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BBC's naive 'Meet the Climate Sceptics' ignores that our governments today richly deserve the mistrust that makes collective action impossible

February 6th, 2011 No comments

In the not-unsympathetic hour-long presentation that BBC broadcast on January 31 (after surviving a legal challenge), climate ‘skeptic’ Christopher Monckton (the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley) says something about climate science that I can agree with and that is important:

The central question is this: it’s not whether CO2 or other greenhouse gases can cause warming, because we’ve known for 200 years that they can.

It’s not whether we are causing the CO2 in the atmosphere to rise, because we are.

The only question that really matters is, given the rate that we are adding CO2 to the atmosphere, is how much warming that will cause, if it continues.

In other words, Monckton is correct that the core climate science issue is about what is known as “climate sensitivity”; that is, how much warming is going to be triggered by the rapid ramping up in atmospheric CO2 as we use fossil fuels.

Climate science skeptics like MIT’s Richard Lindzen and company adviser Pat Michaels agree and suggest that climate sensivity will be low (though in this film Lindzen rather jaw-droppingly suggests that “I can live with 5 degrees; you can live with a degrees” Fahrenheit increase in avergage global temperatures!).

The producer, Rupert Murray, suggests that the skeptics wrongly overstate their case and underplay the risks. Murray leaves unstated his premise (and that of the climate scientists he includes) that, if one accepts more conventional views of climate science, then one must also agree that government-imposed restrictions on personal freedom are necessary in order to moderate the threats posed by our use of fossil fuels.

Interestingly and sadly, rather than examining whether there may be common ground in policies that reduce climate risks, Monckton and other prominent skeptics like Lindzen and Michaels (and British commentator James Delingpole), all also appear to make the same assumption that the only possible policy responses are those that reduce personal freedom. Thus, rather than a focus on the content and merits of policy alternatives, we have a rather frantic search to find reasons to dismiss climate risks, and to question the motives and sanity of those who are concerned about them – all, of course, while ignoring the question of what economic interests benefit from the status quo. This behavior is, of course, also mirrored by many of the “warmers”; both sides have their own “Bootleggers and Baptists” coalitions lined up.

Not surprising when so much is at stake, and all are fighting over the use of government. Thoughtful people among the skeptics will acknowledge that the climate is a shared commons that can only be managed via collective action; thoughtful people among the “warmers” likewise should recognize that government itself is a commons that continues to be mismanaged for the benefit of elites and the expense of most citizens (witness our financial crisis and the BP disaster).

As Nobel Prize-winner Elinor Ostrom coninues to point out, trust is a sine qua non for effective management of common resources. Unfortunately, however, that trust is precisely what we are missing the most – and for good reason, as our politicians, bureaucrats and leading corporations have proven themselves unworthy of it.

It should not go unnoticed, however, that a policy to destroy public trust and foster our love of partisan acrimony is one that would be very effective in protecting the interests of those who benefit from the status quo. Creaming the commons while socializing risks is an inherent aspect of corporate business models (starting with the state grant of limited liability to shareholders).

Here’s a link to the video; my apologies that I couldn’t figure out how to embed it here:

[Update: It seems that he BBC has forced the removal of all non-BBC postings of the program, and only viewable via servers located in the UK. As skeptic Anthony Watts puts it: “the BBC does not allow people outside of Britain to watch the video; some sort of cranial-rectal problem I’m told, a proxy server in the UK is needed to view it if you live elsewhere”. Here is James Delingpole’s take on the the program – prior to actually seeing it: And here is one take by a relatively perceptive viewer:]

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Bill Gates, Roger Pielke, Avatar & the Climate (of distrust); or, Can we move from a tribal questioning of motives to win-win policies?

February 13th, 2010 No comments

“Whhhaaat the heck is TT up NOW?” I can hear some of you asking yourselves. Bill Gates, Roger Pielke, the movie Avatar and climate?

Just what elusive illusions am I alluding to here? (Stop playing, you say.) Well, brace yourself, and bear with me.

Roger Pielke, Jr. has a post up regarding a interesting recent piece by Bill Gates on how to address climate issues (I will address Gates’ piece separately). The comment section at Roger’s predictably fell into into the usual patterns of questioning climate science, and a mutual questioning of motives and rationality. I just happened to run into it, and was moved to try to post a few thoughts there.

Libertarians ought to understand why suspicions run rampant on climate issues – even as they can’t seem to get past it (despite my annoying, incessant and level-headed ravings). But many others are so wrapped up in Climate KombatTM that they never think to even to question WHY – why all of the hostility, why all of the circling of wagons, and why the lack of interest in examining root problems and possible win-win approaches?

Well, that’s what my “Avatar” reference is intended to shorthand (pardon an archaic expression; maybe I shouldn’t telegraph my antiquity like this!): that movie was all about thefttheft that we can see all around us even today as I have noted in a number of posts (even as we may be blind to those that advantage us) –  group advantage, and communal responses to threats. Communal responses involve perceiving threats and banding together with brothers to defend all that is good, sacred, holy and OURS. This, I posit, is not only instinctive and reflexive, but EXACTLY what the climate discussion is about, on many levels.

It’s just that the disputants have entirely different views on who is trying to steal what from whom, and what or who is the threat, on who is an enemy, who is a brother, what is to be defended, and on strategy and tactics (as well as how to be advance personal interests).

I penned a few thoughts at Roger’s (I note that both Roger and his father. climate scientist Roger Pielke, Sr. , are in the thick of the climate wars, their own positions frequently being misunderstood in the fog of war). Being a bit inspired and prolix, the Muses ran a bit long. Roger is pretty good at letting comments through but I thought I post a copy here; perhaps you will be amused.

