Friday, January 13, 2006

Environmental Liberalism

Chris Huhne has been described as the "dark green horse" to enter the Lib Dem race. Certainly his credentials as someone with intellectual weight seem to be undoubted, although judgements on political skill are perhaps a little harder to make. One thing that would make it harder for me to support him, however, is his 'environmental liberalism'.

I discussed this at length with Richard in the pub the other night, where he put forward the one environmentalist argument that could genuinely convince me of the need to place environmental policies at the forefront of the manifesto - because the goals were clear and limited. They also avoided the paranoia which discredits a lot of environmental activists in my opinion. (It's one of the reasons I think the Anti-Federalists lost the argument over the ratification of the American constitution - because they were only able to make sweeping, and largely unconvincing conjecture about what might, not what would happen).

However, one thing I would find very difficult to accept in any environmental policy is a threat to cheap air flights to the continent. I know that these are currently the major targets of the environmentalists, and given the Tory change in tune, I think they are almost certainly on the way out. And yet I think that the societal value of cheap flights is enormous.

Travel is one of the few things I do not think I could feasibly do without. The cliches about it broadening the mind and all that jazz are undoubtedly true. Even flying out to resorts that are designed to be Britain with beaches and more sun is a positive thing - at some point, people will be touched by the kindness of strangers. Stereotypes dissolve in the face of human contact, and travel is something that we should be encouraging, as a societal good. We certainly shouldn't tax it to death.