The C-Word

In last week’s discussion with the Renegade Economist, Fred Harrison made a somewhat bizarre comment regarding monetary reform advocates:

Renegade Economist: People who believe in the need for monetary reform really are fixated on it. And many of them think there is some kind of grand conspiracy that allows the bankers and those who have money to control our society.

Interviewer: Is there?

RE: There isn’t; no there isn’t – other than that , within the rules of the game, there is a bias that favours a certain categoey of people against the interests of the majority. Now, that’s not a conspiracy – that’s written into the laws! So when people make statements about how they’re going to exploit the current crisis to their own advantage – well they’re not making any secret of the fact that yes, they have a lot of money and they are going to get even richer.

I: Because it’s in the rules?

RE: Because it’s in the rules.

He reaffirms this perspective towards the end of the interview when he is asked:

I: So the system’s working as it should work?

RE: It’s exactly as we’ve had it programmed and we’ve inherited it.

So, of course, the obvious questions that should arise are from this are: Who determines the ‘rules of the game’? Who writes ‘the laws’? and, Who ‘programmed’ the system? The Renegade Economist doesn’t seem to see the merits of discussing these issues:

Interviewer: There are alot of monetary reformers out there and alot of them (as you say) subscribe to huge conspiracy theories and we should do our best to try and put this to rest…

RE: Well, nothing is going to convince that community of people…

The reason that Tiberius finds this so odd is the Renegade Economist himself does not mind dabbling in an analysis which comes close ‘conspiracy theory’:

A century ago a group of influential economists calluded to manipulate the building blocks of Classical Economics. They had an ideological  agenda. The future that they shaped is our reality. […] Their mission was clear: to protect the vital interests of the privileged few but to do so they had to conceal the unique qualities of one of the Classical factors of production – land.

He doesn’t however use the dreaded ‘c-word’ and instead what the Renegade Economist tends to describe is some kind of systemic bias at work. As  Tiberius recently tried to explain with the aid of a packet of cornflakes, many of the problems that we face today are systemic. However, as he also tried to make clear in a subsequent post, this does not mean that conspiracies do not exists – indeed they are one of the mean by which many of these systemic biases function:

the current box we all live in was actually designed by the bigger flakes themselves:  not necessarily consciously in a ‘lets think of the best design to ensure our dominance’ fashion, but rather slowly and incrementally in more of a ‘this seems to work best for us’ way – though less ‘Blind Watchmaker’, more ‘Short-sighted Bastard’.

The problem is that ‘conspiracy theories’ are given a bum rap because they are generally seen to be over-simplistic and all-encompassing – and, indeed, some of them are. However it doesn’t follow from this that there are no conspiracies, nor that a ‘conspiracy theory’ cannot be the best explanation for the facts in some cases. Despite this, the ‘c-word’ is generally used as a pejorative term used to silence dissent and it seems that it’s therefore considered to be more ‘intellectually acceptable’ to promote what may be called a ‘systemic bias theory’.

The unfortunate result is that people tend to adopt an analysis that is either/or and fail to recognise that there is a dynamic interplay between these factors at work: systemic biases create conspiracies of interest, which in turn also cause further system biases, and so on.

To try and explain this it is best to look at the favoured metaphor of the ‘systemic bias’ purveyor: evolution by natural selection.

No one makes the Lion kill the Wildebeest – it is simply part of its nature to do so. The Lion’s ‘nature’ is a the sum of a biologically determined set of predispositions to its behaviour – all of which (so the theory goes) have at their root a genetic underpinning. These genes are selected for (and against) by an incremental and directionless process of which the Lion has no awareness and no control. Lions may cooperate with one another in achieving their tasks (hanging out in prides, hunting in teams, etc) but they have no idea why they are doing so, and this behaviour is simply a more complex example of this self-gene system at work in social animals – they are not ‘conspiring’ in any sense.

But this metaphor only works  so long as none of the agents become aware of their own interest and how the rules affect them.

