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Strange But True IV: NOAA proves govt CAN learn – and seeks to end tragedy of commons in fisheries by implementing "catch share" quasi-property rights!

December 21st, 2009 No comments

Fellow libertarians, O Cynical Ones, you might be surprised to note that, at least in some cases, it MAY be possible to educate thick-headed and corrupt government bureaucrats and political appointees about the reasons for policy failures, and the government MIGHT even actually decide to cean up  its act. While the task may be difficult, it is apparently NOT impossible; there is a silver lining; and persistence may pay off in greater local authority.

The case in point? Signs of hope that the US government is learning from the painful lesson of many disastrously managed fisheries, and is starting to empower fishermen to self-manage that the resources on which they rely, by setting policies that favor “catch share” programs. (I have blogged on the fisheries “tragedy of the commons” a number of times; serious problems continue.) “Free-market” enviro-libertarians have been making the case for such changes for thirty-odd years or so.

(BTW, this is exactly the point that Elinor Ostrom has been making for years, and why she was awarded the Nobel prize in economics. Further, as I have previously noted, even mainline enviro groups – those enviro-facists – have been specifically calling for “catch share” programs as a way to slow the disastrous tragedy of the ocean commons.)

Here are excerpts from a December 10 online release bu the , “NOAA Encourages Use of Catch Shares to End Overfishing, Rebuild Fisheries and Fishing Communities”: (emphasis added)

NOAA released today for public comment a draft national policy
encouraging the use of catch shares, a fishery management tool that
aims to end overfishing and rebuild and sustain fishing jobs and
fishing communities
. In doing so, NOAA recognized that catch shares are
not a panacea or one-size-fits-all solution, but are a proven way to
promote sustainable fishing when designed properly at the fishing
community level.

“We have made great progress in rebuilding many fisheries, but more
than 20 percent of our fish stocks have not been rebuilt, and even
larger proportion of our fisheries are not meeting their full economic
potential for the nation,” Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke said.
“Catch shares is a tool that can help us realize the full economic and
biological benefits of rebuilt fisheries.”

Catch share
programs, which include Limited Access Privilege programs and
individual fishing quotas, have been used in the U.S. since 1990 and
are now used in 13 different commercial fisheries. Four new programs
will begin over the next year. 
NOAA estimates that rebuilding U.S.
fish stocks would increase annual commercial dockside values by an
estimated $2.2 billion, a 54-percent increase over current dockside
values of $4.1 billion, and help support jobs in the seafood industry
and across the broader economy.

“From Florida to Alaska, catch share programs help fishing communities
provide good jobs while rebuilding and sustaining healthy fisheries and
ocean ecosystems,”
said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce
for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Although this is a
national policy, our emphasis is on local consideration and design of
catch shares that take into consideration commercial and recreational
fishing interests.”

A catch share program differs from traditional fishery management by
dividing up the total allowable catch in a fishery into shares. These
shares are typically allocated based on historical participation in the
fishery. They may be assigned to individuals, cooperatives, communities
or other entities, who would be allowed to fish up to their assigned
Catch share participants also agree to stop fishing when they
have caught as much as they are allowed.

Under traditional
management programs, fishermen compete for a total allowable catch.
This has lead to fishermen racing each other to catch as many fish as
they can before the total catch limit is reached. This results in more
boats and gear than necessary, quotas being exceeded, increasingly
shorter fishing seasons, unsafe fishing and high levels of bycatch. It
also may result in too many fish brought to market at once, reducing
their market value to fishermen and coastal communities.

“Catch shares allow fishermen to plan their businesses better and be
more selective about when and how they catch their allotment, because
they know their share of the fishery is secure,”
said Dr. Jim Balsiger,
acting administrator of NOAA’s Fisheries Service.
“They can plan their fishing schedules in response to weather, market,
and individual business conditions. Catch share programs help eliminate
the race to fish, reduce overcapacity and bycatch, enhance the safety
of fishermen and their vessels, and improve economic efficiency. They
also help ensure fishermen adhere to annual catch limits because the
value of their share is directly linked to the overall health of the
fish stock and its habitat.”

While catch shares are not
always universally embraced when they are first introduced, their
benefits have been well proven. “We fought against the program right up
until the time it passed,” said Alaska fisherman Rob Wurm, referring to
the halibut and sablefish catch share program, which began in 1995.
”But to my surprise, it really has worked well. It has created a lot of
stability, stopped the race for fish and changed the fishing
environment in ways that have made it safer and allowed us to avoid
bycatch.” …

Members of NOAA’s Catch Shares Policy Task Force, which includes
participants from each of the eight councils as well as NOAA experts,
provided significant input on the draft policy.

