Saturday, February 4, 2012

Income inequality - the issues under discussion

Income inequality – the issues discussed
1. The gradients in the health of societies
2. Social problems
3. The well-being of children
4. The well-being of societies
5. Trust
6. Mental illness
7. Crime and violence
8. Social mobility
9. Social disfunction
10. Bottom and top
11. Psychological effects of inequality
Robert L. Fielding

Psychological effects of inequality

Foreword and Introduction

Income inequality has perhaps always been a fact of life – right from the early days of mercantilism – there have always been some who earn more than others, some significantly more, but the gap between the rich and the poor is widening – has been widening now for some time – until it has reached gigantic proportions – billionaires on the one hand, practically destitute people on the other – and not in some far flung rotting outpost, but in the land of the free – the United States of America, and in that bastion of freedom and democracy, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

With this massive inequality in what people earn, and what people are worth, as we say, inevitably there are psychological effects: jealousy and fear – to be expected where there is even the slightest difference in fortunes, but something else – a feeling of hopelessness and despair among the young, and the resignation in older people that nothing can ever be done about the parlous state of the economy.

The ultimatum game: this is a ‘game’ in which two players must divide a sum of money thus: one decides how much each is to get and the other can either accept it, in which case both get amounts decided by the first player, or the second can reject the division, in which case neither one gets anything. It is rather like the situation in which two children are given some chocolate cake, to be divided up, one cuts and the other chooses, and if there is any bickering, Mum takes the cake away and neither child gets any!

The ultimatum game usually ends with either the sum being cut 50/50 or both getting nothing; the second player being hardly ever willing to accept unfairness, and although this is ostensibly a game, it illustrates the thinking and feeling behind people’s mentality; that fairness is a higher good than any benefit.

With this in mind, is it any wonder that many feel cheated by what they see and read about – the huge gap in incomes.

In what follows, a citizen (C), discusses the situation with a denizen (D).

Citizen: We know that the ultimatum game is just that – a game, but don’t you think it mirrors reality – particularly in the way it is generally played out – as a sort of zero sum game in which neither side comes away with any tangible reward.

Denizen: But they are rewarded; neither side gets the upper hand over the other. That is something that can be valued, is it not?

C: I suppose so, but I meant that neither side wins.

D: Both win.

C: And both lose.

D: But both come away with something more than money.

C: And what might that be?

D: Their prestige and their self-esteem intact.

C: And you imagine that is worthy of their time, do you?

D: Indeed, else we would have had a ‘winner’ – someone with a larger purse.

C: Whereas what we have in most cases is both left with nothing. Why do you think people prefer that outcome?

D: For that one simple reason, as I have already stated; their integrity, their self-esteem, and their prestige remain intact.

C: In whose eyes?

D: In their own, first and foremost, and that is their prime concern – one of them, let’s say. The other must be that they are surely held in higher esteem by those who observed the game – after all, nobody likes to see someone done down at the hands of another, do they?

C: I would say that they do, if the game shows on TV are anything to go b y.

D: That is different; spectators on those shows are primed – most probably chosen – because of their propensity to look down on losers, whilst most decent people, in situations that are real ones, would prefer that either both side gain, or neither side does. It is a cultural thing, I think.

C: But culture is not a closed system- things can and do change within cultures, surely.

D: They do indeed, and you are right when you suggest that attitudes change – they do, but some spark of the old remains in most people, and in general, if a culture values fairness – fair play, then that sense of right prevails over time, and nobody values fair play like the English do.

C: So what you are going on to say, is that evidence suggests that the public perception of how things are panning out in the economy colour how they feel about how they themselves come out of it – generally on the losing side.

D: More often than generally, I think, for most people are well down the ladder when it comes to the amount they earn when compared to those top few percent whose earnings are through the roof, so to speak.

Consider a man or woman who has worked hard all his or her life, always lived within the dictates of decency and honesty, obeying the laws of the land in everything that is done, how do you expect such people to feel about someone who makes – I do not want to sully the word ‘earns’ – hundreds, possibly thousands of times more than they do for doing less, and whilst paying less income tax and such? Is it any wonder people feel aggrieved by what is going on – and that is here in Britain, where income inequality, whilst high, is nothing like as astronomically high as it is in the USA? What must the poorer section of that country feel about what is going on, about what is being allowed to go on – how do you think they feel?

C: They must feel angry.

D: Permanently angry, would you say?

C: I think only psychotic people are permanently angry.

D: And the rest of us, the 99%, what do we feel most of the time?

C: We get on with our lives, most probably, and try not to think about what angers us – income inequality being but one of those things.

D: But a major one, wouldn’t you say? One we are reminded of every time we find we haven’t enough money to do the things we do – which for most of us is most of the time.

C: But we have to live within our means, surely?

D: We most certainly do, and I would say that the majority of people do just that, most of the time. But that still doesn’t mean we can easily forget that some people earn thousands of times more than we earn, does it?

C: But there have always been people whose earnings are higher than ours. Isn’t that true?

D: It is, but now, as we know, there are some in our country who earn these fabulous, fantastical sums of money at the same time as some have nothing – or close to nothing. That cannot be right, can it?

C: I think you are looking at it from the wrong viewpoint.

D: If you are poor, what other viewpoint is there? Please don’t tell me that what one can do any can do. That is plainly not true, as the figures show. No, if you are poor, you will probably stay poor, and so will your children, whilst the rich – the super rich especially – will stay rich and their kids will be rich, and their kids after them and so one. Tell me that fact, because it is a fact, does not get under the skin of each and every normally rewarded person in the country.

C: It must do, but how does anything change. Some people get angry, what of it?

D: People with issues invariably find ways of coping with them, I think I am right in saying. However, I am not saying that the ways people find to cope with such issues are not damaging to them. On the contrary, many such ways are very damaging indeed.
Take substance abuse for one; from alcohol to what are euphemistically and dangerously called ‘recreational drugs’; being addicted to any of those takes its toll on health, life and on those around the addicted.

C: Some people don’t need an excuse to find something to ret ‘high’ on , do they?

D: Probably not, but the fact remains that substance abuse, among others, is a way of coping with other problem areas in life.

C: But you cannot blame the wealthy for that.

D: I am not in the business of apportioning blame – at least not on individuals.

C: On what then. What do you blame, if you blame anything?

