Money for nothing in the Big Society

“That ain’t working, that’s the way you do it. Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free” . So said Dire Straits on their 1985 album, Brothers in Arms.

I attended an event this week, and these iconic lyrics sprang to mind when the conversation turned to the increasingly rare practice of having to actually pay for things.

The concept of getting things for free is now well established. It has moved from gifts and hospitality through sales promotion to the production and distribution of free products. If you work in London, you can easily be weighed down by free yoghurt, special offers and free newspapers before you even get to work. When you get there you can carry out some free internet search or update your mates on your free Facebook. All paid for by, er, someone else.

There are signs that this concept of ‘money for nothing’ is becoming ingrained. We have become so used to being given things (and not least by government) that we have developed ‘Entitlement Syndrome’, a world in which we expect to be given just about everything we need.

At the event I attended (for entrepreneurs, by the way) there was a clear indication that this thinking is spreading to the world of ‘paid for’ services- a worrying feature since the service sector dominates UK GDP and employs the vast majority of us.

At the end of the day, there are a number of home truths. Perhaps the two most important are that governments (aka taxpayers) and businesses can’t survive by giving it all away for free and the second is that, in life, you generally end up getting what you pay (and strive) for. If we can bring these two concepts together to stimulate a stronger work ethic, we might beat ‘Entitlement Syndrome’ and be well on the road to a happier and more prosperous ‘Big Society.’

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