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A note to Lew Rockwell regarding the reflexive irrelevancy of libertarians on the climate/big government morass

December 20th, 2009 4 comments

Lew Rockwell has a post up on the Mises Economics Blog – “The Left Fell into the Climate Morass” – that has just come to my attention. I`m not from the left, but as a right-leaning, free-market enviro, I offered Lew a few comments, which I copy below:

Lew, I think most of your criticism of the left and of environmentalists is apt, but “libertarians” have only to look in the mirror to see someone to blame for the lack of productive discourse on environmental and regulatory issues, and the reason why libertarians are being marginalized in the confused debate over the legitimate role of the state.

Libertarians in general continue to:

– ignore the opportunities created by widespread concerns about climate change risks to partner with both left and right to seek to undo counterproductive state/federal regulation:
http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/11/03/a-libertarian-immodestly-makes-a-few-modest-climate-policy-proposals.aspx

– refuse to follow-up on their own analyses to dig more deeply to see that the roots of the disastrous cycle of regulation (and snowballing fights over the wheel of government) lie in the grant of limited liability to corporate investors, and the resulting externalization of risk and undermining of common law property protections:
http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/search.aspx?q=limited+liability

– as Ed Dolan suggested, continue to act as the “conservatives” that Hayek despised by refusing to question the legitimacy of the favors provided to statist enterprises under the status quo, and turn a blind eye to the direct role that “libertarians” play in the gamesmanship such enterprises continue (such questions of motives being “ad homs” except when addressed to alarmists, in whch case it is “cui bono”):
http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/02/13/edwin-dolan-applying-the-lockean-framework-to-climate-change.aspx
http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/10/07/ad-homs-r-not-us-discussions-over-rent-seeking-necessitate-painful-wrestling-with-slippery-quot-cui-bono-quot-demons.aspx

– instead of acknowledging the legitimacy of concerns over man`s onslaught on nature and local communities (arising both from a lack of property rights problem and from the hand of kleptocratic governments) prefer a self-comforting irrelevancy, both on climate and on resource issues generally:
http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/10/30/the-road-not-taken-ii-austrians-strive-for-a-self-comforting-irrelevancy-on-climate-change-the-greatest-commons-problem-rent-seeking-game-of-our-age.aspx
http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/11/04/for-climate-fever-take-two-open-air-atom-bombs-amp-call-me-in-the-morning-quot-serious-quot-suggestions-from-kinsella-amp-reisman.aspx

– rather than honest engagement, prefer a tribal hatred of misanthropic “watermelons” and a smug love of strawmen and ad-homs:
http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/11/05/the-road-not-taken-v-libertarian-hatred-of-misanthropic-quot-watermelons-quot-and-the-productive-love-of-aloof-ad-homs.aspx

Time once again for some self-satisfied, but ultimately empty tribal holiday cheer?

http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/12/16/holiday-joy-quot-watermelons-quot-roasting-on-an-open-pyre.aspx

Sincerely,

Tom

UK jury approves damage to power plant in defense of a commons/ other private property; libertarians and conservatives freak out

September 12th, 2008 6 comments

See this surprising decision in the UK, letting climate-change protesters/trespassers off the hook for damages resulting from spray-painting a coal plant smokestack, on the grounds that a UK law “allows damage to be caused to property to prevent even greater damage.”

Why is this single jury verdict supposedly the end of the world (as Iain Murray of CEI, blogging at NRO’s Planet Gore would have it)?  Libertarians (Rothbard, Block, Bratland, Cordato) have long argued that:

– we should move away from the statist regulation of polluters and return to a simpler world of a resort towards common law and courts (permitting injunctions on industrial activity for the slightest damage) to defend property; and that

– the issuance of a license allowing a firm lawfully “to pollute and, hence, invade or damage property of other parties” “entail[s} a fundamental and pervasive violation of property rights”; that

– one “observes that any detectable man-made climate change has occurred during periods of inadequate or nonexistent tort protection from air pollution”; and that

– “A sensible and thoughtful first crucial step in assuring a sustainable atmosphere for future generations is to assure adequate tort protection of the personal property rights for current generations“?

It is clear that I am on firm ground in expecting in response to this decision a rush by “skeptical” libertarians and conservatives to demand MORE action by government, rather than less of it.  After all, the defense offered by the greenies in the UK was based on a statute that can be simply amended, and thereby order restored (with nary a pang of concern for fusty old common-law doctrines).

And if this is what we get from libertarians, is there any wonder that greenies – including radicals like Austrian Ed Dolan and libertarians Jon Adler and Ron Bailey – think that resort to some sort of globally coordinated multi-state action is needed to deal with a global issue?

Oh, and let me add – it seems like a “wrong” decision to me, too.

Op-ed by nuclear physicist on climate change: questions for "skeptics"

August 5th, 2008 4 comments

John P. Holdren, an MIT and Stanford-trained nuclear physicist who is professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and director of Harvard’s Woods Hole Research Center, former President and Chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and consultant for the past 35 years at the Magnetic Fusion Energy Division of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [yes, this is an appeal to authority] had a short but interesting op-ed in the August 4 Boston Globe.

I think he’s trying to be sensitive, but Holdren may come off a bit arrogant; he’s certainly insensitive to those who are concerned that government may bungle any climate “solution”.  Given his technical knowledge and experience, I hope readers will understand where he’s coming from and encourage them to read the whole thing – which really isn’t too long.

But since I have you here, allow me to quote liberally:

skeptics about [climate change] tend to move, over time, through three stages. First, they tell you you’re wrong and they can prove it. (In this case, “Climate isn’t changing in unusual ways or, if it is, human activities are not the cause.”)

Then they tell you you’re right but it doesn’t matter. (“OK, it’s changing and humans are playing a role, but it won’t do much harm.”) Finally, they tell you it matters but it’s too late to do anything about it. (“Yes, climate disruption is going to do some real damage, but it’s too late, too difficult, or too costly to avoid that, so we’ll just have to hunker down and suffer.”) …

The few with credentials in climate-change science have nearly all shifted in the past few years from the first category to the second, however, and jumps from the second to the third are becoming more frequent.

Their arguments, such as they are, suffer from two huge deficiencies.

First, they have not come up with any plausible alternative culprit for the disruption of global climate that is being observed, for example, a culprit other than the greenhouse-gas buildups in the atmosphere that have been measured and tied beyond doubt to human activities. (The argument that variations in the sun’s output might be responsible fails a number of elementary scientific tests.)

