Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Environmental Markets? Links to Austrians

December 29th, 2007 No comments

Environmental Markets?  Links to Austrians

Here’s a partial list of useful articles, alphabetically by author (further suggestions are appreciated):

Terry L. Anderson and J. Bishop Grewell
Property Rights Solutions for the Global Commons: Bottom-Up or Top-Down?’y+F.+73+pdf

H. Barnett and Bruce Yandle
The End of the Externality Revolution

Walter Block 
Environmentalism and Economic Freedom: the Case for Private Property Rights

Robert W. McGee and Walter E. Block
Pollution Trading Permits as a Form of Market Socialism and the Search for a Real Market Solution to Environmental Pollution
John Bratland
Toward a Calculational Theory and Policy of Intergenerational Sustainability

Roy E. Cordato
Toward An Austrian Theory of Environmental Economics

The Common Law Approach to Pollution Prevention; a Roundtable Discussion (1997) (Hope Babcock, Elizabeth Brubaker, David Schoenbrod, Bruce Yandle, Michael Krauss)

Peter J. Hill

Market-Based Environmentalism and the Free Market; they’re Not the Same

Roger Meiners & Bruce Yandle

Common Law and the Conceit of Modern Environmental Policy, 7 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 923, 926-46 (1999) [attached at end of this post].

Murray N. Rothbard 
Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution

Fred L. Smith, Jr.
The Bankruptcy of Collectivist Environmental Policy

Fred L. Smith, Jr. 
Eco-Socialism: Threat to Liberty around the World

Robert J. Smith 
Resolving the Tragedy of the Commons by Creating Private Property Rights in Wildlife

Ludwig von Mises 
“The Limits of Property Rights and the Problems of External Costs and External Economies”, in Human Action

Bruce Yandle
Coase, Pigou, and Environmental Rights

Bruce Yandle
The Commons: Tragedy or Triumph?


Categories: environment, markets Tags:

Australia Caves to Hysteria; Signs AGW Suicide Pact

December 4th, 2007 No comments
Categories: climate, energy, environment, Kyoto Tags:

At Nature, Hysterical AGW Religious Nuts and Vile Collectivists Say Tropics Are Expanding!

December 3rd, 2007 No comments

[Snark Alert!]

A recent article in Nature Geoscience that shows that measurable climate change – this time the expansion of the tropics – is outpacing predictions. The actual article is abstracted here:

Amazing how the strong belief system of “scientists”/fervent AGW co-religionists (government employees of course; this time NOAA) has actually been measurably changing the climate!

A press release by Nature Geoscience reported the following:

The tropical belt, defined by its typical rain and wind patterns, has started to expand during the last few decades as a result of climate change, according to a progress article published online this week in Nature Geoscience. This ongoing expansion, emerging from a number of independent studies, will affect climate worldwide as the dry subtropical zones are pushed polewards and could come to encompass the Mediterranean region, the southwest USA, Mexico, southern Australia, South Africa and parts of South America.

Dian Seidel and colleagues review recent studies on the width of the tropical belt from independent signs such as changes in atmospheric temperatures, winds and ozone observations, which all distinguish the tropical from the subtropical regions. According to their findings, the tropics have expanded by about 2.5 degrees latitude over the past 25 years or so – an expansion that had not been expected to occur before the end of the twenty-first century from climate model projections.

A further report provides the following background:

Climate models predict that global warming could be causing the tropics to expand. So far, they have suggested a creep of 2°of latitude north and south, but only over the next century.

To find out what has happened so far, a team led by climate scientist Dian Seidel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Silver Spring, Maryland, examined the stratosphere for signs of change in the tropics. She and colleagues surveyed five sets of data collected by satellites and weather balloons from 1979 to 2000. The data showed that tropical climate patterns, such as increased ozone concentrations and temperatures, in the stratosphere had expanded by up to 4.5°of latitude–depending on the observations–in the Northern Hemisphere during that short period.

Atmospheric scientist John Wallace of the University of Washington, Seattle, says the survey “makes a compelling case that the tropical belt has widened substantially over the past 30 years,” and if it continues at the same rate, “it will have major societal implications.” 