Let’s look again at our Savannah setting should the lions become self-aware:

If  the Lions become self-conscious, then, in time, their own ‘Darwin Lion’ will develop a theory of natural selection, and their ‘Dawkins Lion’ will explain that the driving force of this evolutionary process is the individual genes make every living thing : Lions and Wildebeests included. Some Lions will be impressed by these facts, and one particularly enterprising feline may suggests they utilize these new understandings to try and develop more successful hunting strategies. An idea may be proposed: instead of always targetting the weaker Wildebeest young, the Lions make a pact to only hunt the stronger calves. They agree that all the punier Wildebeast will be allowed to live until they have reproduced (after which lunch!). A few generations later, thanks to these artificial selection policies,  there are would be a greater proportion of weaker Wildebeast in the herd and hunting would become easier.

The Lions would still be, in a sense, ‘trapped’ in the evolutionary system (they’d still have the desire to hunt/kill Wildebeast), but their awareness of it would  enabled them to agree (conspire) to forgoe the short-term advantages (which the selfish-genes thrives on), in favour of a greater long-term prospect. They would have therefore changed the mechanics of that system to their advantage.

In terms of our own ‘economic system’, Tiberius doesn’t think a group of people sat down and explicitly mapped out the best method possible to ensure the dominance of the few over the many. Instead, the system has developed incrementally (like natural selection) but deliberately (unlike natural selection), so what we have now is like an animal that has been selectively bred – sheep, cows, dogs, etc.

For example, noone set out to ‘make a Great Dane’ in the sense that they were working from a blueprint. Instead certain dogs were consciously chosen to breed in order to fix certain inheritable characteristics that were considered desirable – and this eventually led to a tall, funny-looking dog. Saying that our system is ‘inevitable’, or ‘conspiracy-neutral’, is a bit like arguing that the Great Dane is a ‘naturally-occuring’ animal.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a tendancy in modern humans to be very puritanical in their view of the world. In the case of the c-word, this means on the one hand, those that see a conspiracy in almost everything,  and those that failing to see even the most outrageous examples. This more complex reality needs to be as acknowledged as explicitly in the case of land reform as it does in monetary reform and, in his excellent book “Who Owns Britain“, Kevin Cahill spells this out clearly:

All these advantages were deliberately conferred on the already priviledged by a manipulation of the law which created the modern Land Registry…

Much more than a simple cover-up, it is an ongoing conspiracy even in an age when such a term is frequently and wilfully over-used.

This book is about that conspiracy and its consequences. [emphasis added]

Democracy Shamocracy

Preface

MattInShanghai recently commented:

I noticed that you also have been caught up by the “expenses scandal” which seems to be gripping the UK at the moment. But without resorting to “conspiracy theories”, think about this. Fiddling of expenses by our elected officials must have been going on for decades, at the very least, and thousands of people had to have been aware of it (including all of the media). Why has the “scandal” been exposed just now?? I mean, even if the PM hired his brother to clean his house at taxpayers’ expense, surely this did not cause the UK economy to collapse. Maybe it has something to do with a (temporary) split between the politicians and their masters? The politicians, currently in power, facing immanent defenestration might have gotten a misguided idea that going after some fat cats might just restore their street-cred enough to get reelected. If so, they were certainly put back in their proper place. Just a thought…

Tiberius agrees with this assessment, and  posted  this on a recent Cynicus Economicus blog:

I agree that Gordon Brown is a pragmatist: he understands well the limits of State power in a globalised world, and the power of international finance to make or break governments and their people. His ‘problem’ is that he has far less ability to shape public opinion than the ‘vested interests’ do, and, now both have turned against him, he has become unable to deliver the political stability on which the system relies.

Whether that next step towards stability will be one of fascism or democracy is the worry.

Why then has Tiberius even bothered to comment on the recent expenses scandal, if he realises that, in reality, it is just a power game?

In order to explain this, it will be necessary for Tiberius to expound some of the tenets of his political philosophy. He asks, Weary Surfer, for your patience.