Second, having not succeeded in finding an alternative, they haven’t even tried to do what would be logically necessary if they had one, which is to explain how it can be that everything modern science tells us about the interactions of greenhouse gases with energy flow in the atmosphere is wrong.

Members of the public who are tempted to be swayed by the denier fringe should ask themselves how it is possible, if human-caused climate change is just a hoax, that:

  • The leaderships of the national academies of sciences of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Russia, China, and India, among others, are on record saying that global climate change is real, caused mainly by humans, and reason for early, concerted action.
  • This is also the overwhelming majority view among the faculty members of the earth sciences departments at every first-rank university in the world.
  • All three of holders of the one Nobel prize in science that has been awarded for studies of the atmosphere (the 1995 chemistry prize to Paul Crutzen, Sherwood Rowland, and Mario Molina, for figuring out what was happening to stratospheric ozone) are leaders in the climate-change scientific mainstream.  …
  • US polls indicate that most of the amateur skeptics are Republicans. These Republican skeptics should wonder how presidential candidate John McCain could have been taken in. He has castigated the Bush administration for wasting eight years in inaction on climate change, and the policies he says he would implement as president include early and deep cuts in US greenhouse-gas emissions. …

    The extent of unfounded skepticism about the disruption of global climate by human-produced greenhouse gases is not just regrettable, it is dangerous. It has delayed – and continues to delay – the development of the political consensus that will be needed if society is to embrace remedies commensurate with the challenge. The science of climate change is telling us that we need to get going. Those who still think this is all a mistake or a hoax need to think again.

    (emphasis added)

    Holdren is focussed on arguments regarding science, and so fails to address questions as to the efficacy of proposed solutions involving government action, which questions are of course important.

    Although Austrian and libertarian observers may have very useful things to add to the policy discussion, it seems fair to say that, except for a few such as Jonathan Adler, Gene Callahan, Edwin Dolan, Sheldon Richman and Bruce Yandle, many have preferred not to discuss policy but to focus either on climate science or on the motives of those self-deluded religious, fascist creeps who think that there may be a problem.

    While concerns about science and motives are perfectly legitimate, let me add a few points that Austrian “skeptics” ought to consider:

    – Austrians tend to view “environmental” problems not as harms to a disembodied “environment”, but as real problems involving conflicts in individual/firm plan formation that arise because of a lack or clear or enforceable property rights in particular resources or large information, transaction or enforcement costs that make contracting difficult

    Are there clear or enforceable property rights with respect to emissions of GHGs, or the atmosphere or climate more generally?

    Is private contracting a practical way for individuals and firms with differing preferences as to climate or GHG emissions to meaningfully express such preferences?

    – What lessons does history teach us about the exploitation of open-access resources that are not protected by accepted rules among the relevant community of users?  If there are problems with such resources, how have such problems been addressed in the past, with what degree of efficacy?

    Climate change damage and property rights: do Lockean principles require Western nations to compensate poorer ones?

    June 13th, 2008 No comments

    Dedicated libertarian law professor Jonathan Adler and longtime libertarian policy analyst Indur Goklany discuss the above issue at in a Roundtable entitled “Climate Change and Property Rights” hosted by Shikha Dalmia of the Reason Foundation and made available online last week.

    [Update:  Ron Bailey discusses the Adler/Goklany debate here.]

    As both Jon Adler and Indur Goklany are serious and even-handed, fortunately the discussion includes none of the cheap, sneering dismissals of the moral issues (as “climate welfare” such as I addressed earlier on these pages and more recently on the main blog, where an author dismisses as “absurd” and another poster labels “beautiful propaganda” my suggestion that Lockean views must be seriously considered when addressing claims that the use of the atmosphere should be shared) that tends to be the hallmark of shallow, reflexive and emotional engagement so frequently encountered here at Mises and elsewhere from purported libertarians with respect to climate change and other environmental issues.

    Unfortunately, the exchange between Adler and Goklany is far too academic, and neither commentator makes any effort to seize common ground (and climate change concerns) to push for liberalization of agricultural trade or other institutional changes that would (i) materially improve wealth (and ability to adapt to climate change) in poorer nations and (ii) enhance needed mitigation and adaptation efforts at home.

    Both Adler and Goklany appear to agree on the fundamental, Lockean-based principles underlying their discussion and would probably agree that, even though the nations that benefit most from climate change (and from the long period of GDP growth when GHG emissions have not been priced) have at least a moral obligation to be concerned about an uncompensated shifting of costs to other (largely poorer) nations, it is nigh impossible to build a legal case mandating compensation. 

    I suppose both Adler and Goklany probably also agree that (1) climate change is likely to further bedevil the development problems in poorer nations, which are least capable of adapting to such changes, (2) development problems in such countries is largely related to the failure of governing elites to protect property rights and capital, and (3) traditional development aid has in large measure failed and instead served to benefit well-connected elites from both sides.

    I am curious (4) what both Adler and Goklany think about proposals that do not amount to compensation, but recognize the interest that the West has in aiding growth and climate adaptation in the developing world, such as the proposal reported last Friday in Osaka by Treasury secretary Hank Paulson for the Group of 8 industrialized nations to back a special $10 billion fund to help developing countries fight global warming and (5) why they (and other libertarians) do not seem to see that climate change concerns in many way present golden opportunities to urge positive governmental changes, such as greater free trade (and roll back of domestic agricultural subsidies and import restrictions), greater freedom in domestic energy markets, the desirability of allowing accelerated depreciation and lowering capital gains taxes, etc.

    Why are libertarians so reluctant to focus on a positive agenda that would actually do some good?

    In note that, back in July 2000, Adler proposed a “no regrets” domestic deregulatory agenda when he was associated with CEI: “Greenhouse Policy Without Regrets: A Free Market Approach to the Uncertain Risks of Climate Change“; Jon has subsequently been rather quiet with respect to any specific climate change policy agenda.  Cato has just published an essay by Goklany, “What to Do about Climate Change“, in which Goklany essentially argues that a focus on mitigation (GHG reductions) is a relatively expensive and in effective way to combat climate change or advance well-being (particularly of the world’s most vulnerable populations), as compared with adaption efforts that would reduce vulnerabilities to climate-sensitive problems that could be exacerbated by climate change.

    As I have previously noted, there are several libertarians who have recently been urging constructive libertarian approaches to climate change:

    • Edwin Dolan, in his Fall 2006 Cato Journal essay, Global Warming: Rethinking the Market Liberal Position, analyzes relevant Lockean considerations and cautions that market liberals appear to be hamstringing their own analytic strengths by falling into a reflexive and conservative mind-frames that benefit established economic interests.
    • Sheldon Richman of the Foundation for Economic Education also recommends Dolan’s essay and calls for less wishful thinking and greater engagement by libertarians in the December 8, 2006 edition of The Freeman:  The Goal Is Freedom: Global Warming and the Layman.
    • Gene Callahan makes a similar warning in his essay How a Free Society Could Solve Global Warming“, in the October 2007 issue of The Freeman.
    • Bruce Yandle, Professor Emeritus at Clemson University, Senior Fellow at PERC (the “free market” environmentalism think tank) and a respected thinker on common-law and free-market approaches to environmental problems, has in PERC’s Spring 2008 report specifically proposed a A No-Regrets Carbon Reduction Policy.

    I further note that Shikha Dalmia of the Reason Foundation hosted a similar roundtable on climate change policy in October 2006.

    [Update] Climate change lawsuits: Does the difficulty of proving causation mean there is no harm?

    April 8th, 2008 No comments

    There is a new climate change lawsuit in US courts, this time by the Inuit inhabitants of an Alaskan village that will soon be rendered uninhabitable by the rapid erosion resulting from the year-round pounding of seas that were once frozen; the villagers are blaming man-made climate change and suing oil, coal and power producers.

    Similar climate change damages are being felt throughout the high latitudes, as startling rises in temperatures mean that buildings and roads are falling apart (and petroleum firm’s drilling schedules are being interrupted) as permafrost melts, and villages and other structures (like NORAD radar sites) are being lost to erosion, and forests are dying and burning as winters are no longer sufficiently cold to kill pine bark beetle grubs. 

    There are of course winners as well – there is a race for countries and firms to figure out how to profit from the melting North and the prospects of a seasonally ice free passage – but they are not the same as the losers, and libertarian approaches have never justified actions based on bottom line decisions of net utility.  Rather, the traditional view espoused by Austrians and other supporters of common law approaches is that property owners have a right not only to damages, but also to absolutely stop the activities of others who interfere with their property.

    The new lawsuit (and others out there) faces a heavy burden of proof of causation, even if the relevant court doesn’t wimp out by concluding, as others have – clearly wrongly, from a common law perspective – that issues of damages relating to climate change are “political questions” that must be left to the recalcitrant federal legislature and President, and are not justiciable by courts.  Surely Austrians and others who would like to see a turning away from statist legislative or regulatory approaches should be welcoming this case and others like it as an opportunity to affirm that courts certainly do have a role in judging claims of climate damage and fashioning solutions – and are even preferable to centralized legislation.

    There are obvious, severe difficulties in linking individual plaintiffs to individual defendants, difficulties that remain even if a class action were to be used to try to link with other defendants, and these difficulties may be sufficiently great that the Alaskan plaintiffs are left with nothing but legal fees.  But note that the difficulties are orders of magnitude higher when we consider linking any supposed climate change victims elsewhere around the world with fossil fuel producers and power companies also globally, as there simply is no available judicial systems, and costs of action are much higher (both absolutely and relative to income).  And litigation would be even more difficult if we are to consider other sources (such as the cement industry), other GHGs (methane and CFCs) and other human influences such as soot.

    But surely the very difficulty in using litigation as a means of recourse does not imply that (i) those who may in fact be injured – or those who are concerned about their plight – are either pretending their injury or wrong to be seeking redress for it or (ii) that we as a members of a society should continue to prefer to do nothing about the way industrial activity is affecting a crucial and shared global resource.  Nor does it mean that we have to wait for irrefutable proof, satisfactory to all, before we recognize that the atmosphere, like the crashing ocean fisheries, has no owner and must be protected by human institutions if we don’t wish to see it seriously trashed.

    As Mises himself noted, private property institutions themselves arose in response to the economic inefficiency of older systems that did not force economic actors to bear the external effects of their actions:  “Mises on fixing externalities”, http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/10/12/draft.aspx.  We are intelligent and occasionally rational creatures – why should we not be pro-actively considering what institutions might be desirable and feasible for dealing with the effects of our activities on the atmosphere and  climate (and oceans, ecosystems and unowned species, or how to improve governance in countries that don’t recognize or protect property rights)?

    More on the lawsuit by Alaskan natives here:

    http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/national/2008/03/13/attacking-climate-change-in-court.html

    http://www.martenlaw.com/news/?20080326-village-seeks-lifeline

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/02/26/us.warming.ap/

    [UPDATE:  More on the legal theory of this case and on other recent climate change cases here, by Matthew Pawa, one of the attorneys representing the Inuit:

    http://www.pawalaw.com/assets/docs/Pawa_TRIAL_Apr08.pdf]

    More on Austrian approaches to climate change here:

    http://www.perc.org/publications/percreports/march2005/global_warming.php (a debate)

    http://www.reason.org/roundtable/globalwarming.shtml (a debate)

    –  Sheldon Richman, in his essay  “The Goal Is Freedom: Global Warming and the Layman”, in the December 8, 2006 edition of The Freeman:   http://www.fee.org/in_brief/default.asp?id=966);

    –  Gene Callahan, in his essay “How a Free Society Could Solve Global Warming”, in the October 2007 issue of The Freeman: http://www.fee.org/publications/the-freeman/article.asp?aid=8150; and

    –  Edwin Dolan, in his Fall 2006 Cato Journal essay, “Global Warming: Rethinking the Market Liberal Position”http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/02/14/edwin-dolan-applying-the-lockean-framework-to-climate-change.aspx.

     

    Categories: AGW, Callahan, climate, Dolan, litgation, mises, Pawa, Richman Tags:

    Thank you, Prof. Block, for feeding our confirmation biases

    February 26th, 2008 10 comments

    Walter Block of Loyola University has graced the main LvMI blog with a rare post, this time a clipping – without commentary – from a piece entitled “Forget global warming: Welcome to the new Ice Age“, by Canadian conservative commentator Lorne Gunter concerning the relatively high snowfalls this winter in various parts of the North Hemisphere:   http://blog.mises.org/archives/007828.asp.

    What’s the point, except to show that Prof. Block is happy to find something that feeds his own reluctance (and that on the LvMI blog generally) to talk about climate science or policy?  Where’s the beef, Prof. Block?

    I posted the following to his thread; as it’s pending there I thought I’d put it up here (with a few typo corrections)

    [snark level: high]

    Dear Prof. Block:

    Thank you for continuing in the hoary LvMI blog tradition, followed by Dr. Reisman, Sean Corrigan and many others here, of doing one’s level best, by way of self-example, to illustrate how strongly we are in the grip of reflexive cognitive patterns such as confirmation bias.

    This confirmation bias helps us at LvMI to report, with self-reassuring glee, any iota of evidence that the planet might be cooling, while dodging evidence to the contrary, and to mock those who say that the “climate” is complex and not the same as the weather.

    We just love confirmation bias, because it allows us to dismiss all those who have concerns about how our long-term and unmoderated experiment with the Earth’s climate and eco-systems are going as evil and/or crackpots – AND thus spares us from doing any heavy lifting on a number of distasteful tasks:

    – actually trying to understand what climate scientists are saying about the climate system, our influences on it and present or future system responses;

    – considering the likely consequences if we continue to treat the atmosphere and oceans as unmanaged open-access commons (Mises himself noted: “The extreme instance is provided by the case of no-man’s property referred to above. If land is not owned by anybody, although legal formalism may call it public property, it is utilized without any regard to the disadvantages resulting [to others]”);

    – engaging in a good faith discussion with those who have differing views (and their own confirmation biases, no doubt); and

    – exploring Austrian and libertarian principles and explicating their possible application to the problem that others declaim (i.e., the general efficacy of property rights, problems of information and transaction costs, rent-seeking, bureaucratic mal-incentives, the lack of rule of law relating to shared global/regional commons and in poorer nations, and with coordinating action for transborder commons under a Westphalian global order, and the legacy of 150+ years of – as you have put it – the “failure of the government to uphold free enterprise with a legal system protective of private property rights“).

    It is precisely this cognitive bias that Friedrich Hayek noted in his 1960 essay, “Why I am Not a Conservative”:  http://www.fahayek.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=46

    Personally, I find that the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it—or, to put it bluntly, its obscurantism. I will not deny that scientists as much as others are given to fads and fashions and that we have much reason to be cautious in accepting the conclusions that they draw from their latest theories. But the reasons for our reluctance must themselves be rational and must be kept separate from our regret that the new theories upset our cherished beliefs. . . . By refusing to face the facts, the conservative only weakens his own position. Frequently the conclusions which rationalist presumption draws from new scientific insights do not at all follow from them. But only by actively taking part in the elaboration of the consequences of new discoveries do we learn whether or not they fit into our world picture and, if so, how. Should our moral beliefs really prove to be dependent on factual assumptions shown to be incorrect, it would hardly be moral to defend them by refusing to acknowledge facts.”

    Hayek noted these additional traits that distinguish market liberals from conservatives, which also are commonly manifested here:

    • Habitual resistance to change (hence “conservative”);
    • Use of state authority to protect established privileges against the forces of economic change; and
    • Claim to superior wisdom based on self-arrogated superior quality in place of rational argument.

    The upshot?  That most of us here at LvMI are engaged in the task of convincing ourselves that the climate is not changing or that those who have concerns about it are illogical man-haters, and that we refuse to engage these others by (i) understanding first that for resources where property rights are undefined or uneforceable, public debates rather than private transactions are the chief means of expressing one’s preferences, and (ii) actively defending or advancing freedom – through attempting to persuade others.

    There are other freedom-loving thinkers who have made modest starts in a productive engagement with others, such as:

    –  Sheldon Richman, in his essay  “The Goal Is Freedom: Global Warming and the Layman”, in the December 8, 2006 edition of The Freeman:   http://www.fee.org/in_brief/default.asp?id=966);

    –  Gene Callahan, in his essay “How a Free Society Could Solve Global Warming”, in the October 2007 issue of The Freeman: http://www.fee.org/publications/the-freeman/article.asp?aid=8150; and

    –  Edwin Dolan, in his Fall 2006 Cato Journal essay, “Global Warming: Rethinking the Market Liberal Position”http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/02/14/edwin-dolan-applying-the-lockean-framework-to-climate-change.aspx.

    But we here at LvMI don’t want to be troubled to be productive, engage others or advance the cause of freedom, so we don’t post, cite to or discuss authors like that.  Being thoughtful or engaging is too much work!  We prefer to cherish our existing beliefs and to nourish our hatred of “enviros”, while ignoring everyone else, as I’ve noted here:

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/02/18/cool-rationalists-or-conservatives-and-neocons-on-the-environment.aspx

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/12/17/holiday-joy-quot-watermelons-quot-roasting-on-an-open-pyre.aspx

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/12/15/quot-heroic-quot-expert-voices-proven-wrong-on-agw-make-another-slick-cry-for-relevance-at-bali.aspx

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/12/14/who-knows-climate-science-the-mises-blog.aspx

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/02/24/george-reisman-or-how-i-learned-to-hate-enviros-and-love-tantrums.aspx

    I am relieved that you seem to want to be one of us, and are not challenging us to get engaged, like Callahan, Richman or Dolan.

    Sincerely,

    Tom

    PS:  One of the conditions of membership in the “Reisman/Corrigan Club”, as we sometimes call it, is that we forswear reading any of the IPCC reports and the reports of all major academies of science.  Can you confirm that you have you have not yet tainted yourself with such “information” and undertake not to?  Also, you must avoid posts by apostates such as this who post other “science” tripe:  http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/01/15/did-global-warming-stop-in-1998-jim-hansen-says-no.aspx.

    Escape from Reason: are Austrians conservatives, or neocons, on the environment?

    February 19th, 2008 9 comments

    In their more considerate writings, Austrians have counseled a cool, rational approach to environmental issues.  But recent posts lead me to wonder whether a number of LvMI blog authors and commenters prefer hot-headed emotional outbursts and partisan, ad hominem attacks over Austrian principles, rational thinking and productive, good faith discourse.

