06 December 2009

Soviet Earth; or Government doesn't do diversity

Mick Hume writes:
The top bankers and businessmen of the UK might have proved themselves worse than useless. But an economy managed by state bureaucrats will be no better. ... We are left with the prospect of the worst of all worlds – a state-subsidised capitalist economy, but one denuded of the dynamic side of capitalism that Karl Marx long ago identified alongside the system’s destructive aspects, and which has driven economic growth through the modern age. What happens if the state turns off the ‘life support’?, 25 November
All the evidence bears out Mr Hume. Government intervention has generally started out with the best of intentions: to maintain employment, to prop up allegedly strategic industries (like car assembly or industrial agriculture), and before long it becomes indispensable to its favoured sectors. Taxpayer support is capitalised into asset values, making its withdrawal problematic. Sectors use their status and subsidies to bias the international trading and domestic regulatory environments in their favour, and to finance lobbyists whose job is to maintain their vested interest. State supoprt, like a drug habit, is easy to start, difficult to stop. And now it's propping up not just individual sectors, but our entire financial system. The result will be ossification, the Sovietization of our economies and, inevitably, collapse. If that sounds far-fetched, consider that, government accounted for two-thirds of the Welsh economy - before the financial crisis. (And read about some of the social implications here.)

Difficult to imagine, but it gets worse. We are now looking to manage our global environment in the same manner: that is, by setting irrelevant targets, imposing them heavy-handedly, pre-supposing that government knows what's best, and suppressing alternative solutions. I refer of course to Kyoto-Copenhagen, where government is using fossilised science to tackle one of the alleged causes of climate change. Spectacularly expensive, politically divisive, bureaucratically intrusive - Kyoto-Copenhagen will Sovietize the entire planet. The end result is absolutely foreseeable: runaway climate change, widespread poverty and an ever more entrenched and brutal bureaucracy telling the rest of us us what to do.

The debate is so debased and politicised that anybody reading the above will think I don't believe anthropogenic climate change is happening, or that government should just sit back and do nothing. But it's just the opposite: I think climate change is far too serious to be left to the same government mentality that has given us, for example, an agriculture sector absolutely dependent on imported oil, with its denuded landscape, devastated wildlife, and polluted waterways. Government does have an indispensable role to play in ensuring climate stability: it can define our climate goals, articulating society's wishes. It can raise revenue to reward the people to help achieve that goal. But, crucially, it must stand back from dictating how that goal shall be achieved (see here for my suggestion).

We need diverse, adaptive approaches, and we need them urgently. Unfortunately - tragically - government doesn't do diversity nor does it have the ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

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