Archive for the ‘Enviro Derangement Syndrome’ Category

How do government actions enable pollution and other social problems?

September 25th, 2013 No comments

[from a comment at the “we build our society” Facebook group]

[A]s a factual matter, the greatest Industrial Revolution pollution occurred AFTER governments started to create #LimitedLiability corporations whose effect (and aim) was to protect INVESTORS from the downside risks of doing sh*t that hurt OTHER PEOPLE.

Even today, most of our largest social problems flow from risk socialization and lack of accountability, proximately resulting from wonderful LAWS that serve the powerful, while pretending to “protect” the poor and dumped upon.

Fukushima happened because NO ONE had any personal skin in the game. What happened was no “surprise” or “Act of God”, but an expected result where NO ONE was f*cking responsible for the downsides of poor decisions that benefitted themselves or their organizations, favored corporations with monopolies, whose shareholders and lenders are protected from liability, the banks that are protected by government, the executives and regulators who often retire to the regulated company, the mega-construction firms who built the reactors, the legislators who imposed taxes on all users to bribe the local communities into accepting them ….

Where no one is accountable, bad sh*t is no surprise, but more LIKELY to occur. The same story can be written of the BP/Gulf of Mexico disaster, the ongoing oil sands disaster, coal/oil pollution, the god-damned War Machine/Prison/Industry/Drug War complex, and the “unexpected” financial crisis resulting from monetary gaming by the Fed and a gazillion regs that left depositors and shareholders powerless in the face of looting by bankster elite-wolves.

The answer is NOT “more govt!” or “more regulation!”, but SMARTER regulation that RESTORES RESPONSIBILITY and stops the lie of govt “protecting” people. Keep regulating the old/big cos, but LET THE SMALL and ACCOUNTABLE BUSINESSES FREE. Firms run by managers who are members of the communities in which they operate, and whose owners have no government-granted #LimitedLiability be kept in check by their communities and the risk of losing their personal assets, and will, via the process of #CreativeDestruction, supplant the corrupt dinosaurs.

On climate, myopic progressives console themselves by pointing out fossil $ behind science "skeptics"; but miss the same from left and ignore middle ground

February 28th, 2010 No comments

Case in point is Kate Sheppard, reporter on energy and environmental politics in Mother Jones‘ Washington bureau (previously political reporter for and a writing fellow at The American Prospect), who has an interesting but shallow piece up called “Most Credible Climate Skeptic Not So Credible After All” (Fri Feb. 26, 2010), which digs into climate scientist/policy-peddler Patrick Michaels, who –  as I have previously noted – acts as a paid mouthpiece for fossil fuel interests.

Sheppard’s piece is fair enough, as far as it goes. That THERE BE RENT-SEEKERS trying to win favors from government surely ought not to be a surprise to any libertarians following the Climate Wars, even though most tend naturally to fall into a partisan camp that makes them acutely aware of the Other Bad Guys while ignoring the self-seeking among the fossil fuel interests and other Well-Intentioned People who are on their own side of the fence.

The climate worriers also have blinders on, and frequently fail to engage in criticisms of the motives and self-seeking in climate change champions (like Gore) and their climate alliance business supporters (though some, like climate scientist Jim Hansen and Greenpeace strongly criticize the porkiness of legislative actions). They also ignore that they, too – like fossil fuel firms – are members of interest groups trying to influence government (on this, I think it is clear that fossil fuel firms, which are seeking to defend existing business turf, are much more powerful, sophisticated and effective than the climate coalitions).

While I have noted that cui bono arguments are fair and unavoidable (and have made a number of them myself), I do regret that the way people fall into partisan camps continues to get in the way of them noticing the very wide area of common ground, which if addressed would bring benefits to both sides.

But if libertarians – who know very well how government ownership and management of resources frustrates private deal-making and leads to politicized battles – cannot themselves break away from politicized battles to try to work for common ground, how can we expect those who think that Big Government is the only solution to the problems created by Big, Bad Corporations (which after all, do benefit from the very unlibertarian grant of limited liability) to do so?

Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for explicating that trust and communication are key elements by which communities can effectively manage common resources and common problems. Yet it seems that the past few Administrations (and Congress and the Supreme Court) have done a great job of destroying mutual trust and trust In federal government in general. In this climate, the effort to enlist a bulky federal government in climate regulation efforts has provided even further fuel to hose who benefit from polarization.

Is either communication or trust still possible on climate and energy? Maybe, but people have to start seeing that there are reasons to  cooperate. A shared future and ample middle ground seems like good reasons to me.


Snicker-snack! We hold these truths to be self-evident: That WE’re right, and THEY are stoopid, deluded, evil AND cunning, out to destroy all that is good and holy

February 15th, 2010 No comments

These “tribal truths” seem to fairly summarize modern political discourse – whether in the pages of Mises Daily, in “Tea Party” conventions, in the MSM  or elsewhere in the intertubes.

It’s a point I’ve been making like a broken record – in order to mask my nefarious agenda, of course! – so it’s nice to see others make similar observations (after all, who wants to listen to, much less agree with, an enviro-facist, commie, watermelon misanthrope?).

WARNING: Reading further not recommended for those who refer prefer the emotional rush of partisan battle to donning thinking caps.

I just ran across the essay What Is Wrong With Those Tea Partiers? by Jonathan Haidt (professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. His work can be found at, at the website of U. Va. Professor Larry Sabato (February 4, 2010); here are some excerpts for the discerning reader (emphasis added):

The truth has triumphed, at least for those attending this week’s Tea Party convention in Nashville: Obama is a socialist fascist communist statist Muslim whose healthcare “reform” would destroy the world’s greatest healthcare system and force Americans to wait in long lines so that their medical requests could be reviewed by death panels. This is not truth as you and I know it, but this statement (or at least parts of it) is believed to be true by the millions of Americans who coalesced into the Tea Party movement of 2009 ….

