Monday, April 13, 2015

Why not voting is such a pitifully ineffective form of protest

Of the most commonly recurring themes that keeps popping up in the comments sections beneath my work is the "if only everyone stopped voting ..." type is probably the most infuriating. The reason that I find these appeals for people to "just stop voting" so infuriating is that not voting is just about the most blatantly ineffective form of political protest imaginable.

I strongly believe in freedom of speech so I never delete comments from my Facebook page or politics blog simply because I disagree with them, so this article is intended as a riposte to those who take advantage of my anti-censorship stance to use my work as a platform to promote their "just stop voting" agenda.

The first and most obvious reason that not voting is such a feeble form of protest is that the result is totally indistinguishable from total apathy. If the opponent of the political status quo does exactly the same form of non-action as the hopelessly apathetic fool who doesn't care a jot about who rules over their lives or how the political system is structured, then how is it even possible to tell how many of those non-votes are ill-conceived protests and how many are manifestations of sheer apathy?
The "just stop voting" advocate will often try to claim that if enough of us stopped voting then the election results would become illegitimate through lack of participation. Without explaining the mechanism by which the Westminster establishment parties would be removed from power after a mass non-vote, and without explaining what the system would be replaced with in the short-term, the "just stop voting" advocate is promoting a sheer fantasy. If they want us to believe that not voting is a sensible form of protest, the onus is on them to explain the mechanism by which the government is replaced with something better as a result of simply not voting. 

The idea that the Westminster establishment would just give up their grip on power if enough of us refused to vote is hopelessly naive because not only does it fail to explain the actual mechanism by which the election results would be rendered void, it also ignores the very real precedent set by the farcical 2012 PCC elections, which had an average turnout of just 15%, and in several regions (Hampshire, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Surrey, Norfolk, Humberside, Cumbria & Lincolnshire) the winning candidate garnered less than 5% of the eligible vote! Did any of these new PCCs refuse to accept their £65,000 - £85,000 per year jobs because of a lack of political mandate? Of course they bloody didn't!

If 99.2% of us stopped voting, then it's absolutely clear that the 0.8% of us who are actually members of the three Westminster establishment parties would continue voting for themselves, and the rest of us would simply be dismissed as not caring about politics enough to even bother.

It is also obvious that not voting is an ineffective protest because it simply increases the political power of those who do choose to vote. If the majority of people who oppose the system choose to not vote, those who support the system will be at an obvious electoral advantage.
Some 40% of the electorate are political tribalists who will always vote for their favoured Westminster establishment party, so if 35% of the public refuse to vote then it's obvious that they are essentially condemning the rest of us to perpetual Westminster establishment rule. 

Not voting is also a very good way of ensuring that unpopular extremists manage to get into power. A good example of this is the way that UKIP managed to become the biggest UK party in the European parliament after winning just 9% of the eligible vote. The remarkable thing about this victory for UKIP is that for every person who voted UKIP another seven didn't bother to vote at all! 
If just one in six of the non-voters had voted for a genuine political alternative, then the election wouldn't have been won by a Tory Trojan Horse political party pushing a "more-of-the-same, but even harder" right-wing economic agenda.
It turns out that people who go around telling others to "just stop voting" are actually useful idiots who are of great use to the Westminster establishment parties (and to extremists like UKIP) because without this propaganda war against political participation, far more politically disillusioned people would actually vote against the Westminster establishment rather than implicitly supporting them through non-participation.

If we despise the current political system, then surely it is better to find a political party that is proposing to change the system, than to simply abstain and actually increase the chances that things will stay pretty much exactly as they are. 

If we want change, we've got to do like the Scottish, and actually vote against the Westminster establishment parties. However it is possible that there are simply no decent candidates in our particular constituency offering a better alternative than the status quo. In this kind of case it's really important that people at least turn out on polling day in order to submit a blank or spoiled ballot paper so that their protests are actually distinguishable from outright political apathy.

