Category Archives: work

The collectivist rot in Britain

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 07.54.19An infantilised people

Its sense of irony, writes Dalrymple, once protected the British population

from infatuation with utopian dreams and unrealistic expectations.

But the English are sadly changed.

A sense of irony is the first victim of utopian dreams. The British tolerance of eccentricity has also evaporated; uniformity is what they want now, and are prepared informally to impose. They tolerate no deviation in taste or appearance from themselves.

The pressure to conform

to the canons of (lack of) popular taste has never been stronger. Those without interest in soccer hardly dare mention it in public. A dispiriting uniformity of character, deeply shallow, has settled over a land once richer in eccentrics than any other. No more Edward Lears for us: we prefer notoriety to oddity now.

The English are no longer sturdily independent as individuals, either. They now

feel no shame or even unease at accepting government handouts. (40% of them receive such handouts.)

Many Britons

see no difference between work and parasitism.

They are left with

very little of importance to decide for themselves, even in their private spheres.

The State

  • educates them (at least nominally)
  • provides for them in old age
  • frees them of the need to save money (doing so is in many cases made uneconomic)
  • treats them when they are ill
  • houses them if they cannot afford housing

Their choices

concern only sex and shopping.

No wonder, says Dalrymple, that the British

have changed in character, their sturdy independence replaced with passivity, querulousness, or even, at the lower reaches of society, a sullen resentment that not enough has been or is being done for them. For those at the bottom, such money as they receive is pocket money, reserved for the satisfaction of whims. They are infantilised. If they behave irresponsibly it is because both the rewards for behaving responsibly and the penalties for behaving irresponsibly have vanished.

Such people

come to live in a limbo in which there is nothing much to hope or strive for and nothing much to fear or lose. Private property and consumerism coexist with collectivism, and freedom for many people means little more than choice among goods. The free market, as Hayek did not foresee, has flourished alongside collectivism.


Why the West has to import labour

Despicable work, according to the UK newspaper the Guardian

Despicable work, according to the UK newspaper the Guardian

People, especially young people, in the better-off countries of Western Europe very often have completely the wrong attitude to work, if they work. The result, writes Dalrymple, is that,

despite mass unemployment, we have to import labour

in order that certain kinds of work be done. In Ireland, for example, Dalrymple says that

an old lady of my acquaintance needed 24-hour attendance, and this was provided by a Filipina, even at a time when there was 15% unemployment in Ireland.

An important factor is the

system of social security and unemployment benefits. The economic difference between doing this type of work and not working is not great enough to entice any native to do it.

There is also a

psychological, cultural or even religious difference. The change in the title of the senior nurse in a hospital ward from sister to ward manager is indicative of a change in sensibility, from a residually religious notion of serving others to a technocratic one. In the popular imagination, the distinction between service and servitude has been more or less eliminated.

Dalrymple cites a sentence written by a columnist in the London newspaper the Guardian:

So when a girl at 17 decides to go ahead and have a baby, there is no tragedy of lost opportunity other than the local checkout till waiting for her low-paid labour.

Such a sentence, Dalrymple notes,

breathes snobbery and disdain for those who do such work; it assumes that once a checkout cashier, always a checkout cashier, a fate worse than death. That there might be people for whom such work is suitable and potentially not odious does not occur to the writer. What makes the work odious is not the work but those who communicate their disdain of it. Snobbery thus makes the import of labour necessary.

Take hotels. In Britain, Dalrymple points out,

all good hotels employ exclusively foreign labour. If you want to go to a really bad large hotel in Britain, find one in which the staff are British. It is guaranteed to be ill-kept, with slovenly service, not very clean, with atrocious food, grubby staff, inattention to detail. Even a foreign telephonist is likely to be better, and to speak better English, than an English telephonist. If you want a good or even only a decent hotel, you must find one in which all the staff are foreign. This is so whatever the unemployment rate, high or low.

Dalrymple says he asks people to imagine that they are employers who seek an employee to perform work that is not skilled but requires such characteristics as punctuality, politeness, willingness to oblige.

The imagined employer has two applicants about whom he knows only two things: their age (shall we say 24) and their nationality. One is British and one is Polish. Which of the applicants does the imagined employer choose? Not a single person to whom I have put this question has hesitated for a moment: he chooses the Pole.

Our need for migrants

has a cultural, not an economic root.

But of course,

this does not mean that we need all the migrants we are likely to get from wherever we get them.

The Calais migrants are brave, determined and enterprising

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 23.21.13France, writes Dalrymple, is a more attractive country than Britain. It is

better organised and preserved, cleaner, more efficient and less corrupt (in the sense that people are likelier to do what they are paid to do, both in the private and public sectors). It is far less crowded and has fewer dreary and hellishly ugly towns. Its medical services are better and its population much healthier, in large part because people ­indulge less in gross and self-­destructive habits. Its poverty is better hidden, and probably less in fact. Its crime rate is much lower. Its economy produces as much as Britain’s in three-quarters the number of hours worked, indicating a considerably higher quality of life.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 23.06.13Why then, would anyone seek to quit France for Britain? Why do migrants from the Middle East, the Maghreb, Sudan, the Horn of Africa, Iran, Pakistan etc. see Britain as an El Dorado worth risking their lives to reach via Calais and through the Channel Tunnel?

There are three main reasons, says Dalrymple — the third being by far the most important.

Language. Most of the migrants probably speak a few words of English, and are more anxious to learn the world language than one which is much less important than it was.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 23.09.41Papers. In Britain there is no legal requirement to carry any form of identification. You cannot be asked for your papers. This is the tiny residue of the tradition of the free-born Englishman, who does not have to justify his existence, or his presence, to authority. (France has countless sans-papiers, who subsist in marginality and fear of official clampdown, though their chances of being expelled are tiny; for the liberal Left in France, the sans-papiers are heroic victims almost by definition.)

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 23.22.59Work. It is easy to find work in Britain, albeit at a lowly paid level, sometimes considerably below the ability of the migrants. The populist notion that the migrants (overwhelmingly young men) want simply to parasitise the welfare state is mistaken. They are mainly people desperate to improve their lot and, thanks to its relatively liberal labour laws and its lack of serious effort to control the informal sector of the economy, their chances of doing so are better in Britain. The prospect of work, and even of starting a business, is far more important to them than healthcare or the beauty of city centres. The truly poor want to work their way out of poverty.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 23.17.43The Channel migrants, Dalrymple affirms,

are brave, determined and enterprising. No one does lightly what they do. Does this in itself mean that the native population that wants to keep them out is wrongheaded, mean-spirited or even vicious? Some economists argue that migrants bring economic growth ex officio: but it is economic product per head that is important, not the total product, and here economists are far from unanimous. In addition, much of the population fears that we are creating not a melting-pot but a stir-fry of incompatible ingredients. Britain, after all, is a very small wok.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 23.20.19


Manual labour

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 23.18.56Many staff in state organisations and large commercial concerns are in the habit of substituting activity for work, or rather, placing their unproductive or antiproductive activity in the way of your work, activity in this context being defined by Dalrymple as

doing things for pay that one would not do unless paid to do them but which conduce to no useful end except filling time and giving the appearance of busyness to superiors. That is why bureaucrats don’t saunter down corridors, they scurry. A lot of what goes on in offices (and not just in the public sector) is activity in this technical sense rather than work. It is designed to give a false impression and to fill an existential void.

It would not matter so very much, writes Dalrymple, if such activity were a form of bureaucratic masturbation, of self-pollution, only.

But alas, it is not so.

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 23.35.42

A manager in the UK’s National Health Service plans his day

Others, and the work of others, must be polluted also. Activity

in my technical sense has a knock-on effect, imposing obligations on people with real work to do, for example by devising new forms for them to fill in the course of their work, slowing them down.

The information gathered on such forms

is rather like old holiday snaps, never looked at again.


if bureaucrats are told to work even harder, they indulge in meta-activity; they devise procedures to discover whether their previous procedures are being complied with. This becomes a labyrinth from which there is no extrication, the bourn from which no traveller returns.

...and let us get on with some real work.

…and leave us to get on with the real work.

Therefore Dalrymple would prefer it if municipal and state bureaucrats (other than rat catchers, hospital porters, and street cleaners) were idler.

They get in the way enough as it is; to insist that they fill every minute of their time with activity is to court further useless paperwork and obstructionism.

The ludicrous cult of long hours

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 07.50.56Dalrymple’s principle states that

efficiency declines as the number of hours worked grows.

Dalrymple himself is at his best, he explains,

for about two hours a day—shortly after waking—and it is downhill all the way thereafter.

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 07.55.05

The suddenly and unwontedly efficient and alert essayist

Only one thing restores his efficiency or alertness, if not his soul:

the prospect, previously unexpected, of earning a good sum of money. This acts on my brain in the same way as amphetamine.

(Johnson: No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.)

Young lawyers, Dalrymple points out,

are expected to examine documents and research precedents for hours on end, though nothing is easier than to overlook the single key fact in a case in which there are hundreds or thousands of pages of dreary documents.

OBBB (overworked banker behaving badly)

Machismo in the empire of imaginary money

For the macho workers in finance,

their absurdly long hours are a source of pride, a seeming justification for what they earn and an excuse for behaving badly once the pressure is relieved. Perhaps there would be fewer financial crises if financiers and their junior aspirants worked fewer hours.

Why British workers are the idlest in Europe

They still have some

They still have some

Foreign workers are better than British workers in every way

Employés from overseas, writes Dalrymple

  • have a much better attitude to their work than British workers
  • are better educated than British workers
  • before long will speak better English than British workers

He says that if he were an employer and knew only of two 24-year-old applicants for a job that one was a product of the failed British educational system and the other was Polish,

I would unhesitatingly opt for the Pole.

He points out that a system has been created in which, for British-born people at the lower end of the economic scale,

the difference between working and not working, at least from the purely economic point of view, is minimal. So while minimum wages are attractive to foreigners, they are unattractive to the British unemployed. You would not have to be Nostradamus to see potential for real political and social conflict here.

He draws attention to another factor: the rigidity of the housing market, in part created by housing subsidies.

Such subsidies are not easily transferable from one area to another, and so people in receipt of such a subsidy cannot (or rather have a negative incentive to) move to where the work is. Thus a labour shortage develops in one area of the country, and mass unemployment in another. One area is economically dynamic, another has the atmosphere of the Soviet Union under Brezhnev (except that there is a little more state-subsidised consumer choice, because the subsidies go ultimately to state-subsidised licensed traders such as supermarkets, betting shop chains, etc.). Thus everything is distorted and corrupted.


Corruption, British-style

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 02.25.52Dalrymple explains why during Britain’s boom, high rates of indigenous unemployment were maintained while the country sucked in almost equivalent numbers of foreigners to perform unskilled labour. He writes:

The official unemployment figures fell but the slack (if I may be allowed a slight pun) was taken up by the allegedly ill, of whom very few were actually ill. They were unemployed, not sick, but being certified as sick meant that they could claim benefits for ever and the government to claim that unemployment was at such a low level that foreign labour was required.

While millions were kept in subsidised idleness,

millions were imported to do the work that the idle millions might have done….The foreigners were better workers. Though their education might have cost a fraction of what a British education cost, they were often much better educated. Their attitude to work was much better, and it was much better because the incentive for them to work was much stronger….They compared their wages with what they would have earned had they not come, not with what they would have received for doing nothing at all, which is the comparison the British unemployed made.

The indigenous unemployed

received non-transferable housing subsidies that…trapped them…but from the crudely economic point of view were beneficial to them. They would not give these up merely to work for a wage that might leave them hardly any better, or even worse, off.