A Helot Society 307


So we are back with a vengeance to notions of the undeserving poor. Electronic cards are to ensure that the poor can only spend their benefits on basic necessities like food and clothing, and not on a lifestyle of alcohol and illegal drugs.

Having lived a rather spectacular life encompassing both ends of the social spectrum, I can state with utter conviction that consumption of illegal pleasure-giving stimulants is far higher among the very wealthy than among the very poor. The notion that only the rich should be allowed to have any enjoyment in life is deeply offensive. It is fine for the Bullingdon Club to get plastered on Krug and cocaine and smash up restaurants. That is all jolly japes and high spirits. For a desperate man to seek solace in four cans of Tennant’s strongest or a bottle of Buckfast is however a dreadful sin and sign of social irresponsibility.

The high streets of our poorest towns are strewn with betting shops, bargain booze outlets, pawnbrokers and payday lenders. For anybody to believe that state compulsion of the patrons is the answer to the problem is the ultimate counsel of despair. Forget giving people a better hope, a greater chance, more socially useful pleasures. Just ban the little solace they have now. We have a government which holds a large section of the population in contempt; which cannot imagine that given a different birth, these people might have been sitting next to them in the Bullingdon Club; in short, which has no notion whatsoever of human dignity.

This latest move against benefits claimants is consistent with the entire development of the modern British economy. High wage economies generate a self-sustaining high domestic demand which keeps the economy growing. Our three main political parties postulate a low wage economy, with a minimum wage below the level which can sustain a family. The low wage economy is defended as a guarantee of strong international competitiveness and thus export performance. In fact Britain’s low wage model is entirely different, and the vast majority of those on low wages have no relation to exports. What Britain has developed is a model where a thin layer at the top are on extremely high remuneration. This of course includes bankers and the financial services industry, but also through the cult of managerialism, CEOs and directors have vastly increased their remuneration. For the multiple between the highest and lowest paid in a company to be 70 – the cleaner on 15,000, the core level majority on 20,000 and the CEO on 3,000,000- is now absolutely routine.

Even the public sector is ruled by this pretence that executive work is harder, more stressful, more uniquely difficult than core work. Well, I have been an Ambassador and a barman, and I can tell you which was hardest work. University vice chancellors are on over 300,000. Local councils regularly have a score of people on over 100,000.

We have no media willing to take on the triumph of greed. The most “left wing” of British newspapers, the Guardian, pays its editor total remuneration of over half a million per year and “star” columnists 300,000, while exploiting interns and junior staff, and squandering 35 million pounds a year of C P Scott’s great endowment in losses – straight into its senior staff’s pockets.

Britain has developed a new kind of low wage economy – one where the bulk of those on low wages work to provide services to those on very, very high remuneration. In a sense it is very old. We have become a helot society. It should be stressed that low wage is a deliberate policy. There is absolutely no reason why those in work could not be paid more. The economy would not crash. In Norway the median wage of the lowest 10 percentile is over 20,000 pounds, while the multiple between the lowest ten percentile and the top ten percentile is less than one third what it is in Britain. The UK’s astonishing and accelerating wealth gap is a result of deliberate ideological policy, founded on a notion that those at the top are possessed of rare and extraordinary abilities – whereas in truth, in the UK more than anywhere, their main achievement was usually to be born into the right family.

The concomitant of that worship of the rich is the belief that money measures worth; that if you have a low income then you are scum. That is the attitude that underlies these benefit smart cards. It is truly disgusting.


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307 thoughts on “A Helot Society

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  • DoNNyDarKo

    Canspeccy: I just used it as an example of the way that Britain is going.Hungary and Czech was where Silicon Glen relocated because of cheap labour.Nokia moved from Hungary to Romania a few years ago for the same reasons,and a Hungarian was setting up in Britain because our workers wages are rock bottom even on East European standards.The social safety net is low and weak in the UK.Nothing to be proud of ! And now the pittance that the unemployed get in comparison to their EU peers is being reduced.I know there are the many that abuse the system,but the people that the system was designed for are still those that suffer.Restricting what they get and where they can spend it is cruel.
    On the same theme, at Edinburgh airport this morning,there was a busy WS Smiths operating with 6 automatic check outs and no staff.They used to have at least 2 personnel working there in the mornings.

  • CanSpeccy

    @BZ

    Prices are ratcheted up as much by restricting supply as increasing demand.

