George Monbiot’s parents are in fact staunch Conservatives. Party loyalists, functionaries even. Which is fun because he seems to be finding out that at least part of the Conservative ideology – the Burkean part – has teeth to it:
It was a classic insulation scam. The conman had targeted a vulnerable elderly person, discovered a nonexistent damp problem in the loft, and claimed his product would solve it. In reality, it was useless and dangerous, more likely to cause damp than to remedy it. He had brought a card reader in his briefcase, and extracted the money on the spot.
It was pure luck that the victim knew an investigative journalist. By the time I rang the scammer, I’d discovered enough to put the fear of God into him. A few minutes into our conversation, he panicked and started telling me everything, including the name of the aggregation agency he uses, which collects the phone numbers of vulnerable people, rings them, probes their weak points and then puts them in touch with the appropriate predator, who pays a fee for the service.
As soon as the call finished, he repaid the money.
Well, that is good, isn’t it? The little platoons spring into action, the hue and cry is raised, matters are resolved.
When I mentioned this case on social media, I was inundated with similar stories: of people running into a wall of unaccountable, opaque bureaucracy when they tried to report the theft of their money. Builders who abscond with deposits, travel companies failing to provide refunds, scammers registering cars in another person’s name and racking up fines, fake letting agents, predatory landlords, crooks selling phoney electronics, phishing outfits: all may now steal with impunity because the systems that were meant to stop them have fallen over. Those who fail to reclaim their money find there is no recourse. If you snatch someone’s bag, you might feel the hand of the law on your shoulder; if you empty their bank account, you have little to fear. So guess where the crims are directing their efforts.
Government is entirely shite at solving the same problems.
Hmm, now, is this a story about how we must have more enforced sollective action through government? Or we should have more voluntary collective action between ourselves, between the companies and regiments of the citizenry?
Get the answer right George and who knows, Christmas lunch might be a little less fraught in the future.