The lead hysteric/scientist results reportedly said: 

“Dr Seidel said the surprisingly rapid expansion of the tropics could lead to “profound changes in the global climate system”. Of greatest concern were shifts in rain and wind patterns that would affect natural ecosystems, agriculture and water resources in the world’s subtropical dry belts, including southern Australia. …

“Dr Seidel and her colleagues analysed results from five different types of measurements of the tropics, including ozone levels and temperature.

“These independent studies all found that the tropical zone had expanded between 1979 and 2005 within estimates ranging from two to eight degrees of latitude. This was already greater than the 2-degree expansion by 2010 that climate change models have predicted under the most extreme warming scenario.”

More coverage here.

How convenient – government “scientists” happen to find consistent evidence, across a number of parameters, that climate change is occuring, and faster than predicted by climate models. 

How can we possibly trust this information from the government-funded AGW scientific cartel, whose only incentive is to keep the “climate change” goose well-fed, so they can keep collecting golden eggs from taxpayers?

Perhaps a more accurate headline would be “Scientists Again Prove Climate Models Wrong!”  That would be just as correct, and make me feel better, too.

Categories: climate, environment, gore, religion, science, tropics Tags:

GeoEngineering – More on How to Cool the Globe

October 24th, 2007 No comments

More on geo-engineering at the NYT by climate scientist Ken Caldeira:

I will visit later the question of whether this is something that should be investigated.

Ron Paul on the environment and energy

October 18th, 2007 2 comments

1.  There is an excellent interview of Dr. Ron Paul now up at Grist, the environmental news and commentary site, that explores some of his views on environmental and energy issues. I am with him in principle but think he has underestimated the seriousness of the climate change problem and not seriously thought through the issues yet.

Selected remarks on international issues include the following (emphasis added):

If it is air that crosses a boundary between Canada and the United States, you would have to have two governments come together, voluntarily solving these problems.”

Q:  “What’s your take on global warming? Is it a serious problem and one that’s human-caused?”

A:  “I think some of it is related to human activities, but I don’t think there’s a conclusion yet. There’s a lot of evidence on both sides of that argument. If you study the history, we’ve had a lot of climate changes. We’ve had hot spells and cold spells. They come and go. If there are weather changes, we’re not going to be very good at regulating the weather.

“To assume we have to close down everything in this country and in the world because there’s a fear that we’re going to have this global warming and that we’re going to be swallowed up by the oceans, I think that’s extreme. I don’t buy into that. Yet, I think it’s a worthy discussion.”

Q:  “So you don’t consider climate change a major problem threatening civilization?”


A:  “No. [Laughs.] I think war and financial crises and big governments marching into our homes and elimination of habeas corpus — those are immediate threats. We’re about to lose our whole country and whole republic! If we can be declared an enemy combatant and put away without a trial, then that’s going to affect a lot of us a lot sooner than the temperature going up.”


Q: “What, if anything, do you think the government should do about global warming?”

A:  “They should enforce the principles of private property so that we don’t emit poisons and contribute to it.

And, if other countries are doing it, we should do our best to try to talk them out of doing what might be harmful. We can’t use our army to go to China and dictate to China about the pollution that they may be contributing. You can only use persuasion.”

Q:  “You have voiced strong opposition to the Kyoto Protocol. Can you see supporting a different kind of international treaty to address global warming?”

A:  “It would all depend. I think negotiation and talk and persuasion are worthwhile, but treaties that have law enforcement agencies that force certain countries to do things, I don’t think that would work.”

Q:  “You believe that ultimately private interests will solve global warming?”

A: “I think they’re more capable of it than politicians.”

Q:  ” What’s your position on a carbon tax?”

A:  “I don’t like that. That’s sort of legalizing pollution. If it’s wrong, you can buy these permits, so to speak. It’s wrong to do it, it shouldn’t be allowed.”

[Note:  This seems ambiguous, but I suppose RP intended to disagree with the concept of permits as well as taxes.]

Q:  “You’ve described your opposition to wars for oil as an example of your support for eco-friendly policies. Can you elaborate?”

A:  “Generally speaking, war causes pollution — uranium, burning of fuel for no good purpose. The Pentagon burns more fuel than the whole country of Sweden.”

Q:  “Do you support the goal of energy independence in the U.S.?”

A:  “Sure. But independence does not mean to me that we produce everything. I don’t believe governments have to provide every single ounce of energy. I see independence as having no government-mandated policy: If you need oil or energy, you can buy it.”

Q:  “What about being independent from the Middle East, so we’re not buying oil from hostile countries?”

A:  “I think it’s irrelevant. We wouldn’t be buying it directly, we would be buying it on the world market. I don’t think the goal has to be that we produce alternative fuel so that we never buy oil from the Middle East. The goal should be to provide all useful services and goods through a market mechanism instead of central economic planning or world planning. That system doesn’t work.”

2.  Dr. Paul also discussed energy and the environment in an interview in June, when he said the following:

Q:  “Especially after the release of Al Gore’s global warming documentary, the environment has been very much on people’s minds.  Where do you stand on global warming?”   

A: “Global temperatures have been warming since the Little Ice Age.  Studies within the respectable scientific community have shown that human beings are most likely a part of this process.  As a Congressman, I’ve done a number of things to support environmentally friendly policies.  I have been active in the Green Scissors campaign to cut environmentally harmful spending, I’ve opposed foreign wars for oil, and I’ve spoken out against government programs that encourage development in environmentally sensitive areas, such as flood insurance.”

Q:  How about KYOTO?  

A:  “I strongly oppose the Kyoto treaty.  Providing for a clean environment is an excellent goal, but the Kyoto treaty doesn’t do that.  Instead it’s placed the burden on the United States to cut emissions while not requiring China – the world’s biggest polluter – and other polluting third-world countries to do a thing.  Also, the regulations are harmful for American workers, because it encourages corporations to move their business overseas to countries where the regulations don’t apply.  It’s bad science, it’s bad policy, and it’s bad for America.  I am more than willing to work cooperatively with other nations to come up with policies that will safeguard the environment, but I oppose all nonbinding resolutions that place an unnecessary burden on the United States. 

3.  The New York Times has a new article on the views of the Republican candidates on climate change, but somehow they managed to miss Ron Paul:

Sophomoric optimism?

October 15th, 2007 6 comments

Jon Bostwick agrees on another post that “Man is clever but not wise (“homo sapiens” is a misnomer)”, but further comments (emphasis added):

“True. But humanity is wise. Men create cultures, economies and law.

“Man’s flaw is that he is over confident of his own intelligence. He tries to control things he doesn’t understand, like culture, economies, and law.

You have just made an excellent case for why government involvement will not improve the environment. Because governments, like man, are not wise.” 

This is too simple, as well as self-contradictory. Humanity is wise because he collectively (but non-deliberately?) creates “cultures, economies and law” (let’s not forget governments), but individuals are foolish when they seek to use institutions to achieve particular purposes?

Our states are merely one subset of the wide universe of formal and informal institutions through which we cooperate with one another.  States are not a market, to be sure, but then neither are corporations, and there is a spectrum of ownership types between the two.  We can study all of these institutions and use that knowledge to direct how we make use of them.  Such study has informed, for example, the deliberate shifts in policy that have led to the ongoing (yet incomplete) privatization of the former USSR and of China. 

A study of institutions governing common pool resources by guru Elinor Ostrom makes the following point:

 “Whether people are able to self-organize and manage CPRs also depends on the broader social setting within which they work. National governments can help or hinder local self-organization. “Higher” levels of government can facilitate the assembly of users of a CPR in organizational meetings, provide information that helps identify the problem and possible solutions, and legitimize and help enforce agreements reached by local users. National governments can at times, however, hinder local self-organization by defending rights that lead to overuse or maintaining that the state has ultimate control over resources without actually monitoring and enforcing existing regulations.

“Participants are more likely to adopt effective rules in macro-regimes that facilitate their efforts than in regimes that ignore resource problems entirely or that presume that central authorities must make all decisions.If local authority is not formally recognized by larger regimes, it is difficult for users to establish enforceable rules.

Elinor Ostrom et al., Revisiting the Commons: Local Lessons, Global Challenges, Science, 04/09/99

Was von Mises foolish to suggest we can use the state to reform our institutions?

“It is true that where a considerable part of the costs incurred are external costs from the point of view of the acting individuals or firms, the economic calculation established by them is manifestly defective and their results deceptive. But this is not the outcome of alleged deficiencies inherent in the system of private ownership of the means of production. It is on the contrary a consequence of loopholes left in this system. It could be removed by a reform of the laws concerning liability for damages inflicted and by rescinding the institutional barriers preventing the full operation of private ownership.

