What’s wrong with choosing a museum over Poundland to volunteer at?


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8:56 am - February 19th 2013

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by Kate Smurthwaite

According to Iain Duncan Smith there are a group of people in our society who consider themselves “too good” for stacking shelves in Poundland.

Yes, that’s a Tory minister trying to point the finger at someone else over snobbery and elitism. Try not to spit your coffee over your computer screen. Yet.

In response Cait Reilly, the woman at the heart of the court case on the issue explained that she now works part time in a supermarket, adding “It is just that I expect to get paid for working”. Of course Reilly didn’t expect to get paid when she willingly did voluntary work in a local museum. And here’s the real problem with what IDS is saying.

Poundland is a corporation. I don’t agree with a lot of its business practices but it gets away with them because as long as it remains on the right side of the law it is allowed to compete with other corporations for business. I think we should regulate these businesses more carefully, but I don’t have a problem with the fundamental capitalist idea of grocery stores competing to attract custom.

However fair competition goes out the window when a store is offered free (or as IDS would have it, taxpayer-funded) labour. Without Reilly’s support Poundland would either pay someone to do that job, or close down, leaving an opportunity for a butchers, a florists, a different grocers or a ninety-nine pence shop to fill the space.

I don’t think people should be required to work for their benefits but if this really is “my” taxpayers money being spent – I don’t want it spent boosting the profits at Poundland.

On the other hand, a museum is a part of our economy where capitalism isn’t very useful. It almost never makes economic sense to preserve historic artifacts or build places where the public can learn about science and nature. But I think we should do it anyway. As Cameron slashed funding to galleries and museums around the UK he glibly informed us that the gap would be plugged by long lost Sesame Street character Big Society.

If “my” taxpayer money (and PS since it’s mine can I please have back my cut of the money spent on the Iraq war and all the duck islands?) is supporting well-qualified people who are unemployed and they are putting their time and skills voluntarily into the museum sector, that’s brilliant.

That’s what I want. More museums, less Poundlands.

So yes, I want more for our country than the products of our universities, or as they’re now known nine-thousand-pound-lands, stacking shelves while our museums rot. So does Cait Reilly. So should Iain Duncan Smith.


Kate Smurthwaite is a stand-up comedian and an activist. She blogs from here.

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Reader comments


Yes, I agree. It’s a little rich isn’t it that IDS doesn’t even have a degree himself. The Tory website glosses over this and gives the impression that he is educated. However, he only attended a couple of short courses which lasted a matter of days each. This just goes to show that he gained his position of power because of who he is – any ordinary person would have to work exceptionally hard to gain a position in parliament.

Myself, I would opt to volunteer for a charity/good cause – not a corporation. Unlike IDS, I have academic qualifications!

Not to mention quite a lot of the old time music stars like Tom Jones actually actively avoided ‘getting a job’ while on the dole so they could concentrate on achieving a career in music instead.
None of that nowadays, best hope you do well on the X Factor instead…

“Yes, I agree. It’s a little rich isn’t it that IDS doesn’t even have a degree himself.”

Not only that. As The Economist reminded its readers a decade or so back, IDS retired from the army with the rank of Major.

There is a simple way of settling IDS’s claim that geologists are no more important than shelf-stackers in supermarkets. IDS believes in markets so compare the pay rates of geologists and shelf-stackers.

What frustrates me more than anything about this whole situation is that IDS is assuming that everyone wants to work in the retail sector. There’s nothing wrong with having different aspirations.

Supermarkets, clothes shops, pound shops and the like have money and they have expense to spend on staff. Yet they get free government funded labour.

Where’s the support for actual voluntary work which could do a better service for the unemployed? Helping small charities with admin, learning the ropes at a local charity shop and generally aiding small, local, independent businesses to thrive? My local jobcentre offered me work experience at a local charity and that matters more to me than any number of large corporations that get enough breaks by way of tax rules.

Then again, I never expected the Tories to understand my life or my needs and the needs of many like me.

Great piece!

I can’t find the quote but didn’t someone once described IDS ‘thick, even for a Guardsman’?

