Karōshi (過労死) is the Japanese term, introduced in 1978, for “overwork death”. The death of people whose lives are literally consumed by working. Utagawa Kuniyoshi was an Ukiyo-e ( 浮世絵: Floating World) Artist – the last great master, according to some – who produced remarkable woodcuts ranging from satire to Cats suggested as The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō. His career survived bans on Ukiyo-e and the shifting politics of modernising Japan. Defying the Skeleton Spectre shows a mythical episode where the emperor’s official, Mitsukuni, comes to search for conspirators in Shimōsa Province; The historical Princess Takiyasha, daughter of Taira no Masakado, set up an “Eastern Court” in competition with the Emperor. The rebellion was suppressed. The myth grew from history into something more than a statement of events: death is part of power. Death is how the Powerful know they are powerful. Death is a Cult.
The need of any Cult is for a regular affirmation of their Power. With a Death Cult that is achieved, quite simply, by deaths. Each death is a sign that the Death Cult does, truly, have Power, yet each death also reduces the number of Cultists. The Tory Death Cult has solved this problem by only bringing death down upon political opponents. Thus increasing the proportion of the Cult in society. Gerrymandering by life expectancy. The simplicity of the approach is this: ensure that Poverty impacts your political opponents.
Homes for votes was a scandal involving Westminster City Council in London beginning in 1986. In essence, the Conservative Party undertook a course of action described as “wilful misconduct” and “disgraceful and improper gerrymandering” by the District Auditor in 1996. The policy was judged to have cost the Council at least £36m – as reflected in the fines placed onto former Council Leaders. The final report about the scandal was published in 2004 and the “line was drawn beneath the affair” in 2009 with a formal apology:
“What she did was wrong, illegal, and we are unreservedly sorry. […] Our policies today bear no relation to her regime. These are not just words, we are acting on this and I want people to judge us by our deeds, not history.”
Colin Barrow, leader of Westminster City Council,
27 November 2009
While the political scandal is of interest, what is of more interest is the mechanisms involved. Organisations like Wikipedia feel the need to distance themselves from anything other than The description of facts that Wikipedia repeats are claimed to be “as printed in the decision of the Judicial Appealate Committee of the House of Lords of the Westminster Parliament in Porter v Magill  2 AC 357.” Things that are repeated under absolute privilege are repeated under a legal doctrine that, when it applies, renders irrelevant that a defendant has acted with malice, knew information was false or acted solely to damage the reputation of the plaintiff. Which highlights the utter importance of both reputation to Politicians but also the Cultist’s tendency to “defend” itself by any means necessary, including litigation.
The basic mechanisms of the Gerrymandering was to sell council houses to people who were more likely to vote for the Conservative Party and to move people who were less likely to vote Conservative out of Westminster. The outcome was to seek to shift the political balance in marginal wards in order to return Conservative Councillors. As councils outside of Westminster noticed that demand on the social services they were providing was rising due to people moving from Westminster, it became harder to shift people out of Westminster. In response, Westminster Council rehoused homeless people into Labour safe seats. In 1990, the Conservatives were re-elected by a landslide victory in Westminster, increasing their majority from 4 to 38.
The Homes for Votes policy was possible, in part, because the Conservative Party had access to data about the demography of Westminster that extended to the political demography. This was not, strictly, what Big Data advocates recognise as Big Data but it was certainly part of Big Data. In 1986 the Data Protection Act (1984) had just created the notion that Data is valuable. Indeed, it was so quickly recognised that Data is valuable that Credit Reference Agencies and Financial Services companies sought, and recieved, exemption from some Data Protection Act controls.
The reality was that it had become possible to analyse what if we… scenarios because of access to volumes of data. The progress from the Little Data of the 1980s to the Big Data of the 2010s has not been progress towards greater democracy based on knowing more about the world but of greater control because Big Data enables the development of policies that achieve the same as the Homes for Votes Scandal without the embarassment of prosecution. It has become possible to consider what if we… as a routine part of policy development and for that what if we… consideration to also take into account the consequences of those scenarios and how to mitigate problems such as prosecution.
