Ever been that guy who wasn't invited to the party? Me too. For some reason there's always that sense of foreboding, even if it's not somewhere you particularly wanted to go, with people you know you didn't want to see. It still leaves you a little hollow inside, doesn't it?
That's precisely how I feel about an upcoming jolly in Portugal, which I so desperately wish I was invited to, even though no one should really want to attend something like this. No doubt the celebrations will be loud and raucous as the attendees strategise to secure themselves massive windfalls for the next year.
No, this isn't the Royal Bank of Scotland's annual staff party. I imagine those are quite somber occasions nowadays. This is the 'secret' party that the European Environmental Paper Network (EEPN) is assembling in just a few weeks time. Sounds riveting, right?
I thought you'd be interested in this party because you'll actually be footing a lot of the bill. Not just now, or at the event, but for the foreseeable future too. You and the world's poor that is (the 99%, if you will), funding a jaunt for European paper producers to talk shop on protectionism and how they'll continue to racketeer from developing nations.
In short, European taxpayers are propping up 'certification processes' like those touted by the Forest Stewardship Council, an unelected, non-governmental organisation that the UK government among others entrusts with access to an industry worth over £4bn to Britain's economy. To put this in perspective for you, in 2009 the UK music industry was valued at £3.9bn.
Groups like the Forest Stewardship Council have an overtly political motivation and rather than basing their work on sound science, often force upon their victims politically motivated mandates, one of which the British Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman recently bragged about at the 'Planet Under Pressure' conference in London - a meeting of international governments and NGOs that cost the UK taxpayer in excess of £150,000 for a few of our bureaucrats to sponsor and attend.
Spelman boasted about how her Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs forced Kenyan wood carvers into using wood that the FSC certified, rather than their local product, by then granting them access to lucrative British markets. This not only distorts local trade and free markets, but creates an international form of welfarism when we are struggling to curtail a national problem of the very same kind.
Government handouts and mandates from non-transparent bodies (seriously, these guys make the EU look good) is a combination that will ensure the developing world remains impoverished and reliant upon taxpayer subsidy. And we're paying twice.
When you buy a paper product, you're usually taxed on it. Then you're taxed on your income, which in turn goes into funding these 'anti-growth groups' who drive up prices through their 'activism' bolstered by their 'green credentials'.
Again, for us to maintain some perspective on the matter, all we need to do is look at paper prices around the world. In 2001, you could get a tonne of paper for about $400. By 2011, the price was almost $1000 for the same quantity. And you wonder why fewer people have home printers, why the price of your latte has risen, why printing invites to Portuguese parties costs double what it did 10 years ago and why newspapers are so keen for you to shell out £600 for an iPad so they can send you their articles via an app.
This stuff is hitting you in the pocket over and over again, and I personally would like an invitation to the party where these guys will be discussing how they can make it all the worse for us, and all the better for themselves. I'll even compromise and pay my own way there (as well as theirs, apparently) and forgo the traditional postal invite on 300gsm card. You know... to save the planet. Right?
Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of TheCommentator.com and Director of the Green Centre for Economic Analysis and Sustainable Environment