But the new synthesis that has recently occurred in moral psychology—merging social psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary theory—gives us a new set of tools for understanding political movements, which are always moral movements, whether left-wing, right-wing, or something else. This new moral psychology is based on three principles, each of which can help outsiders understand the tea party movement:

1) Intuitive Primacy. Moral judgments, like aesthetic judgments, are best understood as quick gut feelings, not as products of reasoning. We have feelings about people and ideas within the first second of encountering them. We engage in reasoning too, but reasoning is slow, spread over many seconds or minutes, and it takes place within a mental workspace that has already been pre-structured by feelings. So if one third of Americans had negative feelings toward Obama on election day, and if many independents developed negative feelings as talk of tax increases and Wall Street bailouts escalated, then, by the summer of 2009, more than 40% of Americans were emotionally ready to receive the narrative about socialism and statism being formulated by conservative talk radio hosts such as Glenn Beck and Mark Levin.

2) Moral Thinking is for Social Doing. People are extremely bad at solving simple logic problems that are unconnected to their interests, but we are all geniuses at justifying our prior actions and at making the case for propositions we favor. We are intuitive lawyers gunning for victory, not intuitive scientists seeking truth. In fact, research on everyday reasoning finds that people are largely incapable of searching for evidence that contradicts their initial hypothesis. So when passions run high, as they do among tea-partiers, their reasoning doesn’t get turned off. Rather, their reasoning is working overtime, and very elaborate belief structures (such as conspiracy theories) can be constructed out of the flimsiest materials (such as rumors about forged birth certificates). This is normal, and readers on the left should ask themselves how often they searched for counter-evidence that would have contradicted the worst things their friends said about George W. Bush.

3) Morality binds and builds. Morality, like politics, is really a team sport. Western philosophy often reduces ethics to the individual level (“How should I act?”). But many researchers now join Charles Darwin in believing that human morality was shaped in part by the competition of tribe vs. tribe. One of the main “tricks” that human tribes developed was the psychology of sacredness—the positing of a god, a person, a piece of land, or in more modern times a book or an idea, which was perfect, and which united a group in its defense. The left made racial equality its sacred principle in the 1960s, which led them to sacralize oppressed minorities. (Sacralization means that an object becomes perfectly pure, good, and unassailable.) It is a taboo on the left to “blame the victim,” and the left is therefore still prone to charging its opponents with racism. But the right chose freedom (understood as freedom from oppressive government) back in the days of the cold war, and it began to sacralize free markets in the 1980s (under Reagan and Thatcher). Is it any wonder, then, that that the right now uses “statist” and “socialist” as its all-purpose epithets? Is it so irrational to apply these labels to Obama? He does, after all, want to increase the government’s role in regulating healthcare, Wall Street, and anything that produces carbon dioxide.

Liberal readers may object that 1) Obama has been governing more as a centrist than as a left-wing collectivist; 2) George W. Bush was the real enemy of liberty with his contempt for civil rights, and 3) Healthcare costs and global warming are looming catastrophes for which vigorous action is a necessity. All true, in my opinion. But that’s the funny thing about moral psychology: it compels people on opposing teams to believe in conflicting and incompatible truths. Everyone on both sides asks: What is wrong with those people?

I feel the same way, as I try to explicate and debate various issues: so many vorpal swords!, so many headless chickens running around with them! and so many minions, blind to how those with nefarious agendas go about sowing heated partisan conflict, the better to secure gains from government!

Towards a productive libertarian approach on climate, energy and environmental issues

February 10th, 2010 No comments

[This is a work in progress and largely taken from previous posts, but readers might find some value in it in the meanwhile.]

1. Heated but vacuous climate wars

On environmental issues in general and climate in particular, find me someone (like George Will) ranting about “Malthusians” or “environazis” or somesuch, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t understand – or refuses to acknowledge – the difference between:

(1) wealth-creating markets based on private property and/or voluntary interactions/contracts protected by law, and

(2) the tragedy of the commons situations that result when there are NO property rights (atmosphere, oceans), when the pressures of developed markets swamp indigenous hunter-gather community rules, in many cases where governments formally own and purport to manage “public” resources, and when governments absolve purportedly “private” actors from liability for harms to others (such as via grants of “limited liability“).

So what’s the deal? Here’s a perfect opportunity for skeptics to educate the supposedly market ignorant, but they refuse, preferring to focus instead on why concerned scientists must be wrong, how concerns by a broad swath of society about climate have become a matter of an irrational, deluded “religious” faith, or that those raising their concerns are “misanthropes” or worse.

Such pigheadedness is met by those on the left likewise see libertarians and small-government conservatives as deluded and/or deliberate pawns of evil Earth-destroying corporations.

Both sides, it seems, prefer to fight – and to see themselves as right and the “others” as evil – rather than to reason.

While we should not regret that we cannot really constrain human nature very well, at least libertarian and others who profess to love markets ought to be paying attention to the inadequate institutional framework that is not only poisoning the political atmosphere, but posing risks to important globally and regionally shared open-access commons like the atmosphere and oceans (which are probably are in much more immediate and grave threat than the climate). And they also ought to recognize that there are important economic interests that profit from the current flawed institutional framework and have quite deliberately encouraged the current culture war.

2. Why the reflexive libertarian disengagement?

I have on numerous occasions tried to point out, to posters on the Mises Blog who have addressed climate issues, the stunning unproductivity of the approach that they have taken — that of focussing on science and dismissing motivations and preferences, rather than exploring root causes and middle ground, and have continued to scratch my head at the obstinacy and apparent lack of vision.

The following seem to be the chief factors at work in the general libertarian resistance to any government action on climate change:

– Many libertarians, as CEI’s Chris Horner has stated,  see “global warming [as] the bottomless well of excuses for the relentless growth of Big Government.”  Even libertarians who agree that is AGW is a serious problem are worried, for good reason, that government approaches to climate change will be a train wreck – in other words, that the government “cure” will be worse than the problem.