D: The system that allows some to become outrageously wealthy whilst others are utterly poor, the system and other systems that allow it to happen, or overlook that fact that it does happen. Do you not think that many feel let down by governments they themselves have had a hand in electing, when those same governments, those same senators, congressmen and Presidents do little to change a system that appears to be rotten to the core. Don’t you think that makes them angry? Don’t you think that adversely affects their psyche? Don’t you think they are right to feel that way? Don’t you think it is grossly unfair, grossly offensive to every citizen of this country that such a situation not only exists but is perpetuated by the inactivity of legislators?

C: But you cannot take away the rewards of success. If you did, America would not be the country it is, and people would no longer strive – work hard – to become successful.

D: At which point do you think people imagine that working harder rewards them? They clearly have no chance of being rewarded like the super rich. What incentives are left to them? Don’t you think the system rewards some unjustly and disproportionately?

C: It does, yes. But it cannot be altered, at least not without spoiling much more.

D: What is spoiled already? Is a poor child’s health not spoiled when its parents aren’t covered by even the most rudimentary health care?

C: I take your point.

D: Which is?

C: Which is that any system that allows – even actively condones – such massive inequality in income, which adversely affects the lives of millions of American citizens – cannot and should not be allowed to continue.

D: And, I would add, such a rotten system should be changed to one in which we can never return to this same situation: one which throws people on the scrapheap without a moment’s hesitation, and is seen to do so by people who are ostensibly democratic in principle.


C: But I do feel that we must examine the ways income inequality adversely affects people’s health, their sense of well-being, their mental health if you will.

D: Let’s take the man who has a job, not a good one, and poorly paid too. Let’s start with him as a sort of benchmark – he is not destitute, but neither can he afford any luxury in his life – still he must get himself to work every morning, even as he detests and loathes every minute there. What does he feel?

C: He is surely in a sort of dilemma; on the one hand he must work even for the pittance gets in wages, and yet he yearns to be free of it, dreams of not being forced to do the demeaning work that drains his dignity and parts him from his one true self.

D: Does the fact that some earn a thousand – ten thousand times – more than he does really make his lot more unbearable than it already is, I wonder?

C: Well, I am sure it must for how cannot it but affect him; the constant knowledge that some earn in an hour what he can never in his lifetime earn – that must pall.

D: But how does he know there are such earning vast sums?

C: He gets home tired, switches on the TV, reads a newspaper, learns every day that the film star earns what he can never hope to earn, learns of the property tycoon making another cool billion by some quirk of the stock exchange, house prices falling, some dealing that is protected by a complicit and tacit government organization. He knows it so how can he not b e affected by it?

D: But how will such things affect him?

C: In growing bitterness and remorse inside him; in his guts as in his mind; his resent grows daily until he takes it out on what he can; the quality of his work suffers, his mind is elsewhere, or else if it is on the task, he makes sure it is half done – a backhand swipe at his employer who is creaming off the top all he can from this enterprise.
He trudges home, resentment in every fibre, until he crosses his threshold, finds something to curse – somebody – and if not, he finds something in himself to strangle out of life – any love or sense of belonging is murdered in his soul.

D: Come, I think you are painting too black a picture; is there not some light gold on your palette?

C: Very little, my friend, very little indeed. His only chance of relief from his lot is through something he takes in that brings on the delirium of addiction. He craves to be insensitive – to be semi-comatose, to escape from something he cannot alter when he is sensible. That is how he is affected; how he lives and how he dies. The thought occurs to him that there is but one life (leaving for a moment the chance of the hereafter – which he shuns anyway) – there is but one go and this has been his – his one go at life. He quickly shuts that out and turns to a bottle, but the shreds of that dreadful thought never leave him, and his dreams – once golden in boyhood - now leave him in waking nightmares.

D: The fate of millions, I suspect.

C: Millions certainly, and for what; to increase a number in one man’s already enormous row of zeros after a number – money he can never spend in his own lifetime, but which gives him the psychological boost only – that of being rich – richer than he could ever have dreamt. Millions of lives are tarnished, that he may live out some half-dream of being a latter day Pharoah – building an empire based upon suffering and pain.


D: What else?

C: Well, income inequality of such magnitude as there is today in the US and elsewhere surely goes against the idea that all men are equal; the Welshman got it planted where it will trouble us for a thousand years, it is said, and yet the whole system militates against just that one central tenet of democracy – that all men are created equal and remain so until they die – that is plainly not nearly true.

D: But the Founding Fathers never meant that equality between men should result in their always being equal throughout their lifetimes, did they?

C: In certain fundamental senses they must have intended it to be so; in life chances, in education, in healthcare and in every area that allows one man neverto be the slave of another.

D: And yet some clearly are the slaves of others.

C: Quite so. If one man – a poor man, once allows himself to go that way in his thoughts, he might rise up and bite the hand that feeds him , wouldn’t you say?

D: Certainly.

C: And yet he does not. Instead, he bites himself and those he loves; he bites himself, and others ‘bite’ him – he is despised, even for something not of his doing, not of his making. Was he not born in America – land of the free? Has he not had every chance – the same chance as the rich man in his mansion? He has but it has all been taken from him – the chance of living a fulfilling life – he probably doesn’t know that his real desire is to do just that – live a fulfilling life.

D: Which consists of doing what?

C: Of realizing and of reaching his own true potential – of being what he is capable of being. It is that he is denied, that which is most fundamental to his own sense of worth and others’ sense of his worth. It is denied him; something in him feels it, he has to deal with it every second of his life. Is it any wonder he turns to the bottle to forget what cannot be forgotten?

D: And his mental health as well as his physical health suffers, is that what you are saying?

C: It is. He is no longer a man, but rather a bundle of impulses fashioned from deprivation – he is the rat in the cage, waiting for the bell that he may gnaw again for food, he is Pavlov’s hound, salivating for nought.


D: And what disorders does this ‘man’, this being in the cage gnawing for a morsel, what does he suffer?

C: You mean apart from the utterly de-humanising bonds that tie him; he suffers all manner of mental disorder, as do his children: from substance abuse, to suicide; from violence to others and himself, to the death of his own spirit, and yet his metabolism will not allow him to die.
Within such neighbourhoods, if they can be called that, for ironically, each despise each in such traps of poverty; his children under achieve at school, when they go, for abstenteeism (which we used to call truancy) is so rife that many do not really benefit from their schooling.

D: But how is that? Is education not the surest way out of poverty?

C: WE have already said that it was, but is it these days? Is educational attainment the way out? Do the young of such men perceive any promise from education?

D: Most probably not.

C: Definitely not. Do they not see every day of their lives that vast fortunes made from nothing but chicanery and double dealing – all under the flag of a nation pledged by its fathers to eradicate such conditions?

D: But what do they know of the Founding Fathers, of the Declaration of Independence; of the clauses and amendments in the Constitution? How can they equate their own situation with anything that was written and declared in another age gone forever?

C: Precisely, but yet they are expected to adhere to the tenets of capitalism, that was also begun an age ago, and which has not had the legal safeguards to forbid what is happening today – the wealth and the property of the nation in the hands of the 1%, while the 99% exist, from the top down to the bottom of society in varying shades and degrees of deprivation. That is the supreme irony: that a nation calling itself democratic, from the legacies of its enlightened Founding Fathers, has fallen from such heights, to what it has become today – a land of mansions and excess to a land of nothing, all within the boundaries of each and every city, of each and every state in the country.


D: But these problems cannot be remedied merely by an increase in Gross Domestic Product, can they?

C: Were it so, but unfortunately no. When the wealth of the nation increases, little falls down past the vast pockets of the rich – the poorer peoples receive very little, save what value that can be had from the knowledge that they live in the wealthiest country on Earth.

D: But that knowledge alone cannot assist them of itself, can it?

C: I should day not. I should say that if anything, that knowledge – the knowledge that theirs is the wealthiest nation on Earth brings greater anguish and frustration. Here the country is being touted from the capital and elsewhere as the most prosperous land ever known to man, and yet here are people without so much as even the basics of what might be called civilised life: without basic health care when they fall ill; without proper housing; without protection of any kind from the wolves that prey upon them.

D: You mean the gangs in the streets?

C: Those, yes, but I also mean those that profit from their situation; the landowner charging so much rent that they are forced into poorer areas; the employer who pays them the least he can, forcing them to do the most demeaning work and yet still unable to afford life’s necessities; deprived of chances he was said to have been born into; inalienable rights that have been systematically eroded, right under the noses of those elected to ensure they were not. He lives a life at variance with the promises at his birth; promises enshrined in the Constitution of the United States of America, and yet continually denied him and his kind, for that is what he now is, a kind of man – a carbuncle, no more than that – an embarrassment in his own land.


D: Should he not pick himself up and start over?

C: With what? How? Be sensible, man, stay in the real world instead of the hypothetical one that faces him whenever he asks for things to change – to be changed. He is told, is he not, that he lives in the land of opportunity – when those that say so know it is nonsense to even suggest such a thing. He knows in his innermost self that what is happening is not right; not what his country promised; knows that all has been usurped in a corruption that has taken everything from him, including his hope – that one thing that keeps him working – the hope that one day things will change – it is a forlorn hope, is it not?

D: It does appear so, yes. So, what is to become of him?

C: He is destined to depart this life, having been denied from birth that which the Founding Fathers insisted was his right at birth – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – all have been taken from him from Day One. Tell me the knowledge – for he surely must be aware of it – tell me that does not adversely affect his self-esteem, tell me it does make him seem worthless, both in his own eyes and in the eyes of others; tell me that is what life is.


D: The answer to the question of what life is, of what it chiefly consists, would be very different for the people from different social strata in society, wouldn’t you say?

C: I would, but there surely must be a sort of agreed upon notion of what life is or is meant to be or consist of.

D: Or rather, in reality, there are as many versions of it as there are people to give their opinion. What we should be better doing is try to establish a general basis and then locate people in relation to it.

C: That sounds sensible. Let’s try that.

D: But we must still acknowledge that many would disagree with our basic points.

C: That doesn’t really matter; what we are doing is coming up with a sort of theoretical construct with which to test reality, that’s it. Right, shall we concentrate on the human being or on everything around him – the trappings of life?

D: I think you answered your own question there. The trappings, as you refer to them, are just that – incidental to life. Let’s concentrate on the species – on all of them, not just on the most fortunate.

C: If we are working with a theoretical construct, as we agreed, then the individual person will be theoretical too, surely?

D: Of course, but there will be real people out there, as they say, who more closely approximate to the ideal, as we define it, than others, wouldn’t you say?

C: OK then, let’s begin : what would you say are the necessities of life, in an idealized world?

D: I would say, first of all that healthy minds in healthy bodies comes above all else.

C: And how would you define what a healthy mind is, for instance?

D: I would say that a healthy mind is one which can relate to other healthy minds in wholesome, non-threatening ways, and I would also say that a healthy mind is one which does not feed on itself; that looks outwards rather than inwards; that creates rather than destroys; that relates rather than avoids; that is rational whilst being also relational – with things like kindness to others being uppermost.

C: Isn’t this pie-in-the-sky stuff?

D: You forget that we are dealing with an idealized construct; one which the philosophers from all cultures might come together to agree upon.

C: OK, since you brought in philosophers, you might like to think about how such ideal minds might be controlled. Would you, for instance, need an all powerful Prince to dole out punishment to those who refused to toe the line; a Leviathan, in Hobbes’ terms, to maintain order in a ‘state of Nature’, one in which each person was working for his own advantage, at others’ expense?

D: I think the answer to that involves getting us back to the world in which we already live; one in which we are taught to distrust everyone around us. Can you not see that that is or shall I say, has been, has always been the construct used by so called democratic countries; countries in which rewards are very unevenly and unfairly distributed. In such a world – in this world – severity of punishment is undoubtedly been found to be necessary to protect the personal fortunes of those who were and still are advantaged by the system. The system demands it, but the system is at fault.

C: Why do you say that?

D: Because it is based upon premises of a self-fulfilling nature; we say that people cannot be trusted to mind their own business, that they cannot be trusted not to covet what is not theirs, and we do so whilst forming a system that encourages it, that works on this inequality being vital to the continued survival of the better-offs, the rich.

C: But what is the alternative? Are you going to talk about the advantages of Communism?

D: That has always been held up as the only alternative to capitalism as it stands in this world of ours; we are threatened with it, and it is held up as against all forms of social good, and so the discussion is ended; this, it is stated, is the best we can do, this is the fairest system we can possibly have unless we want to live in a world in which everyone is told what they can have – again, another demonizing way of putting us off trying to find alternative systems to this one – the one that is failing us.

C: So, if it isn’t Communism, what will it be, this better system, this fairer system?

