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Back to the future

Over 1,000 years ago, some people believed the Earth was flat, at the centre of the universe and all the stars and planets rotated around it.

Then, 500 years ago, the exquisitely crafted models that mapped the wondrous celestial state were blown to bits by a chap called Galileo. Despite threats of excommunication and worse, his thinking prevailed and forms the basis of our understanding of astronomy today.

Around 300 years ago, if you were taken ill, highly skilled physicians would be called and you would be bled and administered noxious and often toxic substances until, generally, you died.

More recently, microbes were identified, anatomy uncovered and a fellow called Fleming discovered penicillin. The quacks gradually died out, with genuinely skilled medical doctors getting on with the task of curing people.

During the same period, a chap called Adam Smith thought of the novel idea that specialisation and division of labour within the workplace could solve a few economic problems and evolved economies of scale and expertise.

Now fast-forward to the present world of the Amalgamation of Ignorant Flat-Earth Advocates or Aifa as they have become known. In this world, Mrs Brown happily pitches up at her local garage for her annual service and the friendly mechanic carries out a full 20-point safety check and completes the service with many gleaming new parts added to the car. Mrs Brown is overjoyed at the service and even happier with the bill, which comes to nothing at all.

Her maternal instincts cut in and she enquires as to how the jolly mechanic will feed his starving children, pay for his extravagant mortgage and fuel his new Ferrari. “Don’t worry,” he explains. “The kind and benevolent parts manufacturers will give me enough to get by, providing I use their parts in an appropriate and responsible way and that I install parts only when they are really needed.”

Meanwhile, Mr Brown is overseeing the construction of his new extension and Pete the plasterer is finishing the ceiling and walls. “My, that looks expensive,” remarksMr Brown. Pete replies: “Oh, not at all. The work is all free to you, sir. Unfortunately, these sacks of plaster are 1,000 each and I appear to have used quite a few of them.”

Shocked Mr Brown stumbles to the ground and is rushed to his local doctor, who surprisingly declares him fit and well although his bile appears to be a little high. Mr Brown queries the diagnosis but the doctor retorts abruptly: “I have been dispensing medical advice on the back of CSE biology for 25 years so don’t you start talking to me about pharmacology or CT scans. It is all stuff and nonsense.” Mr Brown duly expires.

On hearing the news, Mrs Brown consults her learned and qualified lawyer to seek recompense from the doctor. Sadly, after her lawyer qualified, he ceased to keep up with case law and so had no idea that her case was perfect. He had worked on his own, had no time to keep abreast of these things, so new cases and laws had passed him by. His advice to her was to go home and have a nice cup of tea.

Unfortunately, Mrs Brown bought the milk for her tea from a small corner shop that did not have the capital to invest in a decent refrigeration system and had shrugged off the last three health and safety warnings as interference from busybody regulators who should be focusing on those profit-hungry (and exceptionally clean, cheap and efficient) mega-stores.

A the botulism coursed its way through her veins, bringing on her demise, Mrs Brown noticed an advertisement in her favourite newspaper, Money Marketing.

It read: “Wanted. Members of Aifa. Earn more for less. No qualifications or capital needed. Must be committed to ignoring the obvious and maintaining the status quo. Only those who are deaf to the voices of the consumer, regulator and press need apply.”

Mrs Brown slipped slowly into oblivion.


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