Jolted by Minnie, the curvaceous but now flustered compere, Professor Cabb blinked and came to life again.
“Ah yes. Ladies and gentlemen. Therefore, as I was saying a moment ago, the challenge of the economy is to ensure that the masses have something to offer to the holders of capital in exchange for food. Without that the economy will crumble.
“Now, how can this be done? How can we persuade Mr Thistle, basking in his great wealth, to produce food for us all? In the past it was done by fooling Mr Thistle that he needed this and that, and it was worth his while to put in a day’s work to produce the extra lettuce or carrot. But we cannot fool any longer.
“Still, the old days give us a clue as to the economic essence. The essence is belief. Belief is the motor of economic activity beyond the essential. The sorcerers managed to create a belief in the mind of Mr Thistle that speed was important, that convenience was important, that a huge television screen was important,” (the crowd roared with laughter) … “that holidaying in the sun was important,” (“Shame”, cried the crowd) … “that working ten or twelve hours a day was important,” (“Never!”) … Then Professor Cabb paused. There was silence in the arena. “Or even more.” The crowd gasped.
“Thus the sorcerers created and nurtured a belief in the mind of Mr Thistle about what was essential to be a man, to be a recognised member of his society. And those who could provide him with the apparels for achieving this were engaged by him and thus able to feed themselves. Those who had nothing to offer this economy wandered the dark streets of London and fed themselves from scraps they found in bins, and stole what they could from unguarded shops.
“So even as capitalism had begun to crumble, its experts realised that belief was its sole driver. You have to create a belief in the minds of people to motivate them beyond the simple biological forces of hunger and sexual urge. The stronger the belief, the more vibrant the economy. But a society with weak belief will have a flaccid economy.”
“What better example of economy by belief than a man in our midst, Telford’s own Gregory Gloom!” [Note: General Secretary of the Telford Astrological Association] (A huge cheer went round the stadium). “He is fed because he creates beliefs in the minds of his clients, beliefs about the future; what better than selling beliefs that your clients want to believe?”
Professor Cabb drank deeply from a jar of Shropshire Gold which Minnie had discreetly placed on his lectern. The finest ale for many miles around. So fine that it was exempted from the Local Food Orders, and it could be transported fifteen miles from the town of Shrewsbury all the way to Telford. For special events, that is.
He continued. “Now why is belief so important? Because the alternative is most awful. Consider, again Mr Thistle. There he resides up in Cumberland, vast estates and fabulous food producing technology. How can we persuade him to produce food for everyone else? We must give him something to believe in so that he willingly engages in the economy. Otherwise why should he work?
“The socialists tried redistribution of wealth by taxation, and when that failed, expropriation and theft.” (“Bastards!” came a shout from the audience.) “The church deployed guilt – but a tithe wasn’t enough to pay for all our lost causes.” (“Mea culpa!” cried a voice.)
“And so the later capitalists discovered belief. Rather than using coercion and guilt to redistribute, they inspired us with belief. Their dream was a vibrant society of entrepreneurs, themselves instilled with belief and adept at spreading belief to their customers. And how we thrived! Our economies just grew and grew. Yet all human things corrupt in the end. That belief was corrupted into narcissism, and commerce became indistinguishable from consumerism – and wealth was redistributed by persuading Mr Thistle that he must consume, like an insatiable Gargantua, every conceivable convenience, titillation, fancy and luxury that the wildest imagination can conjure up. The waste mountains which litter our countryside and the parched sands of The South bear witness to those folly-some days.
In the heat Professor Cabb loosened his tie. Minnie refilled his glass and Cabb took another drink of Gold.
[to be continued]