@5 ‘describe IDS as’. Tchoh.

One thing has annoyed me in all of this is that no journalist has actually confronted IDS with the question of:

“But the evidence suggests this scheme simply doesn’t work. People on the work programme were actually less likely to find work than people you left alone”

In other words, the ethics don’t even come into it. The fact is the scheme doesn’t work.

The real issue is that compulsory manual labour element of things was designed as a punishment. If it was intented to simply help people add things to their CV then people like Ms Reilly would have simply been allowed to use their voluntary work as evidence of complying with a scheme. All IDS had to do was simply allow people the option of choosing their own work placements if they could find them and far fewer people would have objected to them.

Personally, I blame Cato the elder.

Yes, I agree. It’s a little rich isn’t it that IDS doesn’t even have a degree himself. The Tory website glosses over this and gives the impression that he is educated.

He went to Sandhurst, which is accredited by various universities.

Wow, smell the snobbery in here! John Major didn’t get a degree either. Who cares?

John Major was a prick too.

“Poundland is a corporation. I don’t agree with a lot of its business practices”

Apart from the workfare thing what business practices of Poundland do you disagree with?

Its overall (in?)effectiveness aside, the work programme should not be placing people in what would otherwise be someone’s paid job. If they want those shelves stacked, let Poundland pay at least the minimum wage for it or alternatively offer an apprenticeship with some genuine training. This would also be more generally economically beneficial.

I don’t see that anyone can doubt that volunteering offers the same valuable life lessons of actually turning up and doing the job, being presentable, working in a team, etc etc. In this specific case the volunterring placement would also have allowed the woman in question to exercise the practical application of her knowledge and maybe innovate a bit… aren’t we told the country needs more of this?

Kate’s point of who should be receiving subsidies is right on. Museums yes, Poundland no. And it can be within the same sector, done right, e.g. stewarding at the Olympics yes, but for dodgy profiteering security firms no.

@7 makes a good point about allowing people a choice of placements.

Most people would agree with that and it shouldn’t be hard to figure out how to make it work.

@1 Regarding IDS I would point out that his qualifications really aren’t the point (although no one gets to be a Major without taking a fair few courses). The problem is not that he doesn’t have a degree, it is that he is being utterly disingenuous in his defence of a failing programme that causes all kinds of perverse outcomes, but precious little in the way of what it is meant to. I know lots of people with no qualifications at all who could have devised something better.

In any case, IDS doesn’t appear to understand what actually happened. Reilly didn’t object to retail work; she stated in her Jobseeker’s Agreement she was seeking that kind of work along with two other categories. What she objected to is not being paid for it. She was misled that the placement was mandatory and she was misled about the training she would receive.

paras 91-105
http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/2292.html

paras 18-20
http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/66.html

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 14 UKL

“In any case, IDS doesn’t appear to understand what actually happened.”

Generous interpretation, that.

“IDS doesn’t appear to understand what actually happened”

He also doesn’t appear to even want to understand what happened.

Any minister who was being remotely honest would have said “the work programme has been a failure, we are therefore changing how it operates and will monitor results so we can establish what is succesful and what isn’t”.

When you spend millions on a scheme that doesn’t work, the public are entitled to expect a minister to at least care enough to try and get better results. If it was a labour minister doing this the taxpayers alliance would be all over it. Instead the TPA’s former staff now actually work as spads for IDS……

A few people appear to be missing the most obvious aspect here. Working in a museum does not punish the unemployed person. In this case, she actually is putting her skills and her passion to use volunteering for a museum. She would only be ‘allowed’ (directed) to work for a museum if she had no interest in it what so ever.

All this shite about ‘big society’ has now died a death, but surely if ever there was a need for people to volunteer it would be for a museum, rather than a commercial operation. Of course the added ‘bonus’ for the Tory lice and that pathetic cunt of a man IDS is that another unemployed person has been deprived of a job, thus feeding more cattle for their donors.
As has been said earlier in the thread, there seems to be a conspiracy of silence in the media as the more obvious flaws in this scheme are shown in sharp relief.

The “work programme” is nothing more than a brutal transfer of public funds into private hands.
Just like what Thatcher did… but way more explicit.

I totally get where you’re coming from with this piece and don’t believe anyone should be forced into volunteering to claim benefits especially when they’re volunteering in a sector where they wish to work.

however museums are far from innocent – the British Museum, Tate Modern, Tate Britain all accept major sponsorship from BP, so they’re not exactly free from corporate money, if anything they help greenwash BP and portray, one of the most pernicious, exploitative, and environmentally unfriendly corporations on the planet.

A friend’s organisation – Platform – is doing some sterling work in this area. It might be worth checking them out.

20. Caroline McGill

The Tories have dressed things up to appear as though IDS has a degree which is misleading to the general public. I take issue when a man who hasn’t got a degree is passing judgment on what he considers is appropriate work for a geology graduate. Obviously, IDS thinks that a work placement with a corporation is preferable to utilising graduate skills to benefit a worthy cause and enhancing a CV.

As for Sandhurst, it’s a 48 week course and that is not the same as studying three years full time for an undergraduate degree. For IDS and his ilk, becoming an officer and then an MP, it’s simply jobs for the boys.

@ Rahul rightly states, that there is the issue of greenwashing – even Greenpeace is said to be guilty of this! However, if I were expected to carry out a placement, it would be for a non-profit making organisation rather than stacking horsemeat ready meals in supermarkets.

Can I appeal to the left to drop this latest awful Americanism. We have private or a public limited company, we hardly have any corporations left. They got corporations from us and it originally meant the body corporate of enterprises formed by Royal Charter or by statute, of which few now remain. Poundland is not a corporation like the BBC, so leave the yanks with their corporations.

22. James from Durham

Richard

Who pays “Corporation Tax” then?

Companies and organisations. There was no such thing as ” corporation tax” until Sunny Jim Callaghan invented the concept in the 1960s. Companies paid income tax and a profits tax introduced by Sir Stafford Cripps. Companies or even firms is fine, but unless they have a Royal Charter of exist through parliamentary statute they are not corporations. British Rail, Steel, Coal etc were corporations because parliament created them.

What is a corporation?
 In UK law*, a corporation is an artificial legal person – a ‘body corporate’1 – an
independent entity with rights before the law similar to those of a human being. The word
is technically applied to any organisation with an independent legal identity.
 For the purposes of this briefing, ‘corporation’ specifically indicates the type of
organisation also known as a ‘commercial corporation’ or ‘company’- an organisation
intended for profit with capital raised from shares.
 Company shareholders are protected by ‘limited liability’ (see below, ‘Who is responsible?
Liability and the ‘veil’ of incorporation’). Thus the company is known as a ‘limited’ company.
 In the UK, there are two main types of limited company: private limited companies (which
have ‘Ltd.’ after their name and whose shares can only be sold privately) and public limited
companies (plc’s), whose shares can be traded on the stock exchange and which are subject
to more stringent accounting and reporting requirements.
 For most purposes, the same laws apply to all profit-making companies, plc or ltd, large or
small.

http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/download.php?id=43

Slavery basically, isn’t it?

Those people demanding to know what business practices of Poundlands I find so intolerable – note that the red text in that sentence is a link to the Dispatches program about the chain.

Chris, I believe that under slavery the (ahem) employer had to provide bread and board.

“There’s nothing wrong with having different aspirations.”

Indeed. There was a time when – to hear them tell it – the Tories used to run rings around Labour because they “understood aspiration” where Labour did not.

It seems those days are gone. Aspiration among the unemployed is, apparently, now outrageous insubordination. The unemployed these days are meant to Do as they are Told and be Grateful.

29. Chaise Guevara

@ 26

“Those people demanding to know what business practices of Poundlands I find so intolerable – note that the red text in that sentence is a link to the Dispatches program about the chain.”

Two things. Firstly, not everyone has audio. Secondly, Dispatches has a notable track record of taking a complex issue, picking one side arbitrarily, and gunning for it. Seriously, the show is normally on my side and even I find it unreasonable. You’re probably right about Poundland, but it would be better to link to a text-based and less melodramatic source.

That would be the same Duncan Smith who has been sucking from the teat of govt almost all his life?

The same hypocrite who though married to a wealthy wife, manages to get his son into Eton on a scholarship, so he does not have to pay full price?

Tories love welfare, just as long as they are the scroungers.

A two week placement in Poundland would probably have helped Cait Reilly find the part-time she now has in a supermarket sooner. And I can’t see that her praiseworthy volunteering at a local museum would be seriously disrupted by a two week absence.

The value to Poundland of a two week placement would be minimal (indeed, it might well be a cost), and the Courts have dismissed the idea that such placements are slavery.

32. Chaise Guevara

@ 31 TONE

“The value to Poundland of a two week placement would be minimal (indeed, it might well be a cost), and the Courts have dismissed the idea that such placements are slavery.”

That’s remarkably generous of Poundland, then. I thought they were in it for the money. And the court’s don’t actually hold moral authority over the rest of us in terms of what we call slavery (I personally think the terms is hyperbole here, but “court says no” isn’t an argument).

“A two week placement in Poundland would probably have helped Cait Reilly find the part-time she now has in a supermarket sooner”

The problem with your argument is that there is no evidence to support it. Every study made of the work programme shows it is actually less effective at getting people into work than doing nothing.

Surely you could at least be interested in whether government schemes are value for money and actually work?

Reilly wasn’t offered a two week placement and she already had retail experience.

CG @ 32:

I have managed similar placements. Companies don’t make anything from a two week placement because induction, work planning and supervision are costly. However, occasionally, you do find a star whom you want to employ. So, yes, the company can gain or benefit, but often not directly.

“And the court’s don’t actually hold moral authority over the rest of us in terms of what we call slavery (I personally think the terms is hyperbole here, but “court says no” isn’t an argument).”

Cait Reilly claimed that her Poundland placement was “forced labour”. The Court explicitly rejected that claim. So it is hardly reasonable – and, as you say, hyperbole – to claim that such placements are ‘slavery’ – which is, I’d say, the condition of being someone else’s legal property.

UKL @ 34:

“Reilly wasn’t offered a two week placement…”

The placement was for two weeks:

“the training would last up to six weeks, including a two-week, unpaid retail placement”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-16037332

“…and she already had retail experience.”

How would more retail experience hurt her prospects in a competitive job market? Particularly when she is a shy and unprepossessing candidate.

Planeshift @ 33:

“The problem with your argument is that there is no evidence to support it. Every study made of the work programme shows it is actually less effective at getting people into work than doing nothing.

Surely you could at least be interested in whether government schemes are value for money and actually work?”

Fair point. But that is practical point, not a point of principle about the programme itself. Would you support the programme if it could be shown to work?

37. Robin Levett

@TONE #35:

Paras 19 and 20 of the judgment:

19 In view of the admitted breach of regulation 4, subsequent events need not be set out in great detail. Miss Reilly attended the open day having been told by her adviser that if she accepted the position on offer she would undergo a week’s training followed by a guaranteed job interview. After the open day, she was told that she was considered suitable for training which was then said to be for a 6 week period. She expressed concern about the length of the training period which meant she could not continue to do her voluntary work at the museum. When Miss Reilly told her adviser of that, the adviser said that participation in the scheme was “mandatory” and Miss Reilly risked loss of JSA if she did not participate.

20. Miss Reilly began to work for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week and it became apparent that she would be working instead of training. She received no pay. She had expected to be shown how to undertake a variety of tasks in a retail environment but no such training materialised.

Note the above – the two weeks was a misrepresentation; she was required to work for 6 weeks.

How would more retail experience hurt her prospects in a competitive job market? Particularly when she is a shy and unprepossessing candidate.

Shelf-stacking? How could experience of putting cut-price Cadbury’s Dairy Milk on the right place on a shelf help her chances?

I counted the ‘training’ and work as the ‘placement’, which in all was six weeks. Which is how it appears at para 99 of the High Court decision.
http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/2292.html

Do you think that her “praiseworthy volunteering at a local museum would be seriously disrupted by a [six] week absence”?

“…and she already had retail experience.”

How would more retail experience hurt her prospects in a competitive job market? Particularly when she is a shy and unprepossessing candidate.

More retail experience would hurt her prospects in getting a job related to her ambition, for which she needs more experience in a job such as she had at the museum, from which she was effectively removed for six weeks.

I don’t know how many weeks of retail experience she had at the time. Do you? She had worked for two retailers and one museum (six or seven months paid work, plus voluntary). What is the optimal period of Poundland experience?

RL @ 37 & UKL @ 38:

Two weeks or six weeks, she could still work voluntarily in a museum at weekends during her placement and full time (if she wished) after it finished.

“Shelf-stacking? How could experience of putting cut-price Cadbury’s Dairy Milk on the right place on a shelf help her chances?”

Have you never heard of transferable skills? Museums and shops both require experience of storage and display…And both have customers…And her experience would be relevant to the museum shop, too.

“More retail experience would hurt her prospects in getting a job related to her ambition, for which she needs more experience in a job such as she had at the museum, from which she was effectively removed for six weeks.”

I interview some 100 job candidates a year, and I can assure you that no service sector work experience is totally irrelevant to another service sector post. No genuine work experience in the service sector would hurt her prospects of getting a job related to her ambition of working in museums.

Employers in the public and private service sectors want flexible, adaptable, customer-focussed individuals. I’m afraid Cait Reilly gives the impression of being an inflexible and unadaptable whinger. I once managed a museum service for a year, and she’s not the sort of candidate I would have appointed. (Museums need to reach out to the public, so introverts are not much use.) If she really wants to work in museums, she needs to be thinking about doing the UCL or Leicester University MSc in museum studies.

CG @ 32: If the placement was for six weeks rather than two, I concede that Poundland would definitely have benefited. But I don’t see that matters, if the programme works.

I’m afraid Cait Reilly gives the impression of being an inflexible and unadaptable whinger.

She asserts, and it is not disputed, that she has always complied with the “jobseeking conditions” and no-one has questioned her level of effort in seeking employment.

In relation to Miss Reilly and to Mr Wilson it is important that it is appreciated that each has been actively looking for work: they have not taken their objections to the overall scheme as a means of avoiding employment and seeking simply to rely on benefits. Miss Reilly had (and, one hopes, still has) a primary career ambition. Her original complaint arose from what she was wrongly told was a compulsory placement on a scheme that (a) impeded her voluntary efforts to maintain and advance her primary career ambition and (b) having embarked upon it, from her perspective, did not offer any worthwhile experience on an alternative career path. It is not difficult to sympathise with her position from that point of view.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/2292.html (my emphasis)

Museums need to reach out to the public, so introverts are not much use.)

Do you conclude that from the BBC clip? I am terrible on camera but can ‘hold court’ on the radio and in person.

41. Chaise Guevara

@ 35 TONE

“I have managed similar placements. Companies don’t make anything from a two week placement because induction, work planning and supervision are costly. However, occasionally, you do find a star whom you want to employ. So, yes, the company can gain or benefit, but often not directly.”

Ok, but then you’re talking about her probably being a loss, under a wider policy that is believed to benefit the company. Which is an important addition.

Also not sure how you calculate this. She was offered retail, not telesales. She probably would have made £0 directly (customers were there already) but, if employed at a busy time, helped to speed up restocks and/or checkouts and therefore contributed an undefinable amount to customer satisfaction and thus ongoing footfall.

“Cait Reilly claimed that her Poundland placement was “forced labour”. The Court explicitly rejected that claim. So it is hardly reasonable – and, as you say, hyperbole – to claim that such placements are ‘slavery’ – which is, I’d say, the condition of being someone else’s legal property.”

Yeah, but nobody here’s claiming it’s slavery under the law. They mean morally – and I agree it’s hyperbole, but you can’t gainsay their opinion because the court disagrees from a legal standpoint. It’s semantic anyway. You mean being someone’s property, someone else might mean at threat of force, others presumably mean being placed under undue pressure.

“Fair point. But that is practical point, not a point of principle about the programme itself. Would you support the programme if it could be shown to work?”

yes, provided there was at least an element of choice in the placements provided (i.e. you have to do a placement, but get to choose something relevant to your career aspirations). Ironically this in itself would probably improve the success rate.

Plus we defined ‘worked’ in a longer term manner (so that companies like A4E don’t get to claim a success by getting someone a christmas job – we measure long term outcomes).

UKL @ 40:

She can be “an inflexible and unadaptable whinger” and also “actively looking for work”. The two are not mutually incompatible. Her inflexibility and lack of adaptability is indicated by her inability to view her placement in terms of transferable skills. At her career stage, almost all experience would have some use.

“Do you conclude that from the BBC clip?”

No. She has described herself as shy and reticent.

“You mean being someone’s property, someone else might mean at threat of force, others presumably mean being placed under undue pressure.”

Mine, however, is the established primary usage. Sloppy, rhetorical usage of any term debases the language.

TONE, that is stuff you’ve inferred, it’s not stuff that’s in evidence. The Court (which you endorsed) said it had sympathy with her position. It’s odd to me that what you’ve taken from someone being misled and their complaint about being misled re a programme that doesn’t work is that they are an “an inflexible and unadaptable whinger”.

And yes, I have heard of transferable skills, thanks.

45. Chaise Guevara

@ 43 TONE

“Mine, however, is the established primary usage. Sloppy, rhetorical usage of any term debases the language.”

I’ll allow you established and primary. But if you’re going to complain about rhetoric, metaphor and linguistic evolution I can’t help you. You might as well try to shackle smoke as bend a shared language to your personal preferences, which is why the Academie Franciase is such a joke. Language will do what it always does, and getting grumpy about those things just turns you into Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells. There isn’t a perfect form of English that just so happens to be what you’re most familar with. And this is coming from someone who flinches whenever he reads “This wine really compliments the meal”.

Prescriptism vs descriptivism arguments aside, though, you at least presumably recognise what people mean when they call workfare ‘slavery’. So it’s dishonest to pretend they mean literal forced labour and argue from the straw man position that results. If people understand each other, they shouldn’t pretend that they don’t.

46. Chaise Guevara

(And I totally just scanned TONE’s last post for linguistic schoolboy errors, and was annoyed not to find any.)

CG @ 45:

I largely agree. I, too, wince at the confusion of ‘compliment’/'complement’. Regarding ‘slavery’ though, I just don’t know what this moral version of the term might be or what it could refers, too. Apart from being someone’s property, ‘slavery’ can weakly mean drudgery.

UKL @ 44:
Yes. But the Court inferred that she was “actively looking for work” and worthy of some sympathy. I infer that she is also “an inflexible and unadaptable whinger”. Both inferences are reasonable.

“And yes, I have heard of transferable skills, thanks.”

Good. Then you’ll now understand why your claims @ 38 are implausible.

TONE,

I infer that she is also “an inflexible and unadaptable whinger”.

Why? Because she complained about being misled about the nature of the scheme and misled about it being mandatory?

She didn’t and doesn’t object to retail work. She objected to being made to do this particular work and removed from her voluntary work, without appearing to get anything worthwhile from the placement – and she wasn’t paid a proper wage for it either.

You’re seriously telling us if you were in the same position you wouldn’t complain?

ukl @ 48:

“You’re seriously telling us if you were in the same position you wouldn’t complain?”

Yes, I am. I would make the best of it, and at least try to learn from the placement – which was not irrelevant to her career goal, as I have explained. Her inflexibility and lack of adaptability is indicated by her inability to view her placement in terms of transferable skills. At her career stage, almost all experience would have some use. And she could still have kept her hand in at the museum.

Unquestioning authoritarians may call her “an inflexible and unadaptable whinger.”

People who aren’t unquestioning authoritarians may consider her brave, confident, willing to speak up, shows initiative, she is David against Goliath etc etc.

Any unquestioning authoritarian that speaks the language of skills (the entire construct of the skills industry being utter bullcrap) is probably a very average individual at best but lucky so think higher of themselves than what they should do.

The entire language of skills is very cringe worthy, it is designed to be very basic, sound bites, packing people in very reductionistic terms. It is designed for the benefit of the thick and lazy employer who needs a way to make themselves not appear thick.

“You’re seriously telling us if you were in the same position you wouldn’t complain?”

Yes, I am.

How is the scoffing / ‘raspberry’ sound spelled?

52. Chaise Guevara

@ UKL

‘Rasp’, if I remember my Beano.

53. Chaise Guevara

@ 47 TONE

Like I said, I think it’s hyperbole. It’s obvious what they mean, though. They mean that coercion is being applied, in the form of being forced to work full-time to get benefits that amount to not much more than a day’s pay. When they were already volunteering, and hence not shirking.

ukl @ 52:

“How is the scoffing / ‘raspberry’ sound spelled?”

Pathetic.

CG @ 53:

“It’s obvious what they mean, though.”

Not to me; but perhaps I’m missing something.

“They mean that coercion is being applied…”

Hyperbole is deliberate exaggeration that is not meant to be taken literally. Yet I get the impression from reading the posts of people who use the term here that it is meant literally – or as propaganda to mislead others and manipulate their feelings.

If they mean coercion, then they could just call it coercion, not slavery. Though they would not have a strong case for doing so, given that the court rejected the notion that the scheme was “forced labour”.

TONE,

ukl @ 52:

“How is the scoffing / ‘raspberry’ sound spelled?”

Pathetic.

No, that doesn’t look right. More along the lines of ‘prpthpthp’, I think.

Actually, apart from a couple of points, I agree with this article. Being on the economic far right, I am not sure that I agree with the premise that people shouldn’t work for their benefits. If we are providing money through our taxation to support people, I think that the work done should benefits all taxpayers – litter picking, graffiti cleaning for the lower skilled, Museums and community education etc for the better skilled. Essentially sweep up unemployment by making it the public sector. You wouldn’t have unemployment to such a degree anyway if it wasn’t for high taxation, regulators leeching the system and providing little compared to their massive costs, and the minimum wage. Our current system of a mixed economy has given the worst of all worlds.

57. Chaise Guevara

@ 54 TONE

“Hyperbole is deliberate exaggeration that is not meant to be taken literally. Yet I get the impression from reading the posts of people who use the term here that it is meant literally – or as propaganda to mislead others and manipulate their feelings.”

My (lay) understanding of the human psyche is that things aren’t that cut and dried. It’s more like someone knows they have a few words to choose from, picks the most dramatic, and having used it convinces themselves it was the most reasonable choice. Most of this only semi-consciously.

I find it hard to believe that anyone means that workfare is equivalent to, say, the treatment of Africans on old-time Virginia plantations, and I doubt many of them believe that they’re using the word dishonestly.

@57 Chaise

Yes they do, in the same way that companies will deliberately mislead consumers. People lie and exaggerate, whether for personal, financial or political gain.

ukl @ 55:

“No, that doesn’t look right. More along the lines of ‘prpthpthp’, I think.”

Very droll!

CG @ 57:

“I find it hard to believe that anyone means that workfare is equivalent to, say, the treatment of Africans on old-time Virginia plantations…”

I fear they do. Subconsciously, Marx’s discredited theory of value is the source of the muddled thinking here – that capitalism makes labour and the worker a commodity to be exploited and so enslaved. Interestingly, it is mirrored in the claim by the libertarian right that taxation is slavery (an argument advanced by the late Robert Nozick, in his ‘Anarchy, State & Utopia’) because allegedly there is no difference between the state seizing my earnings and a slaver seizing my labour. Both positions are seriously flawed – and wrong.

“…and I doubt many of them believe that they’re using the word dishonestly.

It is undoubtedly true that few think they are using the word dishonestly – but some do.

61. Chaise Guevara

@ 58 Dislecksick

“Yes they do, in the same way that companies will deliberately mislead consumers. People lie and exaggerate, whether for personal, financial or political gain.”

Of course, but in a moral argument people are generally going to convince themselves they’re in the right. A company lying for profit has less motive for self-deception, but its board will probably still rationalise its actions to an extent.

Basically, people don’t often go around thinking “Another fine bit of evil! Bwa ha ha ha!” in real life.

Brains are complicated.

62. Chaise Guevara

@ 60 TONE

That’s not so much discredited as no longer popular. It’s subjective. It just comes down to who you think deserves things. I honestly think that the number of people who honestly believe the two things to be equivalent are small, albeit no doubt over-represented on the internet, along with libertarians and uber-feminists.

Labour can be exploitative, as can taxation. But it’s not inherent to either. And sure, there’ll be a handful of armchair spin-doctors using the term in full knowledge that it’s not reasonable.

@61 CG: Morals and interests overlap here. You can frame this as purely a moral question, but there are jobs and careers on the line. If Labour succeed in painting this as the “nasty Tories” victimising the “poor”, there are votes up for grabs etc. I am a little nihilistic in this regard, I believe pretty much everyone’s morals revolve around their wallet and their ego – hence those working in the Pub S think it’s moral to provide brilliant services to people, and people like me in the private S think it’s immoral to steal people’s money to pay for them!

With this question, it can be both seen as immoral to force people to move, but also to give better accomodation to those who happen to be in social housing….and where you stand on the greater evil mainly depends on either who you vote for (or which part you percieve represents you), or where you work.

As for the complication of brains, mine is extremely simple – beer, fags, women…and the occasional debate!

NB I am definately neither Tory nor Labour, just to clarify

CG @ 62:

“That’s not so much discredited as no longer popular. It’s subjective. It just comes down to who you think deserves things.”

No, it doesn’t. Liberal economists generally believe that the Marxist labour theory of value has been discredited – not least because the labour theory of value predicts that profits will be higher in labour-intensive industries than in capital-intensive industries, and empirical data contradicts this. And if a theory’s main prediction is false, it is hardly “subjective” to suggest the theory is discredited.

“Labour can be exploitative, as can taxation. But it’s not inherent to either.”

Quite so.

65

I would suspect that liberal economists generally believe that it is not the role of government to endow competative advantage to any retail outlet. It is not the job of the taxpayer to subsidize the labour of private business, good retail experience can be gained in charity shops, hospitals, libraries and museums.

67. Chaise Guevara

@ 65 TONE

Be fair. All I had to work with was your earlier description of the theory, which was entirely subjective (“OMG its oppressive!” etc). Now you’ve expanded it to include the idea that primary/secondary industry delivers more value than tertiary, then yes, obviously it’s factually wrong. But it’s a bit of a bait and switch. Next time give me the relevant info up-front.

@56 Dyslexic

You fail to distinguish between volunteering, which is the gift of time, and coercing people to work, which is labour bondage. In monetary terms there may be no distinction, but in social terms there is a world of difference.

69. Chaise Guevara

@ 63 dislecksick

“I am a little nihilistic in this regard, I believe pretty much everyone’s morals revolve around their wallet and their ego – hence those working in the Pub S think it’s moral to provide brilliant services to people, and people like me in the private S think it’s immoral to steal people’s money to pay for them!”

I work in the private sector, with no reason to anticipate that changing, receive no benefits or tax breaks, yet am in favour of the welfare state. And I know a lot of people of whom that’s true.

“As for the complication of brains, mine is extremely simple – beer, fags, women…and the occasional debate!”

Well, there we see eye to eye ;-)

The problem is not that Miss Reilly expected to be paid for working, but that she expected to be paid for not working.

CG @ 67:

Eh?? How have I been unfair? This was simply where the conversation led us. I tended to assume that either you knew that Marx’s version of the LTV was discredited or that you would ask why I claimed it was. I was not setting you up; and, afterwards, I did not rub my hands with glee because I’d caught you out in some small way.

If I may say so, you do shoot from the hip sometimes, and this leads you to deny (for example) that Marx’s LTV is discredited or that Ptolemy was doing science without checking what the informed consensus is… That said, you’ve taught me a thing or two. And the reason I come to LC is to have my views tested by people who disagree – I find that much more healthy than being in an echo-chamber of similar views.


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