Notwithstanding my unflinching revulsion of all that is the Daily Mail, complete with its non-stop xenophobia, its petty ‘little England’ mentality and its outright racist bile, I am forced once again to congratulate its editors for their front-page campaign against the tsunami of plastic currently devastating our planet. I say, ‘once again’ because they ran a similar inspiring front-page campaign not so long ago declaring ‘sugar as the new tobacco’. They were correct on that one and they are equally correct on their attitude towards discarded plastics. Just as The Sun, that vile tabloid rag, once came out defiantly against the murderers of Stephen Lawrence, so The Daily Mail occasionally demonstrates its better nature. It is rare but welcome nevertheless. But there is a glaring contradiction at the heart of their campaigning journalism; the not insignificant question of government regulation.

At the heart of nearly all left-right debate across the planet is the appropriate role of government intervention as opposed to ‘free-market’ anarchy. This dichotomy of ideas stretches right back through the centuries and is as old as capitalism itself. The Mail unequivocally calls for schemes to discourage the dumping of plastic dumping but that is only likely to happen by government regulation. The ‘nudge theory’ is ok in theory but if you want to alter the behaviour of giant multinational corporations you surely need tight government regulation and preferably at a regional or better still, international level. But, The Daily Mail is irrevocably and ideologically opposed to such government interventions. They are equally opposed, it seems, to regional governance such as the European Union. So, they are left in something of a quandary. If governments don’t act against corporate profiteering, irresponsible marketing and environmental lunacy, they are to be condemned by the Daily Mail. If they do intervene for the common good they are quickly branded as conspiratorial Marxist interventionists surreptitiously creating a ‘nanny state’.  

The reality that the Daily Mail and its readership must now grasp is that in an age of globalisation, rational global governance is essential. Pollution, like tax evasion, is no respecter of national borders. Neither are drones, jihadists and intercontinental nuclear missiles. All pose a global threat. All require a global response. Dumping plastics in the ocean is most certainly a threat to the whole of humanity as is the continued burning of fossil fuels. The Daily Mail puts it succinctly enough;

‘Every minute, a truckload of plastic waste enters our oceans. In Britain, we are failing to recycle up to 16 million single use plastic bottles every day. This cannot carry on. It is causing untold damage to our oceans and wildlife. It is also a ticking timebomb for humanity, since we all ultimately depend on healthy oceans for our survival.’

That statement could not be clearer. But fine sounding platitudes are not enough. The next step is to punish the offenders.  That means regulating in the strictest ways possible the food and drinks industry from top to bottom. It means challenging their right to make obscene profits at the expense of the planet. By a combination of taxes, deposit schemes and government legislation, the vast majority of harmful plastic packaging must be taken out of circulation. And if it cannot be safely recycled it must be banned and banned immediately.

And what is true for the food and drinks industry is equally true for the fossil fuel industries, the pharmaceutical industries and the tobacco industries. If the Daily Mail wishes to brand this government intervention as socialism, then so be it.  Socialism is not a conspiracy. It is simply modern production by either state or private enterprises, or a combination of both, tightly regulated, transparent and accountable. There can be no progress on any front, be it global pollution, global tax evasion or global poverty without global governance. It is the ideology of the unrestrained ‘free-market, which of course is anything but free, that is the biggest impediment to human progress. But this is precisely the ideology that the Daily Mail clings to so dearly. Sooner or later the Daily Mail will be forced to confront this contradiction. The logic of their fine sounding campaigns is for governments to confront the corporate sector but this is precisely what they are not prepared to advocate.

End JPK Copyright, 3/12/17

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