Democracy Shamocracy

Introduction

The essay that follows will seek to challenge a piece of what might be considered ‘received wisdom’; a falsehood so pervasive that it is passed over with little comment when uttered by our so-called political commentators: the illusion of a UK democracy.

This illusion constitutes one of the four foundational myths on which the civilized life of our country is based: common misapprehensions that  may pass for ‘common sense’, but which are, in reality, nothing more than symptoms of a collective self-delusion.

Tiberius believe it to be incumbent on every free-thinking person to take the time to challenge these falsities via a course of what Noam Chomsky refers to as “intellectual self-defence”.

These foundational myths, from which every rational person should seek to disavow themselves, can be listed as follows:

Myth 1: The UK is a “democracy” (in any meaningful sense of that word)

Myth 2: The UK is (and historically always has been) a force for good in the world

Myth 3: There exists in the UK a free, independent, and liberal press

Myth 4: The UK has a politically-neutral educational system

The remainder of this blog will challenge the first, and probably most insidious, of these myths.

The Myth of Democracy

The first thing to note is that most people think of democracy in binary terms: a country either is or is not democratic. This is a mistake and it should instead be more appropriately viewed as a spectrum, some countries being ‘more democratic’ than others.

In terms of a pure democracy, the UK has never been democratic. There was never a time when the entire population of the UK got to vote on all the major issues of their time, from distribution of wealth to foreign policy. The system that currently exists was never agreed upon by the masses but, rather, has developed incrementally from the system that went before it.

A few hundred years ago we lived under a theocracy – it was a system under which people had no power, save for those born into the ruling class. From there we achieved a system under which the landowners ruled the country, this was ostensibly called “democracy” but it was severely limited. However, if nothing else, it began to sow the popular seeds of what democracy could be.

Now, there is no denying that the system is “better” than the one it has replaced; nor that certain democratic victories have been won over the last few centuries. But to go further than this and imply that we have reached a democratic society, in an ‘end of history’ sense, is to misunderstand what democracy would look like: either through naivety or deliberate obfuscation from the status-quo.

At this point, some may consider this to be a purely semantic argument, and in some respects it is: but this is not to say that it is not an important one. The words that we use to represent our reality can serve as a limitation on our thoughts, quelling our capacity to imagine what could otherwise be. It’s Newspeak, but less transparently so.

But the important point to note is this: It is possible to oppose the current system and not be ‘anti-democratic’.

Democracy Renamed

If the UK is not a democracy, then what is it?

Technically, in sociological parlance, it is what is known as a polyarchy. The term was first coined in 1956 by the political scientist Robert A. Dahl in his book A Preface to Democratic Theory

Noam Chomsky defines the term thus:

[A polyarchy is a] system in which power resides in the hands of those who [James Madison] called “the wealth of the nation, the responsible class of men”. And the rest of the population is fragmented, distracted, allowed to participated every couple of years  – to come and say “Yes, thank you – you can continue for the next four years” and they have a little choice among the responsible men/wealth of the nation.

That’s the way the country was founded: it was founded on the principle (explained by Madison in the Constitutional Convention) that the primary goal of government is to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.

Chomsky reinforces this point by saying of America:

It is not a democratic society, and it was not intended to be.

This statement is equally applicable on this side of the Atlantic.

Yet that’s not how we see things: we tend to envisage ourselves as the masters (or mistresses) of our own destiny. This is for two reasons : firstly, this is how we are encouraged to see things (those pesky myth-makers!) and secondly, that is how we want to see things.

The human brain seems always to do its best to make a tolerable interpretation of any situation; we don’t want to face the reality that we are a subordinated mass supporting a corrupt (and often violent) oligarchy, so instead we try and identify with our superiors (“we’re all British after all”). We’re like an entire nation displaying Stockholm-syndrome and ‘democracy’ is the hood placed over us to blind us to our predicament.