D: Well, first of all, we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as they say, do we. We need to acknowledge that there is much that is good about the system – I should say was good – and then we should go back to examine why it worked, why the pitfalls we now experience didn’t happen.

C: But that would be putting the clock back, wouldn’t it, and I can’t condone that.

D: If we have to go back to get our future right, then I’m all for going back, as long as we don’t get sentimental about what we are dealing with, as long as we don’t long, if you see what I mean.

C: So you are saying that there was a time when things were fairer?

D: There must have been times when it was unlikely that someone could be a billionaire and live check by jowl with someone living without even the barest necessities. Britain, for example, has a National Health Service, which although not perfect by a long way, still lives up to what it was said to be at its instigation – the ‘envy of the world’!

C: And you think that could work over here? You think people would stand and do nothing while their living standards were systematically eroded?

D: I take it you mean those thriving off others’ ill health?

C: Exactly, though I wouldn’t say they were thriving.

D: Maintaining their high standards of living – their higher standards of living – at the expense of those people living - surviving – without being adequately being provided for in terms of their health, or should I say their occasional lack of it – those people?

C: Yes, doctors and nurses.

D: And people who own and run lucrative insurance schemes that systematically exclude the poor in our midst.

C: But the poor cannot afford to pay for that health insurance, can they? Why should they be a part of something to which they cannot contribute?

D: Right, there you have the essence of the malaise at the centre of our world – the concept of a sort of ‘undeserving poor’ – people who do not contribute cash.

C: What else could they contribute?

D: They contribute as the army of potential employees in a system that treats them as if they didn’t.


: But if they don’t pay, they don’t contribute.

D: Money is everything, isn’t it? If you don’t have money, you don’t have rights – rights to healthcare, rights to decent housing, education, neighbourhoods.

C: It isn’t the state’s function to provide such things. It’s up to people to work hard to be able to buy them, isn’t it?

D: Evidently. Now can you not see how such a system fails many – the very people it was put in place to serve.

C: But it wasn’t put in place to serve them; it was put in place to serve owners of enterprises. In Britain, with the opening of factories manufacturing what had previously been made in what was called ‘cottage industry’, the new entrepreneurial classes – the mill owners – had to have safeguards to ensure their investment was secure from marauding gangs bent upon destroying the factory and the machinery in it – the Luddites, as they were called. The first police forces came into being in industrial centres like Glasgow and the much smaller Stalybridge in what is now part of the city of Manchester; they came into being to protect the property of the wealthy.

D: But wasn’t it right to do so?

C: At the time and in the circumstances, yes, absolutely.

D: So what is different now?

C: What is different now is that there are some whose dealings go against even those tenets they extol; against the so-called democratic machinery in which capitalism operates and flourishes. Who protects people against unscrupulous venture capitalists? Who is able to stop the rank exploitation of the poor in those countries in which the multi-national corporations flourish out of any control by elected officials?


D: So you put the blame for injustice in terms of income inequality firmly at the capitalists’ do, do you?

C: There and with governments who have either turned a blind eye to what has been happening, or been actually complicit in it, yes.

D: But the capitalist system is most probably the best system there is.

C: For what? For the anonymous hand ensuring wealth is more evenly distributed? For ensuring that each and every member of the population is adequately provided for, even if it doesn’t guarantee that everybody is prosperous? Let me ask you a question: At which point are we going to agree that capitalism in its present form has failed us?
D: But what is the alternative? We have agreed, have we not, that communism is also out of the question – that has also failed – the people of the former Soviet Union can testify to that, can they not?

C: So we are stuck with nothing more or less than the best of a bad bunch, is that it?

D: It seems that way to me.

C: And it seems that way to you because no credible alternative has been proposed, I think.

D: Because there is none.

C: No credible alternative has been sought, never mind found, and yet here we are with a system that is being roundly abused, that is leaving millions in poverty while the few benefit wildly from it.
It is that refusal, that denial, I should say, that is the source of much discontent in the West, the source of much unhappiness, many heart rending conditions in which the poor find themselves in.


Robert L. Fielding

Friday, January 27, 2012

Social disfunction

The gradients in the health of societies

Social problems

The well-being of our children


Foreword and Introduction

In a world in which much inequality exists, in all areas of life – from birth to death, is it surprising that there is little to trust – few people one can really trust – governments that cannot be trusted – untrustworthy politicians seeking power, or at least perceived to be so.

Who can anyone trust anymore? Trust yourself and the main people in your life – parents, partners, siblings and true friends. For the rest, exercise extreme caution, but do not let the world blind you to the fact that, actually, most people are capable of being trusted and in their turn seek others they can trust.
It is only in the so called ‘hierarchies’ of power, wealth, influence, that we should be wary of words. It is in these areas of our life that we should be most careful with that one commodity that bestows truth and dignity on others – trust.

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
William Shakespeare

Trust your instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.
Ernest Hemingway

Me, I'm dishonest, and you can always trust a dishonest man to be dishonest. Honestly, it's the honest ones you have to watch out for.
Johnny Depp

Dishonesty will stare honesty out of countenance any day in the week, if there is anything to be got by it.
Charles Dickens

Two people discuss trust – who to trust and who not to trust, and why!

Citizen: Let’s start by trying to say what it means to trust someone.

Denizen: Well, the dictionary says this about trust – it is a reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, or surety of a person, even of an object.

C: I think we can concentrate on trusting people rather than things, wouldn’t you say?

D: Yes, I would. It is people that we find we can’t trust.

C: And some people in particular, wouldn’t you say.

D: By that, you mean socially positioned people rather than specific individuals, I take it.

C: Yes, I do not mean to mention people by name. They know who they are, I am sure.

D: Do you think trust in people has declined?

C: Certainly, and for very good reasons.

D: Which are?

C: Well, first, I’ve got to say that what I am about to say does not have any real bearing upon the trust we place in our loved ones – our friends and relatives.

D: Who are you going to talk about then? Who do you think has lost our trust?

C: First of all, we said we weren’t going to talk about trusting things, but I am going to
talk about institutions – which although consisting of people, are not, in fact people.

D: OK, then, let’s begin.

C: Well, first of all, I think people have lost any trust they had in everyone connected with economic matters, with finance.

D: Before you go on to tell me who or what has lost our trust, can you say a word about why you mention finance first?

C: For the very good reason that it is money that we all strive for to keep the wolf from the door – we work to earn enough money to live our lives, don’t we?

D: Yes, of course, but why now, why do you choose to talk about the world of finance and of those within it?

