Monday, October 24, 2016

F is for Frugality

Being frugal, according to, means being:

economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful.

Living frugally means imposing austerity on yourself in order to have better control over your life. It means wresting control away from the exploitative systems that govern the world we live in. Frugality is not a competitive sport to be boasted about online; it's more of an aspirational art form.

There are endless ways of being frugal without incurring any loss of life quality. In fact, most people report that their lives feel more grounded once they begin practicing frugality.

There are many good reasons for being frugal. In his 1970s book Muddling Towards Frugality, Warren Johnson lays out a whole philosophy regarding living well by focusing on what you need rather than what you want. One of the best reasons, however, is that it might save your life. Living in a state of permanent entitlement is a  psychological achilles heel for many. Watching middle class people lose things they consider themselves entitled to is usually a very sorry spectacle. Frugality, or voluntary simplicity, or voluntary poverty is about jumping off the work-to-consume treadmill and getting onto the (much slower) work-to-live one.

Living frugally does not mean living in poverty. Poverty is a trap that can be impossible to escape from. The systems of our industrialised technocratic psychopathically-designed society are set up to funnel wealth upwards from the masses to a few people at the top. Those caught in the trap often find they have no way of escaping it: they are literally powerless.

Some people have the good fortune to be able to practice frugality before it is thrust upon them by outside forces. If you are one of them you should count your lucky stars. It's no fun going from being comfortably middle class to being without a place to call home and unable to afford even a cup of coffee (as I can attest) but if you get enough practice in you can at least salvage the basics of existence and then fill the upper levels of your hierarchy of needs pyramid with things that are free, or very cheap. These things are free (presently):

- Going for a walk
- Keeping fit
- Singing
- Creating works of art
- Making love
- Meditating
- Talking with friends
- Stroking kittens
- Joining a fight club

We live in a time where, in some ways, it is easy to be frugal. Our societies are awash with cast-off clothes, toys, electronics and materials that nobody wants. 90% of our fossil fuels end up as waste heat, and about half of the all the food we produce ends up in landfill. There is plenty of room for frugality at either end of the scale.

But that window is rapidly closing. Within ten years we're likely to have witnessed the end of industrial civilisation as the EROEI of oil drops below 1. At this point those who do not know how to live very cheaply and simply will be - let's just say - at a considerable disadvantage.

If you want some ideas, have a look at Britain's most frugal pensioner.

Monday, October 3, 2016

E is for EROEI

Understanding EROEI - or Energy Return On Energy Invested - should be on every school curriculum, but isn't. Simply put, it's the amount of energy we as a species can play with. Back in the days when you could poke a hole in the ground and oil would gush out of it skywards, getting hold of plenty of energy was easy. In fact, for every blob of oil you used for locating, drilling and transporting the stuff, you got between 100 and 200 similarly-sized blobs of the same quality back. The way this energy value was expressed was by way of EROEI; thus, sweet onshore crude oil could be said to have an EROEI of 100 to 200. These were the low hanging fruit days that made the 20th century boom.

Once all the low hanging fruit was gone we had to move a bit further up the tree. Oil and coal and natural gas were still abundant but they needed more work to get at. They also needed more processing, transporting and all the rest of it. Because of this, the net energy (i.e. energy return minus energy expenditure) available to us was lower. We invested one blob and got considerably less than 100 back. In other words, the energy we invested in unlocking fossil fuels needed to be higher just to get the same amount back that we were used to, meaning the EROEI was falling.

Of course, fossil fuels aren't the only forms of energy. Nuclear was thought to have a high EROEI, but once you took into consideration the entire process of building the power stations, mining the uranium, decommissioning the plant and storing the waste, the EROEI shrivelled up like dead fish in the sun at Fukushima Beach.

Renewables also have relatively low EROEI values compared to early oil. Note, however, that EROEI has nothing to do with money. Getting EROEI mixed up with EROI (Energy Return on Investment) is a common mistake. One deals with the immutable laws of physics and the other deals with the infinitely manipulable world of finance - and only one of these sets of conditions is negotiable.

