Revolutions, Taxes and the Coming Revolt

rent-seekerIn announcing even more funds plundered from taxpayers and diverted to negative value-added CSIRO climate change spending, Environment Minister Greg Hunt has said both he and Prime Minister Turnbull have “clear and strong views” on the value of “the science”.  It would be wonderful if those views were confined to the two of them.  The fact is that, in so many respects, the issue of climate change is, as Kevin Rudd said, “the greatest moral issue of or time”.  It is the fault-line that divides socialists from free marketers, from those who see the interchange of goods and services as leading to oppression and cheating and those who recognise it as the source and reason for our prosperity.

Since politicians mainly entered the trade to “make a difference”, the natural inclination is to facilitate political override on the decisions of individuals. It was not always so, but the model we follow in favouring representative democracy is broken.

Magna Carta (1215), the English Civil War (1644), the Glorious Revolution (1689), the American colonial revolt (1776), as well as the French Estates-General in 1789, although sometimes depicted as struggles for freedom, were very much taxpayer revolts.  The basic freedoms – trial by jury, presumption of innocence, prevention of unjust imprisonment, even the prohibition of torture – were already in place.  Where the freedoms were less than complete is when an individual contested the coerced disgorging monies that the sovereign demanded.

Parliamentary muscle-flexing in countless confrontations with executive government was inspired by resistance to extravagant expenditures by the chief executive. Taxpayers, represented by parliamentarians, would need to finance those expenditures.

That was politics then; now it is different. Then, parliamentarians were elected to prevent the sovereign spending the money of the voters.  Now that the franchise is universal, they get elected to force more spending and other favours ostensibly financed by the well-heeled  “one per cent”, or by curtailing the property rights of some other unworthy minority — in manufacturing, mining and farming, to name but three areas habitually plundered — converting nature’s bounty into income.  The model we follow is sadly buried in nostalgia.  Parliament has been transformed into the problem — not the solution.

Climate measures are an ideal justificatory area of policy override.  They represent matters where it can be argued that spillovers from the actions of individuals bring detrimental effects to the people as a whole.  Not that any of the politicians promoting the dirigiste policies that feed off the issue actually understand it.

In this respect, one welcome outcome from the election is One Nation’s success in having four senators elected.  One Nation has some unfortunate protectionist policies, but Who-The-Trump among the righteous doesn’t?  What it also has in Malcolm Roberts, elected as #2 on the party’s Queensland ticket, is a senator who is among the nation’s genuine experts on climate change (see here).  And the issue was so prominent within the One Nation platform that the party’s other three senators will surely follow the policy.  With their concerns, they join Senators Day and Leyonhjelm and the handful of Coalition MPs who were never adherents of the new Turnbull-Hunt orthodoxy. Either that or they have yet to be bribed to support it.

The cost of the climate change policies in renewable targets is well documented (e.g. see herehere  and here). In addition, there are costs from standards on housing and consumer goods to prevent energy use, and massive on- and off-budget spending to subsidise renewables and other measures. Also in the news this week was how to deal with the outcome of another set of environmental costs imposed on us.  These concern water and why it costs more than it should — a direct consequence of the continent-is-drying nonsense of 2007 Australian of the Year Tim Flannery, which met with the green left’s hatred of dams and the use of the natural environment for anything other than parks.

NSW customers’ water bills are padded by Sydney’s white elephant desalination plant, a cost brought to book by the sale of the plant. Across Australia some $14 billion has been spent on these facilities, which deliver water at 120-300 cents per kilolitre.  Water from new dams would cost around 50 cents per kilolitre (Israel manages to produce water from its desal plants at 60 cents, a comparison which speaks volumes about the costs of our environmental regulations and unionised workforce).

In dissecting the perils to society and economic well-being of excessive government, visiting conservative American humourist PJ O’Rourke has delivered tremendous addresses full of wit and insights to audiences across Australia. While audiences have heard him rail against the excesses of government, he has offered no solutions that might wind it back. Indeed, he supports Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. While neither candidate is ideal, we can be certain that a Clinton presidency would expand the state into new areas even President Obama has hesitated to broach.  On the other hand, Donald Trump would reverse the trends in ways that have not been seen since the Thatcher/Reagan years. He has said, for example, that he would abolish the EPA and nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court.

Still, despite the absence of proffered remedies, O’Rourke’s light on the hill remains the collapse of the modern over-taxed, over-regulated economy, followed by a regeneration.  And isn’t that what revolutions are supposed to be about?

5 thoughts on “Revolutions, Taxes and the Coming Revolt

  • bemartin39@bigpond.com says:

    Que: Ian MacDougall valiantly coming to the spirited defence of the bankrupt theory of CAGW, referring to that august publication The Guardian (!!!) as proof.

  • Rob Ellison says:

    I predicted non warming long ago – I was one of Inhoffe’s original 400 sceptical scientists on the basis of it. Non warming is likely to last another decade or so and then either cooling or warming is possible. As people keep saying – climate is chaotic. The risk is that small changes can initiate large and rapid shifts in the internal dynamics of the climate system. The climate of the 20th century was in fact relatively balmy. Variability in temperature and rainfall over the Holocene was much greater without much human input. Adding change may be new territory. But the primary deficiency of the article is the lack of any positive agenda by which to get on the front foot on environments, climate, food security and development. Climate change may or may not be a problem – but what if we could do it all and achieve multiple policy objectives without dismantling our energy infrastructure?


    The long solution for overspending is – btw – trade liberalisation and increased productivity allied with restraint in expenditure growth. Just to keep one eye on the main game. The US seems a lost cause on all counts.

  • Warty says:

    My understanding is that the first three of the historical events mentioned, The Magna Carta, the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution had a lot more going on than mere revolts against taxation: much of it was to do with an exercise of power.
    There is a long explanation to this and a short one: some of our readers prefer the short, pithy responses that Quadrant readers, in the good old days, used to prefer, so a lengthy response might be frowned upon.
    Now there was the Tractatus de Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae, of Henry II, that got up the nostrils of the powerful barons, particularly those of the north of England, because they were used to meting out their own forms of sweet justice, and Henry’s royal justices that ‘traverses a circuit of the realm’ rather impinged on their summary practices. Indeed they didn’t like the imposition of taxes to fight the bloody French, but that was only part of the issue.
    Phew, this response is getting long. Yes, well, the Civil War bit. Well there was the merchant/guild power-base in London (a city rather attracted to outrageous Puritan religious ideas) who didn’t like the royal lot anyway, quite apart from Charles’s appalling suspension of parliament, because they wouldn’t pay any more taxes to fight those awful French (again). Oh, and Charles decided to go and raise taxes without parliament (those bloody kings). But you have power, religion and yes unlawful taxation (who said it was unlawful? What happened to the divine right of kings?).
    My God, this response is getting really long. Where was I? Yes, The Glorious Revolution. After the excesses of the Puritans and The Lord Protector (who was worse than the king he had beheaded) and the Levelers and other such mad caps; and the excesses of the King, they had to have to restore a modicum of order, but after Charles II,who preferred to wine and dine and shag his way through life, they invited William of Orange to restore order after all the excesses that had gone before (and also, just a small matter, the bloke immediately before him, James II was on about the Divine Rights of Kings again, and they couldn’t lop yet another king’s head off now, could they?). So, in restoring order, they got themselves a stuffed coat (William) and politely asked him if they could have a balance of power between the executive (William) the parliament (them) and the judiciary, not taxation, but a matter of balance of power.
    Look, I won’t tackle the other two: the American War of Independence and the French Revolution, as my mere comment would then exceed, in length, Alan Moran’s article; but ‘basic freedoms’ were not entirely in place in England prior to the Glorious Revolution, and false imprisonment was a sinch, and hanging, drawing and quartering was not abolished (as a punishment for treason) until 1870, and you can’t tell me that that hideous form of execution didn’t involve torture. If you doubt me, I’ll give you a description in response to your refutation.
    Now, taxation today . . . one wishes one could go back to the rates during the reign of Charles I, and they cut his head off. One would be arrested on terrorist charges if one were to remove Morrison’s head.

  • Warty says:

    I’ll sneak in another little bit, just for clarity’s sake. King John (a la Magna Carta) came to the throne a mere handful of years after the death of Henry II, and it was he who had to sign the Magna Carta, somewhat reluctantly I gather. He was not a strong king. No such great charter of liberties could possibly have been foisted upon dear Henry.

  • Ian Matthews says:

    Hunt and Turnbull might have “clear and strong views” on the “value of the science” but their kneeling at the altar of “the greatest moral challenge of our time” shows that they have no respect for science. I suspect that these two chancers have strong views on how to soak the long-suffering taxpayers of Australia rather than strong views on government spending restraint.

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