The key is Nudge. The cure-all formula for unpopular policies. The Libertarian Paternalist way of getting people to make the right choices without them ever knowing – according to Nudge Evangelists. While there are lots of critiques of Nudge Theory in terms of political and social impact, there is less comment on what Nudge needs to work such as Choice architectures. Choice architecture is the design of variant means of choices presentation to consumers. The impact of that presentation on decision-making is evaluated to improve the Choice architecture. The number of choices presented, the manner of choice attributes description and the presence of a “default” all influence consumer choice. The entire approach is based on access to data. Nudge Theory is locked into Big Data. The same Big Data that developed from the 1980s Small Data. The same Big Data that allows consumer goods to be sold to People as Consumers now allows policies to be sold to the Electorate as Consumers. The idea that the Electorate are People being, in that process, handily conflated with the idea that it is Choice that is the sole criterion of what is good for the Consumer – and hence the Electorate and so the People. The chain of reasoning is unquestionable because it is both logical and supported by the data.
The promotion of choice as an overarching good – that is, an outcome that is tangible and beneficial – removes the need for decision. In this respect, a Choice architecture shifts the power to make rational decisions away from the Person and vests it in the Choice Architect. This shift is the same shift of power that was taking place in Westminster: the voting was free and democratic but the Gerrymandering rendered those choices non-decisive as the Gerrymandered Wards of the Local Authority were designed to ignore choices against Conservatives by putting Labour Voters into Labour Safe Wards and to amplify choices in favour of Conservatives by putting Conservative Voters into Marginal Wards. The Choice architecture as a model of interacting with Electors facilitates the The Tory Karōshi Cult.
Calling a Political Party a Death Cult is harsh comment; to refine that to a Karōshi Cult is a good deal more exact. It is pointing at the Tory Party and making it clear that the intention is not simple, brute, senseless killing but death as a side effect of working. Working to death is a choice not a decision. Karōshi is not simply something enforced from above but chosen by the Worker after being cultivated by the Tory Party. It is the same tactic as any totalitarian with a labour camp has employed throughout the Twentieth Century.
In developing the Tory Karōshi Cult from the Tory Death Cult, the Evangelists of Austerity have followed the same pattern of Cult behaviour as other, more traditional, Cults. The building of a Choice architecture that can be presented to the whole of Society as a rational reform of society, began with deception by a self appointed, sovereign, leadership; whose cultic manipulation, structural mystifications, false justifications, repression of dissent, and monopoly of information has sought a radical transformation of personal behaviour. This has done little except create chronic and acute psychological deterioration of public mental health and life expectancy. While others have commented on the Political Gaslighting the truth is that there is more than simply gaslighting: fundamentally Politics has been reduced to the level of a Cult. A death cult.
The systematic deception: conservatism was presented, externally, as traditional associations meaning becoming involved as a result of fully-informed consent was never really possible. Elections provide the Cult with an opportunity to present a Democratic Mandate as being a decisive, acceptable reason for individuals being deprived of autonomous consent. The deception grew from 2010 onwards . The normalisation of the perception of all politicians as liars enabled Austerity to be presented, simultaneously, as both a choice and a necessity because one liar is as acceptable as the next and so why not keep the traditional liars instead of embarking on a new set of liars. When the World Health Organisation indicated that Austerity would result in rises in mortality, it was dismissed as being too soon to say rather than a lie. The significant Paper, “Growth in a Time of Debt”, by Reinhart and Rogoff promised that it was orthodox economics to be able to cut your way to growth. This was pushed forwards by the Conservatives even after the entire Paper was debunked.
The process of creating a sense of fear about out groups began as far back as 2010 – and before. The fear of out groups began before them with the demonisation of the Unemployed – “hugging a hoodie” as though it was a dangerous thing to do. The presentation of people as either Skivers or Strivers created a divide: sides that people must choose. This established conditions for people accepting choices instead of making decisions. In a democracy, this is not necessary but the idea of electing a Self-appointed sovereign leadership needs choices not decisions. This leadership was instigated and controlled by one or more psychologically dominant individuals holding themselves accountable to no one – the career sociopaths of the Tory Party. This kind of leadership was deemd a better way to run the country than having Blair step down in favour of Brown – which was deemed “undemocratic” by the same career sociopaths. The dissembling and mental gymnastics required to pretend that the Conservatives electing Theresa May or Boris Johnson are any different to Brown is instructive. It underpins the notion that the Conservatives have some kind of sovereignty and right to determine who are legitimate political leaders – even in other parties – and establishes cognitive dissonance as the normal state of political life under the Tories.