Among the policy’s components:

  • Development
    of a catch share program is voluntary. NOAA will not mandate the use of
    catch shares in any commercial, recreational, or subsistence fishery.
  • The
    individual fishery management councils will consult fishing communities
    to evaluate the data, effects, and enforceability of any potential
    catch share program before moving forward. In some cases, councils may
    find catch shares not to be the most appropriate management option.
  • NOAA
    will provide leadership and resources and work in partnership with
    fishery management councils, states and members of the public to help
    with the implementation of catch shares. This includes assisting
    fishing communities as they make the transition, and conducting
    regional workshops, online seminars, and other educational and outreach
  • Well
    thought-out and developed catch share programs will promote sustainable
    fishing communities by supporting good jobs, and promoting preservation
    of wharfs, processing facilities, and fuel and ice suppliers.
  • Catch
    share programs can be designed to set aside shares to allow new
    participants into the fishery, including new generations of fishermen,
    small businesses, or others.

NOAA encourages
those councils adopting catch shares to consider a royalty system to
support science, research and management as fisheries become more
profitable under the program. NOAA will also seek appropriated funds to
supplement what may be collected through cost recovery and royalties to
assist in the design, transition period and operation of catch share

Readers may note very close parallels between NOAA`s approach and the common principles for sucesssful management of open-access resources that Ostrom has identified.

Let`s hope that the US and other nations can use similar approaches to begin to manage any number of fisheries that are crashing or are under severe pressure around the world – due both to government-instigated commons problems and to races to catch fish in pelagic regions not subject to meaningful government control. We could use approaches that actually empower the fishermen, and end both government mismanagement and politicization and chaotic systems of widespread, roving and destructive “fish raiders”. The alternatives of fisheries that have crash and been placed under bans (under the CITES convention) and politicized deadlocks that we see for whales under the IWC are not very attractive.

So, we ARE making some progress.  Forgive me for suggesting that similar efforts by libertarians to play a productive role regarding energy policy might also eventually pay off?

Libertarians to lefty-enviros: without community-based property rights, sustainable fisheries are impossible

May 11th, 2009 No comments

Readers from RealClimate, thanks for your visit.

Here`s my comment with embedded links:

#188 / 245: Neal & Jim, thanks for the references to the successful experiments in Iceland, NZ and the Alaskan pollock fishery to replace the tragedy of the government commons with property rights approaches that gives the fishermen a stake in protecting the resources they harvest, instead of simply an incentive to invest in a mad race to catch fish before others do in a continually shrinking fishery with shorter and shorter seasons.

Don Leal and other free market environmentalists (particularly at PERC in Bozeman) have long been leaders in this field, and interest is finally growing, as the serial collapse of important fisheries continues.

Elinor Ostrom has also been a leader in documenting the ways that a community of users (NOT the dread and sloppily misused “soc-ial-ism”) may effectively manage a shared resource.

Readers might be interested in the World Bank`s Oct 2008 report, “The Sunken Billions; The Economic Justification for Fisheries Reform”.

With support from the World Bank, PERC is in the middle of hosting a conference on approaches to sustainable fisheries (and on ending the massive overharvesting and wasted subsidies and malinvestment under current regulatory approaches).

I also urge readers to look at what the organization Defying Ocean’s End (cofounded by Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Ocean Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, The World Conservation Union, and World Wildlife Fundhas to say about protecting fish:

“Most of the solutions that have been implemented or proposed to fix the world’s fisheries center on command-and-control measures: regulators or courts telling fishermen how to fish through the imposition of controls on effort (e.g., fishing vessel length, engine horsepower, gear restrictions, etc.). Prescriptions like these work against strong economic incentives for maximizing catch, which are not addressed by such measures, and are of course usually resisted by fishermen. Often, prescriptions create incentives for “work-arounds” and set up a cat-and-mouse game between fishermen and regulators – for example, if regulators impose a restriction on vessel size, fishermen may purchase two vessels to maintain high catch levels.

“As in most natural resource problems, more effective solutions will address the fundamental drivers of unsustainable fisheries. In this case, the key necessary reform will be to designate secure catch privileges. It is important to understand that such privileges can be allocated to different kinds of entities in different ways, and indeed, they should be tailored to specific fisheries and communities to fit with local customs, traditions, values, and social structure.”

I`ve linked a number of my other posts on fisheries here

Categories: fisheries, property rights, RealClimate Tags:

Strange but true: in the context of climate & fisheries, enviros discuss property rights, cooperation and the tragedy of the commons

May 9th, 2009 No comments

Here, in the belly of the Beast – the ” RealClimate” blog by climate scientists.

Anybody wanna chip in?