    1.  As a starting point, let me note that Roy Cordato has elegantly explored and summarized the views of various Austrian thinkers as they apply to environmental issues, including his own:

    “The starting point for all Austrian welfare economics is the goal seeking individual and the ability of actors to formulate and execute plans within the context of their goals. Furthermore, in all three approaches, social welfare or efficiency problems arise because of interpersonal conflict. For Rothbard such conflicts arise because of interferences with the voluntary use of one’s own property. This prevents a demonstration of true preferences, moving one to a lower level of utility than would otherwise be achieved. For Kirzner interpersonal conflict that cannot be resolved by entrepreneurship and the market process gives rise to a lack of plan coordination and therefore social inefficiency. And for Cordato, conflict, that similarly cannot be resolved by the market process, gives rise to catallactic inefficiency by preventing useful information from being captured by prices. A theory of environmental economics and pollution that evolves from problems associated with human conflict then would be a natural implication of each of these welfare standards.

    “In addition, these standards would argue that irresolvable inefficiencies, i.e., inefficiencies that cannot find a solution in the entrepreneurial workings of the market process, arise because of institutional defects associated with the lack of clearly defined or well enforced property rights. In a setting where rights are clearly defined and strictly enforced, plans may conflict but the resolution to that conflict is embedded in the exchange process. In other words, conflict may arise at the planning stages but is resolved before the actors proceed with implementation of those plans.”

    “In the absence of clearly defined and strictly enforced property rights this process breaks down and the conflict becomes irresolvable through the market process. Under all three Austrian approaches to welfare economics, therefore, the solution to pollution problems, defined as a conflict over the use of resources, is to be found in either clearly defining or more diligently enforcing property rights. Not surprisingly this is the approach that has been taken by nearly all Austrian economists who have looked at the issue dating back to Menger.”

    I have previously explored more extensively elsewhere Cordato’s summary of Austrian views on environmental matters.  http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/10/12/cordato-humans-cannot-harm-the-environment.aspx.  

    Cordato’s view of course meshes with that of Ludwig von Mises, who troubled himself to write directly about externalities, as I have noted earlier: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/10/12/draft.aspx

    Carried through consistently, the right of property would entitle the proprietor to claim all the advantages which the good’s employment may generate on the one hand and would burden him with all the disadvantages resulting from its employment on the other hand. Then the proprietor alone would be fully responsible for the outcome. In dealing with his property he would take into account all the expected results of his action, those considered favorable as well as those considered unfavorable. But if some of the consequences of his action are outside of the sphere of the benefits he is entitled to reap and of the drawbacks that are put to his debit, he will not bother in his planning about all the effects of his action. He will disregard those benefits which do not increase his own satisfaction and those costs which do not burden him. His conduct will deviate from the line which it would have followed if the laws were better adjusted to the economic objectives of private ownership. He will embark upon certain projects only because the laws release him from responsibility for some of the costs incurred. He will abstain from other projects merely because the laws prevent him from harvesting all the advantages derivable.”

    The laws concerning liability and indemnification for damages caused were and still are in some respects deficient. By and large the principle is accepted that everybody is liable to damages which his actions have inflicted upon other people. But there were loopholes left which the legislators were slow to fill.”

    “Whether the proprietor’s relief from responsibility for some of the disadvantages resulting from his conduct of affairs is the outcome of a deliberate policy on the part of governments and legislators or whether it is an unintentional effect of the traditional working of laws, it is at any rate a datum which the actors must take into account. They are faced with the problem of external costs. Then some people choose certain modes of want-satisfaction merely on account of the fact that a part of the costs incurred are debited not to them but to other people.”

    The extreme instance is provided by the case of no-man’s property referred to above. If land is not owned by anybody, although legal formalism may call it public property, it is utilized without any regard to the disadvantages resulting.

    It is true that where a considerable part of the costs incurred are external costs from the point of view of the acting individuals or firms, the economic calculation established by them is manifestly defective and their results deceptive. But this is not the outcome of alleged deficiencies inherent in the system of private ownership of the means of production. It is on the contrary a consequence of loopholes left in this system. It could be removed by a reform of the laws concerning liability for damages inflicted and by rescinding the institutional barriers preventing the full operation of private ownership.”

    2.  But in recent posts on the main blog on environmental issues, rather than a forthright discussion of whether there are persistent or troubling externalities that (i) prevent a demonstration of true preferences, or (ii) result in interpersonal conflict that cannot be resolved by entrepreneurship and the market process and thus gives rise to catallactic inefficiency (a lack of plan coordination and social inefficiency), we are treated to a petulant turning from good faith engagement, in favor of emotional venting, manifested as either a persistent but unsupported mockery of the views of others or as an outright, Manicheaen dismissal of the preferences of others.

    a.  Exhibit 1 might be Sean Corrigan, who in a string of posts (most recently “Cold Wave Attributed to Global Warming”- http://blog.mises.org/archives/007775.asp) manifests a rather conservative streak much like that decried by Friedrich Hayek, in his 1960 essay, “Why I am Not a Conservative”.  Mr. Corrigan’s oeuvre is here:  http://blog.mises.org/archives/author/Corrigan; http://blog.mises.org/archives/author/Corrigan2

    Hayek identified the following traits that distinguish conservatism from market liberalism:

    • Habitual resistance to change, hence the term “conservative.”
    • Lack of understanding of spontaneous order as a guiding principle of economic life.
    • Use of state authority to protect established privileges against the forces of economic change.
    • Claim to superior wisdom based on self-arrogated superior quality in place of rational argument.
    • A propensity to reject scientific knowledge because of dislike of the consequences that seem to follow from it.

    Edwin Dolan, in his Fall 2006 Cato Journal essay, “Global Warming: Rethinking the Market Liberal Position”, specifically cautions that market liberals appear to be hamstringing their own analytic strengths by falling into a reflexive and conservative mindframes that benefit established economic interests.  http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/02/14/edwin-dolan-applying-the-lockean-framework-to-climate-change.aspx

    Query:  why is it that LvMI blog authors such as Mr. Corrigan seem to consistently care more about defending an existing legal framework that clearly protect the privileges of established interests (especially the privilege to continue to freely and without restraint to exploit all commons), rather than to examine whether there is any cost-shifting going on, or any valuable resources in which there are no clear or effective owners?  Is this not a profoundly “conservative” approach, instead of one that is concerned with libertarian or Lockean principles?

