Untimely Observations

Big Brother Goes Green

It is always interesting to note how the Left describe themselves as champions of freedom when, in fact, every day they prove freedom’s worst enemy. That this is the case is perhaps less indicative of dishonesty as it is of their ideology’s incompatibility with freedom: after all, any world-improver who regards man and nature as a machine will inevitably come to regard himself as an engineer, and engineering is all about finding ways to manipulate components in order force a pre-determined outcome. For the Left, of course, those components are you and I. When people who are not of the Left attempt to do the same, the Left calls this authoritarianism, oppression, and totalitarianism.

An increasingly topical area of Leftist oppression has been their efforts to implement environmentalist policies. When scientists began speculating about climate change Leftist politicians quickly realized that the apocalyptic scenarios arising from these speculations afforded them the most politically viable arguments they had had in years for confiscating an even larger proportion of people’s earnings. Desperate for money to fund their loopy and costly programs, they wasted no time in sponsoring information campaigns and identifying whole new areas of taxation. An obvious one has been our rubbish.


In the United Kingdom, one of the Labour government’s responses to climate change has been to cut rubbish collections in half, from weekly to biweekly (the council tax remains the same, though), and collecting only rubbish designated as “recyclable” during the gab weeks. Naturally, a system of fines was introduced, in the hope of creating a new revenue stream from people’s mistakes or absent-mindedness, with fines of up to several hundred pounds (even more in dollars) levied on offenders. Another of the Labour government’s responses has been the introduction of an electronic microchip, to be secretly affixed to people’s rubbish bins (trash cans in the U.S.), with the aim of identifying them, weighing the rubbish upon collection, and then invoicing the household connected to that bin for the amount of non-recyclable rubbish they produce. Naturally, a computerized database has been created to keep records and build up profiles and statistics. And, of course, the onus has remained on individual households to somehow reduce the rubbish they produce, while no pressure has been applied on manufacturers to reduce the amount of packaging they use. Since that packaging is the source of most household rubbish, we can easily see that these measures have more to do with collecting taxes than with the environment. The operative word in “green tax” remains, as always, “tax”, not “green”.



The pay-as-you-throw scheme, hugely unpopular, has been, ostensibly, under study. All the same, councils have been forging ahead quietly chipping people’s bins. To date, some 2.6 million of them have been chipped, an increase of 60% during the past year; and with 68 councils already using chipped bins, this means one in five of all household bins in the United Kingdom are already being monitored. Last week, Bristol City council became the first local government authority to formally announce the implementation of the scheme.

According to the Daily Mail on Friday (5 March), the Big Brother Watch campaign group has:

… complained that the bins allow councils to examine household rubbish and sell the information to commercial concerns as well as to impose taxes.

It also warned that collection of data from chipped bins could show when households were on holiday, opening the way to abuse by criminals.

Naturally, the Local Government Association has denied this, arguing that the chips have been installed “to improve services”, while a spokesman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:

There are no Government plans to introduce microchips in bins. Any use of microchips is a local authority decision - some councils use them to monitor levels of waste. This is not about spying on people or fining them.

Yea, sure. Except that, apparently in 2008 nearly 100 councils ran investigations into the contents of their residents' bins, in some cases to check on what rubbish they dump and in others to try to obtain information on their incomes and lifestyles.

When I hear a helicopter flying overhead, I often joke to my wife saying that it is the taxman, looking for signs of affluence (and therefore for people to investigate). It turns out, however, that even my most cynical scenarios are not far from reality. One can imagine a future in which barcodes are succeeded by chips, and where bin chips can detect the chips on discarded packaging and transmit data about the bin’s contents to a huge, government-controlled database. Further, one can imagine a future in which the Inland Revenue’s computers have access to this database, and are able, via a robotic set of algorithms and cross-references, to quickly detect lifestyles inconsistent with a taxpayer’s declared earnings, thus automatically flagging the taxpayer to the taxman as a target for an investigation.

Consider that this is only part of a larger picture. We already know that almost all of our economic activity is recorded and databased; that our internet activity is recorded and databased; that our perambulations in high streets and shop centers are recorded and databased. This information is used, almost uncontroversially, to restrict our economic freedom through taxation. Soon, no doubt, it will be restricted even more: once they are up and running, having turned all of the nations’ rubbish bins into household spies, one can well imagine that governments will make it a requirement that cars come fitted with black boxes, just like airplanes. The argument will be that this will help prevent theft and assist authorities in the investigation of a crime or a road accident; and that this will help ease congestion by enabling the collection of tolls on motorways and congestion charges in town centers (and fines everywhere) electronically, without disrupting the flow of traffic. Needless to say that, as with the rubbish, the stealth taxes will gradually increase and multiply, and our political enemies will continue to gain an ever-more accurate and precise picture of us – of where we are, what we do, what we like, what we read, what we think, what we say, what we make, what we keep, what we throw away – all in the name of safety, your convenience, and the environment.