In 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 here, here 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?