– Libertarians have in general drifted quite far from environmentalists (though there remain many productive free-market environmentalists/conservationists). Even though libertarians and environmentalists still share a mistrust of big government, environmentalists, on the one hand, generally have come to believe that MORE government is the answer, despite all of the problems associated with the socialized ownership of resources and/or inefficient bureaucratic management (witness the crashing of many managed fisheries in the US), the manipulation of such management to benefit bureaucratic interests, special interests and insiders (wildfire fighting budgets, fossil fuel and hard rock mining, etc.) and the resultant and inescapable politicization of all disputes due to the absence of private markets. On the other hand, many libertarians  reflexively favor business over “concerned citizens”, while other libertarians see that government “solutions” themselves tend to snowball into costly problems that work in favor of big business and create pressures for more government intervention. Thus, libertarians often see environmentalists as simply another group fighting to expand government, and are hostile as a result.

– Libertarians are as subject to reflexive, partisan position-taking as any one else. Because they are reflexively opposed to government action, they find it easier to operate from a position of skepticism in trying to bat down AGW scientific and economic arguments (and to slam the motives of those arguing that AGW must be addressed by government) than to open-mindedly review the evidence or consider ways that libertarian aims can be advanced by using the pressure from “enviro” goals.

This reflexive hostility – at times quite startingly vehement – is a shame (but human), because it blunts the libertarian message in explaining what libertarians understand very well – that environmental problems arise when property rights over resources are not clearly defined or enforceable, and when governments (mis)manage resources, and that there are various private steps and changes in government policy that would undo the previous government actions that are at the root of environmentalists’ frustrations.The reflexive hostility is also a shame because it has the effect, in my mind rather clearly, of rendering libertarians largely blind to the ways that large energy, power and certain manufacturing corporations continue to benefit from (and invest heavily in maintaining) the existing regulatory structure, in ways that shift large costs and risks to unconsenting third parties.

– There are some libertarians and others who profess to love free markets at AEI, CEI, Cato, IER, Master Resource and similar institutions that are partly in pay of fossil fuel interests, and so find it in their personal interests to challenge both climate science and policy proposals that would impose costs on their funders.

I felt particularly struck by the commonness of a refrain we are hearing from various pundits who prefer to question the good will or sanity of environmentalists over the harder work of engaging in a good faith examination and discussion of the underlying institutional problem of ALL “environmental” disputes:  namely, a lack of property rights and/or a means to enforce them. 

3. The whys of climate concerns and calls for “clean” energy

I want to get started with a list of policy changes that I think libertarians can and should be championing in response to the climate policy proposals of others.

The incessant calls for – and criticism of – government climate change policies and government subsidies and mandates for “green/clean power” both ignore root causes and potential common ground.  As a result, both sides of the debate are largely talking past each other, one talking about why there is a pressing need for government policy to address climate change concerns, while the other is concerned chiefly about the likelihood of heavy-handed mis-regulation and wasted resources. This leaves the middle ground unexplored.

There are plenty of root causes for the calls for legislative and regulatory mandates in favor of climate policies and clean / green / renewable power, such as:

  • concerns about apparent ongoing climate change, warnings by scientific bodies and apprehensions of increasing risk as China, India and other developing economies rapidly scale up their CO2, methane and other emissions,
  • the political deals in favor of environmentally dirty coal and older power plants under the Clean Air Act,
  • the enduring role of the federal and state governments in owning vast coal and oil & gas fields and relying on the royalties (which it does not share with citizens, but go into the General Pork Pool, with a relatively meager cut to states),
  • the unwillingness of state courts, in the face of the political power of the energy and power industries, to protect persons and private property from pollution and environmental disruption created by federally-licensed energy development and power projects,
  • the deep involvement of the government in developing, encouraging and regulating nuclear power, and
  • the frustration of consumer demand for green energy, and the inefficient and inaccurate pricing and supply of electricity, resulting from the grant by states of public utility monopolies and the regulation of the pricing and investments by utilities, which greatly restricts the freedom of power markets, from the ability of consumers to choose their provider, to the freedom of utilities to determine what infrastructure to invest in, to even simple information as to the cost of power as it varies by time of day and season, and the amount of electricity that consumers use by time of day or appliance.

4. Is a small-government, libertarian climate/green agenda possible and desirable?

So what is a good libertarian to suggest? This seems rather straight-forward, once one doffs his partisan, do-battle-with-evil-green-fascist-commies armor and puts on his thinking cap.

From my earlier comment to Stephan Kinsella:

As Rob Bradley once reluctantly acknowledged to me, in the halcyon days before he banned me from the “free-market” Master Resource blog, “a free-market approach is not about “do nothing” but implementing a whole new energy approach to remove myriad regulation and subsidies that have built up over a century or more.” But unfortunately the wheels of this principled concern have never hit the ground at MR [my persistence in pointing this out it, and in questioning whether his blog was a front for fossil fuel interests, apparently earned me the boot].

As I have noted in a litany of posts at my blog, pro-freedom regulatory changes might include:

Other policy changes could also be put on the table, such as:

  • an insistence that government resource management be improved by requiring that half of all royalties from mineral and fossil fuel development be rebated to citizens (with a slice to the administering agency), and
  • reducing understandable NIMBY problems by (i) encouraging project planners to proactively compensate persons in affected areas and (ii) reducing fears of corporate abuses, by providing that corporate executives have personal liability for environmental torts (in recognition of the fact that the profound risk-shifting that limited liability corporations are capable of that often elicits strong public opposition and fuels regulatory pressure).

5. Other libertarian discussants

A fair number of libertarian commenters on climate appear to accept mainstream sciences, though there remain natural policy disagreements. Ron Bailey, science correspondence at Reason and Jonathan Adler, a resources law prof at Case Western, Lynne Kiesling at Knowledge Problem blog, and David Zetland, who blogs on water issues, come to mind.

I`m not the only one – other libertarian climate proposals are here:

  • Jonathan Adler at Case Western (2000); he has other useful commentary here, here,
  • 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;
  • Iain Murray of CEI; and
  • Cato’s Jerry Taylor is a frequent commentator and Indur Goklany has advanced a specific climate change-targeted proposal.
  •  AEI’s Steven Hayward and Ken Green together have provided a number of detailed analyses (though with a distinct tendency to go lightly on fossil fuels).

