Thursday, September 13, 2007

Primitive Science

OK, who's brought the virgin?

In the olden days- and I mean the real olden days- Tyler's ancestors used to worry that the sun would disappear. You know, one day it might just go down and not bother to come up again.

Could happen.

So to keep the sun sweet they took to sacrificing cockerels. Actually, not just cockerels. Sheep, goats, virgins... anything that came to hand really.

And you know what? It did the trick.

What better proof could you ask for?

Of course, we twenty-first century sophisticates understand the sun's reappearance had nothing to do with their sacrifices. We know all they really achieved was to make themselves even poorer than they already were by wasting food.

Not to mention virgins.

And not to mention the onerous tithes supporting the huge industry that grew up to formalise the rituals and promote the faith.

Primitive beliefs, eh? What can you do with 'em?

Well, you can gather them together and publish a 547 page Cameron's Conservatives report entitled Blueprint for a Green Economy. And you can say that unless we sacrifice A LOT of cockerels (aka a big chunk of our material wellbeing), the sun won't go on being our friend. In fact, we'll be doomed. DOOMED!

You and I may think man-made global warming is still unproven (eg see this blog), but the Priests behind this report admit no such doubts.

You and I may think the economic costs of warming have been grotesquely exaggerated (eg see this blog), but the Priests admit no such doubts.

And you and I may think the "science" of happiness is grossly over-egged (eg see this blog), but the Priests have been at the communion wine again.

So The Faith goes like this:
"Beyond a certain point – a point which the UK reached some time ago – ever increasing material gain can become not a gift but a burden. As people, it makes us less happy, and the environment upon which all of us, and our economy, depend is increasingly degraded by it... We have now just 10 years in which to set in place a trajectory in which our emissions will peak and then decline by 2050. If we fail then we will over-run our ability to keep our climate stable – with potentially disastrous effects."

TINA- there is no alternative. Higher taxes, more regulation... do as we say, or you'll never see the sun again. Er... no, sorry, the sun will burn you all to HELL!

OK, look, I admit I haven't read all 547 pages- I've skimmed it.

But let's just consider one of the "sciency" bits- the bit where they propose abandoning GDP as the principal target of government economic policy, and replacing it with ISEW, the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare.
Here's their pic, showing that although GDP has gone ever-upwards, and we all think we're so much better off, ISEW peaked in the halcyon days of the 1970s Wislon government:

Ah, do you remember those far off golden days? Tank tops... platform boots... the Austin Allegro... 83% income tax... incomes policy... Red Robbo... the Day the Pound Nearly Died... the IMF bale-out... ah, great days, great days. And if only we'd realised we were living through the peak of the ISEW, it would have made them even better. If only we could return there now.

What complete cobblers.

The ISEW is a classic of pseudo science. It claims to quantify the view that money today isn't everything. We need to think of other things, like future generations. It therefore "adjusts" (downwards) the major components of conventional GDP for various Grauniad factors, principally increasingly "unfair" income distribution and growing "environmental costs".

But, apart from the fact that not everyone agrees with the Grauniad, as the eminent growth economist Prof Nick Crafts explains here, it isn't even true to its own objectives. For example it double counts environmental costs. Moreover, it doesn't allow any credit for increased life expectancy, which even most Grauniad readers accept is A Good Thing. Crafts says:

"ISEW has a number of features which make it unacceptable. In particular, the allowances that are made for environmental damage and depletion of natural capital lack a sound theoretical foundation, multiple-count the costs of climate change and exaggerate the value of reductions in energy reserves, while the adjustments made for changes to the distribution of income are not justified if the aim is to measure the economy’s productive potential in terms of ability to provide future welfare."

You wouldn't mind if all this wibbling bilge had been produced by the Lib Dems. But it's been produced by the Tories. The party of Thatcher and Churchill, and until now, of Tyler.

And of course, you shouldn't judge the views by the people who hold them.

But Gummer!

Did you clock his flouncy pocket hankerchief at the press conference?

And multi-millionaire Zak wellican'tbeheldresponisbleformydadeventhoughhemadallthemoneythatallowsmetopursuemypoliticalambitions Goldsmith.

Rich toffs should stick to what they know. I don't tell them how to shoot grouse, so they shouldn't tell me how to live my life.

PS For a somewhat more carefully argued rebuttal of Gummer/Goldsmith, see the TaxPayers' Alliance here.

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