Whether you want to oppose the Westminster establishment by supporting a smaller political party that wants to reform the political system, or oppose the political system by voting "none of the above" by submitting a spoiled ballot paper, it's really important that you make sure that you are registered to vote. If you don't even bother to register to vote, your ill-conceived protest is going to be totally indistinguishable from complete political apathy.

Follow this link to register to vote. It only takes a few minutes.


The fact that people hijack my work to promote their ridiculous "just stop voting" agenda is bad enough because it is such a pathetically ineffective form of protest, but to promote a form of protest that is completely indistinguishable from complete apathy beneath the work of someone who is passionate about political reform is deeply disrespectful.

If people really feel the need to "protest" by not voting, then that's fair enough, but to actually propagandise for others to join them in this bizarrely ineffective form of protest beneath the work of a guy who believes in doing everything possible to achieve political change, well that's completely out of order. 

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

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The decline in political participation and the rise of the non-traditional parties
The terrifying scale of political illiteracy in the UK
The myth of right-wing patriotism
How George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
Recommended reading - heterodox economics
Why 73% of UKIP supporters should actually vote Green
12 things you should know about the 2014 European elections
The Tory PCC election farce

Sunday, March 29, 2015

How the press have turned the actions of a mass murderer into a fearmongering campaign against depression

On the 24th of March 2015 the German co-pilot Andreas Lubitz caused the destruction of the 4U9525 Germanwings flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf resulting in the deaths of everyone on board (himself, 144 passengers and 5 other crew) making it one of the most deadly murder-suicides in history.

At first the cause of the crash was a mystery but 
it soon became clear that Lubitz had deliberately locked the pilot out of the cabin, used the cabin door override to prevent the captain from using his passcode to open the door from the outside, initiated the descent sequence that resulted in the crash and remained alive (and calmly breathing) until the moment of impact.

A few days later it was revealed that Lubitz's flight training had been interrupted for several months due to mental health issues. It's not entirely clear what these issues were, but several German sources cited depression as being the cause of the interruption. These revelations provoked lurid headlines across the British press. The front page of the right-wing Daily Mail screeched "Why on earth was he allowed to fly" and the pro-Labour tabloid The Daily Mirror also boldly linked the actions of the killer with his depression on their front page. The tabloid press weren't the only ones either, the Times and the Telegraph both also ran the killer was depressive theme on their front pages too.

The Daily Mail wasn't the only paper to write
hyperbolic headlines about depression, the Daily Mirror
got in on the act too.
The mental health charity Mind quickly stepped in to complain about the way that such lurid headlines add to the stigma associated with common mental health problems like depression and several bloggers and columnists have spoken up to draw attention to the fact that they have suffered depression and the idea of committing a mass murder-suicide has never crossed their minds.

The fact is that there are millions of people out there who have suffered depression. Amongst them are countless people with high responsibility jobs. Pilots, train drivers, bus drivers, fuel tanker drivers, nuclear power plant workers, air traffic controllers, engineers, operators of dangerous machinery, firemen, policemen, military personnel and health professionals. 
If the lurid Daily Mail headlines about the fact that Andreas Lubitz had depression are enough to make you think these people should all be stripped of their jobs because they represent a danger to the public, then I'd suggest that your mental problems (paranoia, delusional thinking, a bizarre lack of perspective, lack of empathy) are far more serious than those of most of the people you want to have fired from their jobs.

I am one of the tens of millions of people with a history of suffering severe depression. In fact depression is the reason that this is the first article I've posted on my blog in over a month. I'm currently struggling with personal circumstances that are beyond my control, leaving me with no choice but to figure out which of the highly unfavourable options in front of me is the least bad. As a consequence of facing such an appalling decision I've slipped into a prolonged depression.

Even though I get an immense amount of satisfaction from writing articles, designing infographics and debating politics with people, the idea of doing any of that stuff when I'm in the pit of depression, struggling with issues that are beyond my control, is frankly ludicrous. The only thing that has snapped me out of this depression for a while is the way that the UK press have resorted to demonising depression, as if people like me are all potential mass murderers to be frightened of.