In a society such as ours,  what passes for ‘democracy’ is the opium of the people.

Un-Representative Democracy

We sometimes hear our society described as “representative democracy”, under which the population ‘surrenders’  their right to determine law and policy to elected representatives, to whom the government is directly answerable.

In practice, popular rule under such systems comes down to a question of the accountability and responsiveness of the government to the people, via both their formal representatives and other informal channels of public opinion, i.e. interest groups, political lobbying, media campaigns.

Let us leave aside the question of whether the population ever actually possessed the rights they are asked to ‘surrender to the system’, and look instead at how the system works in principle.

Representative democracy is generally considered to presuppose the following:

  • Free and fair elections on the basis of universal suffrage;
  • Guaranteed freedoms of association and expression, independent of governmental control;
  • Openness of government action to public scrutiny;
  • An effective jury system;
  • Equality of access for citizens to the means of influencing public decision-making.

Now, it is usually agreed in sociological circles that the ‘liberal democracies’ of the West meet the first four of these criteria (though to differing degrees) but fail to meet the fifth.

“Not too bad”, you might say, “Four out of Five is a respectable score” and, to a certain extent, Tiberius would agree (he’d certainly rather live in a society with these freedoms than without them).

However, if we examine it closer, we can see that it is definitely a crucial 20% that we appear to be missing out on.

If we acknowledge that the five requirements above do not exist in isolation from one another then we can speculate on the effects of the absence of this fifth factor, by asking ourselves the following questions:

  • In a society without “Equality of access for citizens to the means of influencing public decision-making”, who decided what constitutes a “Free and fair election”? Is, for example, the UK’s current ‘first past the post system’ a fair election?
  • In the absence of a written constitution, how can the public ensure that “Guaranteed freedoms of association and expression” remain “independent of governmental control”? What can we do about the fact that the UK government is currently kerbing our rights in the name of anti-terrorism if we have no means of creating a popular movement?
  • What is the point of “Openness of government action to public scrutiny” if, after scrutinising the action, there is no possibility of changing it or holding the government accountable to it? Knowledge may be power, but isn’t knowledge without the possibility of action simply powerlessness?
  • Who defines whether a jury system is “effective” and does it become ‘ineffective’ simply because it is not producing the results the government would like? The UK government is currently trying to kerb the right to trial by jury on the ground that it is ineffective – is this democratic?

So the reality is that we live in society in which some people have more access to the means of influencing decision-making then others; the state is systematically biased, and the resources to affect outcomes are heavily concentrated among elite groups (dominant classes /special interests).

For those people who lack the means of influence all of the above-stated prerequisites for the “representative democracy” become, in essence, articles of faith. Citizens of representative democracies are left to hope that elections remain fair, that governments continue to allow freedoms of association and remain open to scrutiny, and that the jury system continues to be seen as effective,  since in the event of any changes there would be very little they could do about it anyway.

The reason for widespread apathy is that any other response is a waste of time; and for people who do wish for society to change (like Tiberius), this political reality means that they have to become a more pragmatic, and less idealistic.

Tiberius will attempt to explain his position by highlighting an infinitely greater scandal, one for which New Labour will be remembered long after the dust has settled on moats and duck houses: the invasion of Iraq.

Non-Accountability

Here in Leeds, we have five New Labour MPs:  Battle, Benn, Hamilton, Mundie, Truswell. (Note: plus one Liberal Democract, Mulholland, who shall be ignored for this analysis)

According to TheyWorkForYou.com (TWFY) only one of these MPs (Battle) was “strongly against” the war in Iraq, two (Hamilton & Truswell) were “moderately against” it, while the other two (Benn & Mundie) were both “very strongly for”.

The war – as any legally-minded person can tell you – was illegal, and brought about by a multitude of lies (for best analysis of which Tiberius recommends Media Len’s ‘Myth of The Liberal Media‘, ch4.)

So, given the information that has come to light since then – dodgy-dossiers, bogus weapons claims – one would think an investigation into what brought this country to a war in violation of UN protocol would be a priority for the guardians of our democracy.

