IN her 1984 book The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, American author Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989) identified a baffling paradox seen throughout history: the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests.
She told how those in charge have often refused to follow the obvious path of reason and advantage for their country and people, instead ploughing on to disaster with their own blinkered strategies. For such leaders, she says, ‘intelligent mental process seems not to function’.
Tuchman gives as examples four historical instances of catastrophic policy decisions – the Trojans accepting the Wooden Horse from the Greeks, the ossified Catholic Church triggering the Reformation, George III’s loss of the American colonies and the calamitous US intervention in Vietnam.
In recent years, some in the climate change business have used the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s analysis to accuse modern governments of embarking on a march of folly by not doing enough to cut greenhouse gases and save the planet.
However, I’d argue that the opposite is surely the case. The real march of folly is not failing to take action, but joining the frenzied rush to clamber aboard the global warming bandwagon as it crushes all dissent in its path.
Try as governments and campaigners might to convince us that ‘the science is settled’, there is no real consensus about whether man-made emissions are affecting the climate. We might be ruining our economies and reversing centuries of human progress trying to fix something that ain’t broke.
But with contrary voices effectively drowned out by the Government and mainstream media, most notoriously the BBC, Britain is now in the grip of the world’s most deranged gang of folly-marchers – Boris Johnson and his cohorts, insanely pursuing Net Zero.
I won’t go into the depressing details of the madcap trillion-pound scheme that the PM unveiled the other day for making people colder and poorer, while beggaring the country into the bargain. Patrick Benham-Crosswell gave an excellent précis of it in TCW Defending Freedom on Thursday.
All I can say is that even a glance at Johnson’s ‘green is good’ waffle leads you to conclude that, like a badly-installed heat pump, he’s got a screw loose.
Tuchman said that to qualify as folly, a policy must meet three criteria. Net Zero ticks all these boxes.
1. ‘The policy must have been seen as counter-productive in its time, not merely in hindsight.’ Counter-productive doesn’t begin to describe Net Zero. We know right now that it’s unworkable, unaffordable, unnecessary and immensely damaging.
2. ‘A feasible alternative course of action must have been available.’ Simple – scrap Net Zero, scrap wind turbines, scrap solar panels and build nuclear power stations.
3. ‘The policy must be that of a group, not an individual, and should persist beyond any one political lifetime.’ The Labour Energy Secretary Ed Miliband’s 2008 Climate Change Act started the bandwagon rolling and the policy has been ramped up through three subsequent Tory administrations.
Tuchman also perfectly summed up the situation that we are now facing with Johnson. She said: ‘Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, plays a remarkably large role in government.
‘It consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts.’
Maybe it’s not too late to arrest the march of folly if MPs begin to realise it may well lead them down the path to losing their seats. For instance, their constituents may not take too kindly to having their clean, convenient, piping hot water systems ripped out to be replaced with big noisy boxes supplying tepid water while paying thousands of pounds for the privilege.
In the Telegraph, Allister Heath is calling for a referendum on Net Zero to save us from ‘the green blob’. He says: ‘Voters don’t like being treated like naughty children, let alone apathetic imbeciles, by technocrats convinced that they know best.’
That sounds like a good idea, but has as much chance of getting anywhere as an electric car with a flat battery. Johnson is in it too deep to back out now, especially as he looks forward to strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage at the COP26 summit in a one-man show henceforth to be known as The Glasgow Follies.