Here is what I tried to post (cleaned up slightly and with additional links and emphasis), in response to several who said to the effect, “Why should we agree to anything, until it is established to our satisfaction that CO2 reduction is important?“, and to others who questioned the motivations of Roger and others:

Those who do not agree now – with either the AGW thesis/science or the good faith, motives, intelligence or rationality of those who profess concern about a clearly changing climate and about whether man’s activities pose serious threats to human welfare and to things
that we value – still have lots to gain from plenty of win-win policies, policies that
would advance the interests of those who profess to love free markets but that are now just sitting about unused because practically everyone is too busy fighting, vilifying and mistrusting to actually step back from the emotional rush of partisan battle, sit back and to
exchange their armor and weapons for thinking caps (more on
these policies at end of this comment).

political economist Elinor Ostrom reminds us that one sine qua non for solving
any commons problem is TRUST [see my post here].

that lack of that trust – nay, distrust and active hostility – are what
characterize our “discussions” on modern-day politics, and especially
climate change (the “our” in this case being a complex one at many

DISTRUST is the natural product of many factors:

– the
lack of property rights in the atmosphere & of any legal recourse by
individuals against GHG emitters/albedo changers
, which together mean that –
unlike for other resources that can be bought, sold and husbanded – the
voluntary actions of individuals and firms via market exchanges simply are not
functioning, thus forcing climate concerns – and scientists and this discussion
– into the political realm;

 – in
the US, both parties have grossly MIS-governed and abused the public trust, via
political pandering, grasping for power at all costs (cynically sowing division
and cheapening discourse by selling war, hatred and suspicion, corruptly
selling favors to the highest bidders, and simply managing resources
incompetently). As a result, I think many people rightly feel that the US
government generally DOES NOT DESERVE our trust (this sentiment can be seen not
only in the TeaParty movement, but in calls by the likes of Larry Lessig for a
Constitutional Convention
to fix our corrupt, broken political system);

 – as
has been the case since corporations were created as the faceless profit-making
of wealthy investors whose liability for the damage they do and risks
that they shift to others is limited by statute (, those corporations that have
licenses to pollute under current law and whose climate-risk generating
activities are now FREE and unregulated work hard to protect their favored status
(via behind-the-scenes influence-buying of politicians and
“free-market” pundit/voice-pieces, and deliberate PR
smokescreen/mis-direction campaigns designed to GENERATE mistrust)

likewise, other corporations/investors have been busy working to buy climate
legislation that will help to put money in their pockets
– while those who act
as spokesmen have not been voluntarily taking actions that show they put their
money (and life-style) where their mouth

 – most
of the science has been funded by governments
, which makes it easier for
skeptics to dismiss it – and to ignore all of the sophisticated private
institutions and corporations that now strongly agree with the
(viz., notably virtually all oil & gas majors and
virtually all insurers);

 – the
fact that the chief “solutions” proposed by our Western governments
are coercive and ham-handed
, would serve to further drive basic manufacturing
to developing countries
that care even less than we do about respecting
human/property rights, would give further give domestic industry rights to
behave in ways that are seen as harmful, would provide benefits to a host of
favorite insiders while shifting costs to middle and lower income classes
, is being agreed behind closed doors (and written up
drafted by lobbyists in mind-mumbingly long and opaque legislation) and our leaders lack the moral and political courage to be straight-forward and transparent about the need and purposes of the legislative/regulatory actions;

Mistrust is not only NATURAL, it’s something that we LOVE to do; there is an
undeniable human penchant for viewing issues in a tribal, “us against
them” manner, which reflects a natural cognitive conservatism that means
we subconsciously ignore information that contradicts our pre-existing mental
map of reality, and to a strong tendency to reflexively support our tribal
brothers and “comrades” and to defend our pre-existing views against
what we tend to see as “attacks” by “enemies”;

– this
leads to group-think, black & white views, hostility, self-justification and to strawmen that
ignores the real issues
: you know, “they have a religion”, we are
right and act in good faith, they are stupid, irrational, are evil and want to
destroy all we hold dear, versus capitalism is evil, those against cap and trade are
all pawns, of Big Oil and a host of other mantras regarding “truths” that respective group-thinks requires its members to hold as “self-evident”;

– while our moral senses are essential for managing our in-group interactions, unfortunately that lends itself both to moral outrage and to intolerance of the moral preachings and inconsistencies of others;

 – the
“climate” is enormously complex, will never be fully understood or
predictable,  the changes that we
are  forcing in it cannot be simply and
convincing demonstrated or understood by anyone
, the system has many
inputs/outputs and displays tremendous variability, has great inertia that is
played out on scales of centuries, 
millennia and eons, and we have NO OTHER EARTHS to run ANY independently
verifiable “TESTS” on … just a number of computer models – again,
funded by governments, and with innards none of us has any real ability to
verify, much less understand;

finally, as climate change is a global issue, it cannot be solved unilaterally
by ANY single individual, group, community, corporation or government/polity;
the “community” that must address it is the community of nations, the leaders and citizens of which all having a welter of differing interests and priorities.

To be flip – Trust
me; it’s natural for you NOT to trust me! Don’t we ALL understand this? (Roger,
I’m pretty sure you – and Joe Romm – know what I mean.)

But the high we get from self-righteousness and group struggle is such an easy
evil, such an addictive self-drug.

it is a clear political tactic by many on the climate issue to treat it as a war, and
to deliberately sow mistrust and misinformation,
with the intention either to
defend turf previously purchased from government or to use government to cram
down preferred solutions. But I repeat myself.