The impressive, names, ranks, and titles, invented by the Conservatives, both before and after The Coalition permitted Mininsters to overtly claim moral and intellectual authority whilst pursuing covert objectives. Departments such as the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) was formed by combining staff from the Cabinet Office’s Europe Unit, the Europe Directorate of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the United Kingdom’s Permanent Representation to the EU, and retains a right to staff from other government departments as necessary, were not part of any election manifesto but became deemed to derive from the implied sovereignty of ministers. The perpetuation of new Department names in The Coalition began the connection of the deceptions of Austerity with the covert desire to radically change human nature to make the polity amenable to a “Conservative”: so that Society would have a default setting for conservatism.
The voting record of The Coalition implying some kind of cross-party support. When Skivers and Strivers were mentioned it was no longer just the Conservatives but, apparently, everybody. Frequently the DWP would claim that policies were created by the previous, Labour, Government. While this was technically true for a number of policies it would be debatable if, for example, the Work Programme was the same as the previous Future Jobs Fund. Fundamentally, the focus changed from Welfare to Employment through a process of pseudo-scientific mystification that make unsustained claims about work as being good for you. The blame culture of The Coalition established the kind of treatment that people without access to a Minster could expect.
Cultists seek to overwhelm their adherents emotionally and intellectually by providing progressive initiation into privileged postions in regard to secret – esoteric – knowledge that pretends authenticity dependent on unconditional deference to the authority of higher initiates. The idea that work is good for you stems from the well founded finding of Positive Psychology that meaningful activity is good for you and that, for some people, work provides a meaningful activity. Presenting this knowledge as a conservative “finding” offers exclusive, secure, utopian redemption conditional on total belief in the specific form of redemption: work will, somehow, set you free from some unspecified impediment. Failure to achieve redemption is a fault of of belief of character in the individual unredeemed. Even the language to describe the process has a well honed tone of religiousity.
The cultic pseudo-science is essentially hypnotic induction peddled in multitudinous ways with impressive jargon that panders to the zeitgeist. In the case of the The Tory Karōshi Cult that zeitgeist became a mixture of pop psychology peddled at the Electorate backed up by academically rigorous findings such as Asch Conformity Experiments, Milgram’s Experiment and a range of other well documented social psychology experiments exploring how people are persuaded to behave in predictable ways for very little effort. Cults seek or manufacture moment of vulnerabilities to facilitate belief in cultic pseudo-science that is, ultimately, incomprehensible with unquantifiable benefits. The dissonance between the Pop Science and the Academic Science depends on the Dunning-Kruger Effect: giving people enough information about a subject for them to believe themselves to be more skilled than they are. The top-down Dunning-Krugerisation of the DWP resulted in Cultists convinced their personal salvation depends on saving others and that the esoteric knowledge imparted by the Behavioural Influence Unit (The Nudge Unit) was the key to that. That knowledge was a simple manipulation: Employment has esoteric health and wellbeing properties.
The employment of coordinated techniques of social and psychological persuasion that are intended to advance the covert objectives of the leaders by inculcating an infantile dependence on the group, to the detriment of existing social relationships could easily be the limit of the manipulation nudged forwards by the Behavioural Influence Unit, however The Tory Karōshi Cult needed to push further than simply changing attitudes for a single term of office. Institutionalising a system of subversions to create the illusion of exercising free will carried on from simply telling the world that all people are either Skivers or Strivers. The process has been to normalise the notion that Employment – an economic power relationship where the Employer has unquestioned power – has remarkable, magical properties.
