Home > collective action, confirmation bias, John Quiggin, rent-seeking > To John Quiggin: Reassuring climate "delusions" help us all to avoid engaging with "enemies" in exploring common ground

To John Quiggin: Reassuring climate "delusions" help us all to avoid engaging with "enemies" in exploring common ground

I left the following comment on John Quiggin`s “Libertarians and delusion” post (other comments are noted in my preceding posts):


November 6th, 2009 at 14:03 | #34


I “have started to entertain the view that there is either an
actual or perceived conflict between reality and libertarian ideology.”

Thanks for this concession, John, but of course this is true for ANY
ideology (as well for the rest of us more perfect humans who always
have to battle with cognitive conservatism). And yes, it leads to a
combination of tribalism and wishful thinking, and in some cases a
denial of inconvenient science.

Sea Bass says it well: “So what we have is many libertarians, who
are usually not experts on the science of climate change, being asked
to blindly accept scientific conclusions that are often promoted by
people and organisations whose political beliefs are antithetical to
their own.”

Thinking that libertarians are more susceptible to “delusion” than
anyone else is itself a cognitive trap – one that provides comfort to
those who believe that there is a serious cause for concern about
climate change (me too), and that it`s one easily addressed by
government, and leads them to ignore the empirical evidence for the
ways governments screw up (and are manipulated, and to conclude that
those who oppose government action are evil.

I`ve made several references to the empirical case for caution in
thinking that government is going to make things better rather than
worse; the work of Lin Ostrom and the reasons the Nobel Prize committee
gave her the award are a recent one. But as I noted in comments to a
post by Tim Lambert earlier this year on the “economists`s consensus”:

85 “Free market people do not argue that all government allocation
of goods is ineffective. It simply suffers from a high incidence of
moral hazard and inefficiency, and if it does not account for the
market (which it has little incentive to do as it is mostly about
politics) any growth from it will likely be unsustainable.”

Well said, Craig; commonsense examples of moral hazard and inefficiency can be seen in:

* our oversupply and overuse of our “defense”, e.g., Iraq &
Halliburton, Homeland Security, domestic spying, military-industrial
stuff generally;
* our agricultural pork: price supports, ethanol, sugar;
* the government’s provision of “war on drugs” to save us from mad
reefer smokers, etc., resulting in Prohibition-like
crime/corruption/stifled inner city growth, trampled stae and local
rights and troubles in all supplying/conduit countries;
* cheap oil/gas/hardrock mineral/timber/grazing leases;
* an oversupplied but underperforming levee system;
* huge bonuses and huge risks generated at Freddie and Fannie;
* an FDA and Ag Dept that notes bad peanut butter mfg but says nothing,
yet prohibits small dairy and meat producers from advertising
hormone-free milk and mad cow disease-free beef, etc.

Who couldn’t want more of this?

Posted by: TokyoTom | February 17, 2009 6:47 AM

All issues that Tim – and you, too, apparently – just conveniently
don`t seem to see at all, or at least have a tough time finding the
time or space to address, preferring to delve into arcania about
various libertarian cults. But of course now there are lots of
environmentalists, voters, pundits and even scientists like Jim Hansen
who are decrying what looks like an enormous C&T road wreck
emerging as the preferred climate option in Washington.

Just as I am working hard to make sure that libertarians are not
blunting their own message by hiding their heads in the sand on the
science, so do I think that those who (rightly I think) are concerned
about AGW ought to be paying quite a bit more attention to the problems
pointed out by libertarians about the misuse of government by powerful
insiders, the knowledge problem and bureaucratic perversities.

Sadly, there seems to be little interest by most in exploring the
very wide middle ground of undoing the screwed up policies that have
helped to generate the frustrations that many feel today and the
engender what has become a snowballing fight over the wheel of

Why can`t we have a little more exploration of root causes and
common ground? Must it remain a no-man`s land, while partisans battle,
and corporate interests scheme?



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