How the press have turned the actions of a psychopath into

Simply having suffered depression isn't enough to turn a person into a mass murderer. In order to commit an act of mass murder the individual needs to be suffering much more serious issues than depression, because being depressed doesn't necessarily mean that the individual suddenly loses their ability to feel basic human empathy for others. In fact I'd argue that many people who have suffered from severe depression are actually inclined to be very empathetic indeed, since familiarity with their own suffering gives them great scope for understanding the suffering of others.

Adreas Lubitz may well have suffered from depression, but the premeditated decision to murder 144 passengers and 5 work colleagues, for whatever reason, are clearly the actions of a psychopath without the capacity to feel basic human empathy. If Lubitz had had any capacity for empathy whatever, he would have considered the enormous wave of suffering such an action would unleash on the families and friends of his 149 victims and realised that such a vast tsunami of grief would massively outweigh his own depressive issues. Such a realisation would have driven him to either quietly commit suicide on his own, or to actually accept the medical help he had been offered and rejected. Only a psychopath would be able to consider going ahead with a plan that involved murdering so many other people and causing such a huge amount of human suffering as a consequence. 

Andreas Lubitz's ex-girlfriend claimed that he killed all of those people in order to "make people remember him". Without a suicide note it's impossible to know for sure that this was his intention, but if it was, then this suggests that he wasn't actually that severely depressed at all. People with severe depression tend to try and reduce their suffering through medication, withdrawal, distraction, therapy, alcohol, drug use, or even suicide. They're usually far to busy with their (often highly ineffective) coping mechanisms to spend their time fantasising about how they might make themselves infamous and calmly planning acts of mass murder.

The efforts by the UK press to draw a causal relationship between Andreas Lubitz's depressive tendencies and his premeditated decision to murder 149 other people is grotesquely irresponsible, and such ignorant fearmongering about depression only make it more likely that many other people with depression will try to hide their suffering out of fear that people will demonise them as potential killers or hound them out of their jobs.

As a sufferer of depression with a reasonably large public profile I feel compelled to stand up on behalf of millions of others and say that it doesn't matter how severe our depression gets, we won't be murdering anyone, ever - because we're not psychopaths.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

Flattr this

How I overcame social anxiety to become a successful political writer
We need to talk about cyber-bullying
Recommended reading - heterodox economics
What is ... a Credit Default Swap?
What is ... fiscal multiplication?
What is ... wage repression?
The terrifying scale of political illiteracy in the UK
The myth of right-wing patriotism

Saturday, February 28, 2015

What is ... the Pay as You Feel principle?

The Pay As You Feel principle (also known as Pay What You Want and Pay What You Like) is a heterodox pricing strategy that puts the customer at complete discretion over the price they are willing to pay for goods or services.

The most commonly used names for this pricing strategy are completely self-explanatory because the idea that the the customer is at complete freedom to determine the price for themselves is actually quite a simple one.

Even though the idea itself is simple enough, there are quite a lot of interesting economic factors to consider when it comes to breaking the orthodox mindset that things have a set price and replacing it with a pricing system that allows the price to exist as a free choice between £0 and any value the customer chooses.


I'm going to begin by briefly detailing a few examples of enterprises that are funded on the
Pay As You Feel principle.


One of the most famous examples of a Pay as You Feel pricing strategy was the release of the 7th album by the UK band Radiohead called "In Rainbows". The album was made available for download for whatever the fans wanted to pay for it. Although the majority of people who downloaded the album did it for free, it was reported that the digital revenues from this single album were worth more than the digital sales of all of their six previous albums combined.

The Real Junk Food Project

The Real Junk Food Project is a café in my old stomping ground of Armley in Leeds that uses discarded (but still perfectly edible) food from supermarkets and chain restaurants to provide meals on the Pay as You Feel principle. To date they have saved over ten tons of perfectly good food from going into landfill and inspired several other similar projects all over the UK. One thing that should really appeal to economists is the guy who came up with the concept of this West Yorkshire pay as you feel café was called Adam Smith!

