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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)

Stephan:

– “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.

Best,

TT

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?

[Update] Another Clear Thinker at Mises warns us about "The vicious lie behind the global warming scare"!!!

June 26th, 2008 No comments

This time it`s David Veksler, with a post on the main LvMI blog, with the title I`ve quoted above.

Why is it that so many Mises commentators flee from reason and prefer a fever-pitched focus on strawmen when it comes to addressing environmental issues?

I copy below my comments on the thread [note:  I’ve added a few links, along with bracketed comments]:

David, I read your post with interest, but came away disappointed, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, you didn`t identify the “vicious lie” behind the global warming scare.  What`s the lie, what`s vicious about it, and who`s behind it?

Second, even if THERE BE VICIOUS LIARS behind the AGW scare (the monolithic movement of envirofascist/commie/watermelon man-haters), you really haven`t helped me figure out why it`s so important  that we should focus our attention and energies on the vicious liars

Do they occupy the entire universe of people who have announced their concern over climate change, man`s likely role in it and what if anything we should do on  a organized basis about it?  Or do they so predominantly provide the driving power and strategy for such concerns that we should simply ignore everyone else as mere puppets of the All Powerful Enviros – that is, all of the prestigious National Academies of Science (East, West and South), other scientific associations, the period internationally reviewed digests of ongoing scientific work regarding climate change, all of the world leaders who have backed study and action for the past twenty years, corporate leaders (including captains of insurance, finance, industry, power and fossil fuels), leaders of established religions, and defense and intelligence heads?

Third, assuming again that there are vicious enviro-liars, you clearly overstate their views on geo-engineering, which run the gamut from reflexive opposition to a nuanced recognition that, given the long-lasting effects of GHGs and the continued ramp up in emissions worldwide, some degree of geo-engineering may be desirable. [Enviro-liars like me have made a number of blog posts on geo-engineering]

Fourth, you paint, without support or discussion, a rosy picture of how cheap and effective geo-engineering is likely to be.  I`m not very well-read in this, but from what I`ve seen, they are not cheap or certain and offer potential negative consequences as well.

Fifth, you ignore the fact that the institutional settings in which geo-engineering will occur are clearly statist.  The firms that have started to explore “ocean fertilization” have done so in the expectation that carbon capture and sequestration efforts would be compensated under incentives created by carbon-trading schemes.  While your tacit approval of use by states of tax dollars to cure problems that our industries have created for us seems hardly libertarian – in the face of adamant opposition to the decades-old arguments (by vicious liars like Stephen Hawking [whom you link to], Joe Stiglitz, Kenneth Arrow, Thomas Schelling, Robert Mendelsohn, William Nordhaus, Martin Weitzman and Gregg Mankiw [many whom I’ve referred to a number of times]) that governments introduce disincentives to GHG releasing activities – it certainly seems rather prevalent.  [In effect – the principled/preferred approach seems to be to let industry transfer costs to others and THEN use government/tax dollars to pay for remediation; that way, politicians can dole out pork twice – first, by looking the other way; then, by regulating in a way that locks in advantages for established firms.]

Dr. Reisman, for example, has thought long and hard and come up with a number of brilliant statist ideas, for which he longs for a good old-fashioned heavy industry-loving left to spearhead, including the following:

“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.”

Sixth, you fail to explain to your readers on the basis of Austrian understandings – from von Mises through Block and Cordato – why we should not take seriously the expressed concerns of the vicious enviro-liars (or others) about AGW.  Are there no problems that arise when property rights are not in place for open-access resources or are not clearly aligned to external costs, or if homesteading and private transactions are not practical?  Or when resources are “owned”, but mismanaged by governments and fought over by rent-seekers in political battles?  In such cases, do Austrian insights tell us to ignore the preferences and frustrations of particular groups of people, in favor of other groups that apparently have done a better job of purchasing political influence? 

Seventh, as a tactical matter, are essays like this the best approach to productively engaging the all-powerful enviro-liars?

Shall we ignore any underlying commons problems simply because we hate the vicious enviro-liars?  Or is it your view that, in hating the enviro-liars, we most effectively resolve commons issues – by clarifying that powerful industries (those few not controlled by enviro-liars, that is) have first dibs on them, and that those with other preferences need to pay off industry (and their political handlers)? [Of so, then have we just clarified the applicable property-rights rules?  Great!  Now citizens and other groups will know how to proceed to with “market” transactions!]

I could go on, but as you can see, I`m simply puzzled and lack your clear views about whom we should hate and what we should do.

Sadly, my confusion seems to be shared by a number of others here, who also seem confused about the principled basis and efficacy of hating enviro-liars, whomever and wherever they may be.

