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50 Years ago: The Snoopers

A furore arose recently in the readers’ letters column of the Daily Mirror, when an article revealed that there were thousands of people employed by Finance Companies whose job it was to snoop into people’s lives, and report on would-be hire purchase customers’ credit reliability ( . . .)

Most people look upon snooping as an unsavoury occupation, but do not see where the real unsavouriness lies. This kind of activity is an essential part of property society, a society which provides even more unsavoury occupations, such as the policeman who breaks strikers' heads with his truncheon, or the soldier mangling workers of other countries. The jobs themselves are not likely to ennoble the characters of the performers, but this is not the main issue. They are carrying out a necessary function of an irrational and harmful social order, and one which exemplifies the sheer idiocy of the social organisation.

What sensible reason can there be for an arrangement whereby some workers produce goods, other workers advertise them, yet more workers arrange them in gaudy shop-windows, more workers fill in hire purchase forms, even more run the complicated accounting and collecting system of the finance companies, some more occupy their time snooping into the buyers' lives, others add up the bosses' profit, a few store it away in bank vaults, and finally, a tiny section of the population live more than comfortably on the proceeds?

Surely a simpler and less wasteful arrangement is called for? Why should a vast number of people have to perform useless and frustrating tasks, in order to satisfy the selfish wishes of a ruling clique? Yet it is working people themselves who perpetuate this foolish system: who do the useless tasks as well as the useful; the unproductive as well as the productive.
The trouble is that the alternative, a world of common ownership and common effort, is frightening in its simplicity. It seems too easy to be true. Nevertheless, true it is. It's as simple as that!

(from an article by A.W.I. in the Socialist Standard, June 1959)