Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How Reg Varney ruined Britain

Fifty years ago, reports the Shropshire Star's business section, the first withdrawal from a bank cash machine was made. In those days it was known as an ATM - automated teller machine,

And it was made at a branch of Barclay's in Enfield by the comedian Reg Varney.

He was even trending on Twitter today, nine years after his death, because of it.

But is this anniversary to celebrate?

In what is probably the greatest post in the history of blogging, Stumbling and Mumbling pointed out:
The invention of the ATM helped make it much easier to get cash out of the bank. This fall in shoe leather costs for technological reasons offset part of the normal cost of inflation, which helped make people less intolerant of it. Is it really a coincidence that inflation began to rise as the cash point machine, as popularized by Mr Varney, became more widely used? I think not. 
There’s a second effect of its spread, however, which has only become appreciated in light of the rise in behavioural economics. 
The easier availability of cash has reduced one constraint on our spending. Before Mr Varney used the cash point, impulse buying of good or sessions down the pub were constrained by the fact that cash was hard to obtain. After that fateful day, however, the constraint came down.
But I am afraid Reg Varney's culpability does not stop there.

As the same post reminds us:
His portrayal of Stan Butler did much to perpetuate the image of the 1970s worker as a bone-idle work-dodger; we forget today just how enormously popular On the Buses was. And this in turn might subconsciously have contributed to the popularity of Thatcherism. How many of those who, when asked by Tories in 1979 whether the working class had become too big for its boots, conjured up a picture of Stan Butler and so voted for Thatcher?
That is surely right. As I once wrote myself:
Even at the time, Blakey was my favourite character. And I don't know if it is age, my experience of public transport or our post-Thatcher society, but I cannot help noticing today that the passengers counted for nothing in On the Buses. 
Just at Alexander Mackenderick, the director of Whisky Galore!, sympathised with Captain Waggett, the representative of English officialdom who attempted to round up the whisky rescued from the wreck of the S.S. Cabinet Minister, so I now see Blakey as the hero of On the Buses and its spin-off films.

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