It was never easy challenging the accepted wisdom. Indeed, if you look at what they did to poor old Galileo, it has got easier. In the freer west people do not normally get put on trial in a court or sent to prison for disagreeing with the official view, though in recent years thought crimes have become more popular again with legislators.
I first encountered this difficulty in the 1970s when I argued that nationalised monopolies were a great way to harm the consumer, cost the taxpayer a lot of money and lose employees their jobs all at the same time. It took more than a decade to persuade government that they needed to introduce competition into telephones and sell the oil and steel industries. Even today there is still a rearguard action trying to claim that nationalised monopolies in “special cases” like railways could do the job better. As someone who believes in free debate, I am not complaining they think and argue that,but it is a tired old argument based on amnesia about how BR used to run.
Challenging orthodoxies got a lot harder when the orthodoxy was made in Brussels. I was one of the few who tried to dissuade the CBI, the Conservative and Labour parties and the official machine that the Exchange Rate Mechanism could not possibly work for a divergent economy like the UK. Every trick was used to crowd out our case and to argue the famous “golden scenario hypothesis”, that we would soon be moving rapidly to a land of milk and honey, powered by exchange rate stability and low inflation. That was a mightily expensive collective mistake. Some write in to this site and say devaluation would not work for Greece, yet it was essential for the Uk at the end of the ERM era and ushered in a good period for economic performance.
Those of us who took the same pessimistic view about the future of the Euro had some more success. We first persuaded the Conservatives to offer a referendum, and then more importantly Mr Blair followed. That saved the pound. Mr Brown helped by continuing to block it, so we could watch for more than a decade as the Euro passed through its heady first phase when the poor got richer by borrowing, to its crisis phase when the money ran out and the strains led to three countries needing subsidised credit and special measures(so far). The UK establishment ended up with a better record on the reality of the Euro, even though many members of it had argued the case for us to join on many occasions.
Today we have the green establishment. It is hard work trying to win the argument that if the UK adopts more anti carbon dioxide measures than other countries, and hikes the price of energy too high at home, we lose jobs and business but the world does not end up with less carbon dioxide. This obvious point got lost in the enthusiaism of the many in the establishment for the global warming theory. At least now we have a new ally in the form of the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer who has warned that high energy prices do more to deindustrialise the UK than to cut worldwide carbon dioxide output.
One of the strange features of global warming theory is the reaction of its leading protagonists. They say it is scientifically derived, but then go on to say the science is proven and established.I thought the essence of scientific method was to reach a hypothesis that seemed to fit the facts, and then to keep trying to improve or destroy it by further testing or experiment. This seems to be a thesis where the aim is always to buttress it rather than test it. For many years scientists thought Newton had said the last word on planetary motion, but the twentieth century did not rest until they had replaced or improved on the Newtonian universe in a dramatic way.