So far, comments by yours truly are as follows:

134. TokyoTom Says:

thanks for a thoughtful post that I hope will be brought to the
attention of every so-called “skeptic” – none of whom has any basis to
deny that there are simply NO property rights protecting the atmosphere
(or the oceans).

As a result, to prevent a continuing “tragedy of the commons” the
nations of the world, we need to make a collective effort to manage what
is, after all, a shared resource.

It`s nice to see that others see that where there are no formal or
informal property rights or similar mechanisms, all incentives point to


171. TokyoTom Says:

rights are not an end-all or be-all, but they are a linchpin in
understanding the dynamics of the tragedy of the commons problem.
Resources that are owned – formally or informally, in common or
privately – are husbanded, at least much better that when they are not.

This is a key point to keep hammering home with “conservatives”,
“skeptics” and ordinary people, whom can all recognize that market
demands produce a tragedy of the commons whenever valuable resources
are not owned (or cannot be protected) by those who use them.

When there is ownership, (1) users have incentives to invest in
protecting what, after all, supports their own livelihoods and, even
further, (2) those who also care about the resource have an ability to
also protect the resource – by investing it themselves, or by making
other private, market decisions, such as to boycott particular owners
and to favor others.

When there is no ownership, there is very limited ability by anyone
to protect the resource directly, and what we are left with is a battle
of words.

Of course a corollary problem that requires attention is that when
resources are “publicly” owned, such resources may in fact be treated
as a commons, or something that politicians and bureaucrats dole out to
whomever is in favor – witness the environmental destruction in
communist states, the logging of “public” tropical forests, and our own
continued mismanagement of public lands.

In that case of fisheries, this is so readily apparent that even the
mainline environmental groups are now calling for giving fishermen
property rights in the fish they catch in order to end the destructive
race to catch them:

Meanwhile, concerned citizens continue to misunderstand the key
dynamics of environmental problems, and to miss opportunities to rub
the faces of “market” fundamentalists and “conservatives” in the
obvious lack of property rights in the atmosphere (and a related
inability of those adversely affected by using the atmosphere as a
dumping ground to seek redress from those who profit from using it as

For crashing fisheries, a coalition of mainline US enviro groups calls for …. property rights!

January 15th, 2009 No comments

In a recent post, Andy Revkin, a New York Times reporter who blogs on energy and environmental issues at his “Dot Earth” blog, asks “When whale species, like the minke, are no longer rare, can they be both admired and eaten — as North Americans do with bison — or is it simply wrong to kill whales at all?”

In a comment in response, I noted that as whales are unowned, the problem of how to manage whale stocks shares much in common with the problem of ocean fisheries – viz., open access tragedies of the commons, and politicized management – further noted that the main US environmental groups have very clearly recognized, somewhat surprisingly, that implementing property rights systems is vital to ensuring the long-term protection of fisheries.

Mainline enviros pushing for property rights?  Has the world gone crazy?

I copy below my comment, which quotes the key fisheries statement by the enviro coalition (emphasis added):

Andy, of course the real problem with whales, bluefin tuna and most other ocean resources is that no one owns them, so catching them for one dinner plate or another is frequently a classic tragedy of the commons or, if governments regulate catch, a race to catch within season all while trying to make sure limits are not set too low.

This is the reason why whaling stocks crashed and whalers agreed to a moratorium. The fact that whales remain unowned but further takings are decided by a committee of nations is what ties the dispute to a political process – a process that frankly serves no one’s long-term interest and is a distraction from the more important problems of protecting crashing ocean fisheries in general.

The clear way forward is in establishing rights to the particular stock of whales or fish, so that those who value the resource can invest in protecting it. This holds true just as much for whales as for fish.

This is what the organization Defying Ocean’s End (cofounded by Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Ocean Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, The World Conservation Union, and World Wildlife Fund) has to say about protecting fish:…

“Overfishing, high bycatch rates, the use of gear types that damage habitat (like trawls and dredges), and the large subsidies supporting fisheries (totally over $15 billion per year) are all symptoms of an underlying problem. In most fisheries that are exhibiting declines in landings and revenues, overfishing, bycatch, and habitat damage, actions that result in the symptoms are actually rational given the way the fisheries are managed. In these fisheries, secure privileges to catch certain amounts of fish are not specified, so naturally individual fishermen compete to maximize their individual shares of the catch. No incentives for conservation exist in this situation, because every fish conserved can be caught by another fisherman. The competition to maximize catch often results in a fishery “arms race”, resulting in the purchase of multiple vessels, the use of powerful engines and large vessels, and the use of highly efficient gear like trawls. Capital costs for vessels and gear increase as a result. At the same time, the competition to maximize catch often results in supply gluts, as most fishermen land large catches at the same time during seasons that become shorter and shorter due to the excessive number of vessels participating in the fishery. Prices paid to fishermen are reduced by the glut, and the quality of fish supplied to consumers declines as well (from fresh to frozen). The non-market costs associated with this kind of behavior — such as habitat damage, overfishing, and bycatch — are passed on to the fishery and onto society as a whole.

