In the mindset which prevails at the BBC there is a choice for David Cameron between the “green agenda” or tax cuts. Mr Cameron can either favour the market or the environment but, we are asked to accept, he can not do both. It is accepted that the Conservative Party could be eco friendly – but only by adopting socialist policies of increased spending, tax and regulation. Thus we are asked to accept a great expansion of the public sector – at home and abroad – as a better safeguard of the earth’s resouces than a system of private ownership and property rights. Roger Scruton’s elegantly written volume Green Philosophy challenged this orthodoxy. The record of the Soviet Union and Communist countries in central and eastern Europe left him with no shortage of material in doing so. Yet he has been a lonely voice.
A truly green agenda would include withdrawal from the European Union which has been such an environmental catastrophe – the Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy being merely the most blatant examples.
A US think tank, the Property and Environment Research Center, champions free market environmentalism. Their work includes a comparison of privately-owned and stated-owned forests. Another applies property rights to marine assets. There is an interesting paper on the bee population. It concerns how market mechanisms have prompted beekeepers to counter the impact of CCD. As bee mortality rates increased so did polination fees. More healthy colonies need to be split to replenish numbers – and the supply from queen breeders has increased to cope with demand with no great difficulty. Capitalism saves the planet again. There is honey still for tea.
As is apparent this is a broad subject. But to return to the topical matter of green taxes, shouldn’t more attention be paid to green tax cuts? Building a new house can be zero rated for VAT. Why not for the more eco friendly building work of bringing a derelict empty house back into use?
The Cut the VAT Coalition argue:
Existing homes contribute around 27% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions. There is a vast amount of work to be done if the UK is to meet the legally binding targets for reducing emissions. A simple, single cut in VAT on home repair and maintenance work would help millions of households to upgrade their homes to make them more energy efficient. Without help to reduce energy use, the number of households living in fuel poverty will continue to grow as they struggle to protect themselves against rising fuel prices.
So – a tax cut that would help the environment and ease fuel bills while boosting economic growth and increasing the supply of housing.
Over to you, Mr Osborne.