Let me
end by noting that

those who are concerned about climate change risks would do well by
fostering not anger but trust, and by seeking to use hammers only to build

those who are concerned chiefly with the mis-use of government might do well to
re-examine how government has already been misused, and explore whether there
are ways to harness the passionate “delusions” of evil/stoopid
enviro-fascists to actually achieve goals that self-professed market cultists
(I’m one!) ought to desire

 – I
have humbly picked up my own hammer and started an exploratory
“task-force” of one, to look at the ways that corporate interests
have already mis-used government to lot in economic rigidity and market share,
and stand in the way of economic freedom and the massive wave of innovation,
investment and wealth-creation that would surely result if existing blockages
were removed. My
chief thoughts are here, intended initially as a plea to fellow libertarians
(who are deeply distrusting of enviro-facists like me who hope to disguise
their nefarious goals by falsely putting on libertarian clothing):

A few
related thoughts at (libertarians/climate) and  (delusion).


Readers, thanks for your indulgence!


On climate, how to avoid being a blind, self-righteous ideologue in a “Bootleggers and Baptists” coalition

April 21st, 2015 No comments

[from a Facebook post]

Trust me — you don’t have to agree with those who say “climate science is scary, so we need to do something about it” to be willing to have a decent conversation about how governments play a deep role in generating problems, and seeing ways to use the concerns of “warmers” as leverage to try to start fixing what is broken.

Elsewhere, I got head-scratches when I said, “I think there is little we can do to change temps …, but I still think that there is room for productive “climate” policy.”

Allow me to reconcile what for some is an apparent contradiction:

The climate system is complex, and we are engaged in a massive experiment that simply cannot be turned on a dime even if we were all to make the effort (even if we stopped all fossil fuel CO2 releases tomorrow, the processes now set in motion will take centuries to play out); already CO2 levels are now higher than they’ve been for 3 MILLION years:

I am not one of those who are fine and dandy with this “experiment” and who act as if it is a “conservative” venture or that market or libertarian principles justify it.

Nor, however, am I one of those who think that climate concerns — like other environmental/healthy/safety/welfare concerns — mandate massive further interference with people’s lives and economic activities, in the manner of past interventions.

Governments have been and continue to be hugely disruptive, incompetent and corrupt, and in fact are the friends of the “crony capital” corporations that are the object of popular scorn (but in fact such corporations are made, fed, coddled, catered to and protected from competition and market forces by governments).

So I “get” some of the reflexive whinging by shallow market fundamentalists that the science must be wrong and that “enviros” must be evil — though these people also piss me off, because in effect they are ideologues who are protecting crony capitalists and a very fucked up system, rather than engaging in good faith with people who can see quite clearly that there are no “property rights” or “market prices” in the air that magically direct economic activity “invisible hand”-like towards optimal outcomes.

My suggestions that there are productive climate policies is one that is NOT based on either a certainty of climate science or some false expectation that we could easily “fix” the climate (we can’t), but on the awareness that our current economic order is profoundly corrupt, costly/inefficient, significantly hampers consumer choice and innovation, socializes real (and generally recognized) pollution costs and protects bureaucrats.

And even the deepest skeptic of climate change science and theory ought to be interested in seizing the opportunity of the concerns of others to FIX what is deeply fucked up about economic regulation. That is, of course, unless they’re hooked the adrenaline rush that comes from being a blind, self-righteous ideologue in a “Bootleggers and Baptists” coalition.

Here are some thoughts, both on productive climate policies and on seeing past illusory certainty:

Note: I have reworked this from a comment I made on another post:

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The state as a tool of corrupt and unaccountable elites in enclosing the commons; and climate

June 16th, 2014 No comments

[Excerpted from a 2009 note to John Quiggin on “libertarians and delusionism“. My delusionism is smaller than yours!]

Would domestic cap-and-trade be an enclosure of the atmospheric commons, for the benefit of firms receiving grants of permits and costs flowing regressively to energy consumers, and internationally represents a vast expansion of state authority and bureaucracies, with attendant enclosure of local resources?

Many of the problems that concern libertarians also concern progressives, chief of these being the negative effects of state actions on communities, development and on open-access (and hitherto local, indigenous-managed) commons. This is the same concern that the Nobel Prize committee expressed when extending the prize in Economics to Elinor #Ostrom, signalling their desire for a change in international aid policy. [I have blogged on Ostrom’s views on the climate commons.]

Readers might find these remarks by Nicholas Hildyard, Larry Lohmann, Sarah Sexton and Simon Fairlie in “Reclaiming the Commons” (1995) to be pertinent:

The creation of empires and states, business conglomerates and
civic dictatorships — whether in pre-colonial times or in the modern
era — has only been possible through dismantling the commons and
harnessing the fragments, deprived of their old significance, to build
up new economic and social patterns that are responsive to the
interests of a dominant minority. The modern nation state has been
built only by stripping power and control from commons regimes and
creating structures of governance from which the great mass of humanity
(particularly women) are excluded. Likewise, the market economy has
expanded primarily by enabling state and commercial interests to gain
control of territory that has traditionally been used and cherished by
others, and by transforming that territory – together with the people
themselves – into expendable “resources” for exploitation. By enclosing
forests, the state and private enterprise have torn them out of fabrics
of peasant subsistence; by providing local leaders with an outside
power base, unaccountable to local people, they have undermined village
checks and balances; by stimulating demand for cash goods, they have
impelled villagers to seek an ever wider range of things to sell. Such
a policy was as determinedly pursued by the courts of Aztec Mexico, the
feudal lords of West Africa, and the factory owners of Lancashire and
the British Rail as it is today by the International Monetary Fund or
Coca-Cola Inc.

