Americans who fancy themselves net-zero climate advocates might want to take a look at Britain for a guide to the future. Household energy bills were expected to rise 40% this autumn, but on Friday the government regulator announced they’ll leap 80% in a single bound.
This boost follows a 54% rise in April and brings the average household’s annual bill to £3,549 ($4,208). The median household income is £31,400, which gives a sense of the growing proportion of each household’s budget that will go toward central heating, cooking and keeping the lights on. For the ruling Tories, this is a political calamity.
And that’s merely what households will spend directly on energy. Britain is also in the grip of an energy-price crisis for businesses, whose rates aren’t subject to a cap. Some small businesses report they can’t get any utility to supply them without paying a steep deposit up front, because energy companies are concerned that high prices will push more small firms into insolvency. Lower-income households in particular will bear the brunt of this as prices for goods and services skyrocket and companies lay off employees.
If you think this couldn’t happen in America, think again. The underlying cause of Britain’s energy misery is its fixation with climate goals, especially the ambition to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. To meet that goal Britain has grown hostile to domestic energy exploration, banning shale-gas fracking and slapping windfall-profits taxes on North Sea oil and gas producers that will deter investment. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has hurt, but the U.K.’s policies made its citizens vulnerable to such a global shock.
Economic growth, Baechler maintained, is the result of millions of “experiments” by people who act and think differently from the mainstream. For growth to happen, such acts of mutinous innovation must be permissible if not explicitly permitted. Baechler saw capitalism as an offspring of Europe’s peculiar political condition. Despite the attempts of Charlemagne, Charles V, Napoleon and Hitler, Europe never became an empire. A great cultural homogeneity, provided mainly by Christianity, failed to produce a Continentwide political order.
Baechler maintained that democracy wasn’t a modern invention but that it was reinvented in another quintessential European institution: the city, a place for trade where the conditions necessary for free and open exchange thrived. Within the walls of the city, tinkerers and lawyers faced problems to solve, whatever the struggles between great powers. Potential solutions emerged and were tested in millions of daily market experiments.
(DBx: I met Baechler in the late 1980s or early 1990s at a conference organized by the late Leonard Liggio. I recall Baechler as being an intense yet charming scholar. Among the works we conferees read was that of Baechler, along with that of the American legal historian Harold Berman and also that of Alan Macfarlane.)
Finally, we should move away from all age-based eligibility criteria, such as the ones used for Social Security and Medicare. Hear me out: Age-based programs made sense when not working due to old age meant being poor (and in fact seniors used to be overrepresented in the lowest income quintile). But no longer. Seniors today disproportionately occupy the top income quintile. So, we should now move all programs to need-based criteria, which would still allow poor seniors to receive benefits.
Laura Dodsworth reacts to former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s revelation that the British government intentionally terrified the British people into an unjustified level of fear of covid. A slice:
The truth is, that at the time, most people did have no idea it was happening. It was relatively easy to manipulate and frighten people into complying with the loss of freedoms. So, could it happen again?
If you concede that a measure like lockdown is acceptable for one crisis, will it be acceptable for another crisis in the future? What about climate change? Or a run on the banks? And if you concede it is justifiable to use nudge and fear-mongering to emotionally kettle the population, will you justify it again?
I’m afraid this government is heavy-handedly using behavioural science and propaganda to soften people up for net zero policies. Boris Johnson promised in October 2021 that we could be greener without a hair shirt in sight. This winter we will be buried under hair shirts, and they’ll be all we have for warmth. Colour-coded weather warnings ritualise observance and anxiety about climate change. Nadhim Zahawi described education as a ‘weapon’ against climate change. And an astonishing report published by the Nudge Unit and broadcaster Sky recommended that TV can be used to nudge us towards carbon net zero, by using news segments, storylines in drama, children’s programming and even product placement. And if you want to question any of this? Well, yesterday’s Covid denier is today’s climate denier.