C: Again, for one very simple reason – it isn’t working for us anymore, it seems to me.

D: What isn’t working for us?

C: The system that holds everything together – capitalism.

D: Why do you think that? What has changed? It has served us well enough over the years, and it has outlasted and outlived other systems such as communism, hasn’t it?

C: It has, but that is a part of the problems associated with capitalism – we think it’s the only system we can possibly have, even when it is failing us quite disastrously.

D: How is it failing us?

C: By not being fully controlled.

D: But it is controlled – by market forces – by the invisible hand of…

C: We have had enough of that invisible hand – the only reason the forces of the market are invisible to us is because vested interest is best served by them remaining so. To most of us using that term, it means that capital is moved by an impersonal hand, going to those areas of trade and commerce which can return the highest amounts to investors – we say that is ‘the invisible hand’, don’t we?

D: Because that is what it surely is.

C: You think so, do you? So money moves from one commodity to another purely by the impersonal logic of economics, is that it?

D: What else can it be?

C: It is moved by those who are responsible to shareholders.

D: And what is wrong with that?

C: We are not all shareholders, in fact, very few of us own shares in anything, except in our own lives.

D: But what business is it of ours where capital that is not ours goes? We do not own that capital – it’s not ours, so isn’t it right that those who own it decide where it should be invested? I don’t think you would be very happy if your money was invested without your being consulted, would you?

C: But it is, every day.

D: How? By whom?

C: By the banks in which I keep my money – my savings. Banks move money around, don’t they?

D: They do, and we trust that they do it properly, in our own best interests, don’t we?

C: We do, yes, but my question is this: Are we right to trust them?

D: But we have always trusted them, haven’t we?

C: We have indeed. We have let them do what they want with our money.

D: Always within the law, I hope.

C: And so do I, but are the laws of the land adequate to cope with today’s conditions? Can those moving money around get round these laws?

D: We have always trusted that they keep within the law.

C: Within the letter of the law, but can we trust them to obey the spirit of the law?

D: I don’t see why not.

C: Ask the proprietors of Barings Bank if they were right to trust Nick Leeson, their former derivatives broker. You would have thought he of all people would have had his employer’s best interests uppermost in his mind before he acted, wouldn’t you?

D: Indeed, but that is an isolated incident, albeit a regrettable one, particularly from the point of view of Barings Bank and those who owned it or had money in it.

C: And yet you maintain that we should trust banks?

D: I am not so sure, now you put it like that.

C: I put it to you that the main reason why you and others like you have always trusted banks with your money is that you have always done so, and to do otherwise is – was unthinkable. You trust banks in the same way you trust the government, the police, the armed forces, the Royal family – because that it what you have always done. Trust in these people and the institutions they represent is a part of the deference you have always felt towards those above you. It began at school, probably before that in your home – you defer to your parents, to adults in general – to everybody older than you, and that carries on right through your school years into your life at work – you defer to those you have been taught, by one way or another, to defer to – you trust them implicitly.

D: What are you saying?

C: That nowadays, your trust is misplaced in some – that because you have given them too much freedom to act without any reference to you – the person they ultimately represent, that because they have got used to doing what they think without any reference to you, they have got to the position at which you do not matter. They have convinced themselves that whatever they do is right – is correct.
Had Nick Leeson made vast profits for Barings Bank instead of catastrophic losses that broke the bank, he would have been hailed as a financial wizard.

D: But he broke the law, that is why he was punished – sent to prison.

C: He was sent to prison because he failed – failed and got found out. Like I say, had he managed to recoup his losses or cover them up, he would not have been punished.

D: Why do you think that is?

C: For one very simple reason; that banks cannot afford to look stupid, gullible, vulnerable in any way, and so if they could have covered it up for him, they would have done – that’s why.

D: And why is that?

C: Because to do otherwise would mean to lose investor’s trust.

D: But they have lost everything in the process, haven’t they? Barings Bank no longer exists, I think.

C: They have lost everything, yes. But my point is that they did not expect to lose everything. They would have preferred to lose money without it being made public.

D: But that’s silly. Surely they must have known they couldn’t keep that secret.

C: That’s true – the amounts were just too large and so they went broke. But can’t you see, if they could have hidden their losses, they would have done.

D: But their losses were too great, is that what you are saying?

C: Exactly. Banks cannot be trusted. Banks can’t even trust their employees to do what is right and proper – there are plenty of examples which we don’t have the time or the space to go into here.


D: Can we talk now about how we have come to the point where we do not trust banks and other financial institutions – even governments?

C: Yes, let’s. And now our discussion must come up to the present; a time in which we have greater inequality of incomes than possibly at any other time in the history of the modern era – the capitalist era.

D: Why do you think income inequality has any bearing upon trust – or should I say our lack of it?

C: For the very simple reason that capitalism – the workings of liberal, free market economies has always gone hand in hand with democracy – with democratically elected government – with the fair governance of people, whereas what is happening now is anything but fair.

D: Remember how successive Presidents, including the present incumbent, have always touted the system under which we live and work, under which we trade and earn, as a sort of flagship of democracy – a system of fairness, one in which no government takes a hand, except as a sort of a regulator, removing the excesses of the market to protect its citizens?

C: Yes, indeed, I do remember that. It is hard to forget it, having it thrust at us night and day since we were born.

D: And yet many think it has failed us. Out of it has come a species of capitalism, not bred from the words of Adam Smith, or loathed and despised by Karl Marx – but one infinitely worse and more harmful, one that not even Marx could have foretold, though he did indeed foretell the end of the capitalist system.

C: But it is alive and well, is it not? It has not died.

D: As I have said, capitalism as enunciated from every writer of political economy, from Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill in another epoch to the present era, though Meynard Keynes and Milton Friedman in comparatively recent times, with Marx and Engels waiting to sound its downfall and demise; not even those powerful orators could have foretold the way capitalism has failed us.

C: Which is?

D: Which is via the deregulation that comes with the emergence of global markets – markets which cannot be controlled by any one sovereign government, by any one political entity, however well-meaning – all are powerless to deny the greed of corporations, the excesses of banks and their overpaid CEOs – no one can stop them – or should I say no one has been able to stop them – to limit their earning vast fortunes while we, the 99% languish, if that is the right word, in relative poverty and sometimes in an absolute version of that state.

C: And so you think that any trust we had in those above us, so to speak, is drying up, vanishing?

D: Without trace, yes.