In fact, the responses by others here are almost enough to make a good Austrian wonder whether even the Mises board has been infiltrated and infected by vicious enviro-liars!

You might consider asking the blog administrators to take close note of those who are clear sympathizers of the enviro-liars, and where appropriate to suspend commenting or blogging privileges, such as for particularly vicious and unprincipled man-haters.  Watermelons should be roasted whenever and wherever found, I say!  Enviro-haters, unite! 

Or maybe you`re way ahead of me on that? 

[There’s gotta be a good way, after all, to remove the “stain” of those nasty enviros or to at least to contain the infection threat posed by their evil but insidious views.  Let me know if I can make any further suggestions.]

Regards,

TT

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.

Thanks, Dr. Reisman; or, How I Learned to Hate Enviros and Love Tantrums

February 23rd, 2008 No comments

In my recent post, “Escape from Reason: are Austrians conservatives, or neocons, on the environment?“, I noted two recent posts by George Reisman and Sean Corrigan and wondered whether a significant number of LvMI blog authors and commenters, on a host of “environmental” issues for which in Austrian (beginning prominently with Ludwig von Mises) and similarly-minded thinkers have many cogent insights, have begun to turn away from good faith discourse and productive rational thinking (and from the task of exploring and explicating to others how Austrian and libertarian principles apply to various resource problems), and towards the easier and more viscerally satisfying approach of making and appealing for partisan attacks on a strawman – the very poorly constructed strawmen that are “environmentalists”.

Dr. Reisman has been calling for a jihad against man-hating enviros for the past two full years now on the LvMI main pages (http://blog.mises.org/archives/author/Reisman), and a chance glimpse of one such post happened to stir my own interest in exploring more deeply Austrian and libertarian insights on resource issues.  (While the encounters have been felicitous for me, let’s say that the reception committee for squeaky wheels has been rather … less than welcoming.) 

The post which prompted my musings this time ran with the screaming headline, “ENVIRONMENTALISM IS RECYCLED COMMUNISM AND NAZISM“.  Dr. Reisman has since responded indirectly to certain comments via two more recent and longer posts that are distinguishable from the first not for their tight substantive arguments but for their even more glaring use of strawmen (the level of dispepsia remains about the same, despite abandoning all caps) – in chronological order, Word to Environmentalists and The Nature of Environmentalism.  My further comments are noted on the respective threads.

In these posts, Dr. Reisman profoundly disappoints – though fellow lovers of hatred find him bracing.  I keep wondering, when will our “giants” act like senior statesmen, and when will Austrians and their allies be brave enough to embrace on resource issues the reason they say they love so dearly? 

Or does reason simply require the surrender of logic and principle in favor of fevered enviro-bashing?

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

Holiday joy: roasting "watermelons" on an open pyre!

December 17th, 2007 1 comment

[snark on]


One of Sean Corrigan’s threads brings us not only more information on handy Misesean definitions, but a path towards Yuletide joy.  (For those of you who have not been reading them, Sean’s columns and comment threads are truly gifts that keep on giving.) 


In this case, we learn more about “watermelons”, and how to enjoy them.


– In the second comment on Corrigan’s “Heroic opposition to the Bali-hoo on AGW”, http://blog.mises.org/archives/007541.asp#more, one reader capably summarizes what I call the “Corrigan Creed” (sometimes known as the “Reisman Rule”), which is now ensconced as a seemingly venerable part of the Mises Blog orthodoxy:



Evidence does not deter the global warming crowd. Nor does a list of dissenters. Dissent is viewed in the same light as denying the holocaust. Global warming is the new religion.




It also serves as a handy excuse to grab power. This is what Al Gore and his fellow “watermelons” are really after. Scare the masses and the elites can get away with perpetrating any fraud imaginable, including the notion that governments can change the weather.


Posted by: Steve Hogan at December 13, 2007 9:22 PM 


– After first swallowing Corrigan’s commendable suggestion that the very noticeable and widespread warming of the Arctic may be due to localized geothermal heating in one remote corner of Greenland (as opposed to the seven degrees Fahrenheit rise in air temperatures over the past 15 years bandied about by so-called “scientists”), reader IMHO, sadly behind on important lingo, implores:



BTW, would someone please be kind enough to explain to me the use of the term “watermelon” and its relationship towards those who support global warming? Thanks! 🙂


Posted by IMHO at December 15, 2007 1:20 PM


– Faithful follower Dennis – who nobly objects to the “goose step” advance of “statism and the revolt against reason” in much of the academic/intellectual and media worlds and to the “perversion of reason-based discourse and truth that has been fostered by an alliance of rent-seeking politicians, court ‘intellectuals’ (including many natural scientists), bureaucrats, statist businessmen, and others” – helpfully and ably explicates the term:



The term “watermelon” is used by some to describe an individual that is allegedly green (environmentally friendly) on the outside, but red (socialist), on the inside. As to its relationship to global warming, I believe that you can make the inference.


