Legislation by regulation.
What is now called the European Union (EU), grew out of the aftermath of WWII, which had devastated both the economies and infrastructures of most countries in Europe. It was really the product of several treaties but the first big one was the 1957 treaty of Rome, which created a common market amongst its members, with the abolition of tariffs and impediments to the free flow of labour and goods. It was in essence an economic union and so it was naturally called the European Economic Community (EEC).
The next significant event in its evolution, was the Maastricht Treaty of 1993. This was more in the way of a political rather than an economic union between the member states, creating central bodies making their own policies concerning the members’ economies, societies, laws and to a certain extent, security. The treaty also laid the foundation of the Euro currency. It was renamed to the EU, and for a lot of people, myself included, was a step too far in terms of ceding the sovereignty of the member states. One size simply doesn’t fit all, I’m afraid, and the current travails of several member states to stay in the Euro and the union, attest to that. Whether they’ll be able to stay in either of them, comes down to how many more cheques Germany is prepared to write, as usual, and they’re having their own economic troubles at the moment.
This article isn’t about the EU, but rather the tendency of politicians to effectively legislate via the back door using regulation. If you can’t get a measure passed into law via the legislature, simply expand the remit of a regulatory body, until it has enough power to introduce regulations, which have the same effect as the legislation would have had. Apart from the obvious benefit of the politicians getting their way, it has an additional one in that their hands are clean. It’ll be the regulatory body that’ll take the heat for any unpopular measures.
This method of stealth legislation using regulation, has become rampant over the last two decades. All around the world, sleepy little regulatory bodies have grown into all-powerful beasts stifling growth, with absolutely no regard to any economic consequences. The Environmental Protection Agency in America has been effectively introducing the Cap and Trade measures that were rejected on the floor of Congress and indeed, see it as part of their remit to “crucify” heavy industry. One of their managers got fired for saying exactly that in public, but no worries, he was immediately employed by a very green advocacy organisation, which is possibly where he should have been working in the first place.
Since Maastricht, member states have been subsumed under an ever-increasing volume of regulation, to the point where whole compliance professions have sprung up, just to determine what current regulations apply and how to conform to them. One of the most active areas of regulation is in the field of measures to combat global warming and the effect, in tandem with national policies, has been to force so-called carbon producing businesses to hike their prices to cover increasingly stringent regulations. Basically, they’re trying to regulate them out of business. The most noticeable effect of these price rises on the ordinary person, is the way their power bills have sky rocketed in the last few years. The net effect of that has been to push the most needy people into fuel poverty. Even by the UK government’s own estimates, a fifth, but I’d say in reality over a quarter, of households are now officially classified as being in fuel poverty.
If there’s one thing a regulatory body can be relied on to do, it’s to produce more and more rules, and the plethora of rule making bodies in the EU is no exception. It does tend to give them delusions of omnipotence and an example of this is the attempt to charge airlines outside the EU for carbon emissions on flights into and out of the EU. I noted in passing in a previous article, that countries such as America and China wouldn’t stand for that and the inevitable reactions are starting to arrive.
China has told their airlines not to furnish the EU with the mandated figures required to calculate the tax, so the Chinese political regime being what it is, the airlines will do exactly as they’re told by their government. That was notch one and the EU seemed not to take much notice it. The next notch was them cancelling some orders for the new Airbus passenger jet and putting all the rest on hold. That notch they noticed. It hits the aircraft production companies in several EU countries, since Airbus is a multinational enterprise.
The American reaction has been a bit more subtle. Last Tuesday the Senate Commerce Committee passed a bill that gave the transportation secretary the power to bar American airlines from complying with any payments for carbon emissions. The measure will be sent to the full Senate for a vote and looks very likely to pass, since it’s even got the support of people like Senators Boxer and Kerry, both of whom have made a career of being greener than green. It’s part of their repositioning away from the now unfashionable political image of being ecowarriors.
The committee did however, give the EU a face-saving way out. The bill makes clear that any resolution of the problem can only be done by an international body, namely the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). At this stage, the EU is desperate for a way out of this self-imposed crisis and, unless all sanity has fled, they’ll grab the opportunity with both hands to suspend the new regulations and lob the problem over to the ICAO.
What will be conveniently forgotten, is the reason the EU decided to act unilaterally in the first place, back in those heady days when climate alarmism was at its height, was that the ICAO had already kicked the issue about for fifteen years and could never even approach any sort of agreement.
It’ll be a graceful exit from a political tight spot, because the alternative is unthinkable for Europe in its present fragile economic state; a trade war. One can only hope that wise heads will prevail in Brussels.
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