C: Why has what trust we once had and which we discussed earlier, why is it vanishing?

C: For the very reason that our faith in the system is being eroded, or should I say shattered by events over which we have no control, over which elected governments have no control, seemingly.

C: But why do you use the term ‘faith’ for what should be an entirely logical process?

D: Because we citizens, workers, minions, call us what you will, have always been asked to have faith in a system over which we have had little control, and out of which only the very, very few have benefited greatly.

C: But surely, the advent of industrialism has accounted for massive, sweeping improvements in all our living standards, has it not?

D: And what you are about to say, are you not, is that none of this would have been possible without the free flow of capital to where it was most profitable to go – to new ventures – to the cotton mills of England, to the factories in the industrialised world.

C: I was going to add that, yes.

D: But for advanced industrialized nations such as ours, that age has long since gone. Rather, manufacturing is now done in the developing world, where labour is cheap – much cheaper than it is in our world.

C: And that still conforms to one of the basic tenets of capitalism – that capital must be allowed to go where it is most profitable – even if that means it going to another nation – one in which it did not originate, leaving a population of unemployed behind it in its wake.

D: Capital knows no sentiment, it is merely obeys a system that takes no account of hardship elsewhere, that takes no account of any suffering due to unemployment. It merely follows the dictates of economics – that is all that connects it to populations of dependent citizens; the fawning of politicians and the futile attempts to control a system that, while making its chief beneficiaries vast fortunes, leaves people on or even below the poverty line, without even the basics of a civilized life: basic sanitation, healthcare, decent, livable housing, and education for their children.

C: And you think all this can be put at the door of the errant capitalist, the billionaire?

D: Who else’s door would I bring it to? The system that we have been made to revere, as the savior of modern living and those who live it, has morphed into what it has become today; a system whose adherents actively condone its excesses, whilst recruiting elected officials to legislate against those in favour of curbing its worst effects – the massive inequality of income. Is it any wonder we feel that capitalist and its political lackeys cannot be trusted?


C: Why do you think distrust is so strong now?

D: Can you honestly expect any right thinking person to have any trust in such selfishness as has been displayed by the so called super-rich?

C: Probably not.

D: And for a very good reason; anyone who amasses so much personal wealth in his or her lifetime is undoubtedly afflicted with a species of selfishness we call greed – one of the seven deadly sins, you recall.

C: And greed being nothing more or less than a sort of feeding oneself, or, I might say, gorging oneself whilst others starve. Is it not like that?

D: It most certainly is, and the great pity, the shame of it, is that such people are applauded by the multitude; they are envied for what they have done; people hope to emulate them.

C: And that is what holds the whole rotten system together; that what is inherently wrong with the system is held up as a virtue – the supreme virtue of helping yourself to the rewards of others’ toil. It is as if doing wrong were somehow right, when in fact it is not and can never be right.

D: But yet we envy them whilst distrusting them. Why is that?

C: I think there is something in the psyche of man in these days that yearns to escape the ties that bind him to his workplace – to his office desk or his bench, if you will, and there is still some remnant of decency in him that tells his innermost self that what he seeks to emulate is wrong; that those who benefit from such a system in which bare faced robbery - for it is little more than that – are evil and not worthy of his trust.

D: So he is torn between a sort of admiration for them and an abhorrence of them.

C: He is, and that is at the root of the modern malaise, in my opinion, of which more later.

D: But I think that has always been the way with capitalism, hasn’t it? That the rewards are there if you take the risk; that anyone can be successful – anyone can be rich.

C: That is true, it is perpetuated by that, but now it has gone several steps further; the so-called super-rich – the multi-billionaires - have put themselves beyond the reach of any normal attempt to be successful, for it is clear that it is utterly impossible for more than a very few to become so successful – so rich.

D: That is true, but hasn’t it always been the case – that only a comparatively few of those who try can make it big, as we say?

C: It is true, but as I have said, now the amount of wealth accumulated is of such staggering proportions that it is clear to everyone that something has changed – capitalism has changed. The super-rich have not really broken any laws, though they have managed to escape paying taxes in countries where their wealth was made, but, as I say, they have not actually committed a crime; rather they have exploited weaknesses in the system – if it can still be called a system – and have become extremely wealthy whilst doing so. Now, my question is this: If the system allows this to happen, isn’t the system in dire need of repair?

D: Undoubtedly, yes, it is.

C: So we can say that besides not being able to trust those who exploit a system the majority of us live by, we cannot trust the system to deliver what it is claimed it delivers so successfully – fairness!

D: That is it in a nutshell, my friend; capitalism – this variety of it – cannot and does not reach out to people whose aspirations it has fuelled and allow them to achieve them.

C: More than that; it does allow some to do so, at the expense of the many – both in terms of the cost of products and services provided by those that are the wealthiest, and by exploiting a system whilst simultaneously pulling it to pieces in front of us.

D: And being applauded for so doing, and for the hope of emulating them by whom they are exploiting.

C: I must say that their system – ours formerly – works admirably in their favour. Here they are making untold, undreamed of amounts of money, exploiting a system that purports to be a fair system, and then being lauded for upturning that very system to the detriment of those of us who live by it without any hope whatsoever of becoming a tenth as rich.

D: I must disagree with you there; there is always a chance of emulating the super-rich – there is always an opportunity to do likewise.

C: Except that the odds against doing it are astronomically high.

D: And still men hope to climb to those heights. There is something to be said for the human spirit after all then?

C: There is, but we must all ask ourselves what it is we are striving to emulate; do we really and truly desire to acquire wealth of such proportions that we could never in our lifetimes spend it; what is the use of such wealth if it cannot be spent, cannot be used by its owner?

D: Well, here is the irony of great wealth; it cannot be used fully to benefit those who have accrued it.


C: Let’s now talk about the specific reasons why we have lost faith in capitalism and its proponents.

D: Well, I suppose we should start with economists – the people who espouse grand economic theory as if it were hard physical science, which it is not.

C: Surely some of its most basic tenets are self-evident truths, are they not? Take for example, the law of supply and demand – that hardly needs to be defended, does it?

D: Right away, that is where we go wrong – in taking it for granted that it is a truth – why, we even refer to it as a law, like the laws of thermodynamics, for example.

C: But the law of supply and demand surely is just that - a law - maybe not one as stringent as those laws of physics you mentioned earlier, but a law nevertheless.

