Sunday 1 January 2012

Sunday, January 01, 2012 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , ,
Posted by Jake on Sunday, January 01, 2012 with No comments | Labels: , , ,

Ripped-off Britons: graduate jobsIt is said to be impossible for a person to strangle himself with his own bare hands. Apparently when you pass out your grip loosens (we do not recommend that you try this). Does what applies to a person apply to a nation? Britain is now in the throes of gripping its own neck, with the top striving to cut down what goes to the regions below. Those at the head of the country forget that while it is the nose (above the neck) that sucks in the oxygen, it is the lungs (below the neck) that pass that vital element to allow the whole including the head to survive; it is the stomach (below neck) that digests the nutrition masticated by the mouth (above neck); it is the arms (you probably get it by now) that put on the makeup and brush the hair that makes the face look so fetching. However those at the head of the nation who hold the political and economic levers manoeuvre to restrict the stuff of economic life – pay and pensions, education and opportunity, and freedom from rip-offs – flowing to the main body of the nation. And they claim it is for our own good, as “we are all in it together”.

We believe capitalism is a good thing. But it has been misrepresented and misconstrued as a culture of “grab and get away with what you can”. From bankers’ bonuses to MPs expenses this has infected every sector of Britain. “Capitalism” and the “Free Market” are good things, but labelling something as one of these does not make it good. Shakespeare’s wisdom, from the mouth of Romeo’s Juliette, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, also applies to a stink-hole which by any other name still stinks.

Changing the culture of rip-offs in Britain has as much to do with the ripped-off as the rippers. It is not a matter of our looking harder for the best deal and switching providers more vigorously. All the misleading and teasing make the choice of banks, insurers, energy, telecoms and other goods and services providers, and also of political parties, a case of out of the frying pan into another frying pan. We ripped-off Britons need to change our mind-set.

In this post, we suggest three changes in all of our Ripped-Off British attitudes.

Adam Smith, that icon of capitalism, envisaged an “invisible hand” which urges events in the best possible direction as a result of everybody behaving selfishly. Bankers, MPs, top executives, the leaders have all done their part straining their selfishness to the utmost. The big fish in the pond see no reason to do otherwise, selfishly misrepresenting their actions, to themselves as well as to the general public, as “Capitalism” and the “Free Market”. “Doing god’s work” is how the chief of Goldman Sachs described the bankers, shortly after they had put a torch to the World economy.

But for us minnows, we the ripped-off Britons, selfishness is neither a sufficient nor necessary condition. Selfishness requires us to care nothing for the bankers, MPs and executives. But selfishness also requires us to care nothing for other ripped-off Britons.

It is easy for enough of our 650 MPs to band together to nurture their expenses, and for a hundred FTSE100 boards of directors to pay themselves excessively, and a hundred banks to continue ripping-off their customers. Cartels, cabals and other collusive cells need to be small to succeed, as they are the congregation of the few conspiring to outsmart the many. But 62 million Britons all behaving with equivalent selfishness? It’s simply too many to work!
Ripped-off Britons: Danish pensions 
However, we can console ourselves that while universal selfishness not sufficient, as stated above, neither is it necessary. What is necessary for us ripped-off Britons is:

1) Understand the nature of the cartels, cabals and collusive cells. We must realise: 
  • They are not like us. It is precisely by not being like us that they gained admission to the cartel/cabal/collusive cell.
  • The argument “surely they wouldn’t do that” is wrong. Just because you wouldn’t doesn’t mean they wouldn’t. They have neither hesitation nor compunction in doing just that. (And, quite frankly, if you had the same incentives to perpetrate rip-offs as they do, perhaps you would too. Is it too much morality or too little opportunity that keeps us honest?).
  • What we regard as lying they regard as a legitimate tactic. They will have identified a plausibly benevolent “end” to justify their self-serving “means”.
  • They will kill the golden goose, so long as the last golden egg goes into their bank account.

2) Do not give them the benefit of the doubt. Repeated fibbing has lost them the right to this benefit.

For decades the tobacco companies rolled out highly paid executives to state there was no link between smoking and lung cancer. Rolling out sophists and apologists is no problem to an executive conscience if there is enough money at stake. Financial services claiming to care about our comfortable retirements, energy companies hiking prices to become greener? Don't you believe it!: 

3) Forgive and forget is not the way. Surely a rip-off has to stop before you can forgive it. And so long as we forget, then the rip-off will continue:

Understand that a rip-off is not “news”, but is a current and continuing state of affairs. “News” is talked about for a few days, and is then forgotten. It is this “forgetting” that the rippers rely on. Stories that made the news earlier in 2011 but are now are hardly mentioned, even though the rip-offs themselves continue to flourish:

Each of these rip-offs, which made the headlines for a paltry few days, is repeated every day. The same scams recur every month as reduced pensions and salaries are paid, every day as overpriced rail tickets are bought, every time you switch on your heating and inflate your energy bill, and every moment as secretly slashed interest trickles into your savings and as excessive charges gnaw on your pension investments.

Rippers-off rely on their scams making the headlines for no more than a few days. Leaving them to carry on ripping off without further disturbance from the media.

Our resolution at Ripped-Off Britons is first to highlight, and then to keep reminding Britain about the rip-offs. Simple as that.


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