Monday, November 06, 2006

Fixing global warming != screwing privacy

Madeline Bunting, recently anointed head of New Labour think-tank favourite Demos, has a despairing piece on global warming in today's Guardian.

One of her underlying assumptions is that the state must massively intrude into people's use of carbon in order to reduce emissions. There are two simple reasons this is not the case:

  1. The simplest, most efficient and least intrusive mechanism to reduce carbon use is to tax its full external costs. This is the free market solution, and to my mind the obvious choice.

  2. The more interventionist approach is to allocate each UK citizen a carbon allowance and require that they use carbon cards to "spend" this allowance each year (which is reduced annually towards the 90% cuts necessary to stabilise the global climate). Spare allowances can be sold to other individuals or companies than have exceeded their allowance. The anonymous cash technology necessary to implement this solution in a privacy-friendly way will be long out of patent by the time such a scheme could be set up.

We must not allow politicians' ignorance of privacy-enhancing technologies to lead to a massive centralised database listing all of our activities that have a carbon impact. This would put the National Identity Register in the shade in terms of intrusiveness.

1 comment:

Watching Them, Watching Us said...

Madeleine Bunting's resignation from Demos was announced on 19th October 2006.