But instead, now one can see all of our city’s Labour MPs are singing from the  same hymn sheet – with four voting “Very strongly against” an investigation into the Iraq war, and one merely “Strongly against” (Truswell). Even Battle, who strongly opposed the Iraq war, is very strongly against an investigation into it.

This, to Tiberius’ mind, is a real scandal.

Now, it is, of course, lamentable that we happen to live in a country which is more upset by claims for duck houses and moats than by the illegal invasion of a sovereign state.  But given this political reality, what should one do if they hope for some kind of accountability?

Tiberius believes that you have to work with what you’ve got; if there is no appetite to hold people to account for murder, you have to make doubly sure you prosecute when there is evidence of theft; even Al Capone was only take down on the charge of tax evasion.

Now, of course, there are dangers inherent in such a strategy: what you consider an opportunity to make things more progressive, may be seen by others as an opportunity for reaction.This is why Tiberius wouldn’t base this attack purely on moral indignation, but rather use satire: taking the piss out of those politicians that have been taking the piss out of their constituents for years (even if in some cases the facts are so bizarre in some cases they are almost beyond parody).

If the BNP were voted in as a result of this tide of anger then this would be a disaster, and one that would call into question the tactics employed. Tiberius, however, likes to give the British public more credit than that, and will highlight this using a local example.

None Of The Above

Yesterday’s YEP, ran a feature on Anne Bateson – a boxing coach from Leeds who “is setting up a ‘protest party’ to allow voters to register their frustration with the mainstream parties at the ballot box.”

Her party, None Of The Above (NOTA) is:

appealing for the votes of people who are so fed up with politicians that they would either not vote or spoil their ballot papers.

In other words, it is an apolitical movement, offering no solutions, just the opportunity to register disillusionment with the system.

Not only this, but:

If a NOTA candidate won a constituency, he or she would immediately resign and force a by-election.

(Though of course, as things stand (and as millions of New Labour voters know) there would be no legal obligation for them to do so: a manifesto pledge is as worthless as the paper it is written on.)

Ms Bateson argues that this would force mainstream candidates to listen more carefully to voters.

So again, this is devoid of any real political content, instead merely trying to impell our MPs to behave a bit more appropriately.

But this is not to say that Ms. Bateson’s means of protest has no value: by politicising the populace it creates the possibility for a groundswell movement for genuine democratic change – as people create spaces for discussion, they become more engaged with the system. Once they do this it is inevitable that, to a certain extent they will begin to realise the system’s true nature and the limits of their own influence over it.

However, the effect could perhaps be the opposite of that intended: it could be that the more people understand of how the system works, the more disgusted they become with it in its entirety; they desire a ‘strong, incorruptible leader’, who will promise to ‘clean up the system’ and look out for the interests of the ‘working-class’. Without wishing to overstate the risk too much, let’s not forget that Hitler was elected in a climate of similar political and economic turmoil.

Revolution Or Revulsion?

So this is the issue of our time: whether to seize the opportunity to  press for a meaningful democracy or to do away with the system entirely. In short, Democratic Revolution or Democratic Revulsion?

As MattInShanghai alludes, the latter will always be the preferred option for the vested interests – the newspaper moguls, the shareholders, the financial elites – because corporations will, by definition, prefer a fascistic model of society.

And as funding for New Labour vanishes and the party slides ever closer to bankruptcy, it will be interesting to see where the money goes next; following the financial trial inevitably tells you who the elites are backing for symbolic governance.

So without some understanding of the myths they live under, without some kind of class-analysis, the British public will remain like a neutered cat: trapped in infantile pursuits, rolling over on its back for its owners’ pleasure, distracted by the simplest of things dangled enticingly infront of it. Yes, they may scratch their keeper once in a while for some perceived slight, but they’ll soon forgive – or if the damage is too great, move on to someone else who seems to promise better care.