And Cordato, for suggesting that Austrians take particular policy approaches to environmental issues?

“For Austrians then, public policy in the area of the environment must focus on resolving these conflicts over the use of resources that define pollution, not on obtaining an ultimately unobtainable “efficient” allocation of resources. … For Austrians, whose goal is to resolve conflicts, the focus is on clarifying titles to property and rights enforcement.

Sorry, but I cannot believe that we are condemned always to repeat all mistakes, despite our rather constant human nature.  Rather, as Yandle notes, our very history as a species is about our success in evolving, devising and adopting ways to manage shared problems.

This is a message of profound optimism, not cynicism — said the fool.

Ron Bailey of Reason congratulates Al Gore

October 15th, 2007 No comments

[updated] A great new post by libertarian Ron Bailey of Reason here:

Congratulations to Al Gore
But be wary of the man’s proposed solutions for global warming.
Ronald Bailey | October 12, 2007

1.  Here are some excerpts (emphasis added), followed by a copy of my comments over at Reason:

[Gore is] wrong to characterize global warming as a moral and spiritual problem. Man-made global warming is not some kind of environmental sin. It’s just another commons problem that has emerged as human civilization continues to develop. Most environmental problems arise in what are called open-access commons. That is, people pollute air and rivers, overfish lakes and oceans, cut down rainforests, and so forth because no one owns those natural resources and therefore no one has an interest in protecting them.

The point is clearest in the case of tropical forests and fisheries. No one owns the forests or fisheries, so anyone may exploit them. No one has an incentive to leave any trees or fish behind because, if they do, someone else will harvest them and get the benefits for themselves. In other words, those who immediately benefit from exploiting the resource do not bear the long-run costs of its ultimate destruction. This mismatch between benefits and costs is a recipe for disaster. Similarly, no one owns the global atmosphere, so there is no incentive for anyone to protect it from various pollutants, including greenhouse gases that tend to raise average global temperatures.

Generally, humanity has solved environmental problems caused by open-access situations by either privatizing the relevant commons or regulating it.  …

As a skeptic of government action, I had hoped that the scientific evidence would lead to the conclusion that global warming would not be much of a problem, so that humanity could avoid the messy and highly politicized process of deciding what to do about it. Although people of good will can still disagree about the scientific evidence for climate change, I now believe that Gore has got it basically right. The balance of the evidence shows that global warming could well be a significant problem over the course of this century.

Yale economist William Nordhaus … calculates that the optimal policy would impose a carbon tax of $34 per metric ton carbon in 2010, with the tax increases gradually reaching $42 per ton in 2015, $90 per ton in 2050, and $207 per ton of carbon in 2100. A $20 per metric ton carbon tax will raise coal prices by $10 per ton, which is about a 40 percent increase over the current price of $25 per ton. A $10 per ton carbon tax translates into a 4 cent per gallon increase in gasoline. A $300 per ton carbon tax would raise gasoline prices by $1.20 per gallon. Following this optimal trajectory would cost $2.2 trillion and reduce climate change damage by $5.2 trillion over the next century. …

Man-made global warming is an economic and technical problem of the sort that humanity has solved many times. For example, forests are expanding in rich countries because they have well-developed private property rights. Also in rich countries, regulations have helped once polluted rivers and lakes to become clean and have drastically cut air pollution. One of the keys to solving environmental problems is economic growth and wealth. …

In any case, global warming is not the result of environmental sin; it is the result of human progress creating another commons problem. … I have no doubt that man-made global warming is an economic and technical problem that an inventive humanity will solve over the course of the 21st century.

Still, congratulations are in order to Al Gore for being recognized by the Nobel committee for his persistence in trying to get humanity to pay attention to this new commons problem.

2.  Here is a digest of my comments to Ron:

Basically, a great post, but I’ve got a few small quibbles.

1.  You were right last year when you said that “In the end, the debate over global warming and its obverse, humanity’s energy future, is a moral issue.”

2.  I share your understanding of the economics and institutional problem and agree that a straightforward explanation of these is important for very many.