Humble Bundle

Humble Bundle is a series of bundled digital creations that have been released on the Pay as You Fell principle since 2010 (here is a list of Humble Bundle packages). The average price paid per Humble Bundle has varied between just over $14 and just under $4. The fact that Humble Bundle has survived on this business model for over four years in the highly competitive markets of computer games, ebooks, audiobooks, videos and music is enough to show that Pay as You Feel is a viable potential business strategy.

Although Wikipedia don't self-describe as a Pay as You Feel operation, it is quite clear that this is an accurate way of describing their fundraising operation because they rely on donations from users and refuse to allow adverts on their pages. The fact that Wikipedia is the seventh most visited website in the world, yet they only have 217 paid staff is an amazing tribute to the power of the collaborative community that built it, maintains it, and improves it; and to the the voluntary donation system that funds it.

Another Angry Voice (this website)

The only sources of income for this page are small donations from people who appreciate my work enough to make a donation, or set up a small monthly subscription (even though they are perfectly free have access to all of my online work without having to pay for it).

When I release my book later in 2015 I plan to do it on the Pay as You Feel principle too.


Conducting business on the Pay as You Feel principle has distinct advantages for both buyers and sellers.

When the buyer is free to choose their own price, they are highly likely to pick a price they consider to be fair, because few customers are going to voluntarily select a price that lies outside their "spectrum of acceptability". This means that (as long as the product isn't shoddy) it's incredibly unlikely that the customer will end up feeling like they've been "ripped off" and suffering buyer's remorse.

This ability for the buyer to choose the price that they find most acceptable is a profoundly important factor because it's capable of providing the best possible sense of satisfaction to the customer, and I'm pretty sure that any marketing wonk will tell you that there is no batter advert for a product than a very satisfied customer.

Another of the main advantages for the seller is that they do not end up excluding customers by setting an arbitrary price for their product/service that is too high (some customers can't afford it) or too low (some customers may imagine it to be "trashy" or low quality if it is priced too low).

Yet another advantage to the seller is that by giving away their product for free they are still increasing exposure to their product, and increasing their potential future market in the process. If a writer ends up giving away ten thousand copies of their book for free, then if it is a good book, that's 10,000 people who might consider returning for another book in the future (potential future paying customers), and 10,000 people who may have gone around telling their friends and family how good the book is (free advertising).


The existence of freeloaders is the most obvious disadvantage to the Pay as You Feel principle. If the buyer offers to give away their product for free to those who cannot afford it, there will always be people who will take the product for free, despite being more than affluent enough to be able to pay for it.

Even though the system is open to abuse by selfish people, my personal view is that I'd rather have ten of these selfish people freeloading, as long as one person who genuinely can't afford to pay isn't priced out of the market as would be the case had I chosen to use an orthodox arbitrary pricing system.

Another potential disadvantage with Pay as You Feel is that some people are deterred from buying at all because they "feel bad" if they imagine that they are paying less than an appropriate price, so they may not buy the product at all rather than risk feeling bad that they've somehow "cheated" by paying less than a fair amount.

A further potential disadvantage with the Pay as You Feel principle is that it is likely to be a sub-optimal pricing strategy if it is used in isolation. If 
the seller prefers to focus on their short-term profitability (rather than adopting some longer-term objective such as ensuring that the maximum number of people get exposure to your product) then it's probable that allowing numerous customers to take their product for free would not not be the optimal cashmaking strategy.

There are several ways of optimising Pay as You Feel so that the problems outlined above are minimised as much as possible, some of which I'll detail in the next section.

Optimising Pay as You Feel

One of the simplest and most effective ways of optimising Pay as You Feel is to offer rewards to those who actually pay. To give an example, if you're marketing a music album, you could provide a bonus track (or three) on downloads that have actually been paid for, while the people who download the album for free just get a download of the standard version.

Recommended prices

Recommended prices are a good way of minimising the effect of the potential "feel bad" effect that deters some potential customers because they're afraid of feeling guilty about having paid the wrong price (detailed above). If the customer is given a clear indication of what is considered a fair price, then they can ensure that their payment falls within their personal "spectrum of acceptability" in relation to the numbers that have been suggested by the seller. 

