December 05, 2007

Mad Englishwoman Calls for Reintroduction of Rationing

I'VE READ SOME STRANGE THINGS in my time, but this essay from Guardian columnist Madeleine Bunting must really take the cake. Ms Bunting, noting that no less a pillar of competency than the United Nations has said the developed world must cut its carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 to stave off climate change, believes that only a low-consumption economy will allow this happenstance to come about. As such, she believes that state-ordered rationing -- with the little passbooks and everything -- is the best way to make this come about.

And, as Ms Bunting notes, it's been done before! She writes:

Hearteningly, we know it can be done - our parents and grandparents managed it in the second world war. This useful analogy, explored by Andrew Simms in his book Ecological Debt, demonstrates the critical role of government. In the early 1940s, a dramatic drop in household consumption was achieved - not by relying on the good intentions of individuals (and their ability to act on that coffee-stained pamphlet), but by the government orchestrating a massive propaganda exercise combined with a rationing system and a luxury tax. This will be the stuff of 21st-century politics - something that, right now, all the main political parties are much too scared to admit.

I don't mean to be a spoilsport here, but isn't it worth noting the reason Britain had the rationing was because, you know, they were fighting the Nazis? I mean, I don't know about you, but to me, "fighting the Nazis" makes it a heck of a lot easier to ration stuff compared to "preventing climate change." Especially when you consider the potential tradeoffs. An Englishman who gave up beef in the early Forties at least knew his sacrifice would help Our Boys kill the ravaging Hitlerite hordes stomping over Europe. An Englishman who gave up beef today would have to be content with saving mosquitoes and polar bears and fruit bats and a wide variety of God's creatures who really could care less about his existence, and who would tear him to pieces if given the opportunity. They're animals; that's what they do. They don't wax on eloquently about the beauty of the Government's latest white paper on ecological engineering.

Besides, a big reason rationing was in existence -- and why it worked -- was because Britain, during the war, was in many ways a closed economy. After all, it wasn't exactly easy to conduct trade when the U-Boats were sinking everything in sight. Rationing only works in a time of scarceness, not of plenty. On a related note, it's worth noting what happened during and after the war when outside influences were able to arrive in Britain. Myriad legions of American troops -- who, if I recall correctly, were oversexed, overpaid and over here -- descended upon Britain and got all the girls. Sixty thousand marriages resulted from our occupation of the British Isles and God knows how much other stuff went on. If Britain re-introduced rationing, it would mean that all sorts of foreigners -- and especially Americans -- would swoop in and get all the girls. So I would ask the English and Ms Bunting: do you really want this to happen again?

Hey, wait a minute.

You know, on second thought, I've changed my mind. Therefore, I call on all Britons to immediately implement Ms Bunting's rationing plan. Come on, do it! It's for the planet, you selfish scoundrels! Start patiently queueing up for passbooks and ration cards and dig out your copies of those old recipe booklets from the Ministry of Food. They should be at your local libraries.

Once you've done that, it shouldn't take much longer for you to start queueing up for your weekly allotments of cooking fat and tinned vegetables. Oh, and let me know when you've got things underway, because I've called dibs on asking out Geri Halliwell. Foxy!

(via Samizdata)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at December 5, 2007 08:42 PM | TrackBack
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