    Sheldon Richman of the Foundation for Economic Education also recommends Dolan’s essay and calls for less wishful thinking and greater engagement by libertarians in the December 8, 2006 edition of The Freeman:  The Goal Is Freedom: Global Warming and the Layman, http://www.fee.org/in_brief/default.asp?id=966.)

    Gene Callahan makes a similar warning in his essay “How a Free Society Could Solve Global Warming”, in the October 2007 issue of The Freeman: http://www.fee.org/publications/the-freeman/article.asp?aid=8150.

    Mr. Corrigan’s blog posts on environmental matters regularly elicit a fair degree of enthusiasm among fans of the Manicheaen strawman style, as I noted on an earlier blog post:  http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/12/17/holiday-joy-quot-watermelons-quot-roasting-on-an-open-pyre.aspx.

     

    b.  We now turn reluctantly to Exhibit 2, who is none other than Dr. George Reisman, whom I understand ironically to be the translator of the von Mises passage on externalities that I quoted above.  In his latest post, trumpeted in an all-caps “ENVIRONMENTALISM IS RECYCLED COMMUNISM AND NAZISM” headline, Dr. Reisman equates Environmentalism with  Communism and Nazism, in that they share “the essential common core of hatred and destruction” and “the fundamental principle of hatred for human life and happiness.”  http://blog.mises.org/archives/007793.asp

    While some environmentalists may be socialists in disguise, how is this blanket and sweeping condemnation of all who care about the environment helpful, much less consistent with Austrian understanding of the externalities that give rise to environmental concerns or the Austrian principles of how to begin to address what others have expressly recognized as “tough cases”?

    When I noted in my comments to Dr. Reisman’s post that environmentalists used to be called “conservationists” and were once largely wealthy conservatives, I was quickly advised by one clever fellow, more concerned with correcting me than in disagreeing with Dr. Reisman, that “these aren’t the same environmentalists that we’re talking about here”.  Allow me to paraphrase my response to him:

    Yes, when challenged on these strawmen, LvMI blog commenters will acknowledge that they really only want to talk about the EVIL enviros. The rather poorly defined “Enviros” who are the target of these attacks are simply a convenient strawman, one that allows all the good freedom-loving folks at LvMI to ignore everyone else who cares about their own property, their backyard or shared commons:  wealthy people and consumers, regular folks stymied by the 150+ years that Walter Block has identified that US courts have NOT protected private property, Ruppert Murdoch and Richard Branson, the firms behind the new “Carbon Principles”, the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) http://www.us-cap.org/, the CERES group of institutional investors, the firms that are members of the PEW climate change coalition, the firms that are entering to voluntary carbon trades, the religious groups and the scientists who are suffciently concerned to publish or speak publicly, etc.

    It seems rather obvious to me, at least, that the persistent use of such a sweeping strawman is simply unhelpful for analyzing whether there any so-called problems, understanding the concerns or preferences of those who declare their concern or in considering how such concerns could be best addressed within an Austrian framework.  So what explains the prevalence of this rather blind enviro-bashing?  That, I’m afraid, is rather simple, albeit understandable – it is a surrender to the ancient tribal imperative of (and emotional rewards from) engaging in partisan conflict.

    As I quoted on Dr. Reisman’s comment thread, Glenn Greenwald also examines psychological motives in a recent post in which he takes neocon Mark Steyn to task for his continued war-mongering:

    “There is nothing more psychologically invigorating than the belief that you are staring down the Greatest and Most Evil Enemy Ever in History, courageously waging glorious war for all that is Good and Just in the world. Nothing produces more pulsating feelings of excitement and nobility like convincing yourself that you are a Warrior defending Western Civilization from the greatest threat it has ever faced, following in — even surpassing — the mighty footsteps of the Greatest Generation and the Warrior-Crusaders who came before them.”

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/02/17/steyn/index.html.  Clearly this type of analysis has its limits in any given case, but it is such an identifable phenomenon that I couldn’t help wondering on Dr. Reisman’s comment thread:

    Mark Steyn : Islamofascism : : George Reisman : Environmentalism?

    Those who think they’ve identified demons ought to have sense to question whether they are falling into a cognitive trap – of the kind that throws reason and caution out the door, while giving free rein to confirmation bias, prejudice and fears of enemies.  This is quite common and indeed predictable, as many have noted.  We aren’t computers, after all, but merely human. 

    But this is the very reason why many on the blog (as on sharp display in Mr. Corrigan’s last thread) like to thrill to the emotional satisfactions of seeing those with whom they disagree (viz., yours truly) as close to the Devil incarnate, simply because I persist in being an outlier and thus a sore thumb here.  To them I say, okay, but have some sympathy for the Devil, as my diabolic aspects may simply be your own creation – and I continue to call you to constructively engage with those you least sympathize with.

    Or have I fundamentally misunderstood Austrianism?

    Let me close by repeating my statement on Sean Corrigan’s most recent thread:  it is has been my sad experience over the past two years here that there is very little appetite for exploring Cordato’s “tough cases”. Rather, on environmental matters, the modus operandi of many LvMI authors and commenters appears to be: Abandon all logic, all ye who enter here, and let’s band together and blame everything on those evil misanthropes (whomever they may be) – ignoring all others but those hated strawmen!  In honor of two leading lights who regularly exhibit this behavior, I have begun to call it the “Reisman Rule” or the “Corrigan Creed”: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/12/17/holiday-joy-quot-watermelons-quot-roasting-on-an-open-pyre.aspx


    “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
    Richard Feynman

    Edwin Dolan: applying the Lockean framework to climate change

    February 13th, 2008 2 comments

    I would like to bring readers’ attention to Edwin G. Dolan’s “Science, Public Policy and Global Warming: Rethinking the Market Liberal Position“, from the Fall 2006 issue of The Cato Journal: www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj26n3/cj26n3-3.pdf.  Dolan examines libertarian, “market liberal” reactions to climate change and walks through Lockean provisions that he believes require further consideration and elaboration by libertarians in the context of climate change.

    FWIW, Dolan was the editor of the Austrian classic, The Foundations of Modern Austrian Economics (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1976)(online here: http://www.econlib.org/LIBRARY/NPDBooks/Dolan/dlnFMAContents.html), and author of the classic pamphlet TANSTAAFL: An Economic Strategy for the Environmental Crisis (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1971), which outlined Dolan’s chief perspective:

    The fundamental principle on which this strategy is built may be expressed in a simple slogan—There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, the “TANSTAAFL principle,” for short. The TANSTAAFL principle is closely related to the fundamental theorem of ecological economics, that everything depends on everything else. Everything worthwhile has a cost. Whenever you think you are getting something for nothing, look again—someone, somewhere, somehow is paying for it. Behind every free lunch there is a hidden cost to be accounted for.