D: Now, it seems we must begin by defining the word ‘law’, doesn’t it, before we apply it to something like supply and demand.
To begin with, laws – the so called laws of physics, for example, are used to define, describe and outline fundamental properties in more or less ‘closed systems’, systems which are rarely found in the natural world, but which scientists nevertheless use in order to quantify and understand such things.
Geographers are wont to do exactly the same thing – the subject is ‘simplified’ to such a degree that it can be taught in schools. Were it not to be, it would be much too difficult a subject for nine-year olds to get a grasp of, and although my examples are simple ones, they illustrate what I am trying to say.

C: And you think the laws of economics are similarly ‘dumbed down’, do you?

D: Yes, in many cases. Let us stay with supply and demand; it is nothing more or less than a model – an economic model of price determination in any particular market – a model.

C: And what use is such a model?

D: Economists use their models, their ‘assumptions’ to test what changes in one variable if other variables change; they forecast what will happen on the basis of what they have worked out from their model.

C: But what if the model is a bad one?

D: Then, given that they have determined that it is a model that has little or no predictive power, they either modify it to take into account its shortcomings, or ditch it as unusable, which is fine if you are aware of such contingencies – if you are an economist – a student of economics.

C: What if you are not one of those people? What then?

D: Let me say that where economics is concerned, most people understand little of its workings, and that includes politicians – basically laymen as most are.

C: What of it?

D: If most people hardly understand even the basics of economic theory, and we should admit it ourselves, not being economists, then we should hardly let it dominate our lives in the way that it does. Don’t you agree?

C: But someone has to understand it, or we should be lost.

D: Do you mean we should be more lost than we are now?

C: What do you mean – we are not lost – we have our experts to tell us what us going on.

D: Yes, we do, and those are the same experts who have got us into the economic crisis that prevails right now – do you mean those same experts?

C: But who else should we turn to?

D: That is indeed our dilemma; that we are cast adrift in a rudderless boat, with only a blinded crew to pilot us safely to shore.

C: Come, come, I think you are being melodramatic.

D: A little perhaps, but can you not see the position we are in. If someone messes up something, you hardly go to him to get you out of that mess. It was Einstein who said that the significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.

C: Again, my question is who shall we turn to – on this boat – for all we have is its crew?

D: More than the crew, we have a group of passengers – I use the word advisedly – who try to convince us that the crew know their business.

C: Who are these passengers?

D: Politicians, market researchers, businessmen and women, captains of industry, everyone in fact who has an axe to grind and a vested interest in seeing that the ship runs aground now and then, lest we get complacent and imagine that we can guide our boat to shore better than those who have been appointed or who have appointed themselves, to pilot us through deep waters.

C: Can you be more specific?

D: Certainly. We are continually and constantly being told, are we not, that economic growth is vital to the survival of our trade and industry – that what we should never allow ourselves to stand still – we must produce more and more – we must therefore consume more and more, or else export what we have produced and have other people in other countries consume more and more; our whole economy is predicated on that one proviso – economic growth! It is the Holy Grail of economics, one of them at any rate, and yet how many of us think it through to its logical conclusion.

C: We are being made to now, are we not?

D: Yes, but why do you think that is so?

C: Because the Earth, our home, our finite home, can no longer sustain it.

D: That is true, but before we go there, let’s examine the necessity of economic growth – the so called necessity, I should say. Who propounds it, who trumpets it most enthusiastically?

C: Why, those who stand to benefit most from it, I imagine.

D: And those are?

C: Big business, high finance, the world of corporations and shareholders.

D: And who pays for it with the environmental costs you hinted at when you mentioned the unsustainability of it?

C: Us, the peoples of the Earth, of course.

D: And where is such damage done to our Earth – in the business centres and residential areas of Western cities, or at the peripheries – the edges of those cities?

C: Inevitably at the margins of the inhabited world.

D: And who lives in those marginalized areas?

C: The poor and the destitute of the world, generally.

D: And who stands to benefit if growth is achieved, which it generally is?

C: As we have said, those best placed to take advantage of that growth – corporations and their shareholders.

D: Yes; it is they who loudly extol the virtues of economic growth, and it is the same people who skim the cream from the pail, so to speak, when times are good. They privatise profits in the good times, and socialize losses in the bad ones – that is how big business gets bigger – how fat cats get fatter and fatter.
C: Which is why our trust in those who are supposed to guide us has been lost, is it not?

D: First of all, whoever said it was their job to guide us anywhere, except into their workshops and their offices to increase their wealth? We must be clear here, my friend. The wealthy are wealthy for one reason and one reason only; they concentrate all their resources, all their energies into that one undertaking – to fill their own pockets, generally at our expense. They have great allies to do this – the politicians, the businessmen and women, academics in universities, maintaining a constant belief in the dogma of economic theory – of capitalism. And they have their recruiting sergeants too – the newly affluent, who have succeeded, no doubt by dint of their hard work, but chiefly because they have taken on all the paraphernalia of the orthodoxy of economics – for that is what it has now become – an orthodoxy – and an orthodoxy is not open to scrutiny or question – an orthodoxy is nothing more or less than an article of faith, and faith exists, does it not, by resorting to a sort of sanctified superstition – that is illogical but yet survives the better purely because it is an article of faith – not subject to reason or logic it is the ‘burning bush’ of the modern era – the era of capitalism, with its attendant unquestionable tenets – its laws and its inevitability – turned into a desirable commodity by its prophets.
C: Not all the wealthy are selfish, you know.

D: Can you give me examples?

C: Certainly, take the steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie, one of the wealthiest, if not the wealthiest men of his day. He ploughed much of his vast fortune back into schemes that benefited his workers and the citizens of the United States of America, where his fortune was made.

D: I notice that you said the words, where his fortune was made, meaning made by others as well as himself.

C: I hadn’t noticed that, but I did say that, yes. Carnegie’s wealth was made from producing the steel that helped to build America, its cities and well as its factories, it ships, and its machinery. Carnegie wasn’t always wealthy, far from it. He arrived from his native Scotland without very much of anything, save his determination to succeed.

D: Which he did, I know. But why have you especially mentioned his name? You could have mentioned many others.

C: I could have, yes, but I mentioned Carnegie for one very good reason; he was of the opinion that for a wealthy man to die without divesting himself of his wealth was wrong. He had his philanthropy right up until the day he died.

D: And anyone attending concerts in New York will still have reason to thank him; the world-famous concert hall was named in his honour, and built from his largesse, was it not?