Only in this way has it been possible to convert peasants into
labour for a global economy, replace traditional with modern
agriculture, and free up the commons for the industrial economy.
Similarly, only by atomizing tasks and separating workers from the
moral authority, crafts and natural surroundings created by their
communities has it been possible to transform them into modern,
universal individuals susceptible to “management”. In short, only by
deliberately taking apart local cultures and reassembling them in new
forms has it been possible to open them up to global trade.[FN L.
Lohmann, ‘Resisting Green Globalism’ in W. Sachs (ed), Global Ecology:
Conflicts and Contradictions, Zed Books, London and New Jersey, 1993.]

To achieve that “condition of economic progress”, millions have
been marginalized as a calculated act of policy, their commons
dismantled and degraded, their cultures denigrated and devalued and
their own worth reduced to their value as labour. Seen from this
perspective, many of the processes that now go under the rubric of
“nation-building”, “economic growth”, and “progress” are first ad
foremost processes of expropriation, exclusion, denial and
dispossession. In a word, of “enclosure”.

Because history’s best-known examples of enclosure involved the
fencing in of common pasture, enclosure is often reduced to a synonym
for “expropriation”. But enclosure involves more than land and fences,
and implies more than simply privatization or takeover by the state. It
is a compound process which affects nature and culture, home and
market, production and consumption, germination and harvest, birth,
sickness and death. It is a process to which no aspect of life or
culture is immune. ..,

Enclosure tears people and their lands, forests, crafts,
technologies and cosmologies out of the cultural framework in which
they are embedded and tries to force them into a new framework which
reflects and reinforces the values and interests of newly-dominant
groups. Any pieces which will not fit into the new framework are
devalued and discarded. In the modern age, the architecture of this new
framework is determined by market forces, science, state and corporate
bureaucracies, patriarchal forms of social organization, and ideologies
of environmental and social management.

Land, for example, once it is integrated into a framework of
fences, roads and property laws, is “disembedded” from local fabrics of
self-reliance and redefined as “property” or “real estate”. Forests are
divided into rigidly defined precincts – mining concessions, logging
concessions, wildlife corridors and national parks – and transformed
from providers of water, game, wood and vegetables into scarce
exploitable economic resources. Today they are on the point of being
enclosed still further as the dominant industrial culture seeks to
convert them into yet another set of components of the industrial
system, redefining them as “sinks” to absorb industrial carbon dioxide
and as pools of “biodiversity”. Air is being enclosed as economists
seek to transform it into a marketable “waste sink”; and genetic
material by subjecting it to laws which convert it into the
“intellectual property” of private interests.

People too are enclosed as they are fitted into a new society where
they must sell their labour, learn clock-time and accustom themselves
to a life of production and consumption; groups of people are redefined
as “populations’, quantifiable entities whose size must be adjusted to
take pressure off resources required for the global economy. …

enclosure transforms the environment into a “resource” for national or
global production – into so many chips that can be cashed in as
commodities, handed out as political favours and otherwise used to
accrue power. …

Enclosure thus cordons off those aspects of the environment that are
deemed “useful” to the encloser — whether grass for sheep in 16th
century England or stands of timber for logging in modern-say Sarawak
– and defines them, and them alone, as valuable. A street becomes a
conduit for vehicles; a wetland, a field to be drained; flowing water,
a wasted asset to be harnessed for energy or agriculture. Instead of
being a source of multiple benefits, the environment becomes a
one-dimensional asset to be exploited for a single purpose – that
purpose reflecting the interests of the encloser, and the priorities of
the wider political economy in which the encloser operates….

Enclosure opens the way for the bureaucratization and enclosure of
knowledge itself. It accords power to those who master the language of
the new professionals and who are versed in its etiquette and its
social nuances, which are inaccessible to those who have not been to
school or to university, who do not have professional qualifications,
who cannot operate computers, who cannot fathom the apparent mysteries
of a cost-benefit analysis, or who refuse to adopt the forceful tones
of an increasingly “masculine” world.

In that respect, as Illich notes, “enclosure is as much in the
interest of professionals and of state bureaucrats as it is in the
interests of capitalists.” For as local ways of knowing and doing are
devalued or appropriated, and as vernacular forms of governance are
eroded, so state and professional bodies are able to insert themselves
within the commons, taking over areas of life that were previously
under the control of individuals, households and the community.
Enclosure “allows the bureaucrat to define the local community as
impotent to provide for its own survival.”[FN I Illich, ‘Silence is a
Commons’, The Coevolution Quarterly, Winter 1983.] It invites the
professional to come to the “rescue” of those whose own knowledge is
deemed inferior to that of the encloser.

Enclosure is thus a change in the networks of power which enmesh
the environment, production, distribution, the political process,
knowledge, research and the law. It reduces the control of local people
over community affairs. Whether female or male, a person’s influence
and ability to make a living depends increasingly on becoming absorbed
into the new policy created by enclosure, on accepting — willingly or
unwillingly — a new role as a consumer, a worker, a client or an
administrator, on playing the game according to new rules. The way is
thus cleared for cajoling people into the mainstream, be it through
programmes to bring women “into development”, to entice smallholders
“into the market” or to foster paid employment.[FN P. Simmons, ‘Women
in Development’, The Ecologist, Vol. 22, No.1, 1992, pp.16-21.]

