A free person is a powerful person. A person who does not depend on the government is the freest person of all because they can decide the course of their own life. However, a person who cannot pay the bills or who struggles to get by is highly susceptible to manipulation by others. In politics across the globe and in the UK, the people who depend on the government for benefits are not truly free because their living depends on what politicians decide to give them from the taxpayers’ hard earned tax payments. However, there is another source of disempowerment that affects more people much more people directly that is the crippling cost of energy in transportation and in homes. High energy prices effect everything from the food people put on their table to selecting the job of their choice. It limits where people can travel and how they spend their money. Thus, another government role (not mentioned in my last blog on the proper role of government) would be to do all it can to keep prices low for consumers not by capping prices or nationalising industries and creating shortages, but by encouraging the free market to give people broad choice on energy and by investing in infrastructure to make doing business easier. When energy costs are low and transportation is easy and readily available people make more money and have more choices. The question is then, how do we achieve such an objective? I offer the following solution based on three basic points: 1. Allowing multiple sources of energy, 2. Increasing access to multiple sources of transportation and 3. Building an infrastructure so that business can be done well and that elevates Britain as a world commerce leader.
1. Diversity in Sources of Energy
- Fracking. Fracking is a controversial topic but it really shouldn’t be. It produces enormous benefits in that it lowers the cost of natural gas and oil for the heating of homes and produces extra income for those whose land is drilled on. Living in Texas, I see the benefits first hand: lower costs, royalties for those whose land the fracking occurs on and jobs, lots of jobs. My brother will be starting university in a formerly god-forsaken waste landcalled North Dakota in the fall, whose economy was faltering and whose tiny population was decreasing in size before the fracking boom. This article from the American Enterprise Institute covers much better than I could that benefits fracking brings. http://www.aei.org/article/economics/benefits-of-hydraulic-fracking/ . Thus, I agree whole heartedly with the government’s plan to make the UK the most “fracking friendly” country in the world because I believe similar benefits will be brought to the UK from fracking. (If not more beneficial since the US EPA is avowdely unfriendly to the practice.) http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/d1392d20-efc9-11e2-8229-00144feabdc0,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2Fd1392d20-efc9-11e2-8229-00144feabdc0.html&_i_referer=#axzz2ZjhB2w1y
- Work to restore coal as a viable source of energy. Coal played a vital role in the history of the UK and it can today too. Clean coal is a possibility in the modern world, and loosening restrictions on coal mining and usage would greatly benefit those communities where coal is no longer mined. Leftists love to blame Margaret Thatcher for the decline of the coal industry, but in fact it had long been in decline due to the nationalised coal industry’s inability to compete and adapt to changes in the modern world. Thatcher broke the back of a coal union (NUM) that did the opposite of what this blog calls for, in that it wanted to force higher prices on consumers to empower the unions. Now that coal is private, companies, if loosened from the band of stringent and misplace environmental restrictions, could usher in a new, robust UK coal industry. Here is a link about the benefits of clean coal: http://cleancoal.pro/CleanCoalTechnology.html
- Alternative sources of energy. I know in much of the UK, “windfarm” is a dirty work. People have often been forced against their will to put ugly, expensive wind farms in their communities, from the order of the Westminster government. Luckily, the government has reversed policy and is now allowing councils to decide if and when and where a wind farm can be built. However, let’s not let misguided government imposition cloud our judgment on wind farms. They have benefits, so much so famous Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens invested heavily in them. http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/05/19/pickens.qa/. Other green energies also have remarkable promise. However, governments should be sure not to favour “green” industries if traditional energies can be done to the benefit of the consumer and in a clean way. The scandal of the US government supporting Solyndra, a solar company, shows the error of wasting taxpayer money when the free market does not support the investment. http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/teachable-moment-courtesy-solyndr
2. Allow people the best possible choices in transportation
- Encourage and do not demonise cars. The automobile is one of the greatest inventions in modern history, it allows individuals to travel freely to get to where they want to go on their own terms and it provides plenty of jobs for those making the cars. It is very encouraging to see the recent boom in production of British automobiles and hopefully that trend continues. Government’s role here then is to continue to make Great Britain an attractive place to manufacture cars by doing all it can to keep taxes and regulations favourable to that end. On the transport side, increasing fuel duties hampers the individual by limiting his or her ability to travel by increasing petrol costs. I was encouraged by the freezing of petrol duties (reversing Labour’s rise without end) but this government can do more to help motorists by lowering the petrol duty all together. Furthermore, Britons do not benefit if cars are demonised by do gooding MPs or councilman. Public transportation has its benefits but it, like the roadways suffer with congestion if people who would normally use their car. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=626749134024796&set=a.217527344946979.69646.196176173748763&type=1&theater. (In case somebody looked at the photo, the answer is not renationalisation, like the UK Green party would like to believe, because the government is the master at shortages and the free market could handle it better in their ability to adopt to market changes without being held accountable to slow moving government bureaucracy).
- Make sure public transportation can run efficiently and on time. Public transportation is good at easing congestion and offering people choice from the roadways if they so choose. I personally take the DART rail system here in Dallas to go law school. It allows me time to study and helps me avoid the stresses of traffic congestion. Local (not National) governments should do their duty to the taxpayers in making sure the public transport system they fund runs to the best benefit of the taxpayers who use it-and that means on time and not putting taxpayer money in wasteful public projects like Ken Livingston’s “bendies” when the double decker’s work great.
- Being innovative in public transportation options. Other ways local governments and councils can benefits travelers can be seen in Boris Johnson’s bike scheme ( image seen at bottom of the blog, courtesy of Epiphany Search done for HRS UK www.hrs.com/uk/). It has benefited Londoners and tourist alike by letting them travel without greatly increasing congestion.
3. Build infrastructure that makes sense and benefits Great Britain.
- Strengthen UK airports to be world players and reject fanciful airport “mega projects” such as “Boris Island”. The UK has good airports, they just need to be expanded and modernised to keep the UK as an easy place to visit. Thus, I applaud the government for rejecting ultra expensive ideas for a new airport and strengthening Heathrow. Here in Dallas, DFW is an elite world airport because it is well maintained and there are many flights out of it. Lovefield too was recently given a face lift and now will continue to be the US’s largest airline Southwest’s hub for years to come. I support the UK’s government’s report’s reccomendations on Heathrow, and I hope they expand Gatwick as well. It is important to remember when people want to come to London they don’t want to fly way out to the country, they want to be quickly in London, which is why Heathrow remains the best option. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/transport/10047497/MPs-reject-Boris-Island-in-favour-of-third-Heathrow-runway.html
- Keep roads and rail lines in repair, but spend money on the right projects. Many people, including commentors on this blog, have remarked on the state of disrepair of much of the infrastructure in the UK; which believe it or not is a major problem in the US as well. Thus, the government’s announcement that money saved from deficit cuts will be invested in infrastructure is welcome. However, it is important that the money goes to where it is needed, not to where to where the most powerful MP is. Part of the problem in the US with infrastructure is money going to the wrong places. Senator Robert Byrd famously got his lightly populated state of West Virginia the best highway system in the nation while infrastructure in more densely populated and growing areas fell into disrepair, for example. Thus MPs must be sure the money is going into the right places. Another option is toll roads. They allow private companies to build roads and charge a toll. Texas has recently used the system and toll roads are the best maintained roads in the state.
- Always respect private property. As important as the need for easing congestion is, a society that values individual liberty should always respect private property. If they must build a road through private property or build a new rail line, they must compensate the property owner fairly, because it ultimately is the domain of the landowner. Our great civilisation was built because government was done with the consent of the people, going all the way back to the Magna Carta. Disregarding private property rights undermines a government’s credibility and the rights of individuals.
- Respect local communities wishes, traditions and concern for the environment. Government should not be overzealous to build infrastructure for progress’ sake. Many communities wish to preserve their rural and natural character and it is not the central government’s place to impose its will on an autonomous community. Rural character and tradition are important to community identity and that is not something a government should impose to override with a pounds and pence calculation.
Do you agree with these suggestions or am I misguided? What other suggestions do you have?