So what would be the average EROEI value of oil discovered today? Unfortunately nobody can seem to agree on an exact figure, but you can be sure that it's a lot lower than 200. 20 perhaps. In fact many insist that fracked shale gas and tight oil have such a low EROEI they are only viable as a commercial operation when financed by Wall Street Ponzi schemes. Biofuels, such as ethanol, have disastrously low EROEI numbers - in many cases they are less than 1. When you put more energy into something than you get out of it then it can no longer be regarded as a fuel source. Nevertheless, biofuel volumes are often added to 'total liquids' figures, implying they are an oil substitute when clearly they are not.

People will often say that 'the world is awash with oil' because they see it on the news all the time. They see no reason to think scarcity exists - everywhere they look they see abundance. However, there's a problem with this kind of thinking, and the problem is that our net energy levels are shrinking. Yes, shrinking! We can cover the world in wind turbines, solar panels and fracking wells, and we still can't escape the shrinkage problem. We might be producing, say, ten million barrels of oil per day - which looks great on spreadsheets and in news articles - but what good is that if we are then spending the bulk of it to do more drilling to get at more oil that will have an even lower EROEI value?

Which leads us to the crux of the problem. The modern world was set up to run on high EROEI energy. Take a look around. All those roads, airports, microproccesor factories, mechanised agricultural systems, globalised supply chains and space programmes require a huge throughput of energy. But we are running out of high EROEI energy, and will soon have only low EROEI energy to play with. Which begs the question: at what average level of net energy will the modern world cease to be a viable option? In the past, when high energy fossil fuels were abundant, you could always throw more money and energy at problems and expect them to go away - and usually they did. But this option itself is now going away. What will we do?

Here's a chart showing estimated EROEI values for different energy sources (source unknown).

Proponents of renewable energy will say that we can simply swap out the old system for a new 'clean and green' one. We'll all drive electric cars, live in solar cities and our lifestyles will not be much different to what they are today. This vision ignores many of the other limits to the system, and would still permit the continued destruction of the planet's life support systems, albeit in a more 'green' fashion. That's not to say that renewable energy isn't extremely useful - especially in a locally-distributed way - just to recognise some of its limits.

On the other hand, fossil fuel dinosaurs claim that we should just go all-out for oil and gas and coal. If there's such a thing as EROEI or global warming or acidifying oceans then they don't want to hear it. We should be fracking the living daylight out of the planet, building pipelines and fighting wars to get 'our' oil out of the Middle East. These people are a type of modern day cargo cult and as such, are quite dangerous. Many of them are politicians and leading businessmen.

There's a third category, too. The techno cornucopian optimists insist that a new technological breakthrough is just around the corner that will allow us to live like we do with no interruption to service. Haven't you heard there's a government conspiracy to cover up the availability of free energy? Or that if we can send robots up into space to mine comets for uranium we can have endless energy? Selling dreams is a profitable business, and the most successful of these people have MBAs and hire the best PR staffers. I myself once pretended to be one just for fun and have had several requests for an investment prospectus from people with money.

So what is likely to happen as these groups fight it out amongst each other while, all along, the needle on the global EROEI fuel tank moves into the orange zone? Perhaps it will be like the hand of God slowly turning down the dimmer switch on industrial civilisation. Because the more energy we USE simply to GET energy, the less energy is available for the rest of society to use. And this manifests itself in many different ways, but it all comes down to lower available net energy. Already we are seeing demand destruction and lower energy use as the former consumer classes struggle to be able to afford as many goods and the corresponding energy they use. Heavy goods vehicle traffic levels have fallen over 6% across the UK in the last decade, councils are turning off streetlights at night, and homeless levels in the US are spiking. Sweden is encouraging its citizens to refurbish goods instead of buying new ones, malnutrition in children is becoming common in the developed world and 30-something Britons possess half as much as 30-somethings did only 10 years ago [*See links below]. These are just some signs that the big squeeze is on, and it's getting tighter and tighter with each passing year.

