“..The curse of modern politics is an epidemic of good intentions and bad outcomes. Policy after policy is chosen and voted on according to whether it means well, not whether it works. And the most frustrated politicians are those who keep trying to sell policies based on their efficacy, rather than their motives. It used to be possible to approach politics as a conversation between adults, and argue for unfashionable but effective medicine.
The commentator James Bartholomew popularised the term “virtue signalling” for those who posture empathetically but emptily. “Je suis Charlie” (but I won’t show cartoons of the prophet), “Refugees welcome” (but not in my home) or “Ban fossil fuels” (let’s not talk about my private jet). You see it everywhere.
Imagine anybody getting away with saying of Mussolini or Franco what John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn said of Fidel Castro or Hugo Chávez. The reason for this double standard is the apparently good intentions of communist dictators: unlike Nazis, communists were at least trying to make a workers’ paradise; they just got it wrong. Again and again and again.
My objection to wind farms is based on the outcome of the policy, whereas most people’s support is based largely on the intention. There they stand, 300ft tall, visibly advertising their virtue as signals of our commitment to devotion to Gaia. The fact that each one requires 150 tonnes of coal to make, that it needs fossil fuel back-up for when the wind is not blowing, that it is subsidised disproportionately by poor people and the rewards go disproportionately to rich people, and that its impact on emissions is so small as to be unmeasurable — none of these matter. It’s the thought that counts.
The Paris climate accord is one big virtue-signalling prayer, whose promises, if implemented, would make a difference in the temperature of the atmosphere in 2100 so small it is practically within the measuring error. But it’s the thought that counts…” The Curse of Good Intentions