Twats at the Telegraph

Here, in all its glory, is a Telegraph editorial:

The remarkable thing about the silk cape on show at the Victoria and Albert Museum from tomorrow is not that it took 80 people five years to make, or even that it is woven from the gossamer of 1.2 million golden orb spiders, which produce undyed silk of a golden hue. No, the remarkable thing is that the spiders were let loose afterwards to skip happily through the undergrowth of their native Madagascar not a whit the worse for contributing to this work of art. Their web is deftly extracted by trained handlers.

Britain once had a silk industry, with weavers under broad windows busy making brocades, lustrings, paduasoys and suchlike rich textiles. If golden orb spiders were farmed like silkworms, the industry might thrive again, in Sunderland or Hull. To spin gold has a fairy-tale ring to it. These obliging spiders could be the Rumpelstiltskins of a start-up enterprise.


Let us, for a change, get the labour theory of value the right way around. The labour which goes into the production of something cannot be paid more than that thing is valued at.

Here we have 400 man years of labour going into the production of a cape. That labour cannot be paid more per year than one four hundredth of the value of the cape.

Let\’s put the cost of minimum wage labour at £20 k a year. Including overheads etc. So our cape must be valued at £8 million. Very limited marketplace for that. The occasional trophy third wife of a billionaire maybe.

To produce an industry we\’d need to get that price down…..which means the wages have to come down, doesn\’t it?

It\’s just not something to base an industry on so what are these people talking about?

12 thoughts on “Twats at the Telegraph”

  1. We have a silk weaving industry. I believe (for I know the owner of a silk weaving factory in East Anglia) it mechanised, something to do with the industrial revolution, maybe?

  2. Aha, but it’s a manufacture not a service. Which means the inverse of Baumol’s cost disease, given time.

    But that means fewer silk weavers which defeats the stated purpose. And is in fact what we have – fewer silk weavers, yet somehow every retailer in the land stuffed with silk wear. And noticeably, no starving ex silk weavers being hanged for stealing bread for their hungry children.

    Don’t these people realise how stupid they are?

  3. Oh! It’s just ‘The Telegraph’ indulging in a Colonel-in-his-club bit of harmless nostalgia. Leave the old war horse alone.

  4. The Telegraph probably thinks that the working classes shouldn’t be paid so much. Then it would be a profitable industry.

  5. The real stupidity, though, is that spiders are basically un-farmable—their strong propensity towards cannibalism basically turns the shebang into a game of last man (or spider) standing.

    However, scientists have recently been successful in genetically modifying silk worms to produce a particular type of spider silk. It is from these efforts that any breakthroughs are likely to come—although medical applications are likely to benefit before fashion…


  6. England’s first attempt to farm silkworms was a bit of a fiasco, wrong Mulberry trees. These are tropical spiders so they’d need warm sheds or whatever to live in, extra cost even if as DK says you could farm them in the first place, they’ve got a nasty bite too. I believe spider silk was used for the making of crosshairs in some gunsights originally, presumably they just kept a handful of spiders on the establishment, rather different from a mass production industry.

  7. @Devil, the scientists are also working on getting goats to produce the silk protein in their milk. After a bit of filtering and treatment the end result is the silk which is pulled out of the liquid.

  8. I saw a picture of this wondrous cape in the newspaper. It’s awful. Even Dame Edna wouldn’t wear the bloody thing for a laugh. And there’s no market for outrageous dressing-up outfits now Gaddaffy’s dead.

  9. “No, the remarkable thing is that the spiders were let loose afterwards …. the industry might thrive again, in Sunderland or Hull.”

    I’m sorry, there are some situations where economic arguments must be subordinated to more important considerations.

    If anyone lets 1.2 million spiders loose within a thousand miles of me, I want that place nuked from orbit.

    (Suggestions that in the case of Hull one needn’t wait for the spiders shall be rejected as inhumane.)

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