Several libertarians recently urged constructive libertarian approaches to climate change:

There have been several open disputes, which indicate a shift from dismissal of science to a discussion of policy; the below exchanges of view are worthy of note:

  • The Cato Institute dedicated its entire August 2008 monthly issue of Cato Unbound, its online forum, to discussing policy responses to ongoing climate change.  The issue, entitled “Keeping Our Cool: What to Do about Global Warming“, contains essays from and several rounds of discussion between Jim Manzi, statistician and CEO of Applied Predictive Technologies, Cato Institute author Indur Goklany; climate scientist Joseph J. Romm, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress; and Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, the co-founders of The Breakthrough Institute.  My extended comments are here.
  • Reason Foundation, posted an exchange on Climate Change and Property Rights June 12th, 2008 (involving Reason’s Shikha Dalmia, Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan H. Adler, and author Indur Goklany); discussed by Ron Bailey of ReasonOnline here; here`s my take.
  • Debate at Reason, October 2007, Ron Bailey, Science Correspondent at Reason, Fred L. Smith, Jr., President and Founder of CEI, and Lynne Kiesling, Senior Lecturer in Economics at Northwestern University, and former director of economic policy at the Reason Foundation.
  • Reason Foundation, Global Warming and Potential Policy Solutions September 7th, 2006 (Reason’s Shikha Dalmia, George Mason University Department of Economics Chair Don Boudreaux, and the International Policy Network’s Julian Morris).


Finally, I have collected here some Austrian-based papers on environmental issues that are worthy of note:

Environmental Markets?  Links to Austrians

Ones such paper is the following: Terry L. Anderson and J. Bishop Grewell, Property Rights Solutions for the Global Commons: Bottom-Up or Top-Down?

Nice Post by David Henderson on "Avatar", property, corporatism & right of natives to live as they please

January 12th, 2010 No comments

David R. Henderson has a nice post up at, titled “In Defense of Avatar”, in which he takes issue with reviews of Avatar by Reihan Salam and Edward Hudgins. (My earlier comments on Stephan Kinsella`s review of Avatar are here.)

I would just note that Henderson has presumed that the Avatar natives – non-humans – have “rights” that we are obliged to respect.. I think that history tells us that, even for humans in other civilizations, “property rights” are respected only when it suits the purposes of both sides (viz., can be protected by the side claiming them, as I`ve noted on several occasions, most recently here).

A few excerpts:

I don’t think Avatar is an attack on capitalism. One could leave
the movie and have no idea, based on just the movie, about James Cameron’s
view of capitalism. And while it did have some clichés (most movies
do), I didn’t find it loaded. So what is Avatar? In fact, Avatar
is a powerful antiwar movie – and a defense of property rights. For that reason,
I found it easy to identify with those whose way of life was being destroyed
by military might. …

“But here’s the crucial question, a question that neither Salam nor Hudgins
addresses: Do savages, noble or otherwise, have rights?

If given a choice between high-tech, with all its creature comforts, and the
jungle life of Tarzan, I, like Salam and Hudgins, will take high-tech every
time. But that’s not what the movie’s about. It’s about people from a high-tech
civilization using technology to make war on people from a more primitive society
so that they can steal their stuff. That’s a very different choice. I would
choose not to kill them and take their property. What would Salam or Hudgins
choose? They don’t make their answers clear, although they show zero sympathy
for the victims of the attack. …

To the extent that it makes any statement about capitalism, Avatar
is a defense of capitalism. Capitalism is based on property rights and
voluntary exchange. The Na’vi had property rights in the crucial tree and various
other properties surrounding it. Did they own it as individuals or as community
tribal property? We can’t be sure, but probably the latter. They had refused
to sell the property to the outsiders. There was nothing the outsiders could
give them that would make it worth their while. What should we, if we are good
capitalists, conclude? That, just as in the Kelo case, the people currently
sitting on the land value it more than the outsiders. The land is already in
its highest-valued use. Hudgins and Salam could argue that that’s implausible.
Surely there would be some finite price that the Na’vi would take in return
for the Unobtainium. Maybe, maybe not. But once the Na’vi have made it clear
that they’re unwilling to exchange it, that should be the end of things, shouldn’t

Hudgins argues that James Cameron is claiming, “That’s capitalism for
you.” As noted earlier, it’s not clear that Cameron is so arguing. But
if that’s what Cameron believes, shouldn’t Hudgins’s response be, “No,
that’s corporatism for you.” …

Read through everything Hudgins has written on Kelo
and you won’t find a wisp of discussion about how low-tech or high-tech, savage
or civilized, Mrs. Dery is. And that’s because it doesn’t matter. People
in high-tech societies have rights. So do savages. It would be nice if Hudgins
showed even one tenth of the concern for the “savages” over whom
the “non-savages” of the U.S. military and CIA roll as he shows for
an old woman who lives (or used to live) in a house. …


Avatar is an eloquent defense of the right of people in other civilizations
to live as they please.

Thoughts of an envirofacist avatar on "Avatar"; or Resources, Property Rights, Corporations & Government-Enabled Theft

December 22nd, 2009 1 comment

My pal Stephan Kinsella has a remarkably enviro-friendly post (“Avatar Is Great and Libertarian”) up regarding the new movie “Avatar”; his remarks and others on the thread prompted me to leave a few comments, which I copy below (in furtherance of my nefarious and/or insanely misguided agenda .

Many thanks to Stephan for aiding and abetting this. Ive added a bit of emphasis, fixed a typo or two, and a few additional comments, in brackets.

Published: December 22, 2009 2:38 PM


Stephan, I welcome you to the dark, enviro-facist side!

– “you have to fight for and use might to protect your rights”

I see you are starting to buy into my real-world view of property rights, that “principles” and force are just two different ways we seek to protect what we consider ours, with the first being most efficacious within a community [and recourse to the later perhaps being necessary]. As I noted on a previous thread of yours,

“The deep roots of “property” are not in principle but in simple competition, physical defense of assets valuable enough to make the effort worthwhile, and in the grudging recognition by others – more willingly offered by those who share bonds of community – that yielding to others’ claims may be more productive than challenging them. This is as true for rest of creation as it is for man. While we have developed property to a very sophisticated degree, at its core property remains very much about the Darwinian struggle to survive and prosper, violence, theft and calculations as to when challenging control over an asset is not worth the effort.”