Those who remain on the margins of the new mainstream, either by
choice or because that is where society has pushed them, are not only
deemed to have little value: they are perceived as a threat. Thus it is
the landless, the poor, the dispossessed who are blamed for forest
destruction; their poverty which is held responsible for
“overpopulation”; their protests which are classed as subversive and a
threat to political stability. And because they are perceived as a
threat, they become objects to be controlled, the legitimate subjects
of yet further enclosure. …

People who would oppose dams, logging, the redevelopment of their
neighbourhoods or the pollution of their rivers are often left few
means of expressing or arguing their case unless they are prepared to
engage in a debate framed by the languages of cost-benefit analysis,
reductionist science, utilitarianism, male domination — and,
increasingly, English. Not only are these languages in which many local
objection — such as that which holds ancestral community rights to a
particular place to have precedence over the imperatives of “national
development” — appear disreputable. They are also languages whose use
allows enclosers to eavesdrop on, “correct” and dominate the
conversations of the enclosed. …

Because they hold themselves to be speaking a universal language,
the modern enclosers who work for development agencies and governments
feel no qualms in presuming to speak for the enclosed. They assume
reflexively that they understand their predicament as well as or better
than the enclosed do themselves. It is this tacit assumption that
legitimizes enclosure in the encloser’s mind – and it is an assumption
that cannot be countered simply by transferring what are
conventionbally assumed to be the trappings of power from one group to

A space for the commons cannot be created by economists,
development planners, legislators, “empowerment” specialists or other
paternalistic outsiders. To place the future in the hands of such
individuals would be to maintain the webs of power that are currently
stifling commons regimes. One cannot legislate the commons into
existence; nor can the commons be reclaimed simply by adopting “green
techniques” such as organic agriculture, alternative energy strategies
or better public transport — necessary and desirable though such
techniques often are. Rather, commons regimes emerge through ordinary
people’s day-to-day resistance to enclosure, and through their efforts
to regain livelihoods and the mutual support, responsibility and trust
that sustain the commons.

That is not to say that one can ignore policy-makers or
policy-making. The depredations of transnational corporations,
international bureaucracies and national governments cannot be allowed
to go unchallenged. But movements for social change have a
responsibility to ensure that in seeking solutions, they do not remove
the initiative from those who are defending their commons or attempting
to regenerate common regimes — a responsibility they should take

Might there be good reason NOT to rush into a vast expansion of government world-wide?

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Interesting piece in Al Jazeera: A continuing decline in trust in the Japanese government fuels political unrest and regionalism

December 18th, 2011 No comments

Trust is an essential piece of social capital; difficult to build, easier to lose, but essential to solving collective action problems.

Increasingly, in Japan and elsewhere, people are starting to see that their trust in ‘government’, politiicians, bureaucrats and big business has been misplaced, that these institutions and people have instead been DAMAGING social capital, and that citizens need to hold government more accountable and to take more power back into their own hands. 

I just ran across this interesting essay by Michael Cucek in Al-Jazeera  (December 9, 2011) . Cucek is author of the Shisaku blog on Japanese politics and society. and a Tokyo-based Research Associate of the MIT Center for International Studies.

Excerpts below; emphasis added:

Is Japan cracking up?

Mainstream parties in Japan are losing the trust of the people as renegade politicians gain support.

Tokyo, Japan – “Is Japan cracking up?” The question seems ludicrous, regarding one of the planet’s most homogenous, stable and violence-free nations. However, in the aftermath of the late-November victories of a regional party in the gubernatorial and mayoral races in Osaka, Japan’s second city, the next steps in Japan’s political evolution may be along regional, not national lines.

The elections of Toru Hashimoto as mayor of Osaka City and Ichiro Matsui as governor of Osaka Prefecture on the Osaka Isshin no Kai (Association for the Renewal of Osaka) ticket were predictable, given the huge proven political drawing power of Hashimoto. A former television personality and a lawyer, Hashimoto had during his time as governor built up a huge following among the voters by taking on targets of public disdain: the prefectural assembly, prefectural civil servants, the governments of the prefecture’s smaller municipalities and the teachers’ unions and the Board of Education.

He hacked at public salaries and reduced municipal spending, racking up the first budget surpluses in years. In the municipal elections of 2010, Osaka Isshin no Kai – a party that Hashimoto assembled at the last minute – won a plurality of seats in the prefectural assembly, shocking the large national parties.

Control of Osaka, however, was not enough for Hashimoto, who has a grandiose plan to transform the prefecture into a metropolitan district such as Tokyo. The capital’s shining image is a huge psychological weight on Osakans, who are defensive about their national and international status. However, the mayors of the prefectures’ cities stood in Hashimoto’s way, the most prominent of which was the mayor of Osaka.

He argued that, in order for the Osaka prefecture to fulfill its destiny as a great world metropolis, the government of the city of Osaka would have to be destroyed. Hashimoto resigned as governor to run for mayor, placing himself in the position of leading the municipal government’s dismantlement from within. Meanwhile, this left the governor’s office open for Ichiro Matsui, the secretary-general of Hashimoto’s party.

On Sunday November 26, voters handed Hashimoto the keys to the mayor’s office, and elected Matsui as governor.

The battle of Osaka, however, was not just between Hashimoto and his main opponent Kunio Hiramatsu, the incumbent mayor of Osaka, a mild-mannered and avuncular former television announcer. The contest was also between Hashimoto and the national parties, particularly the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and the main opposition party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP). The LDP and the New Komeito, the political party of Japan’s largest religious congregation, had supported Hashimoto when he ran for governor in 2008. But soon after his election, Hashimoto turned his back on his former political allies, attacking many of their sacred cows. As for the DPJ, it saw Hashimoto’s populism as a threat to the DPJ’s own reputation as a reformist party.

Decay in public’s trust

So it was that the main political parties worked together to halt the Hashimoto juggernaut. Even the Communist Party of Japan, which never sides with the other parties and always runs one of its own candidates in major elections, did not put up a candidate in Osaka City, in order to increase the chances of victory for the incumbent mayor.


