Thursday 22 November 2007

Heathrow doublethink

There really is something sick about the idea that we can boost the UK economy by concreting over six schools and one whole village, and demolishing at least one twelfth century church.

Only in the peculiar looking-glass world of Treasury economics can that path lead to 'wealth'. By that route we will have no schools, concrete wastelands punctured by planes landing every thirty seconds, and without historic or natural features, yet we will be wealthy beyond our wildest dreams. It is a prime example of what Ruskin referred to as 'illth'.

For me, there is something fundamental about the coming battle over Heathrow's sixth terminal and third runway, after all the assurances last time that they had been ruled out. No government can possibly back the idea and remain credibly concerned about global warming. This really is a line in the sand: a No Pasaran moment.

In the meantime, it ought to be worth calculating whether allowing the world to change planes in multinational retailer heaven, or making it easier for Britons to spend their money abroad, will actually boost the UK economy - however narrowly defined.


Tristan said...

You're talking nonsense.

A Heathrow expansion will benefit the economy, that is obvious.

The question is whether the costs are acceptable. I can't say, it would be best to get government out of it though.

As for the CO2 - could we get away from restricting flight - as the IPCC says we need to increase globalisation. To do this we need flight.
Rather we should cap CO2 emissions and let them be tradeable, or tax emissions. Then those areas where CO2 emissions can be reduced they will be. Net effect beneficial.

Charlotte Gore said...

I think the real 'doublethink' with this particular affair was the announcement yesterday that the expansion would actually see a drop in pollution.

Anonymous said...

Tristan, I take it David is talking about a wider conception of "economy", closer to what used to be known as "political economy", where the economy's function is to benefit and serve society and not operate as an independent mechanism from which (sections of) society may incidentally benefit.

On that definition the question becomes, will Heathrow's expansion benefit the national economy in such a way as to outweigh the damage it will certainly do to the local economy AND the environment.

As Liberal Democrats are fundamentally localist as well as environmentalist, the answer must be no.

Amiable Crank said...

Hi David, there's a simple answer to excess demand for the existing slots on the runways at Heathrow: (and it ain't build another runway!). No, what's needed is an auction of the existing capacity, with the proceeds (several £bn) coming back to us the UK taxpayers. For more info visit:

(You've probably already spotted that it's another example of our old LD friend - LVT)