Sounds like this struggle over resources is at the core of Avatar, along with a boatload of Western guilt over our historical theft of land and assets from indigenous peoples, whom of course have also been involved for eons in bloody battles for resources with other tribes.

Far from being simply a dead relic of the past, however, the often violent struggle to take resources from indigenous peoples continues in many places, though out of sight from most of us (not simply those who are trying hard not to see) – oil & gas, minerals, timber, ranching, soybeans, oil palms, World Bank-funded dams and roads, fisheries – you name it, a violent conflict that the natives are losing to kleptocratic governments & elites can be found.

Western corporations are often in the thick of such conflicts, but even where not, modern technology (and growing consumer markets) provide the key tools and incentives for such conflicts, in which natives may be more or less hapless. Local governments typically either “nationalize” the resource or turn a blind eye, with the result that resource exploitation frequently takes on the appearance of a tragedy of the commons.

Western liberals sometimes exacerbate these problems – not simply by seeing “greed” and capitalism as the problem, and not kleptocratic regimes (often supported by the West and by aid money) or the lack of enforceable property rights – but also by demanding misguided policies such as “biofuels” incentives, which lie behind tropical forest destruction in much of SE Asia.

Libertarians should be familiar with these problems, which are a large part of the dynamics in petroleum-cursed nations and elsewhere. Such problems are also linked generally to “aid” efforts and to other centrally-directed development schemes. Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in part for her work in showing that local communities, if their rights are respected, can generally do a good job of managing their own resources [and how government efforts frequently go astray].

I’ve commented on these issues a number of times, but here are a couple of links for those who might care to scratch the surface:

Stephan, if youve made it this far, let me remind you of our conversations about corporations [most recently here], which have very unfortunately been inescapably tainted with statism from the get-go, in ways that play out negatively both abroad and at home. Ive devoted a fair amount of time to examining the entanglement of corporations and government:

  • Our state governments were wrong to get into competition with each other to grant corporate status to investor-owned enterprises, in exchange for fees and later taxes. Corporate status freed owners from down-side risk, by limiting liability to the amount of capital contributed. This incentivized investors to encourage corporations to embark on risky activities that shifted costs to innocent third parties; the concentration of wealth in corporations (that now have unlimited lives and purposes, subject to survival in the market); the corruption of the court system that once protected third parties from damages caused by others (by replacing strict liability with balancing tests); and the ensuing battle over legislatures and courts to check corporate abuses.What happens abroad at the “Avatar” is pretty basic, but the same nonsense, with taxpayers, investors and consumers playing the role of victim, can be seen at home. Has anybody seen the jaw-droppingly appalling report that the WSJ has run on “Fixing Global Finance”, based on their “Future of Finance Initiative”, in which they cheerlead a bunch of financial firms in their efforts to abandon free markets and to structure global regulation and regulators, to be staffed by a revolving door of themselves? [I think Im being fair to see this as posing a threat to markets and freedom at least as great as what others see in the more multi-faceted climate change muddle.] Even Paul Volker was appalled, not at their willingness to create more regulation, but at their unwillingness to confront the moral hazard problems (tied to regulation of public corporations and the financial sector) that lie at the core of the financial meltdown. [Volker seems to overlooked the crucial role of government in driving and feeding the moral hazard problems.]Heres the link, for those of you who missed it:


Property rights, corporations and government-complicit theft? Hmm. [Sounds familiar. Maybe some of those who want to battle corporate excesses might not be so crazy after all, even if they neglect to understand the risks of negative consequences of seeking help from government. And maybe someday libertarians will get a little more serious about addressing the festering concatenation of corporate-linked problems that are generating so much rot at the core of our government and public company/financial company sector.]


Oh, I almost forgot to remind everyone for the need for group holiday cheer (as alternative to productive engagement on a libertarian, Austrian-based climate agenda):


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:

– 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:

– 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”):

– 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:

– rather than honest engagement, prefer a tribal hatred of misanthropic “watermelons” and a smug love of strawmen and ad-homs:

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



ClimateGate (My Climate Confession; or the war with deceivers and with self-deception)

December 4th, 2009 4 comments

[I note that Jeffrey Tucker has kindly put a post linking to this from the main Mises Economics Blog pages: A Libertarian Green Responds to Climategate.  Readers are invited to note the comments over there, and to comment where their fancy may suit them.]

Aaah, the Great Climate Hack!

I`m flattered by a back-handed request to weigh in – with something “public,
humble and honest” – with my thoughts on the ramifications of the mass
of emails hacked from the UK East Anglia University Climate Research Unit.

Well, I`ll try, despite the fact that, in the case of this Rorschach blot, people are not only starting with their own predilections and views, but given the reams of commentary already written by others, people aren`t really even commenting on the same Rorshach blot.

[May my readers try to be honest with themselves as well. I`ve been
holding back, in part because the parameters of the story are quite
large, but also simply not to spoil the fun as calm, reasoning climate
scientists at LvMI enjoy a “delicious” bout of self-congratulatory -“see, we knew all along that `climate change` exists only in the hearts of perfidious, conspiring men!” I mean, what`s the point of weighing in where minds are already made up?]

