In the Budget the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, brought in a higher rate of road tax for larger, less fuel-efficient engines. On the face of it, if you're someone such as me who cares about and has campaigned on environmental issues you might think "not exactly radical but fair enough as far as it goes", but I wonder.
In the 8.55 slot on a Sunday morning on Radio 4 where they used to have Letter from America, there is now Brian Walden. Last week he produced a wonderful little piece on the nature of politicians - their mindset and their motivations. Having known them intimately for more than half a century Walden's contention was that they are not people like the rest of us, but individuals who are are only interested in one thing - power over others.
He made the point that as late as the early 20th century a law-abiding man could pass his life without ever coming to the notice of the state. This situation is now utterly altered and nowhere is this more true than for the motorist. Everywhere you drive, even if like me you are an obsessively safe and law-abiding driver, you feel that you are harassed and menaced by remote cameras, regulations, parking notices, speed bumps and legions of wardens in uniforms as various and gaudy as the armies of Napoleon.
Now, of course, in the early 20th century it's true there were only about nine cars on the roads, yet the death toll was more or less the same as it is today - so you could say that all this legislation and taxation and speed bumperisation has gone a long way to ameliorating the deleterious effects of the auto-mobile on the planet and its inhabitants.
Nevertheless, is greater and greater interference, greater and greater curtailment of our freedoms the only way to go?
Politicians enthusiastically subscribe to the ideas of Thomas Hobbes, an economic and political theorist of the mid-17th century who theorised that individuals were motivated entirely by selfishness and that unrestrained pursuit of this self interest would result in anarchy. Therefore government was needed to enforce order and to ensure a fair outcome for all.
But then it suits the distorted, power-hungry worldview of the politician to do so. Yet I find myself wondering more and more whether there isn't some other way to go about ensuring that pedestrians aren't killed, that traffic flows and that the internal combustion engine doesn't destroy the planet without all these many nagging restrictions, taxes and penalties.
See, I don't believe that human beings are necessarily motivated entirely by selfishness. I look around me and see drivers generally being kind and considerate and I wonder whether we couldn't have a system of anarchy whereby each individual takes responsibility for their actions and the over-controlling panoply of politicians and their petty restrictions simply withers away. I plan to dedicate my life to bringing this change about.
Of course, if I don't like all these restrictions we have, I could give up my car and stop driving. But I find that notion so horrific that I think it's easier to try to alter the entire nature of our society instead.Reuse content