Links to articles:

HGV traffic levels falling across UK
Councils turning off streetlights
Number of homeless people over 50 in US spiking
Sweden encourages goods refurbishing
Malnutrition in UK children
30 something Brits have less than half of 40 somethings at same age
UK hits "Peak stuff"
If you're under 30 - bad luck - you're screwed

Monday, September 26, 2016

D is for Degrowth

Or it could also be for Depletion or Dieoff, which are related topics. The human species has been expanding rapidly since the Industrial Revolutions, but really took off in the 20th century. Masses of cheap energy in the form of fossil fuels allowed us to mine and exploit the planet's mineral, animal and plant resources as if they were infinite. We measured all of this activity by giving things a monetary value and measuring the rate at which primary goods (raw materials) were turned into manufactured products, supported by a web of services. We called this system of measurements "the economy".

Because we had an economy we had to have economists. These were the technicians and theoreticians who claimed they knew how to make the system function and grow. If the system was growing then material prosperity - or at least the promise of it - could be made available to more and more people. Banks made loans and lent money, governments issued bonds and initiated works of infrastructure, generals grew their armies and waged wars, and the common person got a credit card and a mortgage to buy a house. All of this economic activity went into the melting pot and was used to calculate a country's GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

This all worked well until the limits of growth were met. However, by that point, the system had evolved into one with no reverse gear. Booming populations, exponentially rising debt and an infrastructure designed and built on the assumption that there would never be any limits to growth had painted us into a corner. The economists, being only concerned with economics and not ecology, failed to recognise that the human economy is merely an artificially created system existing within the wider ecology of planet Earth. As a result of this minor oversight ecological systems are breaking down at an alarming rate. The planet is running out of capacity for dealing with the rising tide of waste from the human species,  just as it is running out of fresh water, fertile topsoil, biodiversity and a climate amenable to continued human civilisation.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Standard neoclassical economics says that when one good becomes scarce the free market will step in and - as if by magic - a substitute good will be found. This hasn't happened in the case of our biological life support systems and represents the ultimate market failure. But this hasn't worried the true believers, and the concept of infinite substitutability has now been taken to its logical conclusion ad absurdum with serious talk about moving to a new (as yet unlocated) planet.

So, given the huge footprint of the human species on a finite planet, there can only be one logical solution to save ourselves: to degrow the economy. This is not a popular option. For an economy geared for growth, and only growth, any backward step to a smaller and less complex state of affairs is calamitous. Financial ponzi schemes collapse, asset bubbles burst, people lose their jobs and governments find themselves unable to supply basic services. All of this tends to lead to riots, revolutions and wars.

And yet we don't have any choice. Given the basic mathematically impossible concept of continued growth in a finite space, it is inevitable that limits will be reached sooner or later. Yet we have engineered a system whereby continued growth is suicidal, and the opposite will be very painful. But given the choice between an outcome that is certainly fatal and one that is likely very painful but not fatal, most rational people would choose the latter, all other things being held equal.

But what would degrowth look like in practice? Imagine, for a moment, the existence of a far-sighted and benign government that wanted to look out for and protect its citizens (I know it's hard to do these days). It might, for example, make cars prohibitively expensive and invest in public transport and cycle lanes instead. It might pour subsidies into researching and developing more benign technologies for generating energy and it might equally focus on energy conservation. Young citizens would be taught at school how to conserve energy and how to decode advertisements. Far fetched? This is exactly what Denmark did in the 1970s following the oil shocks. Alas, being one of only a very small number of countries attempting to unhook themselves from fossil fuel addiction, it was always going to be difficult. Yet its efforts could act in some way as a template for a wider programme.

Is this going to happen? Common sense says it doesn't look like it. Any imposition of degrowth policies by governments would likely be viewed with extreme suspicion - the suspicion being that the brunt of any degrowth would be shouldered by the masses while the rich and powerful minority continued living with wild abandon. This would likely lead to outright rebellion and revolution, or at the very least a new government would be elected on an anti-degrowth platform.

But that doesn't mean individuals, families and groups can't attempt to wriggle free of the economic suicide belt. Sure, it might be difficult to do so, but it has its merits; increased resilience and empowerment being but two. After all, there is no choice in the end. Degrowth is already happening but they just haven't told us yet. All that is left of the world economy is a series of get-rich-quick schemes backed up by asset bubbles, crooked economic figures, a rising tsunami of unpayable debt and ponzi madness. Strip all of that out of the equation and you're left with an economy that is struggling for breath as it sinks beneath the waves, dragged down by falling real energy availability and an increasing complexity that has long since passed the point of positive marginal returns.

The only real question that remains is whether a chaotic and unplanned degrowth scenario will leave the planetary biosphere in an inhabitable state by the time we have returned to a state of sustainability. That, to an unknowable extent, is up to us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

C is for Control

The future will be about a loss of control in our daily lives. Some of it will be big stuff that will affect you, such as your pension fund going bust or your country experiencing hyperinflation, and frankly there's not much you can do about it. On the other hand there are other things that you can control, and it's best to get a handle on them now while the going is still good(ish).

Health is one of the most precious things that you can have. To remain in good health for as long as you can without the need for hospitals and drugs and doctors is a worthy aim. For the average person, a healthy diet, a moderate amount of exercise and the avoidance of too much stress will suffice. A scary proportion of people are hooked on medicines dished out by doctors, as well as any number of other harmful substances. Try to get rid of any harmful addictions while help is still available. Likewise, get dental procedures and the like out of the way while the health systems are not collapsing. Assuming you are able bodied and of sound mind, nobody is responsible for your health except you.

Finances are another area where you can take control. Avoid all debt, if possible, and at least avoid all unpayable debt. Being in debt means that other people and entities have control over you. Downsize as much as you can in the expectation that if you don't voluntarily downsize you will be downsized involuntarily at some point. Live within your means - it's good practice for the future. Stop wasting money of takeaway food - learn to cook instead.

Make your home as resilient as possible. Insulate it, fix the roof, get rid of unnecessary energy wasting appliances and do what you can to cut down on its running costs. Have an energy holiday one weekend (i.e. no electricity or gas) and see how you get on. Get rid of any unnecessary clutter in your home by selling it or giving it away - it'll make you feel better. If you wish to hoard food and other dry goods at least put them somewhere out of your immediate living zone.

Try and get control over the essentials of life. This means water, food, warmth (or cooling, depending where you live) and shelter. Play what if games. What if the electricity went off for a month? What if the taps stopped running? What if the heating breaks down and it's minus 30C outside? In this way you will be prepared. If you don't do it already, learn how to grow food. If you have no space for growing food then volunteer at your local organic farm. Make friends with them and help them out so that they'll help you out one day. If you are well prepared for hard times then put aside a little extra to help others.

Taking back control is empowering, but try not to get too carried away with it as nobody has total control over their life. If and when a major disaster or shortage occurs one of your greatest resources will be your friends, family and neighbours. Make yourself indispensable to them and they'll do their best to look after you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

B is for Brexit

Brexit [a contraction of British Exit (from the EU)] is the 'cat among the pigeons' event that future historians may see marked the end of our love affair with globalisation. When, in June 2016, people in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland were given the chance to vote in a referendum on whether to stay in the European Union, or to leave it, the majority chose the latter. The 'Leave' camp won in spite of a media campaign of epic proportions to convince people to stay.

Discourse, if one could call it that, was heated and often venomous, with 'Leave' voters subjected to much ridicule and accusations of being fascists. On the other hand, 'Remain' voters were framed as clueless metropolitan liberals - the kind of people who would willingly have rolled over for Hitler and his Third Reich.

In the aftermath of the vote there was much fallout. Many high ranking politicians, including the prime minister David Cameron, found themselves at the end of their political careers. Such had been the level of fear whipped up over what was likely to happen in the event 'Leave' won - including Cameron and his chancellor warning of a market crash and a Third World War - the aftermath felt like something of a damp squib. To date, the only measurable effect has been a smallish downward correction in the value of the pound, and better than expected GDP growth figures.