Posted by Dennis at December 15, 2007 1:47 PM


– For the sake of making the “inference” perfectly clear, I offered IMHO the following further color (further emphasis added) on how Miseseans view global warming “watermelons”:



Further to Dennis, in other words, “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.“]


– Enjoying the occasion, another reader reaffirms his willingness to partake in the Misesean ritual:



Did someone say ‘stake’? 🙂 I’ll prepare the pyre!


Posted by Inquisitor at December 16, 2007 11:02 AM 


– Whom I promptly commended:



Good boy, Inquisitor!


Now, we just need Sean, a “neopyrrho” or somesuch to light the fire, and we can neatly cleanse the world of misanthropic scum!


Enviro-haters, unite!


TT


 


O what fun, what joy and conviviality, the Austrian community offers!  And how appropriate for the season! 


Who but a Scrooge would fail to agree with the reasoned Misesean revolt against revolting unreason, or to heed the clarion, heart-warming call to roast the Beast?


As the solstice arrives, let us rejoice in the Good News that the gathering forces of Darkness have been defeated at Bali by the voices of reason – spines stiffened by PR from the clear-eyed contrarians trumpeted by Corrigan, and champions of liberty and free markets in Russia (where the overlords are firmly opposed to measures that would reduce their personal wealth and growing influence on oil markets); a new dawn of light and reason must surely be ahead of us!


So let us enjoy the spirit of the holiday, I say!  As “Inquisitor” suggests, let us assemble a few watermelons, gather with our brethren ’round the cleansing pyre, remember the words of the angels on the first Christmas (announcing “Peace on Earth; goodwill towards men who slay enviros”), and sing merry holiday songs, like “What fun it is to ride and sing, a slaying song tonight” and “Enviros roasting on an open pyre”!


And then, united in fellowship and renewed in purpose, we can arise fresh in the dawn of a New Year, to proclaim our undying dedication to Reason and, linking arms, boldly step out in glorious battle against the evil, goose-stepping, man-hating watermelons.  AFTER we’ve defeated the RED herrings, THEN we can turn our attention to their bootlicking sycophants – throughout the world’s scientific, economic, business and government communities – who have swallowed the enviros’ KoolAid.


And with Reason (not to mention love of mankind and brotherhood) on our side, how can we fail to prevail?!

John Baden: is this free market enviromentalist stalwart a Mt. Pelerin misanthrope/watermelon?

December 16th, 2007 No comments

[snark meter – medium] 

John Baden, a former logger and oilman, has long been a pillar of the “free-market” environmentalists.  He founded and leads the Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment (FREE) and founded and headed the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), both based in Bozeman, Montana. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_A._Baden; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Property_and_Environment_Research_Center

But don’t let his Mont Pelerin Society (http://www.montpelerin.org/home.cfm) membership fool you; John is very green on the outside and, with so much green, might he not be more than a little pink on the inside?

He recently summarized advice he had given (on request) to policy advisers for a Democratic presidential candidate and a Republican one.  Allow me to quote freely (emphasis added):

“Both parties need help—but in opposite directions. Republicans need sensitivity to Green issues, Democrats sensibility regarding incentives.”

We are … eager to help all candidates develop sound policies, ones we believe will foster responsible liberty, environmental quality, and modest prosperity. Over the decades, we’ve made compelling, well-respected arguments against the Green tradition of greater bureaucratic powers, increased federal control, and heightening paranoia over environmental issues.

“From the Civil War until the first Earth Day in 1970, the West’s politics, culture, and economy were oriented toward the exploitation of its natural resources. But the extractive sector no longer drives the Western economy and hasn’t for several decades. Today’s economic drivers are amenities, services, and symbolic manipulation, not the traditional material stuff of wood, wheat, water, and minerals. …

“Here’s the reality some politicians ignore at their peril: we’ve high-graded our best, most accessible resources. The richest ores, finest timber, and best dam sites have been developed. The easy fruit has been picked and the Western economy can no longer rely on the extractive sector. No ghost dance will bring them back.