Existing beliefs and instinctual desires being subverted by Housing the Homeless in Labour Safe Seats and Selling Council Houses in Marginal Seats is not unknown to the Tory Party. The long term change desired was a shift from a Country believing in helping others to one where physical deprivations were normalised. For example, scarcity of food embodied in Food Banks; repetitive, ritualised activities facilitating the elimination of critical and evaluative faculties embodied in the labyrinthine exploitation of Welfare Procedures such as Work Capability Assessments; and de-normalising fully-informed consent is embodied in the Sanctions Regime. Sleep and rest deprivation is normalised with things such as zero hour contracts where only skivers are not available twenty four hours a day for deferal to the powers of an Employer through the magical powers of Employment. The corollary of this being that non-Employment work – caring, housework, voluntary activities – are viewed as luxuries: idleness is a heresy.
The Tory Karōshi Cult does not enforce a strict, static, regime but a constantly changing set of requirements that promoted radical changes of personality and behaviour. The dualistic, narrative that had been cascaded out to the DWP and became the Cultist’s model of reality has been pushed onto the Unemployed: constraining them to modify their individual personalities and behaviour to conform to that reality despite the very real knowledge that it is something to do with work being good for you and little more. This lack of information – both about what is expected and what the purpose of the expectation is – epitomises the Monopoly of information that the Tory Karōshi Cult has created. The monopoly of information is a crucial element of the Tory Karōshi Cult when Big Data is considered.
The DWP has, for almost a decade, been seeking control of all information entering Cultists’ and Observers’ minds. The repetitive Parliamentary Questions and disciplining of the DWP with respect to statistical releases is part of that problem. The death of more than 120,000 people while involved with the Benefits Process has been a long, drawn out, adversarial enquiry that has been stretched out over years. The sinister aspect of that enquiry is quite simply that all that has been asked is how many people died. There has been no detail about circumstances and that has been, in a large part because the DWP has been controlling the release of information. Not only keeping control of data releases but doing so in a way that is adversarial to the National Audit Office and to the Electorate. To admit how many people have died, of if people have died at all, relinquishes part of the power that the DWP requires to function.
Constant denigration of external sources of information is normalised in cults in general as is mantra repetition of the official Departmental – or cultic – opinion. Isolation of adherents from free-thinking individuals is normalised, by th DWP, as with any other Cult. The condemnation and exclusion of the free-thinking individuals and any quantifiable evidence challenging the authenticity of the DWP statistical release perpetuates scenarios of control. The result is equally as corrosive within the DWP as outside as Cultists they habitually communicate internally using jargon – such as mandatory review or Work Coach. This in-language makes communication increasingly difficult, if not impossible, with outside group. Those outside the DWP become doomed and a threat to redemption through Employment. As such, there is an inherent suspicion of any Claimant. No longer on the basis of being a skiver but on the basis of being an Outsider. The impact of Austerity on unemployment benefits has been to transform the process from one of safety net or temporary respite into a systematic process of becoming existentially employed: making the purpose of life become seeking and retaining employment. This is a subtle distinction from either work or meaningful activities. Employment is a specific relationship which the Tory Karōshi Cult see as a justification for both the treatment given to other people and for existence itself.
The false justification of employment – entering into a contract with someone for them to obtain the benefits of your labour in return for payment is sufficient justification for entering into a contract… – is a core belief of the Tory Karōshi Cult. Without that belief reality would dictate that people could enter and leave economic relationships as a decision arrived at by deliberation not a choice presented as a fait accompli. This The core-group of adherents to the Tory Karōshi Cult have gradually dissociated from external reality and reformed into fanatics increasingly dependent on a collective paranoid delusion of absolute moral and intellectual supremacy: that work sets you free. These fanatics find it impossible to empathise with non-adherents and can, for example, move along Stantons Ten Stages of Genocide without critical engagement or reflection. The escalation from skivers to treasons takes little effort because Employment provides all that is needed to justify the treatment, for their own good. Which is simply the internalisation of the Choice architecture of Austerity.
The structural mystification that cults indulge in, where instigators organize the continuous creation and dissolution of independent organisations to isolate themselves from liability, have become normalised within the Tory Karōshi Cult. Under the guise of Randomised Control Trials – a legitimate experimental technique in psychology – the Tory Karōshi Cult constantly shifts the relationship between State and Citizen. These continuous creations present low-level challenges to the General Population by segmenting them into citizens, subjects, electorate, claimants and so on. Spreading changes rapidly by gossip mechanisms the Tory Karōshi Cult both isolate those outside the cult and, at the same time, allows the leaders to acquire control of finance which provides stability to the Cult for the Leaders not the Followers and certainly not for the General Population. This bait and switch between change and finance is dependent on the capacity for Government to have access to Money on a whim providing there is an accepted explanation.
Ultimately the outcome for the Tory Karōshi Cult is chronic psychological deterioration symptoms: long-term adherents of destructive cults are psychotic. This chronic psychological deterioration has been transmitted to society at large and becomes the new normal. Personally destructive behaviour is normalised in a society where authoritarian leaders pass down decisions in arbitrary, secretive and self-serving ways. Breaking away from a Cult renders individuals destitute and dissociated from previous social contacts. Recovering former adherents suffer depression, guilt, grief, shame, fear, anger, embarrassment, and develop dependency, retarded intellectual development, suicidal ideation, panic, and extreme identity confusion. These symptoms facilitate repetition of Cult Membership. This has become normalised within society: homelessness, foodbanks, cyclic sanctions and the endless need for Austerity being rooted in the just world hypothesis: that a person’s noble actions are rewarded and ignoble actions punished because that is the way the world is. This is the final hook of the Tory Karōshi Cult that enables the repression of all dissent: the leaders of the most-dangerous destructive cults are megalomaniacal psychopaths and the Tory Karōshi Cult are not really different to, say Jim Jones in Guyana.
The Tory Karōshi Cult have embraced, and become addicted to, Big Data in order to achieve their ends. Unlike Westminster Council, the Tory Karōshi Cult have access to data for the whole country. It is no longer simply a matter of “Home owners in, Homeless out”. With Big Data it is entirely possible to segment society on the basis of a range of dimensions. Which is Big Data Jargon for splitting up a group of people into mutually exclusive (isolated) groups – the old fashioned divide and rule in shiny new words – and ensuring those groups have similar needs and wants. That provides the basis for tailoring nudges to the whole of society via segments. Those nudges, however motivated in 2010, have become increasingly embedded into the worldview of the Karōshi element of the Tory Cult. That Karōshi element articulates employment is a noble action for those who are unable to impose Austerity. The divergence of pay increase between Workers and Board Members illustrates that polarisation.
This is not a subtle idea. This is, quite simply, Class War by means of marketing: that those in charge determine how society is meant to be and then impose it by editing reality around everybody. While this kind of statement would have been delusional and paranoid in the 1980s, the advent of Big Data and the reliance on interacting with Big Data that has become normalised. Disengagement from Social Big Data has cease to be possible for the majority, making reality very much a social reality that can be edited. The editing of reality is a continuous, crowdsourced, project that has become dependent on Big Data. The Data of the 1980s was collected. The Big Data of the 2010s is both collected and fed back.
One of the most talked about feedback loops for Big Data are Dark Adverts on social media. These are advertising targeted specifically at a very narrow demographic. While a lot of social statistics talk about social classes ABCDE, Dark Adverts are more narrowly focused. Not only are social classes part of the segmentation but so are psychological attributes. The Big Five personality traits (OCEAN: openness, concientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism) are a reasonably reliable way to discuss personality and Big Data allows that information to be discovered. Doing online quizzes and personality tests is one way the data can be gathered but, because the Big Five are about behaviours, it is possible to infer that someone who scores highly for Conscientiousness is more likely to possess a conservative outlook; while, someone who scores highly for Openness to Experience is likely to have a left-leaning ideology; and, someone who scores highly for the traits of Agreeableness, Extroversion, or Neuroticism reveals the strength of their relationship to conservative or left-leaning politics. This information is normally associated with social media Dark Adverts but equally can be applied to the relationship between Claimants and the DWP: because the same kinds of information are exchanged.
