What makes people cheat on their children?

Even in liberal times there is still something wrong with cheating on people. There are not too many wives who are happy about a wandering husband, or the other way round for that matter. And when you catch an employee taking a kick-back, it’s not exactly promotion time and a bottle of Bollinger in the office.

So why is everyone cheating on their kids? And their kids’ kids?

Take the second round NAPs for example. Particularly the ones in the new accession states. The Polish NAP calls for an allocation some 35% above verified 2005 emissions. The Slovak one for 64% more than verified 2005 emissions. The Balts are close to lunar orbit with 80% overallocation. Only the draft Hungarian NAP one has the slightest pretence of modesty about it. Unusual for Hungarians, modesty, but nevertheless, this is a NAP which has been carefully and conscientiously prepared. Perhaps the politicians have not got to it yet.

Do the new accession states think, like the Turk who is selling you a magic carpet, that if they start with a very very very high price, then when you have bargained down a bit, you will be satisfied with a very very high price. Well, perhaps Brussels is that stupid. So what? Then they’ve won a little game against Brussels. Congratulations.

But what happens if Brussels puts its foot down and says no? No, no, and no! Well, then the Ministry of Environment has to go back home with its tail under its legs, and face the music with the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Industry, and all the other ministries which don’t care tuppence for the environment or their kids or their grandchildren or the planet or anything else except votes and nice promises from power companies and industry.

And then those ministries all get in a huff about Brussels stealing their sovereignty, and who was it who said we should join the EU after all, and everyone goes very nationalistic and right wing and sausage and cabbage and silly hats, which is great for votes and getting old people red in the face and then blue in the face.

So, deliberately inflating one’s National Allocation Plan II is a very good ruse for politicians to play the nationalist card and win a cheap trick against Brussels. But it is stupid, since it either ends up with the politicians having to backtrack and lose credibility or it just forces higher allocations all round, since everyone will want some of the same sour cream in their soup. The latter is stupid because it means you are wilfully reducing the cost of CO2, which means that CO2 emissions will not be controlled. So you are cheating the system and the victims of that cheating will be your children and grandchildren. Some clever thinking going on there.

From a political and economic perspective, why could it be that the Hungarian draft NAP II is tighter than the others from Central Europe? It might well be something to do with the structure of the power sector. In Hungary power generation was broken up over ten years ago with a wholesale privatisation. In the other countries, for one reason or another, there remains much state interest in power generation, either through ownership or through close ties to a semi-private incumbent. The inherent conflicts of interest and the crony relationships between generator and lawmaker make it far harder for the lawmaker to apply the Directive on EUETS with any independence. So clearly privatisation is in the interests of your children.

Who actually owns the companies whose interests we are putting before those of our children? The state and pension funds. But aren’t pensions for old people? So were are defending the interests of people clinging onto their lives with no perspective beyond the next two years … and harming those people who still have their whole lives to live.

The selfish gene indeed.

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1 Response to What makes people cheat on their children?

  1. Charlotte says:

    This piece should be widely distributed. Not only among accession countries, but also among the lobbies in the respective countries. And these lobbies bring the whole issue back home to Western Europe:

    RWE was asked just last week to defend its quasi-monopoly in the Czech power market in court, And I sure that neither Latvian nor Polish power is provided by small independent power producers.

    Aren’t these the companies that shuffle billions of $$$ in profit because of emission trading? Aren’t they at the same time twisting public opinions by lamenting that they are in the hands of national (or better: European) law makers?

    Or am I missing something?

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