My take?  A few basic points, and maybe a few links at the end:

  • Whatever GCH may reveal about certain climate scientists or their behavior, it does not, of course, alter the climate itself. Nor does it have any significant  impact on the enormous array of data across the world that points to ongoing climate change, a human role in it, and concerns about the possible climate impacts as we proceed to double and triple the atmospheric levels of CO2 by combusting the world`s accessible fossil fuels.
  • The Climate Hack is certainly egg on the face of some climate scientists – although this has been spun ridiculously out of context (much criticism is clearly simply wrong, though those who find the whole thing “delicious” have a tough time looking past the sources they prefer to read) – but the
    implication that the science is nothing but a conspiracy is an obvious
    . The political amateurisness of the scientists alone tells us that. (If any readers honestly need help in finding their way through the fog – self-deluded or deliberate – of the “skeptics” here, please let me know.)
  • Austrians/libertarians already knew that much of the climate science is politicized,
    especially here
    , not simply because of public funding, but chiefly because all
    parties – fossil fuel investors seeking to protect a generous
    status quo, enviros, politicians & bureaucrats, and those seeking
    greater advantage or more investment climate certainty – are seeking to
    steer government in particular directions
    , in ways that will significantly affect all of us. A further factor in such politicization is the simple difficulty that laymen (and scientists) have in wrapping their own heads around the climate science, and for which personal confirmation may take a lifetime. Personal predilections to hate “environazis”and the like, on the one hand, or to disdain evil capitalists, on the other, has nearly everyone looking for whatever scrap of science confirms their existing views and/or suits their political preferences.
  • The discord among scientists and attempts at gate-keeping are part
    and parcel of science – publicly-funded or not – but because of the
    political importance of climate science, we need greater, not less,
    The apparent efforts at gate-keeping (seeking to influence what gets published in peer-reviewed journals and what appears in IPCC reports) is what seems most objectionable, but there has been plenty of disagreement and change in views even in the dominant view; the science is and will always remain unsettled. All dissenters have found ways to make their views known, most of which have been examined and found wanting, and few dissenters have mutually coherent views.What has happened is that scientists who are extremely concerned about climate change have felt that political action is needed, and that dissenting views are dangerous distractions, and have made efforts to limit “distractions”. Such a belief appears to have been well-founded, but acting on it in this way a strategic mistake. Greater openness is required for publicly-funded research, particularly here where there is a strong, established and resistant rent-seeking class that seeks to minimize the science and to distract public discussion. While the efforts of climate scientists to provide data to and to address the arguments of “skeptics” would necessarily entail a distracting amount of attention, it is apparent that they simply need to grin and bear it.
  • Much – though not all – of the “skepticism” is clearly
    revealed as an extended, deliberate campaign by fossil fuel interests
    , dressed up
    in part by scientists who are non-experts in the field they criticize, with support by “conservatives” and “libertarians” who prefer a massive unmanaged meddling with global ecosystems (and defense of a government-entangled, pro-fossil fuel firms status quo) over a likely expansion of government.
  • The controversy – and the hurdles it raises in the
    legislative/policy agenda – presents an opportunity for those who 
    prefer market-friendly policies to shift the discussion away from the
    current porky, bureaucrat-friendly cap and trade package
    that even climate scientists
    like NASA`s James Hansen and enviros widely disdain. 
  • International cooperation will continue, because informed citizens, corporations and leaders worldwide all desire such action. Efforts at cooperation will continue to be bedevilled by gamesmanship issues common with open-access resources – over fairness, efficiency, good will and verifiability.
  • Domestic climate legislation
    and regulation remain in the cards and will eventually pass, in one form or another
    – not simply because science is
    persuasive and the risks of inaction high, but also because a
    coalition of firms and gate-keepers want such legislation. We are witnessing a fight over government between certain powerful fossil fuel interests and a coalition of other interests (and the politicians that cater to them all); the fossil fuel interests are fated to lose their long predominance.

Humbly and honestly,


PS:  Here are a few pieces of commentary/reporting that I consider worth a read (this is by no means complete or organized) :

Gavin Schmidt, Unsettled Science, RealClimate, December 3 2009

Andrew Freedman, Expert: E-mails show perils of ‘activist’ science, Washington Post, December 4, 2009

John Fleck, The Climate Emails, The Albuquerque Journal Wednesday, 02 December 2009

BBC, UN body wants probe of climate e-mail row Friday, 4 December 2009

ANDREW C. REVKIN, A Climate Scientist on ‘Data Mining’ for Dirt, December 2, 2009 New York Times

ANDREW C. REVKIN, Critic of ‘Climate Oligarchy’ Defends Case for CO2-Driven Warming, December 2, 2009,

Katherine Goldstein, ClimateGate: The 6 Most Dubious Claims About The Supposed “Global Warming Hoax”, Huffington Post, 12- 2-09

ANDREW C. REVKIN, After Emergence of Climate Files, an Uncertain Forecast, December 1, 2009, 10:56 am

Andrew Freedman, Scientist: Consensus withstands climate e-mail flap, Capital Hill Weather Gang, Washington Post, December 1, 2009

Roger Harrabin, Harrabin’s Notes: Debating the IPCC, BBC, Monday, 30 November 2009

ANDREW C. REVKIN,  A Climate Scientist Who Engages Skeptics, November 27, 2009, New York Times

Andrew Freedman Climate scientist criticizes skeptics, press, November 24, 2009

Andrew Freedman, Science historian reacts to hacked climate e-mails, November 23, 2009

Bud Ward, Climate Scientists’ E-mails Hacked, Posted; So What Does it All Mean for the Climate? The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media, November 22, 2009

More later; I didn`t really bookmark the best of these.




The Road Not Taken V: Libertarian hatred of misanthropic "watermelons" and the productive love of aloof ad-homs

November 5th, 2009 2 comments

I copy below a comment I just left at Stephan Kinsella`s post on the main LvMI Blog, “Physicist Howard Hayden’s one-letter disproof of global warming claims“, which I have discussed here in several preceeding posts.

TokyoTom Published: November 4, 2009 10:54 PM (minor edits; links added)


– “They, like you, accept the state’s line and are happy to cede power to the state to “make things better.””

Except I DON`T “accept the state`s line”, nor am I “happy to cede power to the state”, which is precisely why I bother to interrupt your fantasies here.

This, in fact, represents the fallacy that is at work in climate change discussions here – and that almost completely vitiates the libertarian message –  namely, that if one concurs that we`ve got a potential problem, then they must then agree to the statist agenda.

So instead of any effort to engage ON the libertarian agenda, we get guys like you pandering – with demonstrable nonsense from guys like Harvey – to libertarians who hope the statists and the purported problem will just kindly go away.

What a great way for libertarians to muzzle themselves, and to stand by helplessly instead of weighing in.

Trying to reassure yourself and your buddies that the man with a gun is either deluded or trying to take over the world is hardly either reassuring, or a step on the way to getting him to put the gun down.

