “work” they supposedly do?

The answer is simple. Debt. In the UK, we have merely skimmed the surface of debt’s potential. Personal debt stands at a paltry £1.45 trillion in this country. The spurt of debt that this plan would bring about would act as a tremendous fillip to our economy and to the finance sector in particular.

Imagine: these waves of new credit card debt could be packaged together in bundles by banks and then sold to investors. GDP rates would return to health. In the midst of a double dip recession, we all know we can’t be ambivalent about growth.

It was once said, by some wag, that those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it. But if you don’t repeat what has gone before, how can you be sure you will achieve the same fantastic results?”


  1. I was directed to this blog from a Guardian CiF posting on an article by George Monbiot on 2/10/12. Whilst the content is credible, a Google search for the so-called "Centre for Neoliberalism Studies" doesn't find any such organisation, at least in the first 5 pages. Could you publish a link? Otherwise your posting lacks credibility.

  2. Irony that is a little heavy-handed but amussing all the same.

  3. Satire is dead, declared Tom Lehrer in 1973. He didn't turn out to be right

    1. Sadly, it shows just how vicious the neoliberal attack is when your piece isn't recognised as saire.

  4. "The following was secretly recorded at a closed session of the Centre for Neoliberalism Studies in London on 5 September"
    This might have more credibility if you could provide evidence that this organisation really exists, or say who this speech was made by. It reminds me of the sort of thing that used to feature in Brass Eye...

  5. Funny, but a little too close to the bone on places.

    The whole concept of "breaking the socialist notion of being paid for work" seems to be the main thrust of our new feudalism, as advocated by the GOP and the Tories.

  6. Surely, also the poor should eat their children

  7. Interesting to see that the Centre has a fellow thinker -

    The author is a Liberal Democrat councillor by the way

    1. Scary stuff. And scary that your post was taken as fact by many readers. Shows how skewed things have become. I think satire works very well - I look forward to more posts in this style!