30 November 2011


Who benefits from the Common Agricultural Policy, which consumes 43 percent of the European Union's budget and costs households $296 per annum? Well:
The Duke of Devonshire gets £390,000, the Duke of Buccleuch £405,000, the Earl of Plymouth £560,000, the Earl of Moray £770,000, the Duke of Westminster £820,000. The Vestey family takes £1.2m. You'll be pleased to hear that the previous owner of their Thurlow estate – Edmund Vestey, who died in 2008 – managed his tax affairs so efficiently that in one year his businesses paid just £10. We're all paying for Europe's gift to our aristocrats and utility companies, George Monbiot, 28 November
This insanity has been documented, qualified and widely promulgated continuously for thirty years. It is not the transfers from the poor to the rich that are inexcusable; it is their persistence over three decades and many administrations. Their persistence underlines the inadequacy of the current policymaking approach: there is no self-correcting mechanism for policies that are self-evidently absurd. Current policymaking is so arcane, so inaccessible to ordinary human beings, that only the powerful - individuals, corporations, government agencies or trade unions - have the resources to negotiate it and make it serve their purposes. And their purposes not only differ from those of most people; they conflict with them.

Complex societies don't need to have a complex policymaking process. Government could, as under a Social Policy Bond regime, target a few broad, widely agreed goals, such as better health, universal literacy, lower crime rates and a cleaner environment. Rather than try to achieve these goals itself and distract itself with easily gamed legislation and regulation, government could concentrate on articulating society's goals and raising the revenue for their achievement. Things that government, in fact, can do very well, and which, indeed, only government can do. The actual achievement of our social and environmental goals would best be contracted out to a motivated private sector, where incentives, diverse approaches and adaptiveness could all serve social purposes.

The Common Agricultural Policy, and the persistence of its lunatic subsidies to the rich at the expense of the poor, is the logical endpoint of the contrary approach, which only the powerful have the time and resources to subvert.

No comments: