Letters & Essays
Founders of the IPR
‘State education should be abolished.
I am aiming to set up ultimately an independent university, supported by business enterprises, at least until such time as adequate funding is received from some external source. Even then, it will probably always be desirable to maintain a department for management of investment and of our interests in property.
In terms of the modern ideology, I know that I cannot make this sound attractive; I had to start from a zero capital base. Progress has been much slower than it might have been precisely because of the increasing difficulty of appealing to potential associates. Anyone who came to work with us now would very likely be able to accelerate our progress considerably.
People in the modern world are very much encouraged to seek feedback from doing something "creative" or "interesting", also of course from the social status and power over other people which a job may provide. On such terms we cannot hope to compete; we can pay people or support them only in return for doing work of a useful kind to release some of other people's time for administration, writing books or research. The most useful things are nearly all considered beneath contempt and it is almost impossible to employ anyone to do properly even those which might sound relatively high-powered.
We are not in need of any highly skilled help, except perhaps in DIY and house maintenance, as we could handle any work requiring numeracy, literacy or computer skills ourselves if our time was sufficiently released from administrative chores. In particular, we cannot make use of anyone's computer skills, which we are often offered. We avoid computerising our record-keeping etc. and do book-keeping on paper so that office procedures can be carried out or inspected by all members of staff whether computer literate or not. We do not wish to become dependent for a specialised skill on any one person, particularly anyone who has not been here long enough for there to be a serious likelihood of permanency, usually about three years.
In modern circumstances I can only offer to pay well, and ultimately perhaps very well, for the fulfilment of basic functions. This does not arise from my belief that intellectuals should have to do everything for themselves, so that their intellectual productivity is minimised, but from the fact that this is the prevailing belief of modern society.
I would not attempt to attract anyone by the "interest" of the books that may be written, and at present are being squeezed out only in teaspoons, or of the research that might be done and at present is not being done at all. We are still at the stage of building up even a minimal institutional environment and the capital base to support it.
I know that unless a person is very unusual they are likely to find it a deterrent that they will do work of a kind that will contribute to creating some scope for those already here to use their abilities in progressive ways. As I said to a recent part-time worker, "People don't want to do any work that sets other people free to do anything they regard as intellectual". "I think you have hit the nail on the head", he said. "But", I said, "If people are working part-time they have plenty of time left over to do whatever they find interesting. Those of us already here are working absolutely full-time to support and run the place, without having any time at all for anything like writing books. So even if we were freed enough to spend a few hours a day on those things, we would still have less free time for them than a paid part-time worker has for following his own interests."
He did not reply, and became no more willing than previously to do any of the many things which needed to be done. I know this line of argument is unavailing, because I have frequently demonstrated to someone that, for example, they could be paid a useful amount of money, and a convenient place to work at their thesis (or whatever) if they would accept the responsibility for dealing with occasional visitors, deliveries and phone calls. This would be making our lives better and not worse, even if only slightly better, and I long ago came to the conclusion that voluntary workers wish only to work in such a way that they are more trouble than they are worth, i.e. you are worse off for having them. This is not quite so true of paid employees, but it is still a fairly safe generalisation that they want to be paid as highly as possible and with the minimum of advantage to their employer.
I know also that it is useless to attempt to demonstrate that a future with us could be quite lucrative in the long run. This only leads to people demanding ridiculously high rates of pay before they have demonstrated any competence in any relevant area. The people who have stayed here permanently came in the first place on a full-time subsistence basis, without enquiry into the future prospects.
We need people urgently, and a permanent career with us could be profitable and even exciting in due course, if the prospect of seeing people with high IQs becoming happier and more productive is not too much of a deterrent. I have often said we need a minimum of a hundred people to set up a minimal academic institution and associated businesses. At present we have four, including myself, perhaps five if a new employee becomes permanent.
It has seemed to me for many years that we have reached a difficult stage of development. Any extra personnel could significantly increase our ability to make money and so gradually to write and publish books faster. Actual research remains further in the future but could follow on from increased financial resources.
This, however, would make it clear that we are not a commune, or group of enthusiasts for some particular area of work. So long as we are as constricted as we are at present, the fact that we are attempting to work towards a large scale structured institutional situation is obscured. So long as we are unable to do more than struggle to subsist and deal with the front-end loading office chores of being an institution at all, we differ minimally, at least in superficial appearance, from the socially acceptable concept of a group of enthusiasts who believe they can get something out of contemplating the object of their enthusiasm in communal poverty. Such people usually make a point of disregarding financial considerations; we, on the other hand, regard them as primary and a prerequisite for work of a scientifically and academically meaningful kind.
There is no need for applicants to have particularly high IQs or intellectual interests; we are over-supplied with extremely intellectual people as it is and there is plenty of work to be done that is basic and practical; in fact there is at present and foreseeably, no scope for paying anyone, however intellectual, to do anything that is commonly regarded as skilled or prestigious.
People are encouraged to believe that they need some special qualification or expertise before they have "anything to contribute". This is not so; anyone with an aptitude for word-processing, which could be useful, can learn it on the job quite rapidly, as many of our workers have done in the past. Administrative skills can also be acquired by practical experience of our methods by anyone with the inclination to do so.
Association with us could provide advantages for retired people; they could supplement their income by doing as little as two hours a day of useful work and at the same time be part of a purposeful and progressive situation when they might otherwise find themselves isolated and deprived of the structure which was provided by their former career.
People are very welcome to come and visit, as we want there to be some realistic information about us on the gossip circuits to reach potential future associates. As we are overworked and understaffed we hope any visitors will be prepared to help out with any ongoing work, but they will also get information about our views and position. Any pre-university people who might consider making a career with us after their degree are welcome to visit and discuss what qualifications might be of the greatest usefulness if they were to come here. (Or, indeed, whether they might do better not to go to university at all, but to start working here as soon as possible.)
Individual correspondence, in view of our severe secretarial shortage and administrative backlog, cannot be considered unless for a substantial consultancy fee.
Reasons why people might want to come and work with us in Oxford
Another letter about our need for people
Our need for people to do basic jobs Our need for people to come and work here Scope for people to retire to Oxford so as to work with us Letter to school-leavers