These last weeks the British government was taught a lesson in common sense once again. In response to the rising costs of propane (natural gas in Britain), coal, and electricity, British pensioners resorted to buying books from charity stores to use as cheap fuel in the harsh winter. Fuel prices have remained stable around the world for the last two years but not in Britain. There, the prices went up by 20 to 40 percent for the same period, all due to the obsession of the British government to fight global warming through its excessive Climate Change Levy—a tax that is increased every year at a rate almost double the inflation rate. The government’s obsession with the myth of global warming made prices of coal too high for the poor and elderly in Britain, and now, as a result, instead of carbon from coal, Britain will emit carbon from burned books. Same carbon but processed and refined and enriched with ink and glue.
“Boo for the British government’s lack of common sense,” you would say. Well, we knew from Cyril Parkinson that the British government has long ago severed any connections between its decision-making process and plain common sense. There isn’t much hope that something will change for good, and therefore the news is disturbing and disappointing. But I have a better, fresher, and more optimistic perspective on this situation.
The pensioners’ actions are another example of what economists would call a “gray economy.” Gray economy—by the definitions of the economists—are those economic activities that 1) are not registered in the official government statistics, or 2) thwart government regulations, restrictions, and controls by finding alternative legal ways to supply the controlled or regulated goods or services. Unlike black markets, the gray economy is perfectly legal, and it feeds on the inability of the socialist governments to be what they claim they can be: omniscient and omnipresent. That’s exactly what happened in the above story: The government wants to control the emissions of carbon through taxing it, and the pensioners found a way to emit uncontrolled, unregulated—and therefore cheap—carbon.
But there is more to it. The economic analysis fails to record the moral war going on. Yes, every socialist government is in a state of perpetual war against its own citizens, and we need to understand the gray economy as an aspect of that war. The British government has its commitment to a religion—the religion of global warming alarmism; this religion identifies as enemies all human beings who burn carbon—i.e., all of us—and the British pensioners are among its enemies. The government predictably attacks what supports the life and well-being of the enemies, their fuel supplies, by raising taxes. The pensioners, even though they lack the power to oppose the state, have not lost their will to survive, and they fight back. The fight seems hopeless for them, and yet they do not just lie in their cold rooms to freeze to death. The same spirit that was, for instance, in the Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, is in those pensioners: Fight one more day, find a way to survive one more day against the Nazis, against an oppressive government that has committed all its resources to destroy your life in the name of its evil ideology.
This will of the little people, of the individual citizen, to survive against all odds is the greatest problem of the welfare state. Socialism is an ideology that calls for the confiscation of the individual’s life, liberty and property by the state; but whatever resources socialist governments commit to their propaganda, they can never talk the individual people out of loving their life, liberty, and property. Whatever laws and forces they commit to achieving the goal, they will always meet resistance that is stronger, smarter, and more resourceful than the best the government can muster. The little people don’t need an ideology to resist; it is in their blood to hold fast to what is rightfully theirs. Even in the most totalitarian regimes, government commissars and ideologists were not able to destroy the personal will to live and survive and resist immoral governments.
And the gray economy is by far the most formidable social expression of that will to resist. No socialist government has ever been able to destroy it. In Communist Eastern Europe before 1989 all private enterprise was outlawed. And yet, people kept having their little workshops and little plots of land in their backyards where they would produce useful little things or food and sell them to others. Authors would self-publish their books—samizdat—and distribute them outside of the official government channels. Many examples of such passive resistance can be cited, even in the Gulags, as related by Solzhenitsyn. So prevalent was it that in the early 1980s Andropov capitulated and allowed peasants to produce food on their own land and sell it and craftsmen to open their own shops and produce items and services for the market. In the nations of the European Union today billions of Euro circulate in activities that are not reported to the government statisticians. Even in the most prosperous and organized nation member of the EU, Finland, economists are complaining of the large share of the gray economy, and openly state that it is a “significant threat to the welfare state.”
The Revolutionary War that created the United States of America started over government control on private trade, and many of the heroes in the war were champions of the gray economy that defied controls and regulations. Two decades ago even the Chinese Communist government capitulated before the gray and allowed private property and enterprise, only to legalize and tax what has been going on in secret even during the worst times of Mao’s cultural revolution.
And eventually the envirofascist government of Great Britain will be forced to capitulate before the will of the people to survive, unless it decides to impose Fossil Fuel Tax on books. Pensioners might then turn to burn furniture, trash, or cow manure to keep warm.
The gray economy is indestructible, and this is not only because of the essential nature of man. God Himself is the Protector of the gray economy. He has established boundaries, a wall of separation between the civil government and the private economic transactions of the individuals, and the Biblical law mandates census only in time of war. King David himself, when he ordered Joab to number the people, incurred God’s wrath upon himself and upon the nation. God not only refused to support “official statistics” for government purposes, He in fact was angry at the very idea. Samuel in 1 Samuel 8 described an ungodly government in terms of government control over the economy and the labor force as well as control over “thousands and fifties.” In the book of Judges, the Angel of the Lord called Gideon to lead His army while Gideon was involved in “gray economy” activities of threshing wheat in the winepress, to hide it from the government tax-collectors of the Midianites. The Hebrew midwives deliberately lied to the Egyptian Ministry of Planned Parenthood; and the KGB of Jericho got a false report from Rahab. God blessed the midwives and Rahab for their courage to participate in the gray economy. Joseph decided to take his wife and her son and emigrate from Israel—a legal move per se, but it thwarted the environmentalist plans of Herod’s government of cleaning the world of undesirables.
America will not be an exception. With a government that is consistently moving towards more socialism, we will see more resources produced and exchanged in the gray economy. Government statisticians and economists already express concern over this phenomenon; one wonders why they are surprised. In fact, they should expect Americans to be even more willing to engage in it; first, because of the proud tradition on which America was founded, resistance to wicked governments, and second, because Americans more than any other nation in the world have the will to resist and survive. Because of the greater opportunities and traditions here, the gray economy will be much more diverse and resourceful—private money, informal banking and leasing, community services, barter bargains for goods and services, church related activities of mutual aid, healthcare, and charity services; legal, financial, and other counseling; and of course, that new nemesis for all government control freaks: Internet-based services and trade. Compared to what America and Americans can produce in the field of economic activity under the radar of the official statistics, Europe’s gray economy will look like an amateurish play.
People often ask me, in the face of so much evidence for America’s free fall into socialism and tyranny, why I am so optimistic about the future of this nation. I answer: I saw Communism fall. It was big, ugly, it had all the resources, it had all the guns and it had all the food, and it could kill and spare at will, and . . . it fell. It didn’t fall before mighty military conquerors; it fell before the gray little people whose will to survive it couldn’t break. It capitulated before their ingenuity to find ways to produce and trade under all the government restrictions and controls.
That’s why the news from England are exciting and optimistic. Where people haven’t lost their will to live, where the gray economy still survives and functions in all its multiple diversity, there tyrants are still fighting an uphill battle. May God bless us to understand this and act on it.