Media organisations who backed the 'Remain' camp are still in a state of denial. The Guardian, for example, immediately chose to run with the narrative of a wave of hate crime being unleashed across the country - a phenomenon of which there is scant proof. Brexit supporters are routinely labelled as 'misguided', foolish' or 'racist', and are compared to supporters of Donald Trump in the US. Yet the majority of Leavers, when questioned, cited concerns with globalisation as the main reason they chose to vote the way they did. Globalisation, for them, had become something of a disaster in which their jobs were exported overseas and, in return, waves of immigrants moved into their communities and put further strain on the already over-subscribed public services and infrastructure. Put bluntly, as one interviewee stated, "If you've got money you vote 'Remain', and if you've got nothing you vote 'Leave'.

The referendum revealed a split in the nation that ran between social classes, right through the middle of communities and even between friends and family members. For some, voting Leave had little to do with politics and was merely a chance to spit in the eye of the powers that be. Likewise, for some voting Remain, it was like casting a penny into a well and making a wish for a better, fluffier world (albeit a world backed up by punitive EU trade deals, turbo capitalism, non-democratic supra states using NATO's firepower to keep the dispossessed from their borders). There was very little common ground on which anyone from the two sides could agree.

However, some have pointed out that despite the furore the UK has not so far left the EU and may never do so. They assume the EU will continue to grow in power and size and that no prime minister will ever dare trigger the article needed to exit the EU club. But perhaps that misses the point. The world of business and politics runs on sentiment. The one thing they hate, we are told, is uncertainty. The UK has stated its intention to leave - an unutterably offensive thing to do - and thus shattered the looking glass. All bets are off as to how this will play out, although other states will likely follow in the UK's footsteps as the internal and external pressures on the debt-burdened EU continue to mount.

So if there's one lesson to be learned by the globalists from the Brexit debacle it's that the disenfranchised and angry should not be allowed to vote.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A is for Alternative Media

The alternative media has exhibited an exponential growth pattern in recent years due to the digital revolution and the unsatisfactory narrative offered by traditional media. The ease with which new media ventures can be incubated and by which information is distributed has broken the stranglehold the mainstream media (MSM) has enjoyed in terms of setting the narrative agenda in society. In a recent survey it was found only 6% of Americans have a lot of trust in the MSM, and that figure is likely to be repeated, to a greater or lesser extent, across the industrialised world.

This rapid growth of the alternative media has occurred in parallel with the diminution of trust in the MSM. Since the early 1970s - when the rich economies of the West began to depart from a reality based upon physical productivity and currencies backed by precious metals - the MSM has caused ever-growing levels of cognitive dissonance in its consumers. However, the widespread ownership of computer technology which has occurred in recent years has allowed the vacuum to be quickly filled by thousands of YouTube videos, blogs and alt news sites, all distributed at lightning speed via social media, email lists and RSS feeds. The cumbersome business model of the conventional media has found itself unable to compete with this networked and distributed onslaught and faces a lingering death as its cash reserves and lines of credit deplete. All it can do is dig itself into an ever deeper hole as it desperately tries to rescue its own credibility, but finds it is unable to do so without compromising the power structures behind it.

One way in which the MSM and its supporters are attempting to fight back is by discrediting all alternative media. Due to the anarchic nature of the alternative media arena a wide range of controversial topics are addressed in a range of tones. Some of these are singled out as conspiracy theories in an attempt to discredit the entire phenomenon of non-hierarchical information disbursement and the old maxim of slinging mud at a wall in the hope that some of it sticks applies here. This tactic in itself seems to be backfiring as one 'conspiracy theory' after another is proved to be reality; a phenomenon that has turned the tables and appears to be inducing cognitive dissonance in the MSM itself. A prime example of this is the Washington Post's simultaneous championing of the ex-NSA computer analyst turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, whom the paper simultaneously supported to earn industry plaudits, whilst subsequently calling for his arrest due to the existential threat he posed to the establishment.