The failure of the mainstream traditional parties to elect their candidates, even when cooperating to an unprecedented degree, opens a window onto the decay in the public’s trust in traditional politics. The DPJ and LDP, the two parties that can become parties of government, have seen their support sink to the level where they can each count upon receiving only 20 per cent of the vote. The New Komeito, drawing on the votes of the huge Soka Gakkai religious organisation, can count upon receiving between four and six per cent of the final vote. The other parties are really micro-parties, each with three per cent support or less.

Half the voting public does not consider itself affiliated with any party. It is this floating electorate that Hashimoto and those such as him are targeting.

The election of Hashimoto and Matsui to the main executive posts in Osaka puts Japan’s three main population centres under the control of renegades. The Tokyo Metropolitan District has Ishihara Shintaro, of The Japan that Can Say “No” fame, as its governor. A former member of the LDP, he quit the party and his Diet seat, saying that he was sick of the party’s policies. He struck out on his own, winning the governorship of Tokyo when he saw the traditional parties nominating grey and inoffensive candidates. He recently won his fourth election as governor, after promising he would quit after three terms, deciding to run again after he saw how bad the other candidates were.

In Aiichi Prefecture, the home of Toyota Motors and Japan’s third-largest urban area, the city of Nagoya and its suburbs, independents Hideaki Omura and Takashi Kawamura are governor of Aiichi and mayor of Nagoya, respectively. Kawamura, a former member of the DPJ and a flamboyant buffoon, was in perpetual warfare with his city’s assembly after his election in 2009, as the assembly resisted implementing Kawamura’s reforms, including deep tax cuts. A stalemate lingered until earlier this year, when Kawamura arranged for his own re-election, the election of his ally Omura and the recall of the assembly, all in one swoop

Omura and Kawamura see Hashimoto and his Isshin no Kai colleagues as soulmates. Omura, a former LDP Diet member, has indeed promised he will formally link his supporters to Hashimoto’s.

Rogue politicians

The successes of these rogue regionalist politicians have forced the main political parties to examine what they can learn from them in order to boost their own fortunes. But the traditional parties are finding out that they can’t borrow very much. The emerging regional parties (for example, there is a Hokkaido party, Shinto Daichi) are basically the vehicles of larger-than-life individuals, who combine their own personal fame with a call for re-emphasis on regional identity.

On the subject of governance, they have brought the national discussion on the role of bureaucrats down to the prefectural and municipal level, promising economic improvements from radical reductions in the pay and personnel of local government. Hashimoto, for example, claims there will be great cost savings from eliminating the redundant services currently provided by both Osaka’s municipal and prefectural governments.

Emulating the rogue politician’s slash-and-burn governance style would undermine the patronage and election networks that underpin the support of many of the traditional parties. For the ruling DPJ, which was elected on a platform of radical reform, the rogues are reminders of what the DPJ wishes it could do on the national scale – but the realities of macroeconomics and the lack of a singular, charismatic leader prevent the party from doing so.

Hashimoto’s political star has been rising and those of the traditional parties falling, in part because of Osaka’s declining economic importance and vitality. Some 60 per cent of those who supported Hashimoto in the mayoral election said that they did so because they expect him to improve the economic climate of the city – a desire that Hashimoto will be hard-pressed to satisfy.

Despite the difficulties faced by Hashimoto and those like him, the national parties should still be worried. The electorate is clearly shopping around for persons or parties able to deliver on promises, particularly in terms of the performance of the economy, the security of the pension and health systems, and the ending of government waste. In 2009, the majority of the public thought it had found the answer in the DPJ, tossing out the LDP after the party had run Japan for more than 50 years.

The voters have since become disillusioned with their choice, for reasons both fair and unfair. National elections do not have to be held until 2013, giving the major parties some time to align themselves more closely with voters or to find a champion. 


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That annoying off-beat drummer: In response to the 'heretic' Dr. Curry, more on my pig-headed libertarian open-mindness on climate issues

March 24th, 2011 No comments

I alerted readers in January to a blog post on libertarianism and the environment by Dr. Judith Curry, who heads the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and is known for her work on hurricanes, Arctic ice dynamics and other climate-related topics.

Scientific American  noted last October, in “Climate Heretic: Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues; Why can’t we have a civil conversation about climate?“, that:

over the past year or so she has become better known for something that annoys, even infuriates, many of her scientific colleagues. Curry has been engaging actively with the climate change skeptic community, largely by participating on outsider blogs such as Climate Audit, the Air Vent and the Black­board. Along the way, she has come to question how climatologists react to those who question the science, no matter how well established it is. Although many of the skeptics recycle critiques that have long since been disproved, others, she believes, bring up valid points—and by lumping the good with the bad, climate researchers not only miss out on a chance to improve their science, they come across to the public as haughty. “Yes, there’s a lot of crankology out there,” Curry says. “But not all of it is. If only 1 percent of it or 10 percent of what the skeptics say is right, that is time well spent because we have just been too encumbered by groupthink.”

While I recommend that interested readers review the whole thread, I copy below my comments and some related:

Judith, a climate scientist friend kindly gave me gave me a head’s up to your post.

I have been blogging and commenting for quite some time on environmental and climate issues from a libertarian perspective, and have also spent considerable time on trying both to help libertarians engage productively on environmental issues and to help leftist-environmentalists understand where libertarians are coming from.

Sadly, it’s largely a messy tale, reflecting how fights over government policy tend toward zero-sum games that blunt cooperation, the success that fossil fuel and other corporate interests have had in gaming the system, and how our tribal human nature leads many to abandon critical thinking in favor of choosing and reflexively defending sides and positions.

