Home > Enviro Derangement Syndrome, Gavin Schmit, property rights, RealClimate, tragedy of the commons > Enviro-Trek IV: In which your intrepid reporter boldly discusses "tragedy of the commons" and "property" with corrupted climate scientists and AGW co-religionists!

Enviro-Trek IV: In which your intrepid reporter boldly discusses "tragedy of the commons" and "property" with corrupted climate scientists and AGW co-religionists!


Further to my prior posts, here are my more recent comments over at the remarkable RealClimate thread started by climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, to specifically discuss the “tragedy of the commons” paradigm in the context of domestic and international wrngling over climate policy:


544:  TokyoTom Says: 

530: “our temporary endowment of hydrocarbons … [is] currently almost a monoculture and it has developed a set of entrenched players who feel very threatened when confronted with the possibility that consumers may have a choice about where to plug in their toasters.”

Doug, you`ve correctly identified that SOMEONE feels threatened about where people plug in their toasters, but it ain`t the fossil fuel industry. but the so-called “public utilties”, which are NOT owned by fossil fuel producers, and have persuaded states to give them local monopolies and to wall them off from competition, in exchange for regulation of how rates are set.

Consumers get screwed all around, since they can`t purchase power from whom they want, by type of generating source, by time of day (peak v. off-peak), largely can`t easily monitor their own use, have limited ability to put back power to the utility, and because the utilities have no incentive to invest in long-range transmission (which would allow greater competition among generators) unless the local regulator is willing to allow cost recovery.

As the whole pent up demand for green energy is caused by the state/local grants of monopoly, perhaps environmentalists, rather than pushing for more government involvement, might consider asking for and end to public utility monopolies:



545:  TokyoTom Says: 

#438: “But Rene isn’t talking about incorporating private ownership as part of a management strategy, but rather selling off the resources and getting rid of any collective from-above management strategy altogether, from forbidding government managers from setting goals (for instance, sustainability) at all.

When these schemes work it is typically due to some sort of collective mechanism above and beyond the whim of the individual owner of a fishery or other stock.”

dhogaza, you persist in finding an enemy in every friend. Nowhere has Rene (or I) advocated ANY form of privatization scheme, much less insisted on one that eliminates all government oversight (which of course, for as long as governments exist, is impossible anyway). In any case, in all of the cases where open-access-type resources are centrally managed, we can only expect gradual steps away from that, as politicians like to maintain their positions as gatekeepers for favors and we rarely see bureaucrats volunteer to lighten their own oversight purview.

“We have exceptions where individual owners put long-term sustainabiliity and non-economic values as a priority (I mentioned Gilchrist lumber here in Oregon as an example). But these are notable precisely because they’re *exceptions*.”

I understand your concern about the timeframes in which humans act, but there is an irreducible difficulty in fashioning institutions with longer-term views, as they are all populated by people. Even resources in the hands of governments are subject to human whim, such as Cheney`s allocation of scarce water in Oregon in ways that favored Republican farmers over salmon, Native Americans and fishermen, and Bush`s widescale gas leasing in the Front Range, against the opposition of ranchers and hunters.

Further, you and others keep forgetting that many private owners lead the way in environmental protection; many state parks have their roots in privately preserved land that, in order to avoid the tax man, were subsequently handed over to the state. The Nature Conservancy (which represents its individual members) protects valuable parcels not by seeking government regulation, but by buying them (or conservation easements) outright.

Another problem you point to is that of conflicts between community interests and the interests of individual owner and interloping buyers (individuals or firms). It seems to me that the greatest problem relates not to the ownership of property, but to the willingness of giant corporations to listen to the communities in which they operate. Some do a better job than others, but I do think that the problems with corporations also has its roots in gifts by governments to relatively wealthy investors:http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/search.aspx?q=limited. Many large firms are run in order to put money first in the pockets of executives, with employees and investors next, under circumstances that encourage risk-taking rather than truly conservative behavior (as can be seen from the financial crisis).


547:  TokyoTom Says: 

#408: “The “climate commons” are the biggest ones of all. They cannot be contained, users cannot be easily left out. Even market-based solutions demand an international enforceable regulation to forbid, tax or at least know who´s emmitting how much, and who has to pay to whom for what.”

Alexandre, thanks for your comments; I largely agree.

The fact that the atmosphere is a global commons means no government can act effectively alone; that`s why Gavin`s metaphor of the multi-party international negotiations as a tragedy of the commons is apt. It`s also why fear of government “fiat” is rather misdirected, as in essence all major emmitting governments (and their chief constitutencies) have to reach a COMMON agreement. The situation is much like ranchers reaching terms of use on a range, and fishermen agreeing how to manage a fishery:



550:  TokyoTom Says: 

#484: “Tosh, to put it bluntly. The ratio of greenwash to real change is vast. Moreover, only retail businesses are subject to any significant consumer pressure even to undertake greenwashing. It has been legislation and in some cases international agreements that have mitigated damage from food adulteration, lead in fuel and paint, acid rain, and ozone-destroying chemicals.”

Nick, “tosh”? Now I`m really offended! ;)

I never argued that consumer pressure was by itself adequate in all cases. Presumably you agree that consumer pressure has proven to be useful, even as you downplay it. The fact of greenwashing is itself an indication that consumer opinion matters, even as people remain susceptibly to deception – which is why there remain entrepreneurial opportunities for certification organizations. consumer reporting, etc.

I would love to see some consumer boycotts of unsustainbly caught bluefin, in order to lead the way for regulatory/treaty changes that I certainly agree are needed, and the role of moral suasion and struggle for the moral high ground is not to be denied on the climate change issue (which is why Gore in some ways is a self-hamstrung figure – the man wouldn`t know a hairshirt if it hit him in the face).


608:  TokyoTom Says: 

#419: Missed this:

“Slavery was brought up because of the idiotic contention posted that owning something means you take good care of it. And, BTW, some Libertarian philosophers have touted “voluntary slavery” as a solution to unemployment. You see, you have a property right in yourself, so you also have the right to sell it.”

Barton, I don`t speak for Rene, but I think the chief point is the largely uncontroversial contention that people are more likely to take better care of things that they own, relative to the possessions of others or things that nobody owns. Feel free to quibble about the failures of property rights, but are we completely disagreeing on the big picture and what drives the “tragedy of the commons”?

As for slavery, surely you can recognize that what those libertarians are discussing are still voluntary transactions between consenting person, not the theft and enslavement of others by violence and force. They are just not the same.

As to the former, do you have any idea about the ways that many of our forefathers funded their expensive passage to the young colonies/US? Ever hear of “indentured servitude”?


  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.