The MSM is acutely concerned by its shrinking power but does not appear to be able to repel the swarm attack. If it mimics the alt media it shoots itself in the foot, but if it ignores it it further erodes its own self-defined relevance. Instead it repeatedly doubles down on failed strategies and expects them to succeed. With so much capital invested in their enterprises the controllers of the old media have yet to figure out a way to compete with alternative media sources. The new media is unbound by any editorial and political constraints and willing to offer up their services for free, whereas the old media must play by the old rules and is forbidden from 'rocking the boat'. Thus, in the face of this existential threat they are churning out more and more 'news' in the form of entertainment, mixing commercials with supposed reality in the form of sponsored content and retreating behind paywalls that nobody wants to pay for. This has created a negative feedback loop for them and, in fact, without the help of generous benefactors or cash engines strapped onto their media enterprises, we could see the death of the MSM within a few short years. Reports of social media sites censoring alternative media material are only likely to quicken the erosion of whatever trust remains in the MSM.

What emerges from the wreckage is unclear but the issue of trust has been thrust to the fore. In the same way that not all MSM content is 'bad', conversely, not all alternative media is 'good'. The same shady array of forces harbouring murky intentions and blatant attempts at propaganda remains, and we can be sure it is desperately attempting to reconfigure itself in new ways for it to continue to control the narrative and perpetuate the status quo. Perhaps, as the collapse of industrial society intensifies more local forms of media will rise in relevance and importance. This would be one way the trust horizon of information providers could be verified. At the same time, in a deglobalising world, people may find they do not have as much time to follow world events from their own home. Instead, they may be too busy raising chickens and growing vegetables. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Great Divide

Well, that went well didn't it? I stayed up all night watching the results of the EU referendum come in. I hadn't meant to, because we had been told there was almost no chance 'Leave' would win it. But win it they did. It was around 1:30am when the result from Sunderland came in, showing a shock 61% in favour of leaving the EU. The BBC - that turgid voice of the senile elites - seemed unsure what to make of it. Surely this is just an aberration? I decided I'd better make some coffee for what promised to be a long night.

The birds had already been chirping for a couple of hours when the stunning result was finally announced. 48% had voted Remain and 52% had voted Leave. Hardly a huge victory, but a victory nevertheless in the teeth of the biggest domestic propaganda campaign in living memory.

And then the fallout began.

It's fair to sat that the reaction from those who didn't like the result has been somewhat disappointing and doesn't bode well for future crises. Now, 10 days later, with the rubble from the initial collapse is just beginning to stop bouncing, it appears that a huge chasm has opened up in Britain and the people are left standing on either side of it. The quiet hopeful dignity of most of the Leavers is in stark contrast to the shrill anger of the more vocal Remainers, for whom the sky has fallen in. There are demands for a second referendum, demands that the result be overturned and demands that the legal system be used to prevent the status quo being upset.

People are gnashing their teeth and wailing. I've heard of some holding grief parties, and others proclaiming that we now live in a fascist state. There is a frantic scramble to move to Scotland or Canada or some other state that is perceived to be 'tolerant and open'.

More sinisterly, in the immediate aftermath a media narrative has been allowed to flourish that a wave of race hatred has been unleashed by the vote. I don't buy it. Of course, you will get some racist idiots in any situation, and the videos of them I have seen tend to show drunk young men on public transport mouthing off. Does it make a difference to the statistics when newspapers such as The Guardian exhort their readers to send in their clips of racist/xenophobic attitudes and an app has been developed to capture such taunts? Would it make any difference if I said I had a friend who had openly talked on Facebook about travelling in a group to meet the returning England football fans from the ferry and provoke them into doing or saying something nasty for the benefit of the cameras. The temptation to be agent provocateur seems too tempting to some people.

To get an idea of the size of the gulf that's opened up it is instructive to watch these two short videos, one after the other. In the first one, Leave voters - who are more or less characterised as universally racist and/or stupid by Remainers - explain their reasons for doing so. The second video shows a woman in London explaining her fears following the referendum.

Video 1: Why we Voted Leave: Voices from Northern England

Video 2: Woman breaks down following Brexit vote

I'm not exactly a huge admirer of ex-London Mayor Boris Johnson - who spearheaded the Leave campaign (seemingly without much of a plan of what to do if victory ensued) and then quit when he won - but I'll finish off this short post by quoting what he wrote yesterday about the kind of feeling this referendum has unleashed in young people. Of course, Johnson is a buffoon and a joker and he revels in being offensive, but then jokers can say what they want and get away with it, so perhaps they deserve to be listened to sometimes.