“Most of the solutions that have been implemented or proposed to fix the world’s fisheries center on command-and-control measures: regulators or courts telling fishermen how to fish through the imposition of controls on effort (e.g., fishing vessel length, engine horsepower, gear restrictions, etc.). Prescriptions like these work against strong economic incentives for maximizing catch, which are not addressed by such measures, and are of course usually resisted by fishermen. Often, prescriptions create incentives for “work-arounds” and set up a cat-and-mouse game between fishermen and regulators – for example, if regulators impose a restriction on vessel size, fishermen may purchase two vessels to maintain high catch levels.

As in most natural resource problems, more effective solutions will address the fundamental drivers of unsustainable fisheries. In this case, the key necessary reform will be to designate secure catch privileges. It is important to understand that such privileges can be allocated to different kinds of entities in different ways, and indeed, they should be tailored to specific fisheries and communities to fit with local customs, traditions, values, and social structure.”

FWIW, I’ve blogged on whales and fishing any number of times:……

The problem of crashing fisheries is a far greater one than what to do about whales, so it is a real shame that the environmental community, Japan (which consumes much of the world’s fish) and other nations cannot see fit to bury the hatchet – at least on whale populations that are growing (perhaps by applying a property rights regime that would allocate ownership rights not only to whaling fleets but to conservation groups) – and work together on setting up sustainable, property-rights based harvesting regimes on imperilled ocean fisheries.

Save wild fisheries – buy your certified sustainable salmon from Walmart!

December 9th, 2008 No comments

I’ve blogged before on the “tragedy of the commons”/bureaucratic mismanagement problems that underlie the crashing of the West Coast salmon fisheries  and that imperil the giant Atlantic bluefin tuna ; a recent article by Fortune shows that there are glimmers of hope for ocean fisheries, when large-volume purchasers like Walmart lead the charge by insisting that the fish they purchase come from a fishery that is independently certified as sustainable

In my post on tuna, I suggested that hope might lie in having the Japanese, who consume most of the tuna, bring concentrated pressure to bear on fishermen; here’s to hope that they and that fishers of Atlantic bluefin (and their governments) can similarly get their acts in order before the resource is decimated beyond recovery.

Who knows – maybe ensuring sustainability and creating ownership rights in stocks may also be a way to for environmentalists and the Japanese and others to bury the hatchet and come to terms on minke and other non-threatened whale stocks

h/t to Lynne Kiesling, who at her blog Knowledge Problem points to the Marine Stewardship Council as the organization that has been leading the “bottom-up, voluntary, collaborative” effort with scientists, industry, consumers and environmental groups to develop sustainability criteria for various fisheries and to support sustainability by tying sustainable practices to market demands via a credible third-party eco-label.

George Monbiot: Why do governments subsidize the rush by fishermen to destroy unowned ocean fisheries?

July 9th, 2008 No comments

In the context of the latest fuel strikes by European fishermen, George Monbiot has an excellent piece in the July 8th Guardian that explores the role of governments in subsidizing the destructive “tragedy of the commons” that is ocean fisheries.

It is, however, a shame that Monbiot makes no reference to what many observers are starting to realize:  that the solution to solving over-fishing lies in getting the government out of the business of political management of the resources that fishermen depend on, and putting responsibility, control and incentives to invest in resource management back in the hands of fishermen. 

Although government interference in resource markets has been a resounding failure (witness the destruction of the US salmon fisheries), a light at the end of the tunnel has appeared in the form of privatization through “ITQs” or Individual Transferable Quotas, as noted by:

Ron Bailey, science correspondent of Reason, in “How to Save New England’s Fishing Villages; If only the fishers will allow it” (September 28, 2005) and in”Pick Your Poissons; Economic and ecological diversity for fisheries“(August 25, 2006); and by

Birgir Runolfsson, in Cato’s Regulation, in “Fencing the Oceans A Rights-Based Approach to Privatizing Fisheries” (vol. 20, no. 3, 1997).

Further, Jonathan Adler, law prof at Case Western Reserve University, has a very interesting discussion of how the enforcement of antitrust laws have frustrated cooperative fishery management  (March 2002).

While these materials focus on domestic marine fisheries, similar strategies are needed at regional levels.



Whales and fisheries – "standing up to Japan", or managing/enclosing the commons?

