I’ve been struggling a bit with Panoptica but I know why. I’d been writing one character as oppressed and downtrodden, but he isn’t. Well, he is, he’s completely under the State thumb but he does not see himself as oppressed. He is happy in his woolly way, content to let the State monitor his every move and control his entire life, because he thinks it makes him safe.
It does. Safe from everyone but the State. Which, as he finds, is the most terrible enemy of all.
So I’m redoing that part.
I should have started this a long, long time ago. Things in the real world are accelerating so fast it’s hard to keep ahead. We haven’t even had the pretend consultation on plain packaging for cigarettes and they are already talking about plain packaging for booze. They don’t have their minimum price for alcohol in place yet and they are already discussing increasing it.
Then we have a State-engineered panic on petrol. There are people buying every drop of fuel from every garage because of a tanker drivers’ strike which has not happened, might not happen and even if it does, the RAF are training to take over. There are people buying petrol cans, and not those little one-gallon plastic ones I used to use to fill my lawnmower. No, they are buying the sort of cans you see bolted to the sides of military vehicles. Not just one each, either. They’ll all have enough for two full tanks of petrol, not counting the full tank in their car.
Why? Well, because the government is telling them to panic-buy. Is this deliberate? What could the government gain? Apart from a massive injection of duty and VAT, that is.
Every time the price of tobacco goes up, more of us buy it overseas. Every time the price of booze goes up, more of us take to brewing our own or buy it overseas. So the duty per pack/bottle goes up but the tax income the government sees does not rise, and sometimes even goes down.
If they engineer a tobacco shortage, we’ll all say ‘So what? We aren’t buying it from you anyway’. Engineer a booze shortage and out come the plastic buckets and the demijohns.
With petrol it’s different. You can’t really have an oil well in your garden and a refinery in your shed so you can’t make your own (other than those who have converted their diesels to run on used cooking oil). You can’t really get it abroad, even if you live near a port. It’s not like nipping from Germany into France, because we have a sea in the way. Once you add up the cost of ferrying the car to the overseas garage and back again, you aren’t likely to have saved anything.
So unlike the smokers and drinkers, drivers are a captive market. If the government fancy grabbing a load of cash, all they need to do is put up the price of petrol and there is no alternative market.
However, there is increasing displeasure at the continually rising price, and an increasing realisation of how much of that price is tax. Ozzy can’t push the tax too far at the moment.
Instead, he has everyone’s house loaded with large containers full of petrol at enormous cost to them and enormous profit to him.
Haven’t Health and Safety piped up on this yet? They will. There will be talk of the risk of explosion, the risk of theft, the risk of spillage, the risk of fumes, the inevitable risk to the cheeeldren and most of all the risk of those people rioting with very large petrol bombs (in plain packaging).
All that stored petrol will become illegal, be confiscated and sold back to the garages to be sold back to those same drivers with another round of tax on top.
If you can’t increase the tax, why not tax the same thing twice?