Tuesday, 1 July 2014
The Future is a Lost Cause
In the first half of 2015, maybe as many as 60% of all adults living in the United Kingdom will vote in a General Election from which will emerge a new Government. Most of those voters will be property owners – the young who don’t yet own houses generally don’t vote and neither do the poor or the migrant workers on whom several major sectors of the economy depend. We have a Property Owning Democracy.
Parties will be competing with promises to maintain the status quo, though they won’t say so. None of them, for example, will promise to bring down house prices. Our way of life is based on permanently rising house prices secured by a deliberately-created shortage of housing in the right places. To challenge this would be electoral suicide.
None of the parties will ask electors to think ahead to the future, whether avoidable futures or unavoidable ones. They will say very little about climate change or the ageing population. That too would be electoral suicide. Property owners are interested in next week, at most next year. The Future is another country and we don’t like foreigners.
In the United Kingdom, the Future is a lost cause. Our voters aren’t interested in it. Our politicians even less so. The Future looks as if it might cost money. Where are the voters who will vote for jam tomorrow instead of jam today? They do not exist.
So no one will talk very much about infrastructure. Instead, they will talk a lot about Benefits – tax cuts, tax breaks, handouts: the kind of thing from which you can assemble a winning coalition of self-interested voters whose sights are firmly set on the short term.
Of course, some policies with long-term implications will be there in the background and after the Election decisions with long-term implications will be taken. We are going to continue as a country with our own stock of American-controlled nuclear weapons – we will pay and they will say. The weapons manufacturers will be happy enough – none of their business who controls the finished toys. All that really matters is that they rust fast enough.
You might object: Europe. There will be a lot of talk about Europe and one party (UKIP) campaigning on a policy – withdrawal from the European Union – with significant long-term implications. That’s why UKIP won’t win the Election. They are not talking about jam today and when the chips are down, as they are supposed to be at Election time (a childish illusion, I know), voters will predictably duck the long term.
Have no fear, the Future is a lost cause. We are so careless of it that we accept as inevitable that Elizabeth will be followed by Charles and then William and then George. Why bother our pretty little heads about things of no importance?