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Political science

20 Mar 2019 | News Roundup

In the Netherlands, the government panicked a week before their March 20 provincial elections (which have significant national ramifications because the Dutch Senate is elected by the subnational legislatures, as American Senators once were and as we might contemplate here) and revamped its climate plan. Or rather, its climate PR plan. More for you, less for naughty corporations. As for details, look, when you’re panicking they’re hard to manage, OK?

It is a significant problem for green politicians, as we have noted before, that when they promise dramatic improvements in environmental protection at low cost voters believe them. It might not sound like a problem, since the reason politicians spin facts and fables is precisely to get believed. But once in office they find they can’t deliver.

To give them their due, if they were total cynics they would simply not try. Like, say, one J. Trudeau, who pledges to save us all from fire and whirlwinds by taxing gas less than 5 cents a litre, rising eventually to perhaps 20 cents. But they’re not. They really mean it. And so they bring in policies that start to hurt and voters get angry. Sometimes, as in France, very angry indeed.

It is hard to get people’s attention when they are facing electoral defeat or worse. But if we might put in a word here, it is essential to grasp that no amount of legerdemain can change the fact that the point of orthodox climate policies is dramatically to reduce the use of fossil fuels and doing so means a dramatic decrease in well-being unless and until some genuinely efficient reliable alternative source is found.

It’s all fine and good artificially to lower household energy bills, cancel gas tax increases, and instead aim to wallop “big business”. But if business pays more for energy, customers pay more for products. And in any event, the point here isn’t to raise tax revenue, it’s to lower energy use. And when business uses less energy, it produces fewer goods and services. Or relocates to some other country and people lose their jobs.

At the risk of sounding naïve, the solution is to explain frankly to voters that you aim to make the whole country a lot poorer. Well, that or take another look at the science. Especially since if you campaign on really high gas prices you’ll soon have lots of leisure time for some overdue background reading.

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