Now Alistair Darling and Mervyn King have told him there's no money left for another fiscal stimulus, it seems Gordon Brown is desperately searching for some policy gimmicks to shove in the forthcoming budget. And it looks like his latest big idea is a 'green new deal', which will be "a job creator, a quality of life improver, and an environment-enhancing measure", as he told The Independent.
The trouble is, the money has to come from somewhere. Government cannot give to any one sector of the economy – however deserving – without first taking away from the private sector as a whole. If they tax, then they take away funds directly. If they borrow, then there's less capital available for businesses to access. And however they do it, the government is using resources that would otherwise have been supporting jobs and companies elsewhere in the economy. No new purchasing power is created.
These green jobs that Brown says he'll create will only come at the expense of jobs in other sectors that are not so politically appealing. And the businesses he 'stimulates', will only be stimulated because others are deprived.
Moreover, are these green industries going to create wealth or are they just going to be a sink for the taxpayers' money? Even if they are profitable, who's to say the same resources wouldn't have been put to more productive use elsewhere? Government is notoriously bad at picking winners. In fact, they're much better at picking losers.
None of this is to say that I don't think the 'green economy' has a future. I do. The possibilities technological advance brings are endless. But they will be better realized if they're subject to the competitive forces and discovery processes of the market, than if they are simply the playthings of politicians chasing headlines.