C: Can I ask you why he chose to give something back, do you think?

D: It would have most probably had something to do with his background, I think.

C: Yes, certainly, it would, but it must have had something to do with where he stood in relation to how his money was made, don’t you think?

D: I’m not with you.

C: Well, we can imagine a man like Carnegie, a fairly simple working man from humble origins would have had to know what he was about – would have had to get a feel for the business upon which he was embarking, wouldn’t he?

D: Most definitely, yes.

C: And that would mean getting to know those he employed, wouldn’t you say?

D: Of course, but what is the point you are making?

C: That in getting to know his trade first hand, without the vicarious presence of a board of director, though he must surely had to have one of those at some point. Nevertheless, coming to it from the ground up, growing with it as it grew, he would doubtless have come to value those who toiled daily on his behalf.

D: But he was an industrialist – a capitalist, I daresay, wasn’t he?

C: He was, a pioneer, but my point is that he was not removed or remote from the surroundings in which steel was made; he would have known at least as much as his workers, wouldn’t he?

D: Which would make him appreciate all the more the hard work his men did every day of their working lives; working in that industry was and still is, arduous, and dangerous too; it is a demanding industry employing forces that go beyond human strength – well beyond!

C: It is well that he did, but probably not so very unusual in anyone striving to maintain a whole industry as he did. Were he to have left the running of his company to those more used to pushing around rows of figures rather than billets of steel, columns in accounts rather than bars of metal, his business might have been very different.

D: Why do you say that? What do you mean?

C: If he had allowed himself the luxury of leaving the running of his steel mills to accountants and financiers, things would have been very different. The dictates of making steel – making anything, depend, or used to depend very much on what is now called labour, but which in Carnegie’s day was probably called manpower. The dictates of the economist include what are called factors of production – plant, capital, and labour – the mix will vary according to what is being produced, of course, but I think we can take it that any ‘mix’ of those three, for the financier, the economist, the shareholders represented at board meetings will depend greatly upon numbers; labour – manpower – men and woman and the work they do – the pay they take home to care for their families – all that is accounted as the other two factors are accounted, to be altered at will as economy dictates – if more can be achieved with less, it will be – less of any one.

D: Yes, I see that. Do you mean to say that Carnegie ran his business any differently – he would have to remain competitive – he must have had to produce steel at costs below those of his competitors, wouldn’t he?

C: Well conditions in industry when he was starting out would have been very different to what they are today. He may well have outshone his competitors, such as they were; he may have had but few viable rivals.

D: So you are saying that because things were different in his day, because he had his finger on the pulse of his business far more than such a person might be reasonably expected to have these days, that he did things differently?

C: Yes, I am saying that.

D: But everything changes; conditions in the steel making industry must have changed, and with it methods of running steel mills.

C: Without doubt, but don’t you see, just as public education was undertaken to furnish industry with the workforce it required – a literate and numerate one in most cases, so the theories behind how industry is run must have changed. Does that not make sense?

D: It is logical to suppose so, yes.

C: And yet can we say that economic theory has changed with it?

D: I should think accounting has changed a great deal.

C: Accounting, yes, but has its underpinning theory changed?

D: I am not in a position to answer that question.

C: No, and neither am I, but the question should be answered by those whose duty runs to using economic theory to make decisions that directly and indirectly affect the lives of millions – the lives of all of us.

D: If conditions change in one sphere of life, they most surely change in all others, don’t they?

C: Yes and no.

D: What do you mean?

C: There is inevitably a sort of stagnant status quo – a conservatism in all of us that resists change, even when such change is more or less inevitable – especially so then.

D: And that resistance comes from all quarters of society – from the lowest to the highest rank – unfashionable as those ways of speaking about people are.

C: Luddites, working men and women, thrown out of work with the advent of mechanization and the factory system, rebelled and wrecked that same machinery by which they felt so threatened.

D: But they were resisted, and beaten – ultimately.

C: They were, since no one can stand in the way of progress, we imagine.

D: We do not just imagine it, it is so, no one can stand in the way of progress, can they?

C: You would think not, on the face of it, wouldn’t you?

D: But who can?

C: Anyone with might and the power that wealth and position brings – those individuals can and do stand against progress.

D: I cannot see that. How can anyone stand in the way of progress? It cannot be done – by anybody.

C: It cannot be done by anyone, and yet progress is stayed and halted.

D: What kind of progress are you talking about – there is but one sort of progress, isn’t there?

C: That is where you are most definitely wrong; for progress takes many forms, and yet just a few take our attention and our notice; the progress that benefits the few – those with power and wealth.

D: Progress is progress, there is but one type – advancement.

C: Tell that to a fool. What kind of progress treats the reserve army of industry as if it didn’t matter – as if it didn’t exist.

D: What do you mean?

C: I mean the unemployed, the unwaged – who, by the way, are the uninsured where healthcare is concerned. How is it with the leaps and bounds of technology in all fields, that men still work long hours and get paid little for it? Any real progress in the lot of the working people of any country has been fought over tooth and nail, and won and conceded begrudgingly by vested interest in every field of enterprise – commercial or otherwise. Is that progress?

D: But you must concede that huge advances have been made in fields such as medicine; diseases that swept whole populations away have been eradicated.

C: In this world of ours, maybe, but what of the world inhabited by the poor of other countries, and of this one; desperate diseases that were once made history have reappeared and are killing and maiming thousands, probably millions daily. What of that ‘progress’?

D: It is true that things like leprosy and tuberculosis are amongst us in far flug corners of the world.

C: And there are cases of beri-beri in Glasgow, Scotland. What of that ‘progress’?

D: But you must be willing to concede that that is the direct result of alcoholism and poor diet, rather than any virus that has not been fully eradicated.

C: And what is alcoholism but the side effects of poor or non-existent education?

D: This is the United Kingdom, is it not?

C: It is, and worse for that. We have compulsory education that begins and ends at school, and we have grown men and women binge-drinking and damaging their health – what of that ‘progress’?

D: But adults are responsible for their own shortcomings, aren’t they? No one forces them to drink?

C: Not in so many words, I grant you, but does advertising not laud what is bad for us equally enthusiastically as what is good? Are we not told that you can’t be a man if you don’t smoke the same cigarettes as me?

D: Yes, and we can’t get no satisfaction either, can we? Whose fault is that? Really, man can be led but he cannot be pushed, isn’t that the way it is?

Robert L. Fielding