Nor is calling those [like me] who think conversation may be more efficiacious a “comrade to rotten watermelons” in any way helpful, unless the goal is simply to reinforce the echo chamber.

Watermelons, ahh, watermelons!  How helpful, and so much fun to bandy about this little bit of ad hom! Is it getting time for Austrians once more to gather `round the fire, and roast some watermelons?  Holiday joy: roasting “watermelons” on an open pyre!  A little eliminationist fantasy [a la Czech physicist Lubos Motl is not that far away ….

As I noted in my above post explaining the use of the “watermelon” ad hom:

“watermelon” is a venerable ad hominem here, useful for Miseseans to put fingers in their ears and dismiss what practically everyone who disagrees with them on climate change – from our national academies of science on down – has to say.

The trick is to first dismiss the evil “enviros” – you know, that class of rent-seekers that Rothbard and others tell us were created when statist corporations managed to subvert common law protections against polution damage to property – by focussing on their efforts to use the state to control corprations, while resolutely ignoring not only corporate statism but what Austrian economics tells us about how markets and private transaction are inefficient with respect to resources that are not clear owned or protected by enforceable property rights.

Then, having dismissed those wacky “watermelons”, we can simply ignore everyone else, by jeering at the enviros and thereby implicitly imputing to the whole scientific, economic, business and government community the same malevolent and stupid misanthropism.

Neat trick, isn`t it?

IOW, enviros should be burned at the stake for the heresy of trying to use the state to solve a possible problem, and everyone else, who have gullibly been corrupted by them, ignored. In this way, we can cleanse the body politic and avoid serious mistakes. See?

Serious people know that only irreproachable commentators like Dr. Reisman get to suggest that we use the state to address possible climate change:

“there is a case for considering the possible detonation, on uninhabited land north of 70° latitude, say, of a limited number of hydrogen bombs. … This is certainly something that should be seriously considered by everyone who is concerned with global warming and who also desires to preserve modern industrial civilization and retain and increase its amenities. If there really is any possibility of global warming so great as to cause major disturbances, this kind of solution should be studied and perfected. Atomic testing should be resumed for the purpose of empirically testing its feasibility.”

We can distinguish you from Dr. Reisman, Stephan, since you helpfully insist that the state should not engage in this testing, so that we must first privatize the holding of nuclear weapons, so that firms and individuals, unhindered by the state, can engage in such experimentation.  Such clear-mindedness is commendable, since freedom-loving commenters here or elsewhere seldom consider the difficult statist elements implicit in most discussions of active “geo-engineering” to dampen or reverse any climate change problem.

But while we`re on the subject of criticizing “watermelons” and their supposed “comrades”-in-arms, one wonders when aloof purists like you will ever deign to criticize fellow libertarians like Rob Bradley and Bob Murphy, who are also actively engaged in this statist discussion – shame! – but on behalf of the fossil fuel firms and utilities that until now have been the most successful rent-seekers.

So far, all we see with regard to the way libertarians actively defend successful rent-seeking is a studied indifference.

– “now that we have irrelevant credentials out of the way, let’s stick to substance.”

Absolutely; I was just concerned not to leave you hanging out there on the “irrelevant” limb all by yourself.



As I noted on the main thread, surely it wouldn`t be helpful if I in like fashion called libertarians who refuse to engage in a principled discussion on the issue of climate policy (preferring instead to comfort themselves with one-page letters that tell us that our massive releases of greenhouse gases. etc. is peachy-keen) “coconuts” – hard on the outside, but empty on the inside?

For climate fever, take two open-air atom bombs & call me in the morning; "serious" libertarian suggestions from Kinsella & Reisman!?

November 4th, 2009 No comments

First, George Reisman, and now, Stephan Kinsella.  I have asked two of our leading lights whether they and libertarians are striving for a self-satisfied irrelevancy on climate issue, or wish to be taken seriously, and they both, with self-professed seriousness, announced that we should, in Stephan`s words, “investigate nuclear winter as a way to offset alleged global warming“.

I`m afraid these proposals leave me a bit stunned. On first blush – nay, lengthy consideration – such proposals can not in the least be considered libertarian, or something libertarians could countenance. This is the way to libertarian relevancy, and to take both the challenge of statist climate change proposals and libertarianism itself seriously? 

I don`t get it – is this obvious sarcasm or straightforward mockery of climate concerns, an inside joke, from which suspected “watermelons” are excluded, or am I just not on the right sober, libertarian wave-length?

And am I the only one who notices and is jarred by the cognitive dissonance in these messages from our leading lights? You know – puny man can`t possibly be affecting the climate, but if so, it`s something we can easily fix with a little “geo-engineering” (even if we have to use the state), so let`s just let our little ongoing and uncontrolled world-wide climate geo-engineering experiment continue?

Readers` help appreciated!

I copy below relevant passages, both from Dr. Reisman and from Stephan (emphasis added).

1.  George Reisman: Global Warming: Environmentalism’s Threat of Hell on Earth  March 16, 2007 (emphasis added):

In contrast to the policy of the environmentalists, there are rational
ways of cooling the earth if that is what should actually be necessary,
ways that would take advantage of the vast energy base of the modern
world and of the still greater energy base that can be present in the
future if it is not aborted by the kind of policies urged by the

Ironically, the core principle of one such method has been put
forward by voices within the environmental movement itself, though not
at all for this purpose. Years ago, back in the days of the Cold War,
many environmentalists raised the specter of a “nuclear winter.”
According to them, a large-scale atomic war could be expected to
release so much particulate matter into the atmosphere as to block out
sunlight and cause weather so severely cold that crops would not be
able to grow. …

Certainly, there is no case to be made for an atomic war. But there is a case for considering the possible detonation, on
uninhabited land north of 70° latitude, say, of a limited number of
hydrogen bombs. The detonation of these bombs would operate in the same
manner as described above, but the effect would be a belt of particles
starting at a latitude of 70° instead of 30°. The presence of those
particles would serve to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching most of
the Arctic’s surface. The effect would be to maintain the frigid
climate of the region and to prevent the further melting of its ice or,
if necessary, to increase the amount of its ice. Moreover, the process
could be conducted starting on a relatively small scale, and then
proceed slowly. This would allow essential empirical observations to be
made and also allow the process to be stopped at any time before it
went too far.