"On Friday I heard a new dawn chorus outside my house. There was a rustling and twittering, as though of starlings assembling on a branch. Then I heard a collective clearing of the throat, and they started yodelling my name – followed by various expletives. “Oi Boris – c---!” they shouted. Or “Boris – w-----!” I looked out to see some otherwise charming-looking young people, the sort who might fast to raise money for a Third World leprosy project.

They had the air of idealists – Corbynistas; Lefties; people who might go on a march to stop a war. And so when they started on their protest song, I found myself a bit taken aback. “EU – we love YOU! EU – we love YOU!” they began to croon. Curious, I thought. What exactly is it about the EU that attracts the fervent admiration of north London radicals? It was the first time I had ever heard of trendy socialists demonstrating in favour of an unelected supranational bureaucracy.

In the old days, the Lefties used to dismiss the EU as a bankers’ ramp. Tony Benn thought it was unacceptably anti-democratic. Jeremy Corbyn used to vote against it in every division. Why has it suddenly become so fashionable among our nose-ringed friends? I tried to think which of the EU’s signature policies they were so keen on. Surely not the agricultural subsidies that make up most of the budget, and that have done so much to retard development in the Third World. They can’t – for heaven’s sake – support the peak tariffs that discriminate against value added goods from Sub-Saharan Africa. Nor can they possibly enjoy the sheer opacity of the system – the fact that there are 10,000 officials who are paid more than the Prime Minister, and whose names and functions we don’t know.

They can’t really be defending the waste, the fraud – or the endless expensive caravan of crémant-swilling members of the European Parliament between Brussels and Luxembourg and Strasbourg. Are they really demonstrating in favour of the torrent of red tape that has done so much to hold back growth in the EU? It seems an odd sort of campaign theme: what do we want? More Brussels law-making! When do we want it? Now!

Naturally, Lefties might want laws to protect the workforce – but they would surely want those laws to be made by politicians that the people could remove at elections. No: the more I thought about it, the odder it seemed. It was incredible that these young and idealistic people should be making a rumpus about the euro – the key policy of the modern EU – when that project has so gravely intensified suffering in many southern EU countries, and deprived a generation of young people of employment.

Perhaps, I mused, it was a general feeling that the EU was about openness, tolerance and diversity. But they must surely know that the EU’s rules on free movement mean a highly discriminatory regime, one that makes it much more difficult for people from outside the EU to get into Britain – even though we need their skills.

So what was it about? People’s emotions matter, even when they do not seem to be wholly rational. The feelings being manifested outside my house are shared by the large numbers of people – 30,000, they say – who at the weekend came together in Trafalgar Square to hear pro-EU speeches by Sir Bob Geldof. There is, among a section of the population, a kind of hysteria, a contagious mourning of the kind that I remember in 1997 after the death of the Princess of Wales. It is not about the EU, of course; or not solely. A great many of these protesters – like dear old Geldof – are in a state of some confusion about the EU and what it does.

It is not, as he says, a “free trade area”; if only it were. It is a vast and convoluted exercise in trying to create a federal union – a new political construction based in Brussels. But, as I say, I don’t believe that it is psychologically credible to imagine young people chanting hysterically in favour of Brussels bureaucrats. The whole protest is not about the EU project, per se; it is about them – their own fears and anxieties that are now being projected on to Brexit.

These fears are wildly overdone. The reality is that the stock market has not plunged, as some said it would – far from it. The FTSE is higher than when the vote took place. There has been no emergency budget, and nor will there be. But the crowds of young people are experiencing the last psychological tremors of Project Fear – perhaps the most thoroughgoing government attempt to manipulate public opinion since the run-up to the Iraq War.

When Geldof tells them that the older generation has “stolen your future” by voting to Leave the EU, I am afraid there are too many who still believe it. It is time for this nonsense to end. It was wrong of the Government to offer the public a binary choice on the EU without being willing – in the event that people voted Leave – to explain how this can be made to work in the interests of the UK and Europe. We cannot wait until mid-September, and a new PM."