But times are changing. In our internet age the cultural spells that we live under are easier to break, we become less vulnerable to attempts at bewitchment by those with power. If we are indeed a neutered cat then we’re one that still has a chance to grow some balls.

And, while always mindful of the victories that we have won and the attempts by power to roll these back, we must use these times of uncertainty to challenge the assumptions of this “shamocracy” that we all live under.

Instead of looking for celebrity saviours, or naively thinking that our representatives would behave better if only they knew how Gosh Darn Angry We Are, Tiberius thinks it’s high time we became our own politicians.

The Children’s Crusade

Dear Mr Brown … Leeds 10-year-old writes in disgust over MPs:

A 10-year-old is so outraged by the MPs’ expenses scandal that she has written an angry letter to the Prime Minister.

Kennedy Greenwood told Gordon Brown in her “strongly-worded” letter, left, that she was “appalled” by the behaviour of some MPs.

She said they had committed an “unforgivable crime” and added: “I would strongly recommend for the MPs to pay back every penny.”

Tiberius especially enjoyed this line:

She threatened to write again if the controversy comes up again.

“Fairly Warned Be Thee, Says I!”

Update

Kennedy gets a mention in today’s Mail:

Kennedy, from Guiseley, Leeds is a member of a journalism club at her school, Tranmere Park Primary. Her mother Lynne, 43, said: ‘I was really amazed that at ten she had picked up on it and knew it was seriously wrong.’

Yesterday Mr Brown said he was very grateful for Kennedy’s suggestions and promised to write back.

If only this city had a few more journalists as hard-nosed as Little Miss Greenwood.

Published in: on May 28, 2009 at 8:15 pm  Comments (2)  
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Tax: More Taxing Than You’d Think

Benn: Gunna Get Probed!

Benn: Gunna Get Probed!

Following on from Monday’s revelations about the help being given to numerically-challenged cabinet MPs in the form of tax-payer-payed accountants, last night the Telegraph reported that their own chat with the tax man was quite revealing.

The BBC summarises:

Revenue officials are investigating if MPs have broken the law by not paying tax after claiming personal accounting costs on expenses, the BBC understands.

Nearly 40 ministers were reimbursed a total of at least £25,000 for help with tax returns, the Daily Telegraph said, but such fees are not tax-deductible.

[..]

The paper, which has obtained the expenses claims of all 646 MPs, also reports that nine cabinet ministers and 30 junior ministers used allowances meant for the running of their offices to pay for personal tax advice.

It said MPs had been given specific guidance from the taxman in 2005 that advice on self-assessment tax returns could not be regarded as a tax-free expense and were in effect a “benefit in kind”.

A Revenue and Customs spokesman told the BBC: “It’s a general principle of tax law that accountancy fees incurred in connection with the completion of a personal tax return are not deductible.

“This is because the costs of complying with the law are not an allowable expense against tax. This rule applies across the board.”

David Grossman, of the BBC’s Newsnight programme, said tax office sources had indicated they were looking at MPs’ previous tax returns to see whether they had complied with the law.

[emphasis added]

The piece also contains this scandolous allegation:

Business groups have expressed concerns said MPs might be being “treated differently” to other taxpayers.

If entrepreneurs sought professional tax advice, they had to pay the fee themselves and offset it against any profits on which they paid tax, it has been claimed.

“MPs being “treated differently” to the rest of us!?”, shrieks Tiberius,  “Shame on you for even thinking such a thing Mr. I-Should-Mind-My-Own-Business group!”

See also:No Account-Ability; Fabian Vs Satire; Feed Your MP; From Gravy-Train To Bread-Line

Published in: on May 27, 2009 at 5:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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Minimum Wage Debate

A recent post by Cynicus Economicus has sparked a debate on the merit of the minimum wage between Tiberius and fellow commentator (and prospective Conservative councillor) Steve Tierney.

For practical reasons, the exchange has been moved here.