    How, exactly?

    Raising mortgage interest rates? Um, no.

    Demolishing hundreds of thousands of houses? No again.

    So, no. prices are not being ratcheted up by restricting supply.

    As for your, ” With or without immigration,” wrong again.

    With net immigration of 243,000 in 2013-14, that requires another 100,000 plus housing units in one year, i.e., strong demand that drives up prices.

    Without immigration since 2000, Britain’s population would now be falling, i.e., housing demand would be weak and prices would be falling.

    As for:

    Housing is ideal for blowing bubbles which stay up for long enough for the punters to forget the last crash.

    Not true unless you have the demand, which is currently created by mass immigration not by growth of the indigenous population.

  • lysias

    Is there any need to vet the candidates for a large legislature when it is only one house of a legislature in a system that has two other branches of government, so that there are still the other branches and the other house to block any truly unreasonable actions of the popular house? And there’s also the power of numbers: in a big legislative house, the voice of any really unreasonable person will be diluted by all the other members of the house.

  • CanSpeccy

    @DD

    “a Hungarian was setting up in Britain because our workers wages are rock bottom even on East European standards.”

    You are dead wrong, my friend, see this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_European_countries_by_average_wage

    UK 2496 Euros per month versus:

    Poland 681
    Czech Republic 705
    Slovakia 683
    Hungary 492

    So you friends in Wales should be grateful to your Hungarian associate for their “low-wage” jobs.

    As for the “cruelty” of welfare, I agree. It should be abolished, along with the minimum wage. Then every able-bodied adult will have to get a job at whatever the market rate happens to be. If that’s a starvation wage, then you have a choice. Let them starve, in which case the problem of poverty will be self-limiting, or provide an income supplement to those with a below living wage, as I (http://canspeccy.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/this-is-no-time-for-a-raise-its-time-for-a-negative-tax/) and others, including at one time Milton Friedman, have argued.

  • Ben E. Geserit Muad'Dib Further Confounding Gender Speculators

    ” the voice of any really unreasonable person will be diluted by all the other members of the house.”

    Are you misunderstanding the import of candidates vetted under oath to seek the welfare of constituents and not be tempted to line their own pockets or vault their careers by implementing the policies of their largest contributors?

    I only mention the large body (HR) because the founding fathers saw Athenian democracy as being too emotional. A large body of honest brokers would calm the hotheads through a majority vote.

  • CanSpeccy

    If you want a democratic government, why waste time on elections. Just pick 500 people at random (subject to a literacy test) and make them serve a term in parliament. Service would be compulsory for three years, one third of the legislature to be replaced each year.

    Since the money power would obviously want a say in affairs, the House of Lords(originally the great land owners, ie. the wealthiest in the realm) should be replaced by a house of plutocrats, selected according to members tax payments. The 500 largest contributors to the Treasury being automatically appointed to the Upper or Plutocratic house. That way people would have an incentive to pay their taxes instead of off-shoring their income. And the rich bastards would at least have to speak for themselves rather than through mouthpieces such as Scameron and Bliar.

  • CanSpeccy

    @Ben

    “Are you misunderstanding the import of candidates vetted under oath to seek the welfare of constituents and not be tempted to line their own pockets or vault their careers by implementing the policies of their largest contributors?”

    Why get fancy: Simpler just to send the crooks to the Tower and remove their heads (by a Parliamentary vote for impeachment) as in the days of England’s greatness under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. That should encouragez les autres.

  • Ben E. Geserit Muad'Dib Further Confounding Gender Speculators

    “Just pick 500 people at random (subject to a literacy test) and make them serve a term in parliament. Service would be compulsory for three years, one third of the legislature to be replaced each year.”

    Jurors are selected for court using metrics; no criminal past, registered to vote showing good citizenry. But even most jurors called to duty don’t really like their lives disrupted. They can often escape using health issues or maybe their employer doesn’t pay them for service.

    It’s not popular but the selection process leaves a hardy core after examination (have you had a bad experience with law enforcement? as an example)

    I’ve found that juries I’ve served with are ‘good and true’. They really try to administer justice. When they complete duty it gives a tremendous sense of participation and satisfaction.

    No one should be forced to serve. It would defeat the purpose.