“Ray Rasker notes that since 1970, “Montana has added over 150,000 new jobs, and not one of the new net jobs has been in mining, oil and gas, farming, ranching, or the woods products industry.” The extractive industries are notoriously unstable, and commodity prices always undulate. The timber industry, for example, has largely abandoned the West for the Southeast and foreign countries. …

Now, increased opportunities in the West are created by high-tech enterprises and services. The service sector includes professional occupations in law, health care, software, data processing, education, and finance. Although they are not the traditional Western jobs, these occupations, like those in extractive industries, depend upon open space and natural resources.

“Why? Because professionals seek locations rich in environmental amenities, e.g., wilderness, open space, fish and wildlife, and recreational opportunities. Data indicates the West’s roadless public lands, wilderness areas, free-flowing rivers, national parks and forests, open ranges, and healthy wildlife habitats generate much of our economic growth. Folks don’t move here by accident nor do they do so to maximize income—quality of life trumps.

“The GOP and the Democrats compete for well-off and well-educated voters, those David Brooks describes in Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, and the Democrats are clearly winning. This is no accident; the nation has become immensely wealthy, and with wealth and education comes heightened environmental sensitivity. When Americans become wealthy most think, or at least posture, Green.

President Clinton capitalized on these demographic realties when he set aside 40 million acres of National Forest as roadless areas. Many fiscal conservatives and the vast majority of Westerners applauded the decision, even those who disliked Clinton.

These roadless areas were undisturbed for good reason; most have low economic value. Without explicit or implicit subsidies, resource extraction on these lands is infeasible. Federal lands are political lands where heavy subsidies are the norm. Traditional politics have ignored or discounted the full costs of exploitation. Citizens now demand more honest accounting of both economic and environmental costs.

A candidate who hopes to capture the West’s electoral votes should not take seriously any campaign policy that ignores links between ecology and economics. Westerners are Greener, more sophisticated, and better informed than 30 years ago. Few are dependent on traditional resource exploitation. A good candidate will discern the implications and propose appropriate policies.

http://www.free-eco.org/articleDisplay.php?id=573 

Inquiring minds want to know:

– are only those in the American West “Greener, more sophisticated, and better informed than 30 years ago”, or is this true across all developed and emerging economies?

– does “heightened environmental sensitivity” come with “wealth and education”?  Or is such “heightened environmental sensitivity” simply a ploy by the educated wealthy to use the tools of the state to restrict access by brave captains of the extractive industry to the public lands of the West (the better to go fly fishing)?

– outside of the struggle for control over “public lands” in the West, are there any other areas where voters oppose policies that “ignore links between ecology and economics”?

if “heightened environmental sensitivity” does come with “wealth and education”, what do we make of the concern that enviros, scientists, industry leaders, and politicians around the world all express concern about climate change and the pressure of economic activity on unowned commons like the atmosphere, oceans and tropical forests/wildlife?  More uninformed nonsense, led by evil man-haters?

By not stridently demanding privatization of public lands, John Baden sounds like an “incrementalist” rather than a pure libertarian, and by urging policies that favor recognition of the relatively higher values in environmental amenities than in extractive industries, he sounds very much like an environmentalist statist.  

Does it help us to better understand him, or the problems that concern him, if we call him a misanthropic “watermelon”?

 

Warning:  If you are an Austrian, you have just been gravely polluted by reading this.  Seek help immediately, and recite the “Corrigan Creed” (or as some may have it, the “Reisman Rule”) at least five times.

(If you missed it, the Corrigan Creed is here: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/12/17/holiday-joy-quot-watermelons-quot-roasting-on-an-open-pyre.aspx.)

Geo-Engineering – a pound of technocrats or an ounce of Gore?

October 10th, 2007 2 comments

[update: see additional links at bottom – including to discussions of Austrian concerns]

[update2: at bottom] 

Climate change skeptic Benny Peiser of the Liverpool John Moores University recently circulated these links and excerpts via his “CCNet” mailing list ([email protected] (“subscribe cambridge-conference”)):

CCNet 167/2007 – 8 October 2007

GEO-ENGINEERING: HOW FEASIBLE ARE HIGH-TECH SOLUTIONS?
—————————————————–

– CAN SCIENCE REALLY SAVE THE WORLD?
Robin McKie and Juliette Jowit, The Observer, 7 October 2007

They are the ultimate technological fixes: schemes that will span our planet and involve scientists in reshaping our world to save it from global warming. Yet only a few years ago, such projects were dismissed as the stuff of science fiction. Today many engineers and researchers – fearful of the rate at which our planet is warming – say geo-engineering projects are now mankind’s only hope of saving itself from the impact of climate change.