    The task of ecological economics is to figure out how to restructure the economic system so that these hidden costs will be brought out into the open, with the ultimate aim that no one who benefits from the use of the environment will be able to escape without paying in full. The rest of this book is devoted to working out specific applications of this general strategy in order to deal with specific problems.

    In the interest of assisting readers, I take the liberty of excerpting liberally from Dolan’s Cato article below.

    First, Dolan suggests that many libertarian climate skeptics are acting quite as if they are “conservatives” of the type condemned by Friedrich Hayek.  Dolan cites Hayek’s 1960 essay, “Why I am Not a Conservative” (1960), in which Hayek identified the following traits that distinguish conservatism from market liberalism:

    • Habitual resistance to change, hence the term “conservative.”
    • Lack of understanding of spontaneous order as a guiding principle of economic life.
    • Use of state authority to protect established privileges against the forces of economic change.
    • Claim to superior wisdom based on self-arrogated superior quality in place of rational argument.
    • A propensity to reject scientific knowledge because of dislike of the consequences that seem to follow from it.

    Second, Dolan examines whether any of the above “conservative” traits are at work in libertarian positions on climate change.

    … We need to address several questions. One issue is what the status is of the privileges and interests of those who are threatened by the possibility of climate change and of those who are threatened by proposed actions to mitigate it. Which of these has the greater claim to the sympathy of market liberals, when viewed in terms of the standards they apply in other areas of public policy? Another issue is what the values are that lie behind the positions taken by various parties to the debate. The issue of values may determine when market liberals can make principled alliances with one of the other corners of the triangle and when they want to make only tactical alliances. Still another issue is what manner of argument should be employed. For example, what is the proper attitude toward the purely scientific element in the global warming controversy? It will be worth taking a closer look at this last issue before proceeding further.

    Hayek expresses himself so well on the role of science that it is worth quoting him at length:

    Personally, I find that the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it—or, to put it bluntly, its obscurantism. I will not deny that scientists as much as others are given to fads and fashions and that we have much reason to be cautious in accepting the conclusions that they draw from their latest theories. But the reasons for our reluctance must themselves be rational and must be kept separate from our regret that the new theories upset our cherished beliefs. . . . By refusing to face the facts, the conservative only weakens his own position. Frequently the conclusions which rationalist presumption draws from new scientific insights do not at all follow from them. But only by actively taking part in the elaboration of the consequences of new discoveries do we learn whether or not they fit into our world picture and, if so, how. Should our moral beliefs really prove to be dependent on factual assumptions shown to be incorrect, it would hardly be moral to defend them by refusing to acknowledge facts [Hayek 1960: 404](emphasis added).

    This passage raises obvious questions for the global warming debate. What lies behind the skepticism of market liberals regarding the propositions that the world is getting warmer at a rate that is unusually rapid in climate history, if not altogether unprecedented, and that this apparent trend is likely the joint product of natural cycles and human activity, rather than of the former acting alone? Are liberals correctly rejecting an inadequately grounded scientific fad? Or are they refusing to acknowledge facts for fear that doing so would upset their cherished beliefs?  …

    Fortunately, the supposed dilemma is a false one. Liberals have long acclaimed the market as a way of adapting to change, and climate change should be no exception. … Also, market liberals should know well that effective environmental policy does not have to take the form of heavy-handed commandand-control measures. … The same kind of market-oriented policies should be possible in the case of climate change.

    In short, if one takes into account both the market’s potential for adapting to change and market-based policy alternatives, there is no reason for market liberals to be anything but open-minded toward ongoing developments in climate science, whether those developments, as they unfold, reveal indications or counter-indications of global warming.

    There could, instead, be another explanation for some market liberals’ apparent close-mindedness toward the global warming hypothesis. It could be that, when taking a position on issues of climatology, they are speaking not from perceived threats to their beliefs, but out of loyalty to conservative interests with whom they have struck some tactical alliance. For example, policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, no matter how carefully market-guided in their design, are likely to undermine the interests of politically powerful producers of carbon-based energy. Equally, they are likely to have a disproportionate impact on the United States relative to other, less carbon intensive, economies. It is understandable that a conservative member of Congress could be pledged to uphold the interests of energy industry workers or shareholders from his or her home constituency. It is also understandable that a U.S. negotiator at an international conference could work to increase the benefits for the United States of a proposed treaty while shifting the costs to other countries. What is harder to understand is why market liberals would see fit to support such positions, unless for the narrowest of tactical reasons. …

    (emphasis added) 

    Third, Dolan spends considerable time discussing how the Lockean framework of rights and duties applies to climate change, which he frames as follows:

    In the case of global warming, the relevant unenclosed commons include the world air-shed, which, in one of its several competing uses, serves as a sink for greenhouse gasses, and the oceans, which serve as a sink for heat generated by the greenhouse effect and a catchment basin for melting ice. (We are still stipulating scientific certainty of these effects.) Whatever adverse impact the Midwestern power plant has on the Bangladeshi farmer are transmitted through the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on these common-property resources. What does a Lockean approach tell us about rights to make use of the global atmospheric and oceanic commons, and about how those rights might be established?

    Dolan walks carefully through Locke’s three rights and three corresponding duties, which he summarizes as follows:

    Rights:
    • to property in one’s own person
    • to property in the fruits of one’s own labor
    • to property in land and natural resources taken from nature when mixed with one’s own labor

    Duties:
    • to abstain from harming others
    • to abstain from taking property of others
    • to leave enough and as good for others when taking from the common

    His discussion here is quite useful.

    Finally, Dolan summarizes his own analysis of “the proper market-liberal position on global warming,” that is, one “constructed on a sound Lockean respect for the persons and property of others”:

    First, market liberals should keep arguments based on comparisons of costs and benefits in proper perspective. The fact that an action produces net benefits, even very large net benefits, does not shield the actor from liability if it also does harm. The relative magnitude of the costs and benefits, or their relative probabilities, is, in this regard, irrelevant. The duty not to harm people in their persons or property is not to be bypassed on the basis of any facile cost-benefit calculus. This is an essential part of what distinguishes the classical liberal tradition from other political theories that would invoke the power of the state to override individual rights in favor of some greater societal utility. This being said, cost-benefit calculations may in some other respects be relevant to the formulation of a market-liberal position on global warming. They may help choose between different mechanisms for implementing climate change policy. They may be relevant to the decision of whether to abstain from possibly harmful actions, or to risk possible harm while accepting a contingent duty of restitution. And they may be relevant to whether harm is better avoided by mitigation of climate change, or instead compensated through investments that help victims of climate change to adapt.