  • Ishmael

    For many employment offers no future or gain. Benefits are also a humiliating degradation but all those crowing about the so called feckless should really think about what they would do? And that’s only considering the limited opportunity’s there actually are for dead end jobs. The truth is it not a choice for many. Unemployment is also a necessary feature of driving wages down. It’s part of the system they make and they shit on you for it.

    And who was it who destroyed the economy again?

    And a low wage economy helps that destruction. This is not about a good economy, it’s about maintaining disparity and privilege in the class system. If that not as clear as day I don’t know what is.

    Those who have gained the most are the least among us in terms of effects on society. Thoes who are poorest do least harm and use up far less resources than you average ‘success’, and people should question just what that is.

    It is utterly sickening after the string of criminality in a system made for the wealthy that the boot comes down on those who have no input into this whatsoever, who are among the 70% or so who have no say in this ‘democracy’ and who cost society a fraction by comparison. I agree utterly shameful and disgusting.

  • CanSpeccy

    @Ben:

    “But even most jurors called to duty don’t really like their lives disrupted.”

    Yes, well I managed to get out of jury duty by claiming an urgent need to be elsewhere.

    But the opportunity to serve in Parliament, with a decent allowance for living expenses, and realistic compensation for business losses incurred, etc. would surely appeal to most people.

  • Ben E. Geserit Muad'Dib Further Confounding Gender Speculators

    “But the opportunity to serve in Parliament, with a decent allowance for living expenses, and realistic compensation for business losses incurred, etc. would surely appeal to most people.”

    Possibly, but when I talk about the randomness, it’s the selectors of candidates that makes the random issue important. Random citizens chosen to serve in Parliament would leave a lot of legal decisions (legislation) to folks who have no understanding of the legality of their vote on the floor. It would be chaotic. I know jurors have to have a certain legal understanding, but it is overseen by the court.

    They understand the concept of lying and truth. That’s all the candidate selectors would need.

  • CanSpeccy

    @Ismael:

    Unemployment is also a necessary feature of driving wages down.

    You might as well say low wages are the necessary means of driving unemployment down.

    Why is it Scotch Nationalists haven’t read Adam Smith and don’t understand a market economy?

    Employers pay wages as low as will be accepted by those qualified to perform the work required. But in a market economy, employers compete with one another for workers. Therefore, if the labor market is unobstructed by socialist intervention, wages will adjust to the point at which virtually all labor is absorbed.

    The problem in Europe today is that, through liberal policies of globalization and imperialism, workers have been placed in competition with the teeming masses of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America who accept jobs often at no more than pennies per hour. Under those circumstances, European wages have to be low if full employment is to be achieved.

    The only way to improve the lot of Western workers is (1) impose tariffs on goods and services provided from abroad, which makes it once again possible for people in Britain to make shoes and shirts and computers and car parts for one another, rather than importing virtuall all such products from the sweatshops of the Third World, or (2) allow the labor market in Europe to work, by eliminating minimum wage laws (with or without a negative tax to provide all with a means of subsistence).

    There are merits to either approach. Tariffs allow one to rebuilt western manufacturing, and with it a demand for technical skills which have been abandoned for a generation. A free labor market allow Western companies to compete more fairly with Third World manufacturers, although now that the capital, technology and skills have been moved to the Third World, the struggle to regain jobs off-shored to the Third World would be titanic.

  • Tank Dempsey

    Osborne has clearly given up all pretence that he ever gave a shit about the working class, the public sector or anyone from the north.

  • CanSpeccy

    @ Ben

    Random citizens chosen to serve in Parliament would leave a lot of legal decisions (legislation) to folks who have no understanding of the legality of their vote on the floor.

    But it’s gotta be random if its going to be democratic. The randomly selected legislators are a microcosm of society as a whole.

    Of course, one may question the desirability or feasibility of democracy. But in that case the argument applies as much to what we have now as to the alternative I’m proposing.

    If you wanted to, say, exclude from consideration those with a criminal record, those who failed to complete a secondary school or university education, or who are below the age of 45, I’d probably agree with you, but I’d apply those restrictions to voting under the present system, unlike the Scotch Nationalists who would have been happy to win the referendum on the basis of irrational Anglophobia among teenagers.

    It would be chaotic.

    Not necessarily.

    If cabinet members were elected by the house as a whole, most cabinet members would be among the second- or third-year cohort of members (maybe there would be four of five cohorts), so they’d have learnt something by then. Moreover, the cabinet and members of the house would all have civil servants to advise them.