I have been highly critical of many libertarians in perpetuating unproductive discord, and have been the resident environmentalist pain-in-the-neck at the Ludwig von Mises Institute (for libertarian economics), which kindly hosts my blog. In particular, even while try to build bridges I have been critical of the Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute and MasterResource, which I view as being skewed by donations toward corporate agendas. There are of course some highly productive libertarians working on environmental and conservation matters; Terry Anderson and others at PERC (Properrty and Environment Research Center) have led the way on fisheries, water and other issues. (And then there are quasi-libertarians like Elinor Ostrom.)

Since you’ve expressed interest, allow me to load you up with a few links, to my exchanges with others such as John Quiggin, to my cajoling and castigating of libertarians, and to some of my views on climate/environment issues :

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

“John Quiggin plays Pin-the-tail-on-the-Donkey with “Libertarians and delusionism” ”

“A few more comments to John Quiggin on climate, libertarian principles and the enclosure of the commons ”

“A few more “delusional” thoughts to John Quiggin on partisan perceptions & libertarian opposition to collective action”

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

“The Cliff Notes version of my stilted enviro-fascist view of corporations and government ”

The Road Not Taken II: Austrians strive for a self-comforting irrelevancy on climate change, the greatest commons problem / rent-seeking game of our age

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

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

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

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

OMG – those ecofascists hate statist corps, too, and even want to – GASP – end that oh-so-libertarian state grant of limited liability!

“Who are the misanthropes – “Malthusians” or those who hate them? Rob Bradley and others resist good faith engagement despite obvious institutional failures/absence of property rights ”

On non-climate issues:

“Too Many or Too Few People? Does the market provide an answer? ”



  • Tokyo Tom, thanks much for your input. your post originally went to moderation owing to the large number of links.

    • Dr. Curry, thanks for your indulgence on this; given the time differences (bedtime now!) and my schedule tomorrow, I thought throwing out a few links might be useful (though I may be mistaken!!).


    • If I can add one further thought before I head off to bed, it would be that a key prerequisite (as Ostrom points out) for tackling commons issues like climate change that involves many players and countries is the need for TRUST, an element that is sadly lacking (a resource that libertarian analysis indicates is destroyed by squabbles over government) .

      Bill Gates, Roger Pielke, Avatar & the Climate (of distrust); or, Can we move from a tribal questioning of motives to win-win policies?

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



One wee error in your intro:
“Sadly, it’s largely a messy tale, reflecting how fights over government policy tend toward zeronegative-sum games that blunt cooperation”
There. All fixed! ;)

Tom is someone who has managed to separate the difference between science and policy.

  • I am honored that you visit me, as you must be very busy in the Year of the Wabbit.

    Thanks, Eli, but it means that Tom is someone for whom the thrills of tribal comabt do not offset the woes of being the odd man out, if not “the enemy”.


Michael, Climate Etc. has technical threads and discussion threads. This is a discussion thread. I usually monitor things quite closely on technical threads, which are pretty much troll free. There have been excellent discussions with very knowledgeable skeptics on many of the technical threads. If you look at the denizens list, there are many people spending time here with serious credentials and wide ranging and varying professional experiences. This is not a place where mindless people bother hanging out.

What am I hoping to accomplish on discussion threads? I raise thorny topics on the discussion threads, at the interface between science and society. People challenge their own prejudices by arguing with people having different opinions. Invariably I learn something when people suggest interesting things to read (on this thread, i have found some of Tokyo Tom’s links to be interesting.)

Assuming i have time in the next day or do (which is not a good assumption, I’m afraid), i will do a Part II on this thread, picking out some points/ideas to focus on in a follow on thread. Once we get the heat out of the way, we often generate some light over here.

bob, I would be interested in a part II to this subject, and it would be great if Tokyo Tom or Rich wanted to do this, provided the topic was about how to deal with global environmental issues and potential tragedy of the commons issues.

  • Not sure how you could reconcile the distance between these two. Yes, they are both Libertarians. But one sees the climate issue like so:

    Yeah, I deny the anthropogenic carbon dioxide global temperature forcing “hypothesis” (not that it deserves even the courtesy use of that term). It started out as an extraordinary – hell, preposterous – effort to account for a completely screwed interpretation of insufficient surface temperature data (gained initially, it appears, from Stevenson screen thermometers “sited next to a lamp” by way of all sorts of instrumental screw-ups related to urban heat island effect and similar artifact) thirty years ago, and has proceeded through those three decades not only without the development of convincing evidence supporting this brain-dead blunder but suffused with a continuing agglomeration of data-doctoring, book-cooking, code-jiggering, suppressio veri, suggestio falsi, peer-review-perverting, dissident-censoring, cork-screwing, back-stabbing, dirty-dealing, and bald-faced lying.

    and the other sees it a bit differently: [my emphasis added]

    On environmental issues in general and climate in particular, find me someone ranting about “Malthusians” or “environazis” or somesuch, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t understand – or refuses to acknowledge – the difference between wealth-creating markets based on private property and/or voluntary interactions/contracts protected by law, and the tragedy of the commons situations that result when there are NO property rights (atmosphere, oceans) or when the pressures of developed markets swamp indigenous hunter-gather community rules.

    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.

    Some on the left likewise see libertarians and small-government conservatives as deluded.

    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.

    So, once again, ideological affiliations aside, there are people who look for ways to solve possible problems and people who look for reasons to ignore possible problems.

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By popular demand, more meta-thoughts on climate confusion

March 24th, 2011 No comments

Yes, I’m Worried in Tokyo, as I keep running across tweets like this:

Should Residents Of Tokyo Be Preparing For Massive Radiation Exposure? 12 Disturbing Facts To Cons..

