16 December 2005

Poor Performance Bonus: Don't Try Harder

With the addition in recent years of Eastern European countries to the European Union, there has been pressure on The Old Boys of The Union to reduce the rebates they accept from the Union. The fact that they get back money they have paid seems stupid, but I don't pretend to understand why. It should be explained in the linked article. Chances are it's going to be one of those things that still sounds stupid even after it's explained to you.

Anyway, point being, the thing in Europe on which most of the EUs money gets spent is farming subsidies. This is basically to pay farmers to be less efficient and produce less. Farming methods have moved on to the point where most developed nations can produce more food than the populace can eat, even taking obesity into account.

The obvious solution is to sell it to nations that can't produce enough. Unfortunately, these nations are either too far away to get it, too insular to want it or too poor to pay for it. Which means that you either store "grain mountains" and "milk lakes", like in the Eighties, or you pay farmers to produce less. Bizarrely, it's deemed cheaper to pay them to sit on their arses. Whether that's cheaper economically or politically is not clear.

Farmers are encouraged to diversify and to use their land for other purposes, and there are all sorts of grants available to them to facilitate this. However, what the government giveth, they, egged on by the environ-mentalists, taketh away. For attached to each grant is a list of conditions so strict that they can only apply to a tiny fraction of the farmers in the country.

Basically, the only option viably open to farmers is to turn the country into a huge playground for those who live in the cities. The farm of the future will have offroad driving centres, bog-snorkelling courses, How to Build a Hedge / Wall / Scale Replica of Big Ben Using Toothpicks classes, corporate team-building days and the only animals on the whole place will be washed, shaved and abused relentlessly by the hordes of deranged infants in the creche's Petting Zoo.

This move is the final straw for what is the only remnant of Britain's industrial past. Rural Britain viewed from the air in a few decades will consist of several super-farms that produce the food, stitched together by a plethora of urban playgrounds for the tracksuit wearing masses. Assuming they don't have the moxie to kybosh the whole thing, e-mentalists will be forced to trudge the thousand hectare megafields in order to get any half-decent rambling done. Although, ramblers and rambling as a pass-time will only last until the first bobble-hatted militant is brutally slain by the heavily-armed robot
gunships patrolling the super-farms, blaring "Get orf moi laaaaand!" in a metallic West Country twang.

Britain will be one big theme park. It'll be "The Countryside"1 for people who don't want to get their Nikes dirty. It'll be "Westworld" without Yul Brynner. And he was the only thing that made it any good.

1 "The Countryside" is a Trademark of the Monsanto Company, "The Countryside" is operated in association with HM Government, and sponsored by Nestle and Bernard Matthews.

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