Tierney:

You ask: “Do you support the Minimum Wage?” and then suggest that if I don’t I must not be humanitarian.

Well, clumsily as ever, that is not exactly what Tiberius meant to suggest: it depends on what grounds a person rejects the Minimum Wage.

In practical terms, Tiberius’ own view is that, within the current system as it stands, a person cannot both object to a ‘Minimum Wage’ and defend that objection on humanitarian grounds.

Cynicus himself accepts this moral compromise in his post on benefit reform, where he writes:

At this stage it would be easy to characterise this point of view as heartless […] as a reader you have to either accept the economic rationale behind what I have said, or condemn me as a heartless monster.

And though Tiberius wouldn’t use such emotive terms, he cannot but describe as ‘non-humanitarian’ the following sentiments:

The UK can simply not support the ‘luxury’ of a system that lets people stay idle on benefits.

So what happens to those who exceed their allowance of one year of benefits? Quite simply, they will need to fall back on charity, friends and family. In the traditional usage of the word, they will be destitute.

What about a young person who is having trouble finding their first job? I have already outlined the education system in my previous post. If a person is unable to find a job then they will have the option of continuing education, provided they can be funded for this. If they can not either find an educational opportunity or work, they will be destitute and reliant on charity, friends and family.

That, to Tiberius’ mind, is no way to set out a road to a healthy society.

[Note: What Tiberius admires about Cynicus is his intellectual honesty in this regard: he diagnoses the problem, he acknowledges that his prescription will not be popular, yet he proposes the treatment anyway.

But does Tiberius agree with him? No, the more of Cynicus’ work Tiberius reads, the more he realise the fundamentally disagreement in their outlooks – economically, politically, and socially.

This, however, is precisely why Tiberius enjoys reading CE’s blog so much: he learns far more by listening to people with a perspective so opposed to his own than he ever could visiting sites where his own political biases are simply confirmed.]

Returning to the Minimum Wage, Tiberius believes that in this system as it stands you either accept that the labour of each citizen has minimum value that cannot be undercut, or you do not. Now, at a more abstract level, he also reject a Minimum Wage – but only on the same grounds that he rejects all forms of wage-slavery: that one cannot put a price on human labour, and man should always be an ends, and not a means. But that is purely theoretical economic system and probably has no relevance for what we are discussing.

[As a (possibly) interesting side note Tiberius’ position is not even a particularly radical one; a person of a more revolutionary persuasion may would agree with the argument that we should scrap the Minimum Wage ( and other forms social security) but for the opposite reason implied by Cynicus’ example.

What such a person may argue is that all forms of forms of social benefit ultimately serve as nothing more than a States’ buying-off of it’s people’s ‘revolutionary potential’.

An analogy would be that people in the Capitalist system are born into a prison of servitude which they are ‘naturally’ averse to. Therefore, in order to keep their inmates pacified and less inclined to riot, it serves the gaoler’s interest to furnish the cells with a few ‘luxuries’ to distract the inmates from their predicament. Take these away these provisions and the incarcerated masses begin to notice the bars of the institution, and begin to fight for their emancipation.

The more pure ideologues would go further than this and say this is the only way a free, equal, ‘revolutionary society’ can be born.

Tiberius puts little stock in such “out of the ashes” rhetoric, however, he does have sympathy for the argument that anyone seeking to eliminate all kind of State subsidies, is unwittingly or not, promoting a revolutionary agenda; this is why some on the ‘far-left’ supported Ron Paul presidency ]

To return to practical matters though: removing any of the government provisions that ensure people have enough money to feed themselves, that families do not go destitute, that people are able to maintain a minimum standard of living, cannot, Tiberius believes, be morally defended. (An illustration of this point was provided last year when a Ron Paul-supporter wrote to Noam Chomsky saying that: “I really can’t find differences between your positions and his” and was politely schooled by the Professor on the vast gulf in the men’s beliefs; it is worth reading it full here.)

That being said, Tiberius is always interested to hear from others who do not believe that this is the case…