In an age of Big Data it is possible to design nudges based on very narrow criteria. The flurry of Boris Johnson adverts, all very similar, that were seen just after his election within the Tory Party, highlight how Big Data gathers information to influence very narrow demographics. The same as the Westminster Council approach of targetting marginals with council houses, Dark Adverts seek to target, say, Open people or Concientious people: Boris has excellent ideas or Boris is not interested in abstractions could be targetted at people to see if they are Open; Boris is always prepared or Boris gives attention to his duties identifying concientious people. Imagine the value of being able to target a benefits claimant who is concientious with the idea of being as prepared as Boris; or, indeed, be prepared for work or trust your new ideas for finding work. The potential for the Tory Karōshi Cult to make work conditional on being concientious and for sanctioning those who fail to be compliant is immense.
The outcome of the Tory Karōshi Cult in the DWP is an unhealthily skewed imperative for Claimants to be nudged towards a concientious employment relationship or self employment if they are open to new experiences. The fundamental nudge being to refocus personality traits into employment traits. Life becomes defined, increasingly narrowly, as an outcome of Employment. Which is little more than the processes described for Cults in general. What is more profound is the shift away from employment as a means to an end and the creation of Employment as an end in itself. This Employment as an end in itself is both facilitated and driven by Big Data. It also has consequences far beyond working age policies.
Big Data has shown a consistent rise in life expectancy since the end of World War II. Indeed, data has shown a consistent rise in life expectancy since the introduction of vaccinations in the early Nineteenth century or the spread of sanitation in the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries. This rise in life expectancy reversed with the current Government. The clear evidence of two centuries of data is that Government Policy translates to life expectancy. The increase in life expectancy accelerated – the increase became faster – with the shift to a National Health Service. Government policy since 2010 can be said to have reversed that increase – without being specific about one policy or another. What is clear is that the total Ideological Project of the Government since 2010 has reduced life expectancy.
The National Audit Office, which has been in regular conflict with the DWP regarding the presentation and interpretation of statistics, has international obligations in respect of the collection and presentation of information. These obligations lead to statistical presentations that are not intented to favour any particular party. This approach to statistics began in Sweden in 1749, with the publication of national population statistics, and developed into a world wide system of information gathering and presentation that brings tangible benefits across Europe, Africa, Asia and significant parts of the Americas. The international approach to statistics favours an open and enquiring approach to information which is distinct and in opposition to the closed system the DWP has been accused of using. One of the regular sources of conflict has been about the interpretation of statistical releases.
The DWP has repeatedly reframed and restated statistics, to the point of lying, in order to promote a specific world view. This world view places Employment at the centre of social existence. Primarily this Employment centred view of the world has affected people of working age. The deaths of 130,000 people have been a scandal that should not be understated, however this scandalous outcome of policy is simply the outcome of seeking to reframe the world into terms of Employment where contracts establish the only legitimate social relationships. The is evidently, statistically, corrosive in the working age population; but, Big Data, extends beyond the working age.
The National Audit Office has, increasingly, been making statements about life expectancy. Decreases in life expectancy at birth have been seen in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and in England life expectancy has remained unchanged from 2014 to 2016. This slowing in improvements in life expectancy is reflected in the chances of surviving to age 90 years – a key age for demographers – from birth, which has also seen virtually no improvement since 2012 to 2014. Since The Coalition came to power, life expectancy has declined. The same sort of decline has been seen in places where sustained economic shocks occur. This is not to claim that Austerity causes a decrease in life expectancy but that Austerity is part of a network of policies that do.
Frequently associations between cause and effect are difficult to discern. Big Data has a range of techniques – reliable statistical techniques – that can help to understand if action X causes outcome Y. In statistics this is the transformation of correlation into causation. In a statistical world, correlation is not causation and getting from correlation to causation requires disciplined application of those techniques. Statisticians like to remind people that “correlation is not causation”. This can be illustrated by the difference between a court decision that a murderer did, in fact, commit a murder based on witness testimonies, that may even include eye witness testimony; and, a statistical evaluation of the evidence. That evidence which cannot be coded for mathematical analysis becomes irrelevant to the statistical and the result could be that a legal decision is opposed to a statistical decision.
The point being that Big Data can be pursued as an almost purely statistical exercise. Which can result in distinct variations from reality. When someone claims that “austerity causes higher mortality”, the statistical response, “the causes of the higher mortality rates are not well understood, but are likely to be complex”, allows the Big Data advocate to dismiss the claim, in effect by saying: we cannot analyse the data statistically and so the conclusion cannot be made. Which is fallacious reasoning, at best. What is clear is that the National Audit Office is documenting the statistical experience of a Country experiencing Austerity. Simply because Big Data cannot analyse that statistically does not mean it is untrue. Indeed all it means is that statistics has limitations as a methodology.
