13 Jul 2009

Prince Charles v Whitehall

I watched Prince Charles’s Dimbleby lecture last Thursday. In it, he argued that economic growth had hit the buffers and that the future lay in sustainable development. Nothing new there; it’s standard green thinking.

However, it seems to have hit a raw nerve in the rest of the Establishment. Yesterday, the Times carried reports from “senior Whitehall sources” saying basically that the Prince was misguided and that his vision was fatuous. The question is, why should a senior Whitehall source be minded to offer up this stuff to the Times?

The Whitehall growth monkey has some very strange observations to make.

“Within its core, represented strongly in organisations such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, environmentalism still has an ideological greenness that does not like the way we live and does not believe this is what creates fundamentally decent society. That continues to infect the way they think about the changes that we need, so in that sense it is fundamentally wrong.”

Look at the way he uses the word “infect?” Is he worried, or what?

He goes on: “We are aiming to cut emissions by a third in the next 10 years and then by 80% in the next four decades. These things are not happening because the population has had a green psychological transformation,” he said.

“If that were true, we’d never get anywhere, we’d never have got rid of slavery or brought in seatbelts or abolished hanging. No social change is force-driven by mass psychological change. It is about government leading and people changing accordingly.”

Is he right? Reading between the lines I think he’s hinting that the Metropolitan Elite fashion and the proles are then corralled into changing their behaviour. He could have mentioned the ban on smoking in public places as a more recent example. But what if the Metropolitan Elite decides that we can’t go on pursuing endless economic growth because it’s fucking up the environment? What would the Whitehall mandarins do then? Or do the Whitehall mandarins somehow control the Metropolitan Elite, and hence the government?

Everybody knows that green living involves a bit of hair-shirting, but then so does having a recession every ten or twenty years. The reason the green arguments have such resonance at the moment is that the orthodoxy of economic-growth-at-all-costs has imploded and is failing to deliver the promised goods.

And I think the reason Whitehall is worried this time is because the government finances are in such a mess that a return to economic growth is the only way they can be baled out, and even then it will take 20 years or more. But what if economic growth refuses to come back? What if we have hit the buffers this time?


  1. (I hate this comment feature on blogger - I can't see what you wrote!)

    What if Whitehall has got it wrong?

    Then "they" change the rules, or the game, just like they did when Northern Rock et al hit the skids.

    By "they", I don't mean Whitehall necessarily, I include the G8, the EU, the WTO et al, too - forget the Bilderberg Group conspiracies; what do you think these organisations are doing?

    Already several members of the G8 are steadily lobbying for a new reserve currency (away from the dolar), based on an enlarged basket of currencies and (possibly) commodities (metals) - that's a big game-changer.

    And barely audible (beneath the headlines) there's quite a bit of policy and pledges-of-money focused towards Africa and such places - all couched in "humanitarian-speak" of course.

    But with the burden of deficits currently bearing down on the West, you better believe they have good reasons to do so: Resources (as China knows only too well); (cheap) manufacturing and enlarged consumer markets = more growth.

    Warming relations with Russia and the recent attempts to rebuild bridges with Iran?

    I'm not sure I'm still on-topic so I'll leave it there I think.

  2. AnonymousJuly 15, 2009

    MikeC, click the "Show Original Post" link at the top of the page, just under the title.

    My comment is that the Whitehall source is being a bit disingenuous about the reach of government in changing society. Generally it's society who changes first and government plays catchup. Slavery was banned after society decided that it wasn't right, government just added the laws. Hanging the same. Seatbelts might have been driven by government rather than society but that is like other Health & Safety stuff, including smoking - over-implemented and forced down society's throat. Green and climate change stuff is again down to society changing and politicians riding the bandwagon because it's popular. Politicians always want to ride a popular bandwagon as it makes them look popular too.

    Sorry the comment is not about building. ;-)


  3. AnonymousJuly 27, 2009

    Almost no-one realises that the govt. hasn't committed to a 80% CO2 reduction in the UK. I understand that there's provision to make 40% of this reduction overseas maybe in Botswana, Belarus, Paraquay ... absolutely anywhere it chooses.

    However, if poor countries are to be asked to make CO2 reductions for us, on our behalf, how can they make their own reductions as well on top of this? The whole world clearly needs a 80% or greater cut - not just the UK.

    It does seem worrying that the govt. can get away with this sleight of hand and/or deception.


  4. I think anyone who really understands the postive benefits that the Prince's Trust should give Charles a second listen; Personally I dont agree with his opinions however I do think he has a right to speak, only due to the above.