This is certainly something that should be seriously considered by
everyone who is concerned with global warming and who also desires to
preserve modern industrial civilization and retain and increase its
amenities. If there really is any possibility of global warming so
great as to cause major disturbances, this kind of solution should be
studied and perfected. Atomic testing should be resumed for the purpose
of empirically testing its feasibility.

2.  Stephan Kinsella & TokyoTom, Physicist Howard Hayden’s one-letter disproof of global warming claims  October 29, 2009

Stephan Kinsella October 30, 2009 10:03 AM

If there were really global warming why not just use “nuclear winter”
to cool things down?
You don’t see the envirotards advocating that! 🙂 (see Greenpeace to advocate nuking the earth?)


TokyoTom November 3, 2009 4:01 AM

Austrians know very well that resource battles very often become
politicized as soon as government steps in; are “misanthropes” and
“rotten watermelons” responsible for the state grant of public utility
monopolies, the lack of court enforcement of common law rights to
protect property from state-licensed corporation that led to massive
pollution problems, the massive state role in the development of
nuclear weapons (that you & George Reisman mock-seriously suggest
the federal govt ought to start using again in the open atmosphere) ….


Stephan Kinsella November 3, 2009 8:00 AM

I don’t remember Reisman’s proposal, but I never said the feds should do it. I’m an anarchist, remember?


3.  Stephan Kinsella & TokyoTom, In which I applaud another balanced, productive post by Dr. Reisman, and draw attention to a post by Lew Rockwell on the need for more power competition (Apr 23 2009)


# Friday, April 24, 2009 2:27 PM
Stephan Kinsella

left yabbers about nuclear winter caused by nuclear bombs. This implies
nukes can be used to cool things down. The left yabbers about global
warming. Why is it unreasonable to investigate whether nuclear bombs
could not be used to cool things down and offset global warming? Which
one of these two contentions are you watermelons not serious about?

# Friday, April 24, 2009 9:45 PM

I was just talking about the frumious bandersnatch and in walks the
yabberwocky!  Such coincidences are to be celebrated!

But surely you`re not serious about open air nuke tests to combat
climate change, but Reisman was, and on the LVMI main pages.  His
discussion was not the type of facetious one you throw out to dodge
addressing it.  You disappoint me.

What the left yabbers about is worth mocking, but anyone worth his
salt as a libertarian would do like Lew and spend a little time
acknowledging that preferences for green power, etc. are perfectly
fine, explaining that the reason for their frustration is public
utility regulation that stifles competition and protects utilities, and
suggesting approaches that would foster consumer goals while advancing

But it`s so much funner to be like George, right?

What would Ludwig von Mises have said?…/draft.aspx (quoting Reisman`s translation)


# Sunday, April 26, 2009 2:25 PM
Stephan Kinsella

it’s time to drop your sarcasm and just be direct and clear. I am
serious–why not investigate nuclear winter as a way to offset alleged
global warming?

As for all the fulminating against global warming… are you aware
that we are in an interglacial period, probably somewhere near the
middle? The earth is bound to start cooling and heading towards another
ice age before long. If global warming is real, it will only delay
this–which is good. In any event, suppose we impoverish ourselves to
slightly decrease the warming for a few decades, until natural cooling
starts anyway. Why do this.


# Friday, May 08, 2009 7:54 PM

thanks for your comment, but I`ve been preoccupied.  However, it`s hard
to believe that you want Dr. Reisman`s suggested testing of atom bombs
in the Arctic to be taken seriously from ANY perspective, much less a
libertarian one.  There are obvious issues about the role of
government, consent and compensation of those facing fallout risks, the
problem of interfering with Arctic ecosystems and access to resources
that are coming available as a result of thawing, potential releases of
methane by the explosions themselves, plus small things like
international treaties as crf notes.

Are you suggesting that I`m “fulminating” about “global warming”?
 I`ve just been trying to steer the discussion from fulminations by
Reisman (and fawning worshippers) towards actual libertarian principles
and productive engagement.

“are you aware that we are in an interglacial period … Why do this”?

I don`t agree with your suppositions, but at least they provide a start for conversation.  

My reading indicates that climatologists agree that the Milankovich
cycles are in a unique period of overlap and, given the forcings that
we have already made (starting millenia ago with albedo changes/methane
releases resulting from agriculture), this interglacial is expected to
last for another 50,000 years, and that man`s activity is by far the
largest climate forcing variable – and we`re only heading north.  This
involves heavy pollution and will be accompanied by other large costs
to private and shared assets, including drastic changes in ocean
chemistry and ecosystems.

Mises, Yandle and others recognize that societies invested in
establishing informal and formal private and communal property rights
systems in order to tame tragedy of the commons problems and lead to
more efficient plan formation; IMHO it`s time for us to start managing
our atmosphere and oceans, instead of allowing those who profit from
exploiting these resources (a wealthy class of investors and
executives) to continue to do so while playing a rent-seekers` and
spoilers`s game that allows them to continue to shift costs to the rest
of us.

A focus on this will also help to shift down the environmental
Kuznets curve and improve the protection of private health and property
in China and elsewhere.


4. Greenpeace to advocate nuking the earth?

Scientist publishes ‘escape route’ from global warming
reports the emergency plan to save the world from global warming, by
altering the chemical makeup of Earth’s upper atmosphere. Professor
Paul Crutzen, who won a Nobel Prize in 1995 for his work on the hole in
the ozone layer, believes that political attempts to limit man-made
greenhouse gases are so pitiful that a radical contingency plan is
needed. … he says that an “escape route” is needed if global warming
begins to run out of control. … Professor Crutzen has proposed a method
of artificially cooling the global climate by releasing particles of
sulphur in the upper atmosphere, which would reflect sunlight and heat
back into space.”

Hey, if that doesn’t work, why not use the phenomenon of nuclear winter to cool things down? You know, explode a few nukes, kick up dust, cool things down. Any takers? Greenpeace? Earth First?