Friday, September 09, 2005

BBC NEWS | UK | English countryside 'almost gone'

It is sad that town and country in Britain are divided as never before. I usually sympathise with country people under pressure from urbanites who don't understand the rural way of life and who tend to be rather "Beatrix Potter" in their view of the animal kingdom.

However, if we analyse what the Council for the Protection of Rural England is asking for here, it is state intervention to prevent people selling their houses or land to city people, in an attempt to keep the country as it is right now. The interference with property rights proposed is just staggering and there is nothing in history to suggest that such state controls ever result in a more desirable outcome than the interplay of market forces.

People are leaving the land. That's because agriculture is becoming more efficient. That trend could well be reversed by an increasing demand for organic produce. One more food scare, and the Brits will want everything hand-reared. Farmers who are taking subsidies to "set aside" land (and presumably firing the workers who would have farmed it) might consider earning a living by going for high-end organic production instead.

If the government wants to intervene helpfully, it could more usefully improve urban infrastructure so that our cities are more liveable. I have been a long-distance commuter from the country to the City and it's not an easy choice. I would have preferred decent accommodation in London, but at that stage could not afford it.

This kind of ill-thought-through propaganda, with its "doomsday scenario" to grab a headline is very counter-productive. There is a serious debate to be had here, but demanding massive state intervention to "save" the countryside is naieve in the extreme.

BBC NEWS | UK | English countryside 'almost gone'

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