No money? No problem!

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Of all the problems associated with the Global Financial Crisis, perhaps the most troubling is only just now coming to light: people have forgotten how to make money. Back in the late 90s through mid 00s, everyone had lots of money, but as the banks begun to collapse, a wave of collective amnesia has apparently descended on the population and everyone seems to have forgotten exactly what they were doing with it in the first place.

This is borne out, for example, in the lack of jobs being created even back when the government still bothered to claim the recession was over on various technicalities: the simple reason for this is that there is no real reason to pay anyone for anything, as people will do whatever you want them to for free. The pioneers in this new field of volunteer exploitation has ironically been a sector that many financial analysts have declared moribund: print media. When you next read a paper, particular a local paper, reflect if you will on the fact that nothing you have read has been written by someone who has been paid. Instead, it is all written by a team of travelling interns, mostly recent English Literature graduates, who move from paper-to-paper writing for each of them in turn for a few months for no pay on the off-chance they might one day be given some money for doing so, but of course they never are because these days even many senior staffers are paid in free CDs and foreign trips rather than being given a conventional wage, plunging them to the brink of poverty: The Guardian‘s Marina Hyde, for example, has been claiming housing benefit since March 2009, whilst her colleague Simon Jenkins has been forced to move back in with his parents in their former council house in Bromsgrove. And yet the model works beautifully, because despite the clear lack of proportionate remuneration, this has not deterred the stricken writers from continuing to write.

It is therefore no surprise that David Cameron wishes to roll out this model of employment on a country-wide scale. We all know that the government needs to make budget cuts: we know this because we are constantly told this, and then somebody mentions Greece. I think the whole of Greece is on fire because they didn’t cut the budget, or something. Hence: the Big Society programme. No longer will schools, post offices, libraries, public transport providers, housing projects, public houses, and so on, need to be run by people on expensive salaries. Instead, they will be taken over by charities and run by volunteers. It might be objected: “who will actually bother to do these deeply necessary jobs without any prospect of financial gain? Surely they’ll take up all of someone’s labour time and they won’t be given any money, so they won’t do it.” But that is, of course, deeply naïve thinking inspired by a pre-Credit Crunch mentality. No: there are tens of thousands of enthusiastic young people, recent graduates, out there who have no job, no real prospect of finding a half-decent job, who will do anything to beef up their CV and make it look like they are someone who deserves to be paid for doing a proper job like the one they might have imagined themselves getting when they started university. These people are young, bright, and eager to please. So, they will make perfect unpaid volunteers to run our essential services forever and ever.

And what’s more, this is a measure brilliantly in tune with the current discourse surrounding the salaries of public sector employees. In the wake of the incomprehensibly borish and still raging MPs’ expenses scandalgate, it is gradually becoming evident that the general public do not respond generously to ‘their’ money being spent on the wages of other people, even if they are doing essential jobs really well: just take the example of headteacher Mark Elms and his £240,000 a year salary, or this other one here in this Daily Mail article, who isn’t paid quite as much because obviously that would lead to a completely incomprehensible figure of money.  Now, once one would have thought the sensible argument would have gone: “but they’re doing really good jobs in very difficult schools and the public sector needs to attract the best people and what’s more they deserve to be rewarded.” But no longer. Obviously people who still think this way need to be sent into camps to be re-educated because actually how DARE headteachers claim more than classroom assistants? So you see if you think critically around the issue you will find that no one should ever be paid anything at all until they retire and receive generous pensions.

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