Leave defining a “nanny” to the Tories

That, at least, is my reading of this article:

Television sets and other domestic appliances will be fitted with special devices to switch off standby power as part of a radical plan to cut wasteful use of electricity, a special Conservative report will recommend this week.

In an attempt to burnish his green credentials – weeks after being accused of lurching to the right – David Cameron will offer strong support for the report that would herald a major redesign of many of today’s electrical goods.

Unfair? Probably, but this is the same party that is hurling Nanny State slurs against the Labour party’s moves to push pre-natal pregant mothers towards the fresh-food aisles (see below, too). So trying to re-organising household food budgeting and understanding of pre-natal and infant health and nutrition is ‘nanny state’, and anti-liberal, but taking over the job of switching off the televisions in that household aren’t?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve mentioned this a few times: TVs specifically, and standby-energy-use as well. It’s the hypocrisy that gets on my tits. I don’t think the daft political bullying of ‘Nanny State’ accusations is anything above childish bickering, anywhere.

The reason we create and elect governments (as opposed to their more juvenile versions, politicians) is so they can make decisions that, as a society, we want people making, but which the ‘free market’ isn’t forcing in equilibrium conditions.

The equilibrium for plasma-screen TVs does not include automatic Off (vs. mere standby). Consumers, either lazy or ill-informed, are not using it among their criteria. We want them too, whether they care, household-by-household, or not: ergo the government uses regulation.

Young, poorly educated, low-income, low-socioeconomic status (take your pick) mothers are not investing in their pre-borne infants’ health to a level we, as a society, want (either because we just don’t want underweight sick babies in our society as a principle, or because we don’t want them to drain our health system, or grow up improperly educated, or end up criminals – again, take your pick. There are a thousand sad futures we can happily predict for a child growing up in a poor household. ASBOs sure as hell haven’t helped either their chances or our prejudices).

This is no different: the market does not make all mothers invest equally. Probably the opposite, with an NHS to pay for an infant’s ill-health, one is not as risk-averse with respect to the cost of their care (they are, if fully informed of the relationships, with respect to the health itself of the infant). Enter the government, again: offering incentives so that all young mothers respond to all the social costs/benefits of their actions, rather than just the private ones. This is the reason for government intervention in a market – just as when it instituted the NHS itself, way back when.

Getting back to the issue at hand:

A senior Tory said that people have to accept change – standby power alone accounts for 2.25 per cent of Britain’s electricity production. ‘You cannot have standby forever,’ the Tory said. ‘Of course people should be able to put their television to standby for a few hours. But this would end the days of people putting their television on standby and then heading off on holiday.’

I do hope they’ve something bigger and better to offer than that. Nobody is going to vote for the party that will fix the television you won’t buy because you just bought the latest one one your credit card anyway, even though you’re barely making the mortgage payments while watching protests at Heathrow on it. I imagine this is a starting point, but they could have used something bigger. Particularly when it comes with the Usual:

Gummer, who was joined on the commission by the environmentalist and Tory parliamentary candidate Zac Goldsmith, will call for the scrapping of the controversial green air miles tax which would have imposed swingeing taxes on people who exceed an annual limit.

The report will say that aviation taxes should be aimed at airlines which pollute by flying half empty planes and old models. Gummer said he hoped this would go some way to appease Michael O’Leary, the outspoken boss of Ryanair, who has complained that environmentalists fail to give his airline credit for packing its new aeroplanes full.

Mate, people don’t want your aeroplanes at all, full or otherwise.

The Tories will need something better than turning off our telly because we’re too stupid or lazy, while weakening other environmental policy at the behest of airline owners.

Perhaps I’m just grumpy because it’s my bedtime and I don’t like the Tories.


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