At the weekend I celebrated my 46th birthday but please don’t wish me any belated happy returns. Like many of you reading this I never imagined, looking into my future as a child, that the time of my life when I should have been settling in to some form of middle-aged security and contentment would instead coincide with a global economic crisis now threatening to eclipse even the Great Depression.
As Matthew Norman has noted we are currently still in the Phoney War stage of the Great Global Economic Meltdown. We know in our bones that things are going to get worse, much worse. At the same time, our collective cognitive dissonance – the same cognitive dissonance that brought us to this dreadful pass in the first place –is still contriving to reassure us that things will all be right somehow. All we have to do is keep on muddling through and, er –
Sorry, but it will require more than naive optimism to get us through this one. The only choice we now face is between bad and really, really bad. Which option we get will depend on how quickly we’re prepared to jettison our old foolish value systems and adapt to the new circumstances. Here is a list of ten stupid ideas we’re going to have learn to live without if we’re going to survive the current conflagration.
1. Pointless wars of liberal intervention. Libya is the obvious one. By Pravda’s estimates it’s costing Britain “100,000 USD of their taxpayers’ money per aircraft per hour, every single day since February 17.” After Libya we should exit Afghanistan. Our interests are not being served there; we’re never going to win; it is costing us the brightest and best of our youth.
2. The Climate Change Act. This is arguably the most expensive, suicidal and pointless piece of legislation in British parliamentary history. Its attempts to “decarbonise” the UK economy are based on junk science (the connection between anthropogenic CO2 and runaway global warming is nothing more than threadbare conjecture) and, by the government’s own estimates (so double it, at least, for the real costs) will cost the British taxpayer £18 billion every year for the next forty years. It will do nothing to stave off global warming, just further cripple an already ailing economy and impose higher energy costs on people who can ill afford it.
3. “The Limits to Growth” delusion. I examine this in a lot more detail in my book Watermelons. One of the key tenets of the green religion is that economic growth is in and of itself a bad thing, and that we’d all be much healthier and happier if only we could learn to live sustainably in yurts or pretty riverside cottages on organic, home grown mung beans, wearing patched up chunky-knit sweaters and travelling by bicycle. In the abundant 90s, this “we’ve had it too good”, Sunday colour supplement lifestyle fantasy was an affordable luxury. Not any more it’s not. “Sustainability” is not going to get out of this mess. Only consumption and the free market will.
4. The European Union. The Global Economic Meltdown is not about the failure of capitalism; it is about the failure of the kind of communitarianism, collectivism and socialism entrenched in political entities like the EU. We have nothing whatsoever to gain from our relationship with the EU. If a ship is sinking, it makes no sense to cling on to it, however many good friends you may have still stuck inside. You have to swim away, fast, to avoid being sucked down with it.
5. Activist scientists. Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, recently told a fawning New Statesman interviewer that he doesn’t believe it’s a scientist’s job to be impartial: (H/T Haunting the Library)
Nurse’s undergraduate socialist spirit is still alive and well: he wouldn’t be against scientists getting involved in activism. “We are citizens, and citizens should be involved in politics, and I think those that have a strong view should be involved in party politics,” he says. “I’m happy to see fellows of the Royal Society politically engaged, if that’s what they see as right.”
Problem is, as we learned in Climategate what happens when scientists abandon objectivity in pursuit of their ideological ends is corruption, distortion and (incredibly expensive) junk science. If scientists like Nurse expect the taxpayer to pay their salaries – and they do – then it’s about time they showed a bit more humility, gratitude and integrity. In this new age of austerity when we pay for science what we have a right to expect is science, not dodgy sixth form sub-Marxist agitprop of the kind endorsed by the head of what used to be Britain’s most distinguished science institution.
6. Managerial politics. Cometh the hour cometh the man. Which is why David Cameron – who is very much not the man – has chosen to celebrate the new global crash by continuing to buff up his tan in Tuscany. Were he Ronald Reagan, this would be a sign of his unflappability. In Cameron’s case, however, it’s just further evidence that he just doesn’t get it. We don’t need a wet blanket Ted Heath type who’s afraid to reduce taxes or decrease government spending for fear of making himself unpopular. We need a leader with the courage to do the right thing: slash the size of government; let consumers keep more of their own money to spend as they wish; give business the space to grow.
7. Closing down the argument. If this is the 1930s revisited – and it is – then the greatest threat besides economic meltdown will be the growth of totalitarianism. And if you think we’ve grown out of the impulses that led to the (closely related movements) Nazism, Fascism and Soviet Communism, try reading some of the comments below this blog. Or a Polly Toynbee column. Or pretty much any Komment Macht Frei article. Or a rant by Joe Romm. Or the BBC Trust’s report into its science coverage. Or watch the No Pressure video made by that nice Vicar of Dibley man Richard Curtis and his kindly eco chums. Or listen to the new Marcus Brigstocke show in which, hilariously, he wishes a violent death in – ho ho – a yachting accident on Nigel Farage. What all these disparate, angry voices of the liberal-left have in common is this: they don’t believe that those of us on the other side of the debate should be given a voice. Rather than engage with our not exactly unreasonable arguments urging smaller government, lower taxes, more personal responsibility, greater liberty, more rigorous and less politicised science, they prefer to dismiss us as extremists worthy at best of BBC-style censorship, at worst – ho ho, eh, Curtis and Brigstocke and the Twitterer who wished it was me who’d been got by the polar bear? – violent death.
8. Wind Farms. Ugly, pointless, wasteful, good for no one except rich, rent-seeking landowners such as Sir Reginald Sheffield Bt, they were utterly inexcusable even before the Great Global Economic Meltdown. They are even less excusable now.
9. The concept of “scarce resources” that need to be “preserved for future generations.” We’ve got shale gas; after that we’ve got clathrates. Future generations are going to be just fine: their income, their standard of living are going to be way higher than ours. It’s us we need to worry about, so let’s stop the Greenies using imaginary children of the future they’ve never met and never will meet to justify their ongoing assault on Western Industrial Civilisation. They’ve done quite enough damage already.
10. The Nanny State. It’s over. It has failed. We’re in this mess precisely because the size of government across the West has expanded to the point where the Exchequer is effectively bankrupt, where people’s expectations of what government can do and what it ought to do have rendered them lazy, greedy and spineless, where economic growth has been stifled.What we need right now is more consumption not less; more faith in the power of free markets rather than in big government; and, perhaps above all, the return to the kind of ideology which treats human aspirations for more money and a better life as something to encouraged rather than something to be stamped on by the agencies of the state. Till then we’re stuffed.