    I know jurors have to have a certain legal understanding, but it is overseen by the court.

    I see the permanent civil service performing a similar function to the court.

  • Ishmael

    I think spending most of your life shopping, making things to buy, Figuring out how to best sell your time to someone else, or how to best spend the little time you have left is just a total waste.

    Is this what all those inventors and visionarys had in mind, working away under god know what conditions to do things that benefit all of us? Don’t get me wrong, I think there is good work, but it’s rarely done just for money, and often a joy. You have to engage more than this want for a shallow meaningless collection of tokens to find any real dedication or inventiveness in people.

    This is why we have had so many good bands etc, creative types in the past, they where left alone. We can note, this also happens with people in the upper class who exel. Einstein etc, they are not forced but left to themselves.

    But there is not only a push to keep people who cost the country sod all on a minimum. But to keep putting the boot in. They f….in want you to know your a piece of dirt, don’t you ever forget that. And don’t you ever get up or talk back.

    There are rich people don’t forget, they are like bottomless pits of jealousy and unfulfilled unrealised human potential locked in a strange cult.

  • lysias

    The randomly chosen Athenians made a few notorious bad decisions (e.g., execution of the generals at Arginusae after an assembly vote, and the execution of Socrates after a trial by jury,) but, by and large, the record of their decisions is reasonably good, when they were subject to only minimal controls in their decision-making.

    I was favorably impressed by the common sense of my fellow jurors the one time I served on a jury. And we, including myself the lawyer, paid only minimal attention to the instructions of the judge.

  • lysias

    The Athenians limited service on the Council (Boule) to those aged 30 and above (which was a rather advanced age for the time, given what life expectancies were).

  • Ben E. Geserit Muad'Dib Further Confounding Gender Speculators

    “But it’s gotta be random if its going to be democratic. The randomly selected legislators are a microcosm of society as a whole.”

    Are you talking about the selectors or the candidate? Surely those who proffer their services to elected office would not be random, but inspired by public service or self-interest. The jury system is sacrosanct to the courts. It’s the foundation of civil liberties. The legal proscriptions against jury tampering and the anonymous process of calling jurors to duty is the only random feature of this idea.

    “If you wanted to, say, exclude from consideration those with a criminal record, those who failed to complete a secondary school or university education, or who are below the age of 45, I’d probably agree with you, but I’d apply those restrictions to voting under the present system, unlike the Scotch Nationalists who would have been happy to win the referendum on the basis of irrational Anglophobia among teenagers.”

    You might as well proscribe participants from engaging in labor strikes. you can’t run a democracy through exclusion to such an extent.

  • CanSpeccy

    @ Ishmael:

    I think spending most of your life shopping, making things to buy, Figuring out how to best sell your time to someone else, or how to best spend the little time you have left is just a total waste.

    That’s just what life is about: survival. Those who truly find it all a waste, really cannot expect to survive except at someone else’s expense.

    But there is not only a push to keep people who cost the country sod all on a minimum.

    Actually, welfare costs the country 23% of GDP. If the unproductive sector continues to grow, the country as a whole would eventually face starvation.

    The denial of the responsibility to participate in the work of the world is simply suicidal. What’s needed is a mechanism that allows people to make what contribution they can (withe the utmost possible human dignity, for sure). That can be achieved through a free labor market, which draws all able-bodied people into the workforce where they make a contribution to the prosperity of all. If their contribution is less than the cost of their survival, then society can discretely aid such people through a negative income tax, with no humiliation involved.

    In time, those making very low wages will mostly improve their workplace skills and increase the market value of their labor, graduating in time to become taxpayers rather than recipients of taxpayer funding. But in the meantime they will earn the respect due to all who work.

    But this will never come about because millions of people in Britain have been indoctrinated by economic illiterates to endlessly whinge instead of working to make themselves useful to society in whatever capacity they are able.

  • Ben E. Geserit Muad'Dib Further Confounding Gender Speculators

    The Athenians limited service on the Council (Boule) to those aged 30 and above (which was a rather advanced age for the time, given what life expectancies were).

    Voting was mandatory, but rarely enforced. you did have to be a military veteran.

  • Ben E. Geserit Muad'Dib Further Confounding Gender Speculators

    ” execution of Socrates”

    Executed for ‘corrupting the youth’ through the teaching of ethics and morality.