    Second, the market-liberal position should be distinct from a conservative position that defends unjustly acquired privileges. Liberalism in America, in particular, grew up in a Lockean state of nature where it was really true, or at least seemed true, that homesteaders, loggers, grazers, and industrialists could take what they needed while leaving “enough and as good for others.” What the environmentalist side of the global warming debate is telling us is that we no longer live in such a world. It is not just that we can take no more from the commons; we have quite possibly already taken so much as to have breached our duty not to engross. To be sure, the science of just how much can safely be taken is not yet perfect. We may be way past the limit already or still a bit short of it. But to cry foul because those who have taken the most are now asked to bear a substantial share of the costs is not liberalism.

    Third, market liberals should keep a clear head when it comes to the relationship between science and public policy. It is fine to be legitimately cautious when policies are urged on the basis of weakly established scientific fads. One should be vigilant against attempts to smuggle questionable economic or political assumptions into scientific analysis, as is sometimes done in the global warming debate, and also to possible biases in research produced by grant-seeking and public choice considerations. But at the same time, as Hayek warned, any reluctance to accept new scientific theories must itself be rational and must be kept separate from the regret that the new theories may upset cherished beliefs (let alone that they threaten the financial interests of useful allies). This is a fine line to walk, and I fear that the market-liberal camp may at times have overstepped it.

    Fourth, market liberals should think about the implications of their principles not just for public policy, but for their personal conduct. It is fashionable in some conservative circles to ridicule environmentalism as a new religion that calls for a personal morality of abstinence (see, for example, Schlesinger 2005). Perhaps market liberals would not want to describe their beliefs as a religion, but all of the great thinkers to whom they pay homage make it clear that the duty not to harm others in their persons or property is not just an abstract guideline for public policy, but a specific imperative of personal morality.  To cede the moral high ground on environmental issues to the left is not just tactically foolish, it is unprincipled. To put it simply, a market liberal should not be ashamed to drive a Prius rather than a Humvee.

    These broad outlines of a market-liberal position on global warming leave a great deal of room for debate and discussion. They leave open the whole area of how to design a policy to deal with global warming. Are the flaws of the Kyoto Protocol so serious that it is worse than doing nothing at all? Perhaps so—even its staunchest supporters acknowledge that it has many limitations. Should we act now, based on current scientific knowledge? Or should we wait, while firmly insisting on the principle of contingent liability, being prepared to make restitution should subsequent harm turn out to be greater than optimists think it will be? In formulating global warming policy, should each country act unilaterally, based on a duty to avoid harm regardless of what others do, or is it best to try to negotiate international agreements? If measures are to be taken, what role should be given to market-based mechanisms like tradable permits? How can such market-like devices, if used, be introduced in a way that respects existing property rights? How do such devices relate to Lockean principles regarding enclosure and management of residual unenclosed commons?

    By addressing these and other questions, market liberals can make a uniquely valuable contribution to the global warming debate. If, however, they allow themselves to be perceived as ostriches whose only policy in the face of uncertainty is to hope for the best while ignoring the worst, and base their position on climate policy on arguments that they would disdain in any other context, they will end up making no useful contribution at all.

    (emphasis added)

    I hope others will take the time to look through Dolan’s framework, which I believe is useful as a call for constructive engagement by libertarians, even as it does not examine particular policy suggestions* or claim to be complete.  (For example, as Jeff Tucker has observed on another thread, Dolan’s article does not discuss the competency of the state to address climate change, if it is a problem.)

    (h/t Donny with an A: http://mises.org/Community/members/Donny-with-an-A.aspx.  I note also that Sheldon Richman of the Foundation for Economic Education also recommends Dolan’s essay and calls for less wishful thinking and greater engagement by libertarians in the December 8, 2006 edition of The Freeman: The Goal Is Freedom: Global Warming and the Layman, http://www.fee.org/in_brief/default.asp?id=966.)

    *  I note that Dolan has previously discussed pollution trading permits in the context of acid rain; his remarks were examined by Robert McGee and Walter Block in their “Pollution Trading Permits as a Form of Market Socialism and the Search for a Real Market Solution to Environmental Pollution,” Fordham Environmental Law Journal, vol. 16 (1994): 58  http://law.fordham.edu/publications/articles/100flspub4011.pdf.

    Categories: Block, climate, Dolan, Hayek, libertarian, Locke, TANSTAAFL Tags:

    "Pay Your Air Share" – Libertarian think tank advocates carbon taxes!

    February 13th, 2008 10 comments

    1.  Check out the San Diego-based The Prometheus Institute, http://www.prometheusinstitute.net/, which has just launched a new website calling for carbon taxes: http://www.payyourairshare.org/.


    They propose that:




    • A tax be levied on all major emitters of greenhouse gases, set so that fossil fuel prices will reflect their true social cost, which will create a seamless market-based incentive for the development of alternative energy.


    • Most of the revenue raised should be returned to the people in the form of an across-the-board income tax cut, but as the climate system has great inertia, a portion of the carbon tax revenues should support private sector and community-based projects to adapt to effects of climate change.

    The site contains a number of articles to explain just how in the heck The Prometheus Institute (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus_Institute) could convince itself to come up with this Pigouvian scheme. 


    (h/t Greg Mankiw: http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2008/02/pi-joins-club.html)


    2.  Another recent piece that I highly recommend is Edwin G. Dolan‘s “Global Warming: Rethinking the Market Liberal Position”, from the Fall 2006 issue of The Cato Journalwww.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj26n3/cj26n3-3.pdf.  Dolan argues that a Lockean position does not permit an easy dismissal of calls for policy changes relating to climate change.


    FWIW, Dolan was the editor of the Austrian classic, The Foundations of Modern Austrian Economics (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1976).


    (h/t Donny with an A: http://mises.org/Community/members/Donny-with-an-A.aspx)