February 15th, 2008 2 comments

Dave Neiwert, a thoughtful voice on the left and with an experienced, informed view on America’s right-wing racist fringe, has a rather confused post up on whaling on his blog, Orcinus

Neiwert sends a mixed message by saying we need to “stand up to Japan”, by prominently posting recent footage of a whale’s death struggles at the hands of Japan’s “scientific” whaling fleet, and then by calling for the need to build bridges and networks over physical confrontation – but doesn’t really begin to explain why whales have become so politicized or the best way to turn deadlock into a desperately needed victory for management of the ocean commons

Copied below are my comments to his post (edited and emphasis added):

Gravatar Dave, with you and others thoughtlessly feeding the political grandstanding, it’s hard to see how the bridge- and coalition-building that is needed to tackle whaling – or the much more serious and pressing global fisheries – issues is ever going to get off the ground.

As others have noted, the Japanese came late in the whaling game, mainly after WWII (with US encouragement) and after the stocks were already starting to crash after a 150 years of western industrialized whaling pressure.

The Japanese persist in pelagic whaling [which is obviously non-traditional] despite the damage it does to their international reputation and long-term national interests because Westerners have done a great job of stiffening the spines of conservative politicians – so much so that while Japan’s private industry has completely abandoned the hunt, whaling persists as a wholly government-owned (and loss-making) endeavor!

Have you ever spent any time wonder WHY we care so much more about a Japan’s ‘scientific’ catch of a few whales now (which make no noticeable impact on growing populations, and a return to commercialized whaling under the IWC nowhere to be seen) than we do about the millions of very intelligent pigs, and less intelligent cattle etc. that we slaughter annually? The answer is simple, of course – though we should care about how humanely animals are killed to satisfy our wants, we have our greatest political battles over resources that NOBODY owns and for which unrestrained take can obviously imperil their very existence and lead to extinction. Because there are no ownership rights, political action has been needed.

But politics may often simply feed rancor and provide opportunities for grandstanding by politicians and others interested in protecting or using the resource – at our long-term detriment. Japan should be an obvious ally in preventing the crashing of global fisheries and ensuring their sustainability, but it lets itself be caught up in this emotional nonsense. So while environmentalists should care about building coalitions to rationally manage the oceans as a whole, they choose instead to fight what should be one of their greatest natural allies – a nation which ought to care greatly about the sustainability of the fish harvests they consume – because the partisan battles provide such a rush and keep those contributions rolling in.

There are obvious solutions on whales, that would allow some take of abundant species while protecting others. Establishing property rights of the kind that are now being seen as the solution for managing fisheries (‘catch shares’ or ITQs) is one, and one that would allow environmentalists to directly express their preferences by owning and managing their own stocks, and buying rights from others.

But it’s time to start realizing that the current terms of discussion about whales are not only unproductive, but actually imperil much more important issues about fisheries.

Some comments (2006) to Chris Mooney about anti-Malthusian Ron Bailey on doomsayers, extinctions and DDT

January 6th, 2015 No comments
Here are some comments that I sent to Chris C. Mooney in response to his June 2, 2006 blogpost, “Some Ron Bailey Writings.”

Chris, in addition to the comments I’ve already given, let me note the following:

1. On Club of Rome and the Malthusian issue generally, the doomsayers were right to perceive problems that are still with us, but they failed to understand how market supply and demand work to call forth new supplies and technologies. Now we use sand [glass fiber] instead of copper for our telecommunications. They were very wrong on commodity prices, but what were the consequences? We adapted, so it can hardly be said to be one of the “worst” abuses of science (in any case the projections were not an abuse of science, but mistaken modelling).

In the big picture, Club of Rome was exactly right about a point on which we are still struggling – like any other species, humanity is a part of its environment and we must be concerned about our impact on the environment. Without the proper feedback mechanisms – which are provided now soleyl by disease, war and properly functioning markets – we will expand up to the Earth’s carrying capacity, overshoot and crash, as we have from time to time in the past, as Jared Diamond points out (but Diamond doesn’t understand environmental problems as market-failure problems either).

Are all the feedback mechanisms working properly worldwide? There is still lots of misery and starvation in the third world, and where markets don’t work we have internecine slaughter like in Rwanda and constant instability in Haiti. Global ecosystems and environmental services are still at severe risk, and regional resources like Asian and South American tropical forests, tropical reefs and oceanic fisheries, and wild species everrywhere, precisely for reasons that Ron Bailey understands well – because markets do not work well where property rights – private or communal – are not clearly defined or not effectively enforced.

