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Camden New Journal - ROSE HACKER - The Oldest Columnist in the World
Published: 17 January 2008
Profit motive of the phoney sciences

TO be able to do useful things, people must be educated. We need humble labourers as much as intellectuals but all need teaching.
CP Snow’s division of people, condemning many by intellectual ability, was wrong and evil.
Man always demands certainty, a near impossibility, often seeking it through religion. From time immemorial people had faith in standing stones or natural forces. However clever we are, we remain helpless against floods, storms, hurricanes, droughts, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
The 19th and 20th centuries were marked by growing scepticism about established religion. All kinds of new religious groups formed, some with peculiar names like theosophy, Shaw’s Shaw­ianity, scientology, Raelianism. Despite great waves of movement against religion, it seems humans always seek something to believe in.
Each generation also invents phoney sciences to trust. Leonard Woolf cited economics and psychology among others. In the 21st century it’s business administration, financial consultancy and management. These will all turn out to be as useless as standing stones.
On certainty, Benjamin Franklin said: “The only certainties in life are death and taxes.” If we are ever to have a fair society, we need steeply graded taxation.
Our society’s dilemma is less taxation than the fact that the rich spend vast amounts avoiding it. We seem unable to unravel the land problem. People who own vast tracts of our country, inherited as if by right, are unlikely to give it up without struggle. Could we redistribute it through taxation?
Thanks to two more phoney sciences, criminology and penology, Britain holds a series of unenviable records. We lock up more people for longer and have the highest rates of reoffending in western Europe. We have more life prisoners than Russia, France, Germany and Turkey combined. In 2007 we achieved record levels for the number of prisoners committing suicide. Although still well below US levels, we are clearly doing something very wrong, yet this government’s pseudo-religious be­lief commits it to building more prisons and squeezing more people into them.
I have a very different vision from the government’s. Imagine Friern Hospital as it once was turned not into luxury flats but instead into a new kind of prison. Two thousand prisoners with appropriate staff could all live in a self-sufficient community. From wealthy to poor, all would play their part. Hard labour would be represented by genuine lab­our, bricklaying, plumbing, electricity, stone-breaking, by people who in Conservative/New Labour society would just be thrown into prison to rot.
In my vision of real community, prisoners would be an integrated, valued part of society, responsible for creating the physical and social capital of a new society.
Inspired by former US President Jimmy Carter’s Habitat for Humanity programme, in a few prisons across America prisoners now learn valuable building and landscaping skills then build homes and create gardens for poor families in local communities.
My scheme would go further. Part of the capital prisoners would build for our society would be homes for themselves and their families, good prisoners and their families eventually becoming appreciated and creating and owning a stake in their own communities.
Wealthy and poor mixing to build communities would generate enormous social benefits, where wealth no longer means something created by man’s hands but merely the manipulation of something called money which has no real existence.
This would be a genuine rehabilitation process, not increasing the divisions into a few haves and ever more have-nots.
Imagine a child without fresh water. What would any mother do? If my children were starving and I had nothing I would risk anything from prostitution to stealing. In Brown’s Britain I might be a prisoner too. How have we reached a state where the wealthiest individuals simply manipulate money while the really creative, gifted and intelligent become proletarianised, unable to afford homes in urban areas?
In the welfare state, did we go wrong giving people everything material without giving them responsibility?
In the early 21st century we are constantly told our main motivation should be the quest for money and power. To counter the feeling of so many people I know that greed is not humanity’s prime motivator, the Blair/Brown new religion promotes the holy PPP with its misleading suggestion of including the public and private partnership.
Brown government ideology is sentence more people; build more prisons; fill them fast. Don’t attempt to examine root causes or reduce prison populations.
Modelled on the US, building and running prisons is now the domain of big business. Like the US, UK private prisons charge per prisoner per night. I wonder why they want more prisoners. Could the main motivation be another phoney science, the PPPP, Private Penitentiary Profits Programme?
Oscar Wilde’s cynic knew “the price of everything and the value of nothing”. Our government knows the price of everything it says it “can’t afford”, has no idea of cost for what it “can afford” and no values.
Am I a cynic too? I know the price of abandoning human values and the value of not worshipping prices.

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