Why You Might Want To Take a Glance at Finland
In 1997, New Labour came to power in Great Britain pledging to be get tough on global-warming and it was a pledge that they lived up to. Their crowning achievement was the Climate Change Act of 2008, which commits this fair isle to cutting her carbon emissions by a fantastic 80% before 2050 and will cost the economy, on the government’s own estimate, £18 billion pounds a year, making it the most expensive piece of legislation in British history. With the economy in turmoil and led by a morose and unstable megalomaniac, New Labour were finally turfed out of office by the electorate in 2010, but this didn’t lead to a reversal or even a pause in the de-industrialisation of Britain. Cameron’s Conservative party, with its Liberal Democrat coalition partners, set out to be ‘the greenest government ever’ and haven’t looked back since, firmly committed to covering the British countryside in ugly, expensive wind farms that don’t work, increasing the cost of energy and, in fact, ensuring persistent structural energy shortages within the decade.
So fighting global warming must be overwhelmingly popular in Britain right? After all Britons have spent three decades now voting in one or another party explicitly committed to making them poorer in order to stop global warming and not one of their elected representatives has made a consistent stand against it. What a remarkably selfless and idealistic people!
However, the evidence doesn’t really support this. Despite non-stop propaganda from the education system and media, scepticism about man-made global-warming continues to rise, with about 25% of us now of the view that it’s a myth and more doubting either its severity or cause. But that’s not going to stop the major political parties from dismantling the British economy (to no purpose whatsoever, since we are responsible for an insignificant proportion of global carbon emissions). A lousy 3 MPs roused themselves to vote against the 2008 abomination and scarcely more have since signed up to opposing the runaway green energy scam. When Labour eventually get their mitts back on power they will doubtless be even greener than the greenest government in history.
This is a perfect example of the most outstanding feature of modern multi-party democracies: their amazingly soporific effect upon the population. Absolute monarchies or military dictatorships that openly commit themselves to impoverishing their subjects in the name of an ideological goal face rioting until they back down or are toppled. In democracies, on the other hand, an election every few years is generally considered to confer Divine Right and the most demented policies are greeted with oohs and umms until eventually the people gather round to elect a new set of faces who instantly proceed to implement exactly the same policies, sometimes a bit faster, sometimes a bit slower.
Britain isn’t unique and climate change is no exception. Whether it’s immigration, the death penalty, the sentencing of criminals, progressive educational doctrine, or welfare allocation, the views of either significant minorities or absolute majorities are consistently ignored by every single government that comes to power across Europe and the voters just as consistently greet the contempt of their rulers with a shrug.
The best example of this strange phenomenon is the ever-expanding customs-union cum oligarchic super-state called the European Union. Every major political party in every member country is either openly committed or tacitly acquiescent to the project of ‘ever closer union’, but the European peoples, despite an endless barrage of propaganda to the effect that EU-scepticism is tantamount to neo-Nazi revanchism, aren’t interested and vote against it whenever given the offer. The reasons for this disconnect between the ruled and their rulers are not obscure. Much of the political class are motivated by an ideological hatred of the nation state, but even more importantly, they are tempted by the endlessly multiplying amount of jobs in the EU hierarchy available to people with no marketable skills whatsoever (i.e. politicians). Ordinary Europeans are untouched by this bizarre ideology and mostly have no access to the Brussels-Strasbourg gravy train; with the total incompetence of the highly-paid, unelected oligarchs who rule the roost becoming ever more palpable they almost all want the runaway EU train to halt, most want it to go in reverse and a good deal want to bundle out altogether.
But they don’t seem to want it enough. When the time comes to vote, the vast majority stick to the big parties who then proceed to agree to every ridiculous or sinister demand of the EU with barely a whimper: from higher taxes, to bailouts, to the European arrest warrant. Why? Because there are no alternatives on offer, or at least none that can’t be written off in the supine media as ‘extreme’ or ‘racist’.
So, democracy turns out to be a very effective system for preserving consistency of government policy. The essential condition for this stable system of government is to have the various political parties at each other’s throat over some issue of policy (it doesn’t matter which) and indulging in fierce partisan rhetoric, the more heated the better. There’s no necessity for there to be any actual conspiracy going on here; rather I’m offering sociological observation about the functioning of advanced democracies: partisan political conflict is a necessary pre-condition for the populace accepting that 90% of policy stays the same whoever is in power. Whether or not politicians sincerely believe that the difference between a corporate tax rate of 23% and 25%, or £6 billion of spending cuts in the context of an £180 billion deficit, is what separates a well governed polity from dystopia is neither here nor there, the simple fact is that they have to argue about something otherwise the whole system loses legitimacy.
This is why events in Finland over the past few months may prove very important. Harnessing public opposition to bailing out their less prudent neighbours, the ‘ True Finns’ party surged from nowhere to 3rd place with 19.1% of the vote. This, combined with the collapse of the ‘Centre Party’, meant that the usual options of a centre-right or centre-left government were impossible. The True Finns refused to join any coalition which agreed to contribute to the bailouts of Greece and Portugal. If they got their way there was nothing the EU could seriously do about it, the bailouts would have gone on regardless, but Finland wouldn’t pay a penny, meaning every other country’s contribution would go up. All across Europe electorates would see that there is an alternative and that voting Eurosceptic could achieve tangible results. The European project would have been thrown into jeopardy.
Of course this couldn’t be allowed to happen, so Finnish political parties from Right to Left did something extraordinary: they formed a government of national unity. Normally such a drastic step is reserved for true national emergencies, like a world war, but here it was done for literally no other reason than to ensure a bailouts needed to prop up the Euro so the European political elites (of which Finnish politicians either are, or wish to be, a part) could keep themselves in gravy. By taking such a bold step, Finnish politicians have sent their voters a very clear message, which I’ll take the liberty of summarising:
Hey guys, you know how we’ve spent the last few decades tearing strips off each other, elucidating our deep philosophical differences and waging war over policy … yeah, well, turns out that was a bit of a crock. Actually, you’d be hard pressed to stick a matchstick between us and now we’re going to get together for the sole purpose of taking your money and giving it to foreigners in order to save a political union you don’t believe in and about which we have no intention of ever asking your opinion again. Sucks to be you.
After this, there’s no way that any Finn with a modicum of self-respect can ever vote for this gang of crooks again. That’s not to say millions won’t still do so, but they could well be a minority and all sorts of new parties will be able to fill the vacuum. Nor is Finland alone. The Euro crisis is forcing political elites into desperate measures that threaten the basic legitimacy of the centrist consensus, delicately carved out since WW2. Irish voters gave Fianna Fail (centre-Left) the biggest drubbing in the history of the Republic, having noticed that they were wilfully selling out the interests of their country in favour of the EU. The reins of government were taken up by Fine Gael (centre-Right) and Labour (slightly less centre-Left), but since there is literally nothing whatsoever they can do differently without leaving at least the single European currency and probably EU altogether, they too will have to be chucked out in 4 years’ time, or less. That leaves only Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, so Europe will have to get used to a government made up of Marxist (ex-) terrorists.
That prospect should alert us to the manifold dangers involved in the crisis of democratic legitimacy unfolding because mainstream political parties insist on sticking doggedly to their unpopular commitments whilst the world around them goes down the toilet. On the other hand, since our current common destiny is a combination of public default and currency collapse, we should relish the opportunity to do something better.