Examples of two possible "recommended price" strategies are shown in the illustration.

Beat the average

One of the most efficient ways of maintaining a reasonably high level of payments is to offer a reward to those who beat the average price. If people can see that the average price paid by those who actually pay for the product is say £4.82, then they are likely to pay £5.00 and claim their reward. There is one potential drawback with this strategy, which is that potential customers who might be inclined to pay a lower price (say £1.50) but are unwilling to pay almost £5.00, might elect to not pay anything, or even not bother carring out the transaction at all, on the basis that they'd be getting an inferior product (the product without the reward) if they paid less than the strike price.


A Pay as Your Feel restaurant is a good example to illustrate how reputation can be a strong incentive for people to actually make a Pay as You Feel payment, rather than just freeload. If a person who is clearly homeless or destitute goes in and has a meal for free, nobody is going to begrudge them it, because they can't afford to pay. However if a clearly well-to-do couple come in and try to leave without paying anything for their meal, the staff are going to judge them for it, and they'd have to be pretty shameless people to be able to walk out of the place without feeling pretty conflicted about whether the sheer embarrassment of being such a "scrounger" was really worth the few quid they saved by not paying.

Online reputation is an increasingly important thing, so it is easy to see how online reputation could be used as an incentive for people to actually pay for their products in Pay as You Feel transactions. One potential strategy is the awarding of reputation points to those who choose to actually pay for Pay as You Feel products, then allowing those reputation points to be aggregated into the various online reputation management platforms of the kind that already exist.


Another strategy that can be used in order to encourage customers to pay a higher amount is to make it clear that a certain percentage of the payment will be given to charity, or that if a certain payment threshold is reached, a charitable donation will be made. The fact that customers pay substantially more when they know a charitable donation will be made has been proven in research. The research showed that the increase in price paid was significantly higher than the sums given to charity, meaning that this strategy is beneficial to the seller, and to the charitable causes alike.


Another way in which customers can be encouraged to pay a higher price under Pay as You Feel pricing systems is if they are given some choice over how the money is spent.

An example might be that the customer is free to choose how their money is spent once the price paid meets a certain minimum threshold. Hence a self-employed writer/journalist might allow their customers to choose into which spending category any amount over the strike price is allocated to, for example:

If you donate more than £5.00, you can choose how you think that extra money should be spent:
  • A donation towards my admin and travel costs
  • A donation towards my research materials
  • A donation towards my next book
  • A donation towards my new documentary
  • A donation towards my new website

If the customer is given choices like these, the transaction begins to feel more like an investment than a simple purchase at a set price. Not only does the customer get the satisfaction that part of their money is being "spent wisely", but they are also that bit more likely to remain a customer because they feel like they've actually made an investment in one of the seller's forthcoming projects, rather than having just participated in a one off set price transaction with the seller.
Economic Considerations

If Pay as You Feel become a more popular pricing strategy, then there are many economic considerations. These include considerations of how such shifts in pricing strategies might interact with existing economic systems and ideas, and how Pay as You Feel could be used in conjunction with other novel economic concepts.

I am aware that this article is already quite long (even by my own standards) so I'll just briefly outline a few of these considerations.

Pay as You Feel and rational self interest

The fact that the Pay as You Feel principle actually even works is yet another glaring example to add to the ever growing mountain of evidence that many of the the fundamental concepts that underpin orthodox free-market ideology are hopelessly unrealistic. If the neoclassical economic models are correct, and all humans are rational agents committed only to the serving of their own economic self-interest, then a funding model which relies on people paying money for what they could have for free, simply couldn't work.

In order for Pay as You Feel projects to make money, a certain percentage of society must be ascribing a higher value to non-financial considerations such as fairness, social responsibility, generosity or charity, than to the pursuit of their own rational economic self-interest. If this were not the case then all customers would surely just choose to pay nothing and keep all of the money for themselves.

