Is The Pendulum Swinging Back To Sanity?


Photo by National Library of Scotland on Unsplash

I detect signs of a nascent backlash. There seems to be a realistic hope that people are waking up to the reality of the prevailing insanity inflicted on them by officialdom in all its guises. Londoners have been made aware by bitter experience that Sadiq Khan, the petty dictator rejoicing in the role of Mayor, harbours the ambition of fouling up the lives of his citizens as comprehensively as he and his army of bureaucrats possibly can – particularly those citizens presumptuous enough to have a motor car.

He is determined to inflict the torture of ULEZ [ultra-low emission zone] on 24 outer-London boroughs in August, but there are welcome signs that his plan will be frustrated by Whitehall’s allegation that, by forcing motorists to pay £12.50 every time they use a car that doesn’t meet emissions standards, Khan has exceeded his powers under the Greater London Authority [GLA] Act. Eight of the 24 affected boroughs have already stated they will block the installation of ULEZ cameras and accompanying signage within their borders. Hopefully this revolt, supported by several Labour MPs, will signal his well-deserved nemesis.

Khan is a fantasist of the deepest dye. When a Sky-News reporter confronted him last week with irrefutable statistical evidence that robberies, knife crimes, gun crimes and rape have all hugely increased during his tenure as mayor, he kept on repeating his simplistic declaration that “London is a safer city now than when I took office”. If psychosis means loss of contact with external reality, we have a prime example here.

Civil freedoms stolen

Few citizens own cars they don’t need. But such is the temptation to squeeze drivers for as much money as they dare, many residents and business-owners suspect that it’s a money-generating power grab, under the anti-pollution cloak. Local government chiefs in Canterbury, Oxford, Sheffield  and Birmingham are now toying with “traffic filters”. Oxford County Council’s website explains that traffic filters are designed to reduce traffic levels across the city, a worthy aim. But to achieve it, private cars will not be allowed through without a permit – for which drivers will no doubt have to pay. Here’s the crunch: the permit will allow residents to drive through the traffic filters on only 100 days in the year! Town Hall neither knows nor cares about abstractions such as civil freedoms, and it doesn’t recognise that people, being people, don’t naturally conform to rules devised in a world of algorithmic puppetry. The growing backlash against this digital takeover is well overdue.

We were hammered into submission by lockdown rules, now exposed to have been either useless or counterproductive, or both. Thanks to revelations in the Telegraph we now know how closely Covid restrictions took us down the path to 1984. If only the current backlash against lockdown-Führer Matt Hancock had arisen from his self-obsessed authoritarian diktats, rather than the randy proclivities that brought him down, our present need for justice would be better served.

The cost of Green

There are hopeful signs within the green lobby too. Even in my own ultra-green family, rational shards are peeping through: I am advised, for example, that “any attempts to manage, ameliorate or mitigate the adverse effects of climate change must be done in such a way as not to disproportionately harm the interests of the world’s poorest.” I’m delighted to hear this, of course, but despite their reassurance that “most of the serious people involved in thinking about such strategies are acutely aware of this” I confess I hadn’t noticed it. I’m obviously blinded by the preponderance of letters in the press from citizens persisting with oil tanks and boilers because they simply cannot afford the exorbitant cost of buying, installing and maintaining heat pumps – any more than they can afford electric cars or fines levied for camera-snapped infringements.

By the time they’ve paid for all this they’ll have joined the ranks of “the world’s poorest” – but should be okay, with all those serious people “thinking” about it!

Gender sensitivity, naughty words and colonial heritage

You can’t watch a film these days without being forewarned that it “may contain scenes of a sexual nature, domestic violence and drug addiction”. I’m afraid my own reaction is “Don’t switch off, it sounds terrific”! Nicola Sturgeon is the latest victim of the wider world’s refusal to indulge her brand of gender wokery, while oversensitivity to the use of words that might cause offence” is clearly on the Mikado’s “Little List” of things ripe for the chop – all credit to JK Rowling, Richard Dawkins and others who steadfastly refuse to be cowed into servile submission to every faddish prohibition. Indeed, Dawkins has vowed to use every word on the banned list in his next book. The obsessive “colonial cleansing” that afflicts so many galleries,  museums and gardens may please puritanical activists but it also deletes the record of Britain’s 150-year crusade against slavery and the fact that Britain was first nation in the world to abolish it – not an African state; not an Arab state.

Chancellor Hunt is also on the “List”

The Chancellor’s own backlash will come when he and the PM increase the rate of corporation tax from 19pc to 25pc in next month’s budget. While declaring that tax cuts must wait until inflation is under control and market stability established, Jeremy Hunt and Rishi Sunak remain blind to the damage that this tax hike will inflict on growth prospects. Already AstraZeneca has ditched its plans to set up a new drugs facility in North West England in favour of Ireland, whose economy benefits hugely from its corporation tax rate of only 12.5 pc. In a growing rebellion 150 Conservative MPs are vociferously opposing the tax increase, stating many companies “will have less money to expand their activities and create wealth for the good of this country and will, like AstraZeneca, relocate future investment beyond our shores while fewer companies will seek to establish themselves here.”

This is elementary economics. It has been shown repeatedly that corporation tax isn’t something suffered by faceless businesses rather than “ordinary people”. If the PM and his man at the treasury would wake up for a moment they would see that (i) the most successful companies are also the largest employers of those “ordinary people”, and increasing corporate taxes obviously reduces their scope for giving employment; (ii) like AstraZeneca, major employers vote with their feet and are bound to select low-tax, low-regulatory jurisdictions where investment, particularly in new technologies, is encouraged; (iii) increases in corporate taxes are passed on in prices and are inevitably borne by customers, adding to cost-of-living woes; and (iv) almost all companies, no matter how small, are subject to it.

The mother of all backlashes: easy money guarantees a terrible bust

In the context of economic stupidity perhaps the most egregious example of all: twelve years of deliberately suppressed interest rates guaranteed a devastating backlash that no one in authority saw coming, notably the clueless central bankers whose experiment with quantitative easing caused it. They couldn’t  see that flooding the markets with limitless “counterfeit fiat” – unbacked money conjured out of thin air at the click of a mouse – would drive down interest rates. Nor could they see that their actions would lead to profligate spending, cause soaring asset prices, render housing unaffordable, keep zombie businesses afloat on cheap credit, contribute directly to rising inequality in society, mispricing of risk, misallocation of productive resources and capital destruction.

How many times must it happen before a shaft of light dawns? Easy money produces the boom that is followed by the –  inevitable –  bust. In this age we have no “leaders” worthy of that title. One fine day a leader will emerge who recognises the simple proposition that a propensity to suppress interest rates will always generate bubbles.

Backlash and retributive horror

Those who have seen the film “All Quiet on the Western Front” will recognise how ignorance plays out on the larger stage. The war in 1914-18 took 17 million young lives, yet neither side was able to make any significant progress in the mud on which battle was waged; the bedraggled remaining few finished up pretty well where they began four years earlier. German leaders lorded it over half-dead troops in abhorrent pomp, gulling them with lies and and false rhetoric, belatedly accepting a cessation of hostilities at Versailles on the harshest terms of enforced reparations that bred seething resentment at their ensuing impoverishment. Inevitably, the Weimar government resorted to money-printing, followed in turn by hyperinflation and political extremism that served as a perfect platform for the rise of Hitler.

This was the lesson on forces unleashed by backlash when leaders don’t know what the hell they are doing.

© Emile Woolf March 2023 (website)