Geo-engineering is one of the types of thing that are worth investigating. If we can generate 100 ideas, and 97 are bad and we land up with three good ones, then the whole thing will have been worthwhile.
Ken Caldeira, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 7 October 2007

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/focus/story/0,,2185343,00.html

– HIGH-TECH SOLUTIONS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE
Sue Carter, The Daily Telegraph, 8 October 2007

Scientists desperate to combat climate change have drawn up high-tech plans which include firing giant mirrors into space and covering the earth in a cloud of sulphur.  In the past, such advanced schemes, known as geo-engineering projects, were considered too outrageous to be put into action – but now some scientists believe they may be our last chance to reverse the impact of climate change.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2007/10/08/sciclimate108.xml

– Benny Peiser, National Museum Cardiff, 6 October 2007

Space-based geoengineering is controllable and reversible at any stage. Solar power generation will overcome the high cost of space-based climate control schemes
http://www.staff.livjm.ac.uk/spsbpeis/Cardiff-Peiser.ppt

– OPINION: THE LAST GREEN TABOO: ENGINEERING THE PLANET
Johann Hari, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5 October 2007

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/334444_hari07.html

“Geo-engineering” sounds like a bland and technical term but it is actually a Messianic movement to save the world from global warming, through dust and iron and thousands of tiny mirrors in space. It is also the last green taboo.  Environmentalists instinctively do not want to discuss it. The wider public instinctively thinks it is mad. But now, the taboo has been breached. James Lovelock, one of the founding fathers of modern environmentalism, proposed a way to slash global warming without cutting back on a single fossil fuel.

[update:]Finally, I note that Dr. Reisman also broached this subject earlier this year, with a thoughtful suggestion that we proceed with a program of open air testing of atom bombs in the Arctic, to confirm possible efficacy in creating  a mild “nuclear winter” – just in case:

– March 16, 2007 – Global Warming: Environmentalism’s Threat of Hell on Earth
George Reisman

http://blog.mises.org/archives/006389.asp

May 30, 2007 – Global Warming Is Not a Threat but the Environmentalist Response to It Is (Full Version)
http://blog.mises.org/archives/006700.asp

There is much further discussion of geo-engineering on these two posts.  One commenter (Roger M, now “Fundamentalist”) made the following interesting remark:  “”During the 3 days that the 9/11 disaster grounded all air travel in the US, a California scientist measured temperatures across the country and found them 3 degrees warmer than normal. He thinks airline contrails block 3% of the sun’s energy and cool the earth.  In India, pollution reduces the average temp by 10 degrees. So all we need to do to reduce the effects of global warming is fly more and pollute more.”
http://blog.mises.org/archives/006389.asp

I attach here a few further links that I noted there:

GEOENGINEERING: A CLIMATE CHANGE MANHATTAN PROJECT, Jay Michaelson (Yale JD), Stanford Environmental Law Journal January, 1998; http://www.metatronics.net/lit/geo2.html.
There have of course been many discussions of geoengineering over the past two decades. The topic is gaining interest, espcially after an article by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen last year. More here, if you are interested:
Climate change: Is this what it takes to save the world? Long marginalized as a dubious idea, altering the climate through ‘geoengineering’ has staged something of a comeback. http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070508/full/447132a.html#B2

ALBEDO ENHANCEMENT BY STRATOSPHERIC SULFUR INJECTIONS: A CONTRIBUTION TO RESOLVE A POLICY DILEMMA? Paul Crutzen; http://downloads.heartland.org/19632.pdf

A Combined Mitigation/Geoengineering Approach to Climate Stabilization, T. M. L. Wigley; http://www.atmosp.physics.utoronto.ca/~jclub/journalclub_files/Wigley_Science_2006.pdf

Geoengineering Earth’s Radiation Balance to Mitigate CO2 Induced Climate Change, Bala Govindasamy and Ken Caldeira Climate and Carbon Cycle Group, Lawerence Livermore National Laboratory; http://geocrisis.com/Geoenigineering%20Earth%20Radiative%20Balance.pdf

– Feasibility of cooling the Earth with a cloud of small spacecraft near the inner Lagrange point (L1), Roger Angel; http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/103/46/17184

Only mother nature knows how to fertilize the ocean; Natural input of nutrients works ten times better than manmade injections; http://planktonforums.org/viewtopic.php?t=5059
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/21stC/issue-2.1/huyghe.htm
http://geocrisis.com/cpe_geoengineering_menu.htm

– “Climate change: Is this what it takes to save the world? Long marginalized as a dubious idea, altering the climate through ‘geoengineering’ has staged something of a comeback.” http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070508/full/447132a.html#B2

[update2:]

Global warming fix in can? By Andrew Richards
October 11, 2007; http://washingtontimes.com/article/20071011/CULTURE/110110077/1015

http://news.mongabay.com/2007/0814-gw.html

 

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