The fact that Pay as You Feel projects succeed shows that any economic system that defines human beings as perfectly rational economic agents must be fundamentally incapable of accurately describing reality. 

Every single time a person decides to pay for something that they could have had for free, it's a poke in the eye for people who believe in the right-wing economic orthodoxy.
Pay as You Feel and socialism

The Pay as You Feel principle is clearly compatible with the socialist dictum "
from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs", but it puts the determination of how much is to be given in the hands of the individual, rather than having it dictated by the seller, or by the state.

In my view Pay as You Feel is entirely compatible with libertarian and anarchist versions of socialism where as much economic freedom as possible is devolved to the people, but it's fundamentally incompatible with old-fashioned "command and control" socialism, where the price of almost everything is dictated by centralised government agencies.

Pay as You Feel and price discovery

Price discovery is the process by which the price of an asset is determined in the marketplace.

The widespread adoption of Pay as You Feel funding models would have significant implications on the way that market prices would be determined. It is obvious that handing all discretion over the sale price to the buyer would have important price discovery implications for the enterprises that choose to adopt these strategies, but they would also have implications for other players in their marketplace too. If suddenly one seller begins offering their product on the Pay as You Feel principle, other agents may have to seriously consider adjusting their own pricing strategies in order to remain competitive.

Pay as You Feel and reputation

As I mentioned in the section on Pay as You Feel optimisation strategies, there is a great deal of potential overlap between Pay as You Feel and digital reputation strategies. As the availability of information storage continues growing exponentially, the capacity for tracking, managing and even financialising our digital reputation is going to increase. 

Money has always served as a store of reputation (the "wealth and status" aspect), so it makes a great deal of sense that this new found capacity for digitally quantifying reputation will likely be developed and financialised. If "being seen to pay a fair price for things" becomes an important part of one's digital reputation, then people's transactions with Pay as You Feel sellers could potentially assume critical importance.

Pay as You Feel and copyright law
If Pay as You Feel pricing strategies became more common in the digital downloads marketplace then the digital copyright theft industry would be severely undermined because the customer incentive to source copyrighted material from "pirates" would be almost eliminated. Why would anyone bother going to a bootleg operation for a copy when they could just obtain the item from the originator for free, or for whatever minimal price they deem most acceptable?

It doesn't matter at all whether you see online piracy as acceptable or not - it's a fact that websites like the Pirate Bay are currently seen by their users as fighting against the profiteering ways of the music, television and film industries.

Under Pay as You Feel the boot would clearly be on the other foot, with the legitimate seller cast as the freedom fighter giving his stuff away for free to those who can't afford it, and the "pirates" cast as the villain taking people's work for free and profiting from it (via ad revenue on their websites, selling it at a mark-up price, plagiarism or whatever). It wouldn't be long before the myth of the digital "pirate" as the information freedom fighter would be rendered obsolete by the fact that taking stuff that someone else has given away for free and then using it to make money for yourself is nothing more than parasitical profiteering.

As a customer it would take a severely tortured moral justification to explain why you went to an online bootlegger to get a copy of the film/book/animation/music, when you could have got it direct from the original source, either for free, or for whatever price you consider fairest. 

In my view it should be socially frowned upon to make a business model on giving away other people's free content (but not prohibited because policing the market place in free goods would blatantly a wasteful economic sinkhole of time and resources). However the act of actually charging people for access to other people's Pay as You Feel creative content should clearly be considered a crime because it represents a theft against the buyer. It's obviously fraudulent behaviour to charge someone a set fee for the content they could have had for free from the original source. 

Pay as You Feel and gifting economics

I'm particularly interested in gift economics, with which the Pay as You Feel Principle is very clearly compatible. If we think of Pay as You Feel transactions as being a gift to the buyer from the seller, and the Pay as You Feel payment as a reciprocal gift to the seller from the buyer, it is easy to see how the syntax of gift economics can be used to explain such transactions.

Thus transactions become "gifts" and payments become "reciprocal gifts", which builds a bond of recipricosity between the market participants, who no longer have to be considered "buyer and seller", but rather "giver and receiver".