The truth is that Big Data is not simply statistics on large volumes of data. It also encompasses techniques for searching data. This can involve programming, mathematics, social science, artificial intelligence and real world experience. In terms of the National Audit Office criticising the DWP use of statistics, the critiques are part of Big Data. The pursuit of Big Data as a purely statistical exercise is not what the National Audit Office does. When the National Audit Office provides a statistical release that states “life expectancy has ceased rising” then it is not simplistically a statistic but an Audit of Public Policy. Regardless of the professional caution of Statisticians, the National Audit Office is stating facts. In the same way as facts can be presented to a court.
The National Audit Office, like the District Auditor before them, is equipped to analyse the kind of changes taking place in demography. The finding that life expectancy is shorter now than it was a decade ago is presented as though it is a single number. This is the kind of understanding that was cutting edge in the 1980s when the Data Protection Act was creating the notion that information has value. The same notion of information having value that was demonstrated in the Homes for Votes Scandal and the same notion that runs through the treatment of information by the DWP. The detail, concealed by the single number is that life expectancy is different across the entire country. Life expectancy varies by Electoral Ward.
Which leads to the findings of Imperial College London that the gap between Rich men and Poor men is ten years of extra life for men and eight years of extra life for women. Which leads to the notion of some kind of market segmentation of the Electorate by Ward and Sex. This kind of analysis also leads to analysis by “Employed v. Not-Employed”. Which is a pedantically precise way of saying, “all of those people who are employed and everyone else regardless of who they are”. In those terms, Schoolchildren are in the same group as Unemployed, Housewives, Disabled, Retired, Self Employed and some Independently Wealthy people. The segmentation is placing some of the “greatest strivers” with the “greatest skivers” which, for ideological purposes, is self defeating for conservatives. It sends a confusing message about the Unemployed and Independently Wealthy. For marketing purposes, however, it enables the Tory Karōshi Cult to identify an opportunity to lock a large number of people into the Cult.
The Retirement Age defines when people cease being Employed and become Respectably Unemployed. It is a transition to economic activity that has worth and is respected by society in general. It is also a time where life long investment – the pension – is paid out. The profits made on pensions generally accrue to organisations such as Hedge Funds and Insurance Companies under the catch all name of Pension Fund. The Pension Fund can only extract profit for Current Shareholders, as distinct from Future Pensioners, while people are working and putting contributions into the fund. The reality of pensions is that, globally there is a “crisis”. The Support Ratio – the number of Workers to Retirees – is declining, and has been for decades. This is blamed on people living longer. The Support Ratio has fallen from 4.3 in 1970 to 3.6 between 1970 and 2010. This means that for every one pensioner there used to be 4.3 Workers and now there are 3.6 – and that decline in the absolute number of Workers has been cited as the cause of the Pensions Crisis. A Statistician might be inclined to say that is a correlation rather than causation. The Gini Coefficient – a measure of income inequality – also rose over the period 1970 and 2010 from 26% to 35%, showing that the United Kingdom became more unequal over that period. This is the Big Data approach: asking if the rise in inequality is actually a causal factor in the Pensions Crisis.
The rise in inequality shown by the Gini Coefficient demonstrates the difference between the lowest paid person and the highest paid person in an economy with a weighting for the number of low and high paid people. The closer it remains, over time, to zero the more likely the economy distributes growth and wealth equally. The total value of United Kingdom Pension Funds have grown from £1Tr to £3Tr between 2000 and 2017. The change in Gini Coefficient suggest that the profit taking from Pension Funds might, in fact, be equally plausible as a causal factor in the Pensions Crisis. The extraction of profit in the current financial period being necessary to the growth of Shareholder value but also dependent on the continued growth of the value flowing into the funds. That flow of value could have come from growing populations paying the same amount or falling populations paying an increased amount. The increase in inequality prevented the increase of contributions and so the crisis arose because of excess profit taking. This narrative is equally as plausible, from a Big Data perspective, as the orthodox hypothesis of living too long.
