|The Intellectual Elite's Solution|
reports that a water management report Blueprint for a Living Continent
by high profile scientists, including the CSIRO's John Williams is under
serious consideration by John (lets-pretend-to-be-pro-free-market) Howard.
The report starts out stating the very obvious, that Australia cannot be
drought-proofed. Most of the inhabitants of the driest continent on the planet
didn't need to employ the intellectual elite
for that, but they do apparently need the intellectual elite to lead them
totally off the path of common sense.
Among other idiocies, the report calls for:
an immediate end to broadscale land clearing, paying farmers to maintain
environmental services like clean water and healthy soils, and extra costs on
food and water to pay farmers to farm sustainably.
In other words, more interference in the market.
John (corporate-welfare-is-ok) Howard, still enjoying the sweet electoral
aftertaste from giving sugar-cane farmers $AU150M in subsidies for
not growing sugar, seems to have acquired a greater taste for
subsidizing other unprofitable food producers.
Presumably any unprofitable farmer who is farming infeasible land, and
rapidly turning their asset into salt-pan will be subsidized. As the damage to
the land gets greater and greater, the more and more subsidies will be pumped
into continuing to over-exploit it. Meanwhile any efficient farmer who has rich
healthy soil, and could achieve even greater productivity and efficiency by
clearing more land (and buying water-rights on the free market to irrigate it)
will be forbidden from doing so.
The ignorance of the scientists who formulated
the report is obvious from the description of 'healthy soil' as a
'service'. Healthy soil is not a service any more than a mechanically-sound
truck locked in a garage is a service. It's not a service, it's an asset that
can be used to provide a service, and if the owner is stupid enough to
damage it, he will bear the cost.
When water is treated like a commodity, farmers can sink or swim on their
own merits - not on the perceived worthiness of their chosen occupation. It
will flush many infeasible farmers out of business, including any who do not
farm 'sustainability' - their land will be left to return to its natural state,
and the damage to the soil will stop. This will allow their water quotas to be
purchased by other more efficient farmers - some of whom may wish to clear land
to increase their productivity.
Australia will become the clever country when individuals are free to use their own
innovation to exploit their own resources. By following the government-employed intellectual elite,
with their narrow collectivist view, she is well on her way to sinking into