Saturday, August 22, 2009

In praise of rationing

Everyone was going on about rationing last week. First you had that Tory whinging about his wages then the Republicans claimed adopting a system like our beloved NHS would lead to rationing health care, even though no one’s proposing creating an American NHS and it’s their system that denies people care when they need it, not ours.

When did we start seeing rationing as a bad thing? My grandma thought wartime rationing was great. Bringing up five kids, with her husband away, it guaranteed a standard of living she never had in the thirties.

Rationing did not just deny people the ability to have more than their fair share in a time of scarcity; it also guaranteed that everyone had enough. During a national crisis it was a measure that said everyone was still entitled to the basics of life.

Today we’ve started to see anything that denies us the right to consume as much as we want as some sort of hateful attack on our human rights, akin to Pol Pot’s killing fields. However, it’s just rational to understand that if we continue to insulate the atmosphere at the current rate things will get a touch uncomfortable.

If I continually put on jumpers demanding my right to wear as many jumpers as I like it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I get really hot. If we clog the air with thick gases the effect might be rather similar.

The current system of rationing that we use is called money. If you can’t lay your hands on enough units, you can’t purchase the goods you want. This system doesn’t guarantee that everyone has enough and it pretends we live in a magical fairyland where there are no limits, especially if you have a functioning credit card.

A more rational system could kill two birds with one stone (which you might need to do, if stones were rationed). We could ensure everyone has somewhere to stay, something to eat and at least one decent party dress. We could also ensure that those items that are most polluting (because they’ve been shipped a long way, they’re made of toxic substances or they use lots of energy) don’t get produced in such numbers that they damage our long-term interests.

Less pollution, less inequality, everyone with a bed to sleep in. I say that a world with rationing would be fairer, create clean air incentives and rehabilitate a word that’s fallen among scoundrels. MP’s and Republicans.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I bet you didn't expect The Economist to be agreeing with you on the wonders of rationing, did you?

Some obvious differences, but I'm pretty sure that when a left wing environmentalist and the free market Economist agree on something it has to be right.