But a rare comment to my recent, Yes-I’m-Still-Alive post asked me to comment on something the poster recently wrote regarding libertarian views on climate policy. As this is a topic that I have, with no great reluctance, addressed from time to time, I felt compelled to respond — and thought that some of you might be interested.

The comment I received:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 8:21 PM by gryposaurus

Hey Tom, If you get a chance, please check out this blog post I wrote about Jonathan Adler’s paper on climate change. [Note: this site hosts many layman-friendly explanations of climate science and reviews of arguments by ‘skeptics’.]


(I note that I have referred to libertarian law prof. Jonathan Adler several times.)

My response:

Thanks so much for your visit to LvMI – just to give me a comment?? – and your cross-link to your interesting post at Skeptical Science.

I’ve taken a quick look; my chief comment would be that you and the ‘libertarians’ you discuss have all missed that the status quo favors massive corporations whose very status is suspect from a libertarian standpoint: they are creatures of government that could not exist without govt in their present form, and that embody moral hazard via the govt grant of limited liability to shareholders.

Cato and other vocal ‘libertarian’ organizations are in fact corporate fronts and won’t bite the hand that feeds them, and thus avoid delving too deeply when they defend a ‘free market’ that is predominated by organizations that are not controlled by shareholders or communities and that are dedicated to extracting gains irregardless of costs that others may be forced to bear.

I also think a significant problem is groupthink – all around – as I’ve discussed w John Quiggin.

Here are a few places you can look to get a better handle on my thinking

The Cliff Notes version of my stilted enviro-fascist view of corporations and government

Judith Curry, climate scientist who is controversial because she talks with ‘skeptics’, wonders about “Libertarianism and the environment” (look for my comments in her linked post)

My posts re: Rob Bradley‘s ‘Master Resource’ (interchanges w John Quiggin) (is climate a religion, and whose?)

Probably another two related points worth making are that (i) our governments today richly deserve the mistrust that makes collective action impossible, and (ii) those interests which benefit by the most from the status quo are quite busy with the cynical game of sowing such mistrust and confusion (of course the “warmers” doo this too).

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On climate, another libertarian bravely fights to keep Mises' light under a bushel

January 25th, 2011 No comments

I just left the following closing comment on Jim Fedako‘s December 30 Mises Economics Blog post, “What?!? No one mentioned the cult or kooky parts“:


TokyoTom January 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm

You’re done here, Jim? Hardly, as you never even started — in the sense of honest engagement.

Once more, as you flee from engagement, you fail to address ANYTHING I’ve actually said, while continuing your penchant for attacking strawmen of your own making. I “continue to advocate for government interventions”, you say? Oh? Anywhere on this thread? I did offer you the following link to my thinking, but if you had troubled yourself to look, you’d see it’s a libertarian proposal for de-regulation:

You might not like to hear it, but the apparent lack of sincerity in your engagement IS shameful — even if one of a piece of many other libertarian/Misesean thinkers here who forget their thinking caps in favor of falling into partisanship and cognitive traps:

My reference to ‘libertarians’ was to this pantheon, who quite obviously have not really troubled themselves at LvMI pages to engage on climate or natural issues, other than in the most pathetic and shallow way.

A good recipe for libertarian irrelevancy, as I keep pointing out. Am I wrong to hope for better?



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Ideology on parade: To Mark Levin and conservatives, NRO's own climate expert is now a “Global Warming Zealot”?!

April 23rd, 2010 No comments

My goodness! Another Frumming at NRO!

So Jim Manzi, a conservative/libertarian and a reasoned critic of cap and trade – who has been retained by NRO and is on the National Review board of trustees – has, by criticizing poor climate science arguments by neocon polemicist Mark Levin, become Public Enemy No. 1!! Could the right do a better job of illustrating Julian Sanchez’s point about the right-wing circle-?

The pirana feeding is on; enjoy the show!

Says Andrew Sullivan:

April 22nd, 2010 @ 04 12
Jim Manzi Is A “Global Warming Zealot”?!
Yes, Jim Manzi, one of the most effective, data-driven critics of cap and trade is described thus on Mark Levin’s Facebook page and all Levin’s fans congratulate him for smacking down a “liberal” and an “eco-Marxist”!

So there you have it. When someone like Manzi is a left-wing zealot, then the right has simply ceased to be in any way rational. The circle has closed.

David Frum:

How wonderful to return to a free country, I thought as I stepped off the plane from Beijing at Washington Dulles. No more censorship, no more official lies, no more kowtowing to high officials who gained power by their mindless repetition of party dogma…

Then alas I opened my browser and read the dump-on-Manzi comments on NRO’s The Corner. Manzi had deviated from the One Correct Way of Mark Levin Thought, and all his former colleagues had been summoned together to Denounce and Struggle Against Him.

Not one stood up to be counted in Manzi’s defense, not even colleagues whom Manzi might have had reason to regard as close personal friends. (Take a second to notice whose bylines are missing from yesterday’s discussions.)

What makes this episode all the more remarkable is that Manzi is actually a member of NR’s board of trustees – i.e., somebody who might claim a little more scope to speak his mind. But even for trustees, there are limits, and Manzi crossed them.

It’s important to understand what exactly the limit is.

Manzi could have safely disputed Levin’s claims on global warming if he had observed a couple of conditions. First, acknowledge Liberty and Tyranny as a good and important book. Second, acknowledge Levin’s “service” (i.e., leadership) of the conservative cause. Third, isolate criticisms to one particular finite point – avoid drawing any larger conclusions – and be sure to wrap any criticisms in a blanket of compliments. Just because one particular chapter happens to be slovenly, ignorant, and hysterical should not lead you to question the intellectual merit of the book as a whole.


David Frum

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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.