The Pensions Crisis has focused political imagination on longevity and that has focused the Hedge Funds and Pension Funds on the desire to make greater profits. The solution of making people work longer – raising the retirement age – makes a brute commercial sense. Politically this interlocks with the Tory Karōshi Cult: making the right people work longer will provide a political shift away from the imagined centre of British Politics towards the Right. This imagined shift is the same kind of Gerrymandering that Westminster Council undertook: ensuring the correct people are in the correct places to achieve the kind of election results that would keep the Tory Party in power. The Tory Karōshi Cult not only benefits from positive electoral benefits but gets to impose a new vision of human nature onto the world.
The distribution of life expectancies averages at about 80.8 years. Raising the pension age to 75 should, on average, give pensioners a pension for 5.8 years. The average pension in the UK is about £310 a week – £16,120 or a total pension of £93,496, on average. The Pension Funds, catering for about 12m pensioners, only need to pay out £1.1Tr. That leaves approximately £2Tr for “other purposes”. These are rough calculations made to formulate a Big Data hypothesis rather than as hard and fast numbers. But what they do support is the idea that the increase in inequality is just as plausible as a causal hypothesis for the Pensions Crisis. Which leads to the intuition that the raising of the pension age is more of a convenient policy than a solution to an actual problem.
When the actual distribution of life expectancies is related to Parliamentary Constituencies, there is a clear geographic distinction between Scotland, North and South East constituencies. In the same way that Westminster discovered it was possible to identify how to reorganise the population to get the best electoral result. How to Gerrymander effectively based on Big Data. The idea that Insurance Firms were involved in scandals about Brexit involving data is not a surprise: the Data Protection Act from 1984 onwards has given Insurers exemption from excessive scrutiny of business practices that lead to Gerrymandering of, for example, Car Insurance. The outcome being that Big Data, influenced by Insurance Industry techniques, can identify rewarding policy proposals. For example, raising the Pension age to 75 will give 86% of the expected average pension for a man in Belfast not to the Man but to the pension company. In Glasgow this rises to 129% of the expected average pension. Similar, interlocking, patterns across the country: Kensington and Chelsea get 193% of the pension paid out – which amounts to a net transfer of wealth from Glasgow to Chelsea.
The other element of raising the Pension age is that the places where pensions “pay out more than they keep” are attractive for the Tory Party. Being able to shift the work culture of, say Glasgow, to be a lot of people on Zero Hours Contracts and for those Zero Hours Contracts to extend to a higher retirement age, promotes income for the Insurance Industries but also provides the market segmentation that Big Data would predict would vote Tory. Raising the Retirement Age consolidates an imagined Tory Majority by adjusting demographics. It is a nudge on a vast scale that uses Employment and Austerity as the Choice architecture of a perpetual conservative country.
Evaluating the possibility that this could all be delusional nonsense: well it could be. Big Data and Machine Learning are fashionable and they are useful but they do come with the Statisticians caveat: correlation is not causation. It might well be that the Insurance Industries will profit from a raised retirement age; and, it may well be that the Tory Karōshi Cult would see the entire scenario as being filled with benefits; but, it might well not be true in the sense that the Westminster Homes for Votes Scandal was true. It is, however, given the techniques of Big Data an entirely plausible scenario. The mythical quality of death being part of power is just as relevant and connected.
The lives of people in poverty are, generally, meaningless to the Tory Karōshi Cult which sees them as common stock and a means to whatever end pleases them today. Which is one of the uncomfortable truthes that makes the scenario plausible. There is no guarantee that such a cult exists, but the behaviours, reactive attitudes and principles of cultism do exist in the Tory Party. Much more so now than in the past. The Tory Karōshi Cult is quite happy to sacrifice lives to advance the objective of a Tory World and any tool that gives them a way to dehumanise and distance themselves from the reality of that is a tool that they can be imagined to use. Much the same as Defying the Skeleton Spectre.
Picture: Mitsukuni Defying the Skeleton Spectre Invoked by Princess Takiyasha (1844), Utagawa Kuniyoshi