I met up for lunch today with an old schoolmate who I hadn’t seen for 47 years. We’d gone separate ways since we’d left school. I’d gone into university and computing. He’d set up his own import business, which had been doing very well until it was more or less taxed and regulated out of existence a few years ago.
And when I got home, and switched on the computer, I found myself over on DP watching John Stossel,
and hearing one grim story after another about people being, well,… taxed and regulated out of existence. Kids being prevented from selling lemon juice, lobster fishermen being prosecuted for landing lobsters in the wrong sort of boxes, house owners fined for having the wrong trees in their gardens.
DP’s own transport business also seems to be being slowly taxed and regulated out of existence.
It set me wondering. For it seems to me quite obvious that, if you tax and regulate enough businesses out of existence, you end up crashing the economy. The smoking ban provides a good example of how it happens, as pubs close, and tobacco taxation soars. You close down enterprise, and you close down trade, and you bankrupt lots of people, and you create unemployment (and maybe even starvation). And when that happens, government tax revenues – which are skimmed off business profits, after all – will dry up, and there’ll be no money to pay all the taxers and regulators feeding off the crashing economy. So over-taxation and over-regulation must invariably result in the demise of the taxers and regulators. But maybe only after the demise of the entire economy. Over-taxation and over-regulation is like cancer feeding off a healthy body: in the end, the cancer gets killed off, but often only after the patient has died beforehand.
It seems obvious to me that this is the inevitable end result. And it probably seems obvious to many of my readers as well. And so why isn’t it obvious to the taxers and regulators too?
Well, perhaps it is! And perhaps they really do want to kill off the economy.
After all, there are a lot of people – socialists of one stripe or other – who hate something called Capitalism, and who want to Smash Capitalism and replace it with a benign socialist command economy. Such people really do want to crash the capitalistic economy, which they tell you is driven by ‘greed’ – greed for profits, with profit being just another name for theft. What better way to throttle capitalism than by taxing and regulating it out of existence?
For these people, profit-making capitalistic enterprise is seen as something wholly evil, creating a minority of rich people at the expense of a lot of poor people. And it’s very largely the government which tries to limit or restrain capitalism, and so government is good because it is opposes evil capitalism (much like Tobacco Control regards itself as good because it opposes evil tobacco companies).
So, anyway, what happens when the economy has been totally crashed, and all businesses have been driven into bankruptcy, and people are starving? Well, that’s where the Greens come in. The new post-capitalist command economy will be run using windmills and sunshine. Because capitalist enterprises are always dirty and polluting (another thing which goes to show how evil they are), and so the old capitalist energy sources of coal and oil and nuclear will have to go. And everyone will have to eat lentils. Just lentils. And not drink or smoke or own cars and TVs, because all these things are examples of greedy consumerism, which will be banished once capitalism has been smashed. Everyone (or at least the few that remain after starvation has decimated the population) will live in simple thatched cottages, eating lentils, and working on the land growing hydroponic lentils. And they will be healthy. And they will be happy.
This is the Red-Green Watermelon alliance’s Pol-Pot-redux grand plan, as far as I can see.
But (and call me stupid if you like) I don’t think that it’ll actually work, though. I think they may well succeed in collapsing the economy. They’re doing fairly well, after all, across the whole of Europe, and much of the rest of the world. But I don’t think that they’ll ever get as far as implementing their windmill-driven, post-capitalist, Common-Purpose-led command economy. And this will be partly because the whole idea is completely unworkable, and partly because their efforts in this direction will hampered by finding themselves all hanging from lamp posts.
Because ordinary, non-socialist, non-Green people (which is the vast proportion of the population) will not be pleased to see the economy collapse, and for lentils and windmills to be the only things on sale in shops. Instead of welcoming the new Watermelon era with open arms, they will demand that the old, evil capitalist economy to be restored, complete with TV sets and all the other goodies, and they will string up anyone who tries to prevent it. And they will repeal all the asphyxiating rules and regulations, and slash all the crushing taxes, and fire all the taxers and regulators (those that they haven’t strung up, that is).
But there’s another reason why I don’t think the Watermelon Conspiracy will ever work. And that is that I don’t actually think there is any such conspiracy at all. Because, for there to be such a conspiracy, the conspirators will have had to have been working hard for years, planning, testing, learning, innovating, organising, etc, and generally behaving just like the capitalist entrepreneurs they revile. Nope, your average socialist or green is completely incapable of doing very much more than reading a lot of books, and sitting round talking revolution, and then getting high on grass. None of them have a clue about economics, or a clue about ecology, or a clue about anything at all. Yes, they all hate capitalism. And they all love windmills. But replace one with the other? It’s just another hallucinogenic daydream of theirs.