  • Ishmael

    It also totaly selfish, just what right do we have to take and use resources of this planet just make money? And what’s good about it?

    Isn’t it largley part of a society that’s total irresponsible to even it’s own children?

    Give that a thought as you tear up the earth you successful hard working lot. As you jump in your new BM ego booster to compensating for the meaning you’ve utterly failed to bring to your life. Maybe next time ay.

  • CanSpeccy

    @Lysias

    The randomly chosen Athenians made a few notorious bad decisions (e.g., … the execution of Socrates after a trial by jury)

    Well maybe not, according to this account: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/socrates/socratesaccount.html

    “The standing of Socrates among his fellow citizens suffered mightily during two periods in which Athenian democracy was temporarily overthrown, one four-month period in 411-410 and another slightly longer period in 404-403. The prime movers in both of the anti-democratic movements were former pupils of Socrates, Alcibiades and Critias. Athenians undoubtedly considered the teachings of Socrates–especially his expressions of disdain for the established constitution–partially responsible for the resulting death and suffering. Alcibiades, perhaps Socrates’ favorite Athenian politician, masterminded the first overthrow. (Alcibiades had other strikes against him: four years earlier, Alcibiades had fled to Sparta to avoid facing trial for mutilating religious pillars–statues of Hermes–and, while in Sparta, had proposed to that state’s leaders that he help them defeat Athens.) Critias, first among an oligarchy known as the “Thirty Tyrants,” led the second bloody revolt against the restored Athenian democracy in 404. The revolt sent many of Athen’s leading democratic citizens (including Anytus, later the driving force behind the prosecution of Socrates) into exile, where they organized a resistance movement. …

  • Ishmael

    “The denial of the responsibility to participate in the work of the world is simply suicidal.”

    No, the ignorance to the externalities (or effects of the market system) of ‘work’, is a denial of the responsibility to pass on a safe and sustainable environment.

    Social Darwinism is a fantasy. This system imposed on most people is a total fraud presented as reality. A system imposed by people who get to escape any such dog eat dog theology.

    I can’t believe after all that happened people still push this nonsense.

  • Ben E. Geserit Muad'Dib Further Confounding Gender Speculators

    Socrates was one of those archetypal souls who appear at critical times in History. His sagacious philosophy though rejected by his peers has a resonance that ripples through time. He was an anachronism. But his ideas are immutable.

  • CanSpeccy

    @Ishmael
    “It also totaly selfish, just what right do we have to take and use resources of this planet just make money?”

    All life takes resources of this planet just to make money, well live, anyhow, which is the same thing.

    Living is, I suppose, “totaly selfish” but you’re not gonna convince many people to give up living.

    Perhaps you means some people consume more than they need. Probably you have to agree that even you do, sometimes. But consumption is how humans compete and competition is the essence of life and evolution.

    So the issues you are raising are simply impossible to address. People are not going to give up being people, striving for survival and competing for success among their fellows, just because you are feeling down about everything.

    What you have to do is address is not whether we should live, but how we should live.

    Unfortunately, liberals have destroyed the institutions and ideas that once instructed people how to live, namely, in the West the Christian gospels. They did so on the grounds that the gospels are obviously untrue and based on ancient myths. But in disposing of Christianity they ignored its essential function, which was to provide a narrative by which to live.

    The result is a ruling elite that truly doesn’t care about the mass of ordinary people. In fact it regards them with genocidal contempt, and is in the process of destroying them in a deliberate program of genocide through mass immigration, multiculturalism and the promotion of non-preproductive sex.

    I know it drives liberals mad to have it pointed out that their policies are genocidal, but that is simply the case. It cannot be denied, so they ridicule and demonized anyone who points out the truth.

    The idea, of course, it to import a new people (i.e., proletariat) that is more vigorous and intelligent than the indigenous people (true of immigrants anywhere) who have no illusions about the rights of an Englishman, or any real objection to corrupt plutocratic government, the only form of government they’ve experienced in the own land. That way, the two nations are converted into two species: a ruling elite and a race of cattle to be used, bred, culled as required.

  • Ben E. Geserit Muad'Dib Further Confounding Gender Speculators

    “The idea, of course, it to import a new people (i.e., proletariat) that is more vigorous and intelligent than the indigenous people (true of immigrants anywhere) ”

    You buried the lede again. If you would drop that mantra, you might have more credibility.

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