When the giver is prepared to give their property away for free as a gift, then copyright law needs serve a much simpler function; that of enforcing the inalienable ownership of the giver - that any receiver can then give the product away for free again, but the originator retains the exclusive and inalienable right to sell at a price.

Gift economics is a fascinating subject, and I encourage you to do some more reading on it if ideas like the monetisation of society and the financialisation of class hierarchies make you feel sick, because gift economics provides an insight into how pre-monetary economic systems may have functioned, and how post-monetary or supra-monetary systems might be established.


After consideration, it seems that the best way to conclude this rather long article is to provide a brief personal explanation of why I decided to embrace the Pay as You Feel principle, rather than taking the much simpler (and likely much more profitable) orthodox approach of blathering my website in adverts and hosting a load of paid "click bait" articles at the bottom of each post.

The first reason is that I see Pay as You Feel as a test of my own faith in humanity. Do I believe strongly enough that there are enough fair-minded people out there to make enough small micro-donations between them to meet my costs of producing this blog, and my very modest costs of living? Choosing Pay as You Feel is a demonstration that I do.

The second reason is that I see Pay as You Feel as a test of my own ability as a writer. Am I capable of producing writing of sufficient quality that people consider what I'm doing good enough to be worth voluntarily supporting with their own hard-earned cash? 
Choosing Pay as You Feel is a demonstration that I do.

The third reason I've chosen to embrace Pay as You Feel is that I really want to see it succeed as a concept, because every single Pay as You feel transaction is a condemnation of the right-wing orthodoxy that tells us that humans are nothing more than self-serving units in the economy, and that every product in the economy has a fixed arbitrary price at any moment in time. 

Anyone who rejects the idea that the produce of their labour has a fixed price (as Pay as You Feel givers clearly do) is blatantly an economic rebel. By setting the price at 0-n (anywhere between free and whatever you want to pay for it) instead of picking an arbitrary fixed price for it, the seller is rejecting pretty much the entire orthodox economic framework. And by handing complete discretion to the receiver, the giver in the Pay as You Feel transaction is providing the receiver with the power to prove to themselves that they are behaving as unselfish agents in the economy too, meaning that their economic behaviour cannot be constrained by orthodox economic theories that cast them only as ruthlessly self-interested individuals.

So to summarise, I've chosen to live by the Pay as You Feel principle out of a curious blend of faith, self-belief and rebelliousness.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

Flattr this

Recommended reading - heterodox economics
What is ... a Credit Default Swap?
What is ... fiscal multiplication?

How I overcame social anxiety to become a successful political writer
We need to talk about cyber-bullying
What is ... wage repression?
The terrifying scale of political illiteracy in the UK
The myth of right-wing patriotism

Friday, February 27, 2015

Podemos and the appeal of Pablo Iglesias

Pablo Iglesias is the 36 year old leader of a new left-wing party in Spain called Podemos (We Can) that was born out of the 15-M street protest movement.

The Origins of Podemos

Podemos arose out of the 15-M "indignados" protests, which were a little bit like the Spanish version of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, but crucially the Spanish protesters managed keep the movement going and convert it into a powerful political force, whilst the Occupy Wall Street movement has faded away into near irrelevance in the grand scheme of US politics.

When the right-wing Spanish government led by Mariano Rajoy brought forward plans to introduce €600,000 fines for people participating in "unauthorised" public protests, they gave the 15-M movement a huge incentive to legitimise themselves as an official political party.

The rise of Podemos

Since Podemos was formed in March 2014, the party has experienced an unprecedented rise in popularity. In May 2014, just two months after it was formed, Podemos took 8% of the vote in the European elections to bag 5 MEPs (that's two more than the Green Party managed in the UK, despite the UK having 73 European Parliament seats to Spain's 54).

One area in which Podemos is utterly dominating Spanish politics is in the online sphere. The Podemos Facebook page has picked up over 950,000 followers, which is more than the pages of all of the other political parties in Spain combined!

