A World War II practice may reappear.
Some little time ago I wrote about the word “fair”, which I tongue-in-cheek referred to as a Word of Mass Destruction (WOMD) insofar as if one REALLY put into place practices that were truly “fair” then western capitalism would break down completely. (The story of the CEO of Goldsmiths and his $100,000,000 bonus is for another day ….)
Well, my OTHER WOMD is “rationing”.
I was drawn to this topic by the words of a British minister about the desirability of introducing rationing into AIR TRAVEL. The thinking goes (and to be honest it is in fact obvious, isn’t it?) that IF we are serious about reducing climate change (a VERY BIG IF!!) then we cannot continue to hope to fly where and when we want to as in the past. For aviation is a growth industry despite the current crisis, and as people in developing economies in Asia in particular grow more prosperous they will want to travel more and more. I have seen estimates to suggest that within a decade ONE HUNDRED MILLION Chinese will be travelling to Europe EVERY YEAR.
This is of course totally incompatible with any hope of doing anything serious about climate change. The logical conclusion is that (until some boffin invents an emission-free jet) we MUST reduce flying. This is likely for most adults to be about as palatable as denying burgers and chips to British teenagers, but I really cannot see the alternative IF Global Warming is to be taken seriously (which it probably won’t be until it’s too late).
But let’s for the moment remain positive …. supposing it is decided by some courageous government (are there any?) that we must reduce flying then there are two ways to do it.
A) TAX it so highly that only the rich can afford it
B) RATION it – everyone has a quota of air miles per annum.
Now option A is the usual free-market/capitalist way. After all, Ferraris are rationed by their price; otherwise all males over 18 would have one, or in my case several. But – much as I recognize what the free market has done in terms of wealth creation – we are in a new scenario, aren’t we? Can we really hope to say that only the rich can fly? I think not, and therefore rationing is the only way to do this.
Now, there is a minority of people that abuse anything, and no doubt rationing would be abused by some, somewhere, somehow. But it is the only FAIR way to go about it, isn’t it?
In London and other big cities we are now seeing a TAX imposed on driving into the city centres. Yes, very sensible, but of course, the RICH aren’t bothered. In effect, schemes like London’s are simply a way of excluding the masses from the city centre. The same idiocy is seen on French motorways, which are becoming increasingly expensive. The rich are not bothered by the tolls but the less well-off certainly ARE and so drive on other roads which are less safe; survival of the richest …….
No, the free-market is not going to work in the Brave New World which we are entering. If you have a birthday party for your kids then EVERYONE gets an equal share of the cake. This principle is going to have to be applied in other areas of life, otherwise we are going to get serious social unrest. Besides, any other way is just not FAIR, is it?
Of course, once you concede the point on AIR TRAVEL there is – in a world of increasing populations and diminishing resources – no way of limiting the concept purely to air travel, is there?
I am just old enough to remember my Mother’s WWII ration card, which she used up to the very early 50s I believe. Will we soon start to see a modern reincarnation, and not only in carbon credits?
By Chris Snuggs