On this, I recommend that you take a look at Ron’s piece last year on the problems and solutions for New England fisheries: How to Save New England’s Fishing Villages – If only the fishers will allow it. The solution? Creation of private rights that allow a market to function; here, “Individual transferable quotas” (ITQs) that are exactly the same as taken for SO2 trading in California under the Clean Air Act and the GHG emissions permits now trading under Kyoto. These tragedy of the commons issues persist globally and must be addressed, unless we wish to see ineffectively owned resources destroyed.

It’s also worth pointing out that the Malthusians have been wrong only becuase our technological ingenuity has enabled us to wrest more and more from nature. Nature may be getting a break in the West, but it’s due not only to fossil fuels (and a AGW cost that is not being paid) but also because we’re sourcing more and more from the developing world – the oceans are being strip-mined, the Amazon being converted to soybeans and the Asian tropics to palm plantations, and the second/third worlds are definitely converting forests to food. Environmental services are not costed into the moder economy.

I also recommend you look at the Business Rountable’s policy paper on how to help the developing world improve their economies and prepare for climate change – in particular recommendations 2 (kleptocracy – “public” resources are not protected but exploited to line the pockets of elites) and 5 (lack of effective propertty rights) specifically point out that these institutional failures lie at the core of the third world’s problems.

2. I think there is more recent information about one in seven of all bird species being threatened. Whatever the rate is, it is huge, and just like fisheries, it’s entirely due to the lack of effective property rights. The bright spots are where landowners have figured out that they can get a good income from using and protecting wild resources. We’re still fighting about whales, even though we have obvious solutions such as ITQs being applied to other fisheries in NZ and AK.

Ron can argue with you about the numbers of species, but he really can’t disagree that the loss of this genetic information is a disgrace many worse than the burning of the library of Alexandria, and certainly is a result of failed markets that should be fixed.

Since libertarians like Ron and others on the right actually know all about the problems of market failure, where is the big effort being made to fix these problems?

3. On DDT, I imagine you know that Tim Lambert at Deltoid already has all of the answers handy.

4. This isn’t one of your questions, but I think it is fair to note that the failures of the left relating to science have really been failures to understand the institutional reasons for problems and so failures to propose the right solutions. Those on the left who have been saying that we need to change human nature or abandon capitalism have been saying so because they simply don’t know otherwise how to “fix” capitalism’s flaws.

But as I imagine you know, the misuse of science the right, on the other hand, has been entirely intentional, cynical and venal, and designed to allow favored interests (rent-seekers) to continue to pay cheap for dear public resources (including using the atmosphere as a GHG dump), for the financial and partisan benefit of those running the government. See John Baden, a grandfather of libertarian, free-market environmentalism for his take on the corrupt Republicans:

Good luck!



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The Bundys, the BLM and the fruits of Govt-owned “property”

April 17th, 2014 No comments

[cross-posted from The Anti-Establishment Center Community on Facebook]

A few thoughts on the notion of Govt-owned “property”, in connection with the radical misanthropes who have been ranching in Nevada for 100+ years on “Federal land”.

I’m afraid it’s turtles all the way down, with respect to corrupt “Govt ownership,” particularly with respect to the politics and special interests relating to the Bundy Ranch and Gold Butte:

Also, please consider the corrupt mining of coal, oil, gas and hard rock minerals, our forests and offshore resources, including fisheries — from BP/Gulf to Alberta’s oil sands.

Then consider the corrupt railroad grants and payments, the creation of ‪#‎LimitedLiability‬ corporations, and the granting to them of pollution permits and use of Govt eminent domain powers.

Finally, don’t ignore all the ridiculous, expensive and environmental Federal hankypanky/”Defense” activities — including decades of open-air nuclear bomb testing — that are possible because the Govt asserted territorial claims over vast resources in which natives, Mexicans and tens of thousands of Americans had already “homesteaded” and lived in one way or another. The Feds have long been and continue to be agents for wealthy private interests to take control of land already used by others.

The destruction of the Appalachians is a long historical example of rich men using government to take land from others who were there first, and using state-made corporations to hide behind the thugs they hired:

The story continues, and hopefully the Bundy ranch dispute can be a trigger for people seeing a bigger picture.

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IF the Planet's First-Ever Human-Precipitated Mass-Extinction is Underway, So What? || A dialogue between Libertarians

January 31st, 2013 No comments

I just stumbled across an old post and comment thread, that I thought some might find worth pondering, so am cross-posting it here.

*   *   *

Planet’s First-Ever Mass-Extinction Precipitated by Humans

Should we be alarmed at the current massive die-offs being noted in the animal and plant kingdoms? After all, new species arise and old species die off all the time. Its just nature taking its course, right? Not necessarily. What’s different about this die-off is that this is the only such event precipitated by a biotic agent: humans.

read more | digg story


Blogger James Rothfeld said…

Wrong. One of the largest extinctions in the history of our earth was when oxygen from photosynthetic life forms began to reach levels that were toxic for anaerobic life forms. Granted, the victims were mostly bacteria and some other simple life forms, but – extinction is extinction.

