Next week the government's cunning plan to revive the motor trade gets underway. It's called scrappage: destroying things that are perfectly serviceable in order to keep people employed replacing them. The government is effectively giving people £2000 to scrap their ten year old cars and buy a new one. Banger prices have rocketed on Gumtree. This will make lots of money for Britain’s Arthur Daleys as they exchange dodgy trade-ins in exchange for new motors.
So why not extend it? If the principle of scrappage works for the motor trade, why not fridges and freezers and flat screen TVs? Why not get people to junk their entire kitchens. True, most white goods are imported, so it wouldn’t help British manufacturers, but then 85% of new cars are imported so the government’s scheme isn’t doing much for for British manufacturing either.
And why not vegetables? The government could order that the sell-by dates on carrots and potatoes should be brought forward so that we have to buy more sooner. The waste would be appalling, but think of the boost to Tescos. We could pay vandals to go around the city breaking windows and smashing phone booths and then employ them at public expense to repair the damage. The great economist John Maynard Keynes once suggested that the government should pay people to dig holes and then fill them in again. Nowadays this is called the 2012 Olympics.
Clever Edinburgh and Glasgow councils have already applied the scrappage principle to housing - knocking down thousands of council houses and then replacing them with dinky executive flatlets that are too expensive for anyone to y buy. The Edinburgh Tram scheme could be scrapped even before it has been built - why wait? And if we need more shovel-ready projects to get the construction industry back to work, the Scottish Parliament building is getting a bit long in the tooth after nearly ten years. Then there's the Millennium Dome and the London Eye.
About the only scrappage scheme the government isn't interested in is Trident, presumably because that would actually save money. . To work properly, scrappage has to involve acts of pointless vandalism which only benefit our trading rivals. £300 million, enough for a hundred hospitals, is literally being thrown away on the junk car scheme. But the government should watch out. As David Cameron observed at Prime Minister’s Questions, you take something ten years old, completely clapped out, pumps out hot air, pollutes its surroundings, it is absolutely ripe for the knackers yard. “What a brilliant idea”.