Bribery – a bad misjudgement by the government
It’s fairly obvious that the proposed offer of community bribes wouldn’t be necessary if what was being proposed with fracking wasn’t a bad thing for the area. However, we think that the government may have miscalculated very badly in making it clear that they think they can buy off any opposition.
Consider this story, taken from the book What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael Sandel.
For years, Switzerland had been trying to find a place to store its radioactive waste…. One location designated as a potential site was the small mountain village of Wolfenschiessen (population 2,100). In 1993, shortly before a referendum on the issue, economists surveyed the residents of the village, asking whether they would vote to accept a nuclear waste repository in their community if the Swiss parliament decided to build it there. Although the facility was widely viewed as an undesirable addition to the neighborhood, a slim majority (51 percent) of residents said they would accept it. Apparently their sense of civic duty outweighed their concern about the risks. Then the economists added a sweetener: suppose parliament proposed building the nuclear waste facility in your community and offered to compensate each resident with an annual monetary payment. Then would you favor it?
The result: support dropped to 25 percent. What’s more, upping the ante didn’t help. When the economists increased the monetary offer, the result was unchanged. The residents stood firm even when offered yearly cash payments as high as $8,700 per person, well in excess of the median monthly income.
It’s a classic example, Sandel writes, of the way that putting a price on something — in this case, civic virtue — can actually change and even destroy it. Apart from the market, accepting the location of the storage site is virtuous; with the market, it’s simple bribery. In fact, “83 percent of those who rejected the monetary proposal explained their opposition by saying they could not be bribed.”
Seeing the way in which grubby politicians like Peter Lilley assume that we are for sale to the highest bidder makes people extremely angry.
We feel that he is judging me by his own dubious standards and we don’t like it.
Let’s make sure that we in the Fylde show we are not for sale either.
If fracking is so wonderful they need to come here to explain why. They need to try to persuade us not to buy us.
We think they know they can’t do that so instead we have the prospect of Conservative party grandees sitting in Whitehall offering grubby little sweeteners in a misplaced attempt to short-circuit the democratic process.
Shame on them!
Post Script – we thought it would be amusing to work out how much it would cost the government each year to try to bribe each and every resident of Fylde, Wyre, Ribble Estuary and Blackpool with a sum equivalent to $8,700. It turns out to be £2.1 TRILLION.