So, humans are not the first biotic agent to lead to massive extinctions.

4/23/2009 01:43:00 AM
Blogger TokyoTom said…

James, thanks for honoring me with a visit and comment.

Of course, I mainly blog at LVMI – – and I`m not really quite sure what I did that caused this post (which is the intro to a longer piece that I didn`t write) to go up, but in any case I appreciate the engagement.

You have a valid point about the great switch from anaerobic to aerobic life, which many people seem to forget about, but:

– obviously the main comparison is which other great extinction events (caused by meteors/ volcanic/ climate events) that affected complex vertebrate and other life, not archaea or bacteria;

– the event you speak of actually CONTRIBUTED to the development of more complex life;

– there is plenty of anaerobic life still around and being discovered (even in rocks miles down), and we really have very little idea as to whether the switch to aerobic life caused any kind of massive loss of anaerobic species; and

– what we are now doing to the oceans – via “dead zones” resulting from fertilizer run-off and further changes expected from warming and pH changes will result in areas not “dead”, but occupied by less complex anaerobic bacterial communities.

4/23/2009 03:20:00 AM
Blogger James Rothfeld said…

Now you are weaseling out, Tom! You did not specify that you were only referring to complex vertebrae, but only seemed to talk about extinctions in general. I think this is arbitrary and obfuscates the point: the point is that extinctions are caused by all kinds of events, and at the time of the event, they are not horrible for most life forms (horrible being a function of going extinct).

The argument that the aerobic extinction contributed to more complex life forms does not really get us anywhere, since there is no reason to assume that higher life could not emerge out of anaerobic life. What can be said is that the aerobic extinction contribute to the emergence of complex aerobic life, but that’s simply proving the assumption, or whatever logical fallacy we are dealing with here. The likely reason anaerobic life is rather simple these days is that it is forced to live in rather confined environs, including the gut of aerobic life.

The world’s oceans seem to have passed through a number of anoxic events, and those life forms that made it through the malaise probably did quite nicely as competition was greatly reduced. I’m sure life as such will make it quite nicely through the next one as well. Whether we humans will make it through it remains to be seen, though I am actually quite optimistic (pessimistic??) that they will. In smaller numbers, but nonetheless.

I think it is too early to judge whether or not the current extinction will in fact be a disaster. I am in fact not even convinced we are really going through a particularly dramatic extinction – the claim about dozens or even hundreds of species going extinct is based on some pretty speculative reasoning.

As far as I know, there have only been about 300 or so documented extinctions in the last few centuries. I also don’t think the the extinction of species limited to very small local habitats should really be counted: if the only place you can find a particular animal is a small island or a specific mountain, I suggest the species is done for no matter what.

I also don’t think that anybody has yet established a relationship between species extinction and human survival (and don’t start with the buffalos – the populations at First Contact were human artifacts).

But, back to the dead-zones in the oceans: I am amused that few ecologists have yet made the link between agricultural subsidies and fertilizer run-off. The link is so blatant and in your face, this oversight is almost telling.

In any case, I came by your blog because that’s where clicking on your name at Crash Landing gets me.



4/23/2009 06:32:00 AM
Blogger TokyoTom said…

James, I was not weaselling out, but expanding on a point that you also acknowledged: “Granted, the victims were mostly bacteria and some other simple life forms.”

The fact that remains that if there is a wave of extinctions underway as a result of the rise of opportunistic and technological man (with various man-related extinctions starting millenia ago), this is clearly different from prior catastrophic extinctions, which resulted from external physical impacts on the planet. That`s the comparison being made, and reference to the initial shift to oxic life forms is interesting, but irrelevant.

“there have only been about 300 or so documented extinctions in the last few centuries. “

This of course tells us little, since even now we have no comprehensive catalog of life.

“I also don’t think the the extinction of species limited to very small local habitats should really be counted: if the only place you can find a particular animal is a small island or a specific mountain, I suggest the species is done for no matter what.”

I fear you are right as to the “no matter what”, but your conclusion that the extinction of localized species “shouldn`t count” is a value judgment. Good Austrians will recognize that others have equally valid preferences. Biologists and others familiar with the dimishing diversity of life express a deep sense of loss.

4/23/2009 11:50:00 AM
Blogger James Rothfeld said…

Tom – I was just teasing about the weaseling in any case. What I am trying to get at is your last point: whether or not any of this is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder. Every activity has externalities – whether good or bad depends on the judgment of those affected, physically or otherwise, including emotionally.

So, yes, localized species extinction is certainly not good for the species affected or those who care about them. Maybe the world would be a better place with dodos and woolly mammoth in it, but maybe not. Who can tell?

I’m sure nomads think settled societies with their strict geographic borders stink, but farmers have little sympathy for dirty herders and their stomping herds.

Will the world be worse off if the only life forms to survive are those that serve human needs? Aesthetically, I would say no, but then again, those who will live in such a world will hardly miss what they have never known.

I don’t lose sleep because there are no more Aurochs, even though I think they were really amazing animals. I also don’t miss the dinosaurs, though other might differ.

In the end, it’s all a question of preference – and who am I to say that my preferences are any more worthwhile than those of others.

Here’s another question I was wondering about, by the way, and it’s serious – if a change in technology would bring about economic ruin for a particular region and its population, simply because it would make their only product useless, would the inventor/users of this technology have to compensate the people who were damaged? Would the users of word processing software have to compensate print employees for lost jobs? Would users of the internet have to compensate newspaper workers for lost jobs? I’m not being funny, it’s an important question that is directly relevant for the question of property rights in the context of environmental change. I am sure you see the relevance. I have no real answer to this (except gut opinion). Any thoughts?

4/24/2009 05:48:00 AM
Blogger TokyoTom said…

“Maybe the world would be a better place with dodos and woolly mammoth in it, but maybe not. Who can tell?”

I agree completely that this is a question of human judgment. However, we should acknowledge that we are bumping some species off the planet and squeezing others drastically (and many to a completely unknown degree).

“Will the world be worse off if the only life forms to survive are those that serve human needs?”

Are you confident that the species that don`t survive don`t serve human needs? Many we simply have no clue about, while others, such as whales, dodos, passenger pigeons, Steller sea cows and numerous crashed/crashing fisheries have been extinguished and are threatened not because of lack of utility, but simply because nobody owned them.

How much more shall we destroy, for want of investment in property rights/commons management?

” would say no, but then again, those who will live in such a world will hardly miss what they have never known.”

Only partly true, as some of the world that we have been losing has been and will be documented.

“would the inventor/users of this technology have to compensate the people who were damaged?”

Not in a libertarian order. But I fail to see the relevance to “environmental” problems, either those that involve activities that damage the persons or property of others, or damage resources that are communally owned or are owned under regimes that fail to protect the resources. Care to clarify?

5/19/2009 01:04:00 PM
Blogger James Rothfeld said…

My basic point is that every action has effects at least one person would perceive as injurious to their well-being, and would prefer that it rather not happen. If we were to refrain from all such actions, we would probably lose the freedom to act at all. Fundamentally, I want to argue that a ‘negative externality’ that cannot be dealt within a libertarian order has to be simply accepted as a given along the lines of ‘shit happens’.
If we cannot find a non-libertarian solution to an environmental problem, than so be it. That’s my only point. Nothing more, nothing less. Which is why I agree that in a libertarian order it’s your tough luck that you lose your job because somebody else is smarter. It also means that if, for example, people using a specific aquifer cannot agree on a libertarian solution to its management simply have to suck it up. Or that if I live on a nice piece of land with a pretty view, and my neighbor erects an ugly building with garish design elements spoiling my aesthetic enjoyment, I’ll have to suck it up – unless the two of us can agree on a solution.
I think some environmental problems have no libertarian solution. I don’t know which they are, but maybe we simply have to accept that.
For example, there may be no libertarian solution to fighting asteroids about to hit our planet. Maybe we could collectively deal with it, but maybe not enough people can be bothered – or believe in it – and so the few who care simply have to deal with the fact that they will die, well-knowing that a solution was at hand.

To repeat the point: in my hierarchy of needs, freedom comes before security. If the price of freedom is to live in a world that will experience dramatic changes in climate, and if the only way to avoid is were to give up my personal freedom – then I’ll accept the dramatic changes in climate.

That’s my only point.

5/20/2009 09:55:00 AM
Blogger TokyoTom said…

Thanks for the clarifications, James.

I`m not so far away from you, but come to different conclusions: where there are obvious commons problems, those who care about the problem should obviously work to resolve them.

This includes libertarians who are personally most interested in individual freedom, freedom that is imperilled by the state-heavy “solutions” that often underlie the problem (to the benefit of entrenched insiders) in the first place.

Far from leaving the field of battle to others, libertarian ought to be proactively trying to mediate, lest what they value most highly be trampled.

5/20/2009 10:51:00 AM
Blogger James Rothfeld said…

Seems we ran out of disagreements 🙂

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