3.  However, you forget what evolutionary psychology, Ostrom and Yandle have explained to us so well about how our innate moral sense drives and underpins mankind’s success as a species by enhancing our ability to cooperate and to overcome commons issues.

Our long history of developed rules and institutions (informal and formal now overlapping) are based on our moral sense and the effectiveness of these rules depends critically on our moral investment in accepting their legitimacy – witness our views on murder, theft, lying and “not playing by the rules” – and in voluntarily complying with them.

Our moral sense reinforces our judgments about when rules/institutions are not working and the need to develop new ones in response to changing circumstances and new problems.  When we see a problem that we think requires change, it is unavoidable that we respond to the status quo, the behavior of people within it and the need for change with a moral sense. 

This is simply a part of our evolutionary endowment.  (Of course, other parts of our endowment accentuate our suspicions of smooth talkers and help us catch free riders and looters and to guard against threats from outsiders.)

4.  Accordingly, while it’s unclear how deliberate Gore’s talk of “a moral and spiritual challenge” and “lifting the global consciousness” is or whether this is a productive approach for some people, I think it is fairly clear that, in order to build consensus for a solution to the climate commons problem (and other difficult commons problems) and to ensure that any agreed solutions are actually implemented, we will need to bring our moral senses to bear.

In other words, it is RIGHT to worry about climate change, but no meaningful/effective “solution” can be reached or implemented unless it is FAIR and the parties involved have sufficient TRUST (backed by information) in each other.

5.  You have understated the AGW problem, especially in light of the inertia both in our energy systems and in the climate, the long duration of CO2 and other GHGS, and the rapidity with which the climate is already changing – faster than even this year’s IPCC reports:

6.  It is surprising that in referring to Nordhaus you have not indicated the ways in which it seems clear that Nordhaus has understated the costs and risks of climate change and the utility of acting sooner rather than later, as noted by Weitzman, Sterner & Persson, Quiggin and others, or that by “revenue recycling” as noted by McKitrick we can substantially reduce the costs of carbon abatement policies.

7.  You fail to note that while there are real costs to our economies to build climate change institutions, once established in principle any resulting carbon pricing reflects real costs and is not a “cost” to the economy.

8.  It is a puzzle that you did not note that the most powerful way to call forth the investment and behavior changes that would help us to “find a cheap, low-carbon source of energy” and to limit GHG emissions would be to find ways that would effectively price GHG emissions.

9.  Finally, one further comment on this:

“One of the keys to solving environmental problems is economic growth and wealth.  … So keep in mind that anything that unduly retards economic growth also retards ultimate environmental clean-up, including global warming.”

Not sure what you’re driving at here.

As far as developing countries go, efforts by Western nations to address climate change are actually net subsidies to them (by dampening Western demand for fossil fuels) and are providing incentives and investment for growth.

And as for Western economies, at least in principle internalizing externalities by enclosing commons (that have provided value which has not been factored into GDP) doesn’t retard economic growth, but enables it by forestalling the destruction of resources, permitting greater wealth-generating private transactions and reducing inefficiency.

Boycott China and India?

October 12th, 2007 No comments

“Advanced democracies export their problems to emerging economies, thus shoving the whole problem neatly under the carpet. If the west really believed in being good global citizens we would (just for starters) refuse to trade with China and India. Then there is the small matter of cleaning up our own act.”

I posted the following (with minor tweaks) on a recent thread ( in response to the above assertion: 

The “small matter” of cleaning up our own act (misgovernment in the US) is actually a huge matter and the one that poses the greatest present threat to us, which is why it is hard to get people’s attention for a crusade to run off and save the rest of the world.

Of course, our domestic resource issues are largely under control (though regulation is too rigid and attracts eternal rent-seeking, politicking and division) and we are not literally exporting any problems – other than through our bumbling wars, of course!

However, as I previosuly noted, I fully agree that our market demands are providing incentives for much of the environmental devastation that we are seeing, even while it also creates opoportunities for wealth-generation in the developing world. I think we need to think much harder about these problems, but they are not problems that are so much being deliberately swept under the rug as they are problems that stem from institutional failures elsewhere that do not stare us in the face, even as they are important and though we may be complicit in and share some responsibility for them.

Largely, our relations with China and India are heading in the right directions, though I do think we (using our governments for support – