UK: Imagine a Sandal Stamping on a Human Face Forever

It’s a sad day when doing a favour for a friend garners the attention of local authority snoops intent on criminalising you for nothing other than being a good person. But this exactly what happened to two young mothers here in the UK recently.

Leanne Shepherd and Lucy Jarrett were on a job sharing arrangement in which they both worked part time. Being good friends, they did what parents have been doing since children were invented, which is to take it in turns to look after each others nippers when the other was working.

For this outrageous act of blatant common-sense, they were reported by a neighborhood busybody to the Office of Standards in Education (OFSTED), who subsequently visited Mrs Shepherd to inform her that without the appropriate permits she was breaking the law.

Shortly after, they were sent a letter telling them to cease the child-minding arrangement, and that they could be “subject to surveillance and unannounced visits by Ofsted inspectors”. Forget about bomb plotters, mafia bosses or gun-runners, it is apparently caring mothers who need to be watched over.

Incidents like this are all too often a regularity these days – under the guise of protecting us from ourselves, the authorities in this country regularly misuse anti-terror laws to tap phone calls, secretly film people, and gather information in order to enforce petty regulations.

Combine this with proposed legislation such as the need for ISP’s to monitor connections for illegal file-sharing, the biometric ID card, the ‘Gulags for Slags’ policy, in which single mums under 18 would be put in group accommodation, you don’t need to imagine some fictional oppressive society ala 1984, we already have it in the form of the nanny state.

George Orwell described a society ruled by force and bureaucracy, we have one here in the UK ruled by both of these, with an unhealthy dose of sandal wearing Social-Workerism thrown in for good measure. Just imagine a sandal stamping on a human face – forever.

The effect of this incident has been that Mrs Shepherd, who has a take home pay of £1000 a month, is now paying £487 a month in childcare costs. Unable to pay these costs, she is forced into having to accept benefits to survive.

Some have commented that the nanny state creates jobs, and this is true in a direct sense because of the heightened demand for ‘professional’ childcare arrangements. But whilst a ‘job’ may have been ‘created’, no extra wealth has been produced for society.

All that has happened is that the use-value created by the mothers in the act of child-minding, and exchanged directly through reciprocation, has been transformed into exchange value that can be exploited by capitalists for profit. If anything, value has been destroyed in this process by introducing organisational inefficiencies – regulators, administrators and tax inspectors all have to be paid for extra, non-productive work that was previously unnecessary.

In a state-capitalist economy that depends on geometric growth curves just to maintain itself, more and more sources of use-value need to be tapped into in order to fulfill that growth expectation. New snooping laws and over the top regulations have the effect of tapping into the previously unexploited use-values found in reciprocal and informal exchange, and once in place make it very difficult for them to be removed without serious disruption to the employment figures

I don’t believe for a second that the state is self-conscious enough to have this as a deliberate policy, but the fact remains that it is economically easier to increase nannyism than it is to reduce it. A contradiction exists in this trend, however, and the process of centralisation cannot last forever.

Ultimately, the administrative costs involved in state snooping will rise above the amount of surplus value that can be squeezed from those areas being snooped on. And when that point comes, we will get another nudge in the direction of a new crisis in capitalism. And one of these days, a crisis is what will bring the state to its knees.

This may sound like a pessimistic end to a column, but actually it is the most optimistic I could contrive. It is a comfort to me to know that authoritarian states have an automatic end-stop built in. When the time comes that the state is due to fall from grace, I for one will welcome it.

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Fighting Fascism
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Free Markets & Capitalism?
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist