Energy prices; Boris Johnson on (in)equality, and Zac Goldsmith

Miliband and Cameron outbid each other on cheap electricity. The current price rises are partly for the wrong reasons – privatisation – but for anyone who takes climate change seriously energy prices must rise relative to costs generally. Any Green concerns are of course long forgotten by the two ‘leaders’. I have previously pointed out that a component in the Citizens’ Basic Income which reflects the cost of energy can ensure that an incentive to use less can be combined with protection for those on low incomes. But it will become more urgent than ever to tie this firmly to a wider Green Agenda, otherwise there will simply be more fracking, and more nuclear power.

Inequality is here to stay, but Boris Johnson conflates a principle – that complete equality all round is not his ideal – with a defence of obscenely large salaries. He does not directly mention Iain Duncan Smith’s reduction of income at the poor end, but as Jonathon Porritt pointed out on ‘Any Questions’ tonight, Boris’s speech must have sounded bleak to many. Although I approach this issue from a very different starting point, complete equality is not my ideal either, but there does need to be a considerable reduction in differentials, instead of what is apparently still taking place.

I have not yet seen a satisfactory explanation of why this top salary explosion is happening now. What was there to prevent it at any time previously? If somebody knows, please tell me, but in the meantime, I have a theory which links it with the increasing stridency of those who advocate smashing capitalism. Although this last may well be an understandable response to the salary explosion, it is nevertheless quite unrealistic as a strategy because capitalism has a firmer grasp of the levers of power than ever.

In other blog posts I have pointed out that the initial response of an expanding culture to physical limits is aggression rather than the co-operation which would be more rational. As long as everyone still clings to the cultural assumption that growth can continue, or be resumed, then struggling for supremacy does make sense, sort of, just in case it doesn’t happen. I have not given up my own vision of a realignment of politics with former conservatives, including some former capitalists who recognise the need for a steady state economy, being allied with socialists who agree, against their former allies on both sides. At least I understand why so many see what I see as sanity, as objectionable as well as unrealistic.

But there are hopeful signs. I have commented in recent blogs on the developments in Switzerland. But that is only from the social justice side. What about the capitalists? I have explained how they are tied in by the Tragedy of the Commons. But the Club of Rome showed in 1970 that they were not all oblivious to ecological limits. But none dare drop out of the rat race until all the others do. So how do we make that possible? One of my disappointments to date is the failure, or at least the non appearance of any recognition from eco-accepting conservatives of the need for social justice. Most Captains of Industry will always remain convinced that someone will outwit ecological limits, so that Boris Johnson’s inequality claptrap can be justified. But I am specifically disappointed with Zac Goldsmith, son of Sir James Goldsmith, currently a Conservative MP, but also a former editor of the Ecologist magazine. He has recently joined a protest group of 25 MPs who have complained about Cameron’s Green back-tracking. Here is a paragraph from the open letter I wrote to him a year ago. I shall be tweeting him drawing attention to it:

Zac, I have no problem with your wealth. Once everyone has basic needs as of right, and the planet’s future habitability is assured, the rich will simply pay more tax. That should help reduce some ecological footprints. Do you accept the need for all individuals to have an identity of interest when faced with ecological limits? If you do not like the Citizens’ Income as a way of addressing that need, what is?

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2 responses to “Energy prices; Boris Johnson on (in)equality, and Zac Goldsmith

  1. Wages…..
    I think we all know that capitalism in the US is of the unbridled sort (survival of the fittest etc.) Quite simply it is immoral. The bank crisis has shown us this. You SCREW and screw as much as you can and the retire with a fat bonus, quite possibly with your firm heading for the cliff.
    Some years back a VERY successful German company (Daimler) united with an unsuccessful American firm (Chrysler). The American boss however earned about 10 times more than the German. Solution? the German boss got his salary upped to the American, and since then the bosses in Germany are all trying to get on this bandwagon.
    How do you stop this virus?

    • By changing the culture, and the Citizens’ Basic income, purely as a thought experiment at first among the whole population, can be a catalyst. Look at my other recent posts as to how this may be starting in Switzerland. The referendum in March 2013 resulted in the withdrawal of the obscene bonus which had provoked it. I am slightly surprised at what you say about German bosses. They were already handsomely paid, but surely their success was at least partly due to them not being as greedy as the Americans? Their behaviour now could be evidence in support of my zany theory: not being stupid, and not being as short sighted as they pretend, they can see the ‘Tragedy’ coming, and are simply getting the hay in before the thunderstorm. We can persuade them to buy the rest of us off, and in the process delay, or even avoid the ‘Tragedy’. The rich can stay rich, but will have to pay much more tax. Not a strategy popular with anti-capitalists who my theory predicts will be more embattled than ever.
      On Easter Island, sanity only prevailed AFTER the catastrophe. I wonder if global civilization is any more intelligent.

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