In the space of a single year Podemos has gone from a party that did not even exist, to one that is regularly topping the opinion polls. It seems likely that the winner of the 2015 Spanish General Election will either be Podemos or the ruling right-wing PP (a party even more corrupt and right-wing than the Tories!).

The rise of Podemos has relegated the traditional left-wing party PSOE to third place in the polls, which is hardly surprising, because just like the Labour Party in the UK and PASOK in Greece, they've completely abandoned their socialist roots in order to push a disgusting concoction of orthodox right-wing economics and pseudo-socialist sweeteners. The rise of parties like Podemos in Spain and SYRIZA in Greece are a direct consequence of established so-called socialist parties forgetting that they're socialists, and pushing a right-wing economic agenda in the hope that their supporters won't notice.

Pablo's appeal

Pablo Iglesias is clearly the most important factor in the rise of Podemos. There's something about the man that makes him seem engaging and trustworthy, but it's quite difficult to explain exactly what it is. With his ponytail and scruffy beard he stands out a mile from the Spanish political class, and the down-to-earth engaging language he uses is totally different to the heavily scripted utterances of so many of his political rivals.

One of the things that counts in his favour is that he has a lot of media experience. This is valuable for two main reasons. Firstly he knows how the media works, so he can use it to his advantage, and secondly people are familiar with him from the TV show La Tuerka and his numerous media appearances as an insightful political analyst.

Even though his background is unmistakably that of a left-wing academic, he's somehow managed to position himself as the voice of the ordinary people. One of the ways in which he has managed to achieve this is by talking openly about the historic failures of the left, and explaining that the traditional language and symbolism of the left is worthless, because it does not speak to the ordinary person. Thus the left needs to reinvent itself as a tool to allow people to regain power over their own lives.

I think perhaps the best way to explain this appeal is to give you some translated quotes:

"Democracy is about taking power from those who hoard it, and sharing it with everyone."
"In the context of total ideological defeat, where the left has been insulted and criminalised; and where the right controls all mass media - in order to win, the left needs to stop being a religion and it needs to become a tool for the people. It needs to become the people."
"If the right to information is an actual right, you can't let all of the big media groups in this country be controlled by a few multi-millionaires."
"The enemy wants us small with a language that nobody understands, wants us as a minority, wants us refuged in our traditional symbols. He is delighted because he knows that in this way, we aren't a danger."
"Most people are against capitalism, but they don't know it. Most people support feminism without having studied it. When you see a father doing the dishes or playing with his daughter, or when you see a grandfather teaching his grandson that he should share his toys, in those things there are more social transformations than in all of the red flags that you take to your demonstrations."
Another way to illustrate this appeal that Pablo Iglesias has, is to share a copy of the Pablo Iglesias rap which went viral in Spain in early February 2015. The words come from the speech he made to an estimated crowd of 100,000 people who attended the Podemos rally in Madrid on January 31st (the translation and image selections are by me).

Time for a change

One of the things you soon realise when you talk to ordinary Spanish people is that they understand that austerity is not working and that it's time for a change. The sentiment I've heard from ordinary Spanish people the most often is that that it's better to go with a new party with next to no experience of running the country, than to stick with the old establishment parties that have a wealth of experience, but only experience of running the country into the ground.

This public recognition that a significant change of direction is needed is reflected in the fact that Podemos lead the direct voting intentions (people who say they will definitely vote for a certain party) by a huge margin, and the number of Spaniards saying they have little or no confidence in the current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has rocketed to 85.9%.

With youth unemployment still above 50% and general unemployment still above 20% after over three years of austerity imposed by Rajoy's corruption riddled government, the opportunity is there for Pablo Iglesias to lead a peaceful bloodless revolution. He claims that he wants to win an outright majority for Podemos in the forthcoming General Election (which would be within two years of the party being founded), but even if he falls just short of a majority, there would be several smaller parties including the United Left Party, the Citizens' Party and several regional parties that would be vying to help Podemos make up the numbers, rather than face the damaging ordeal of being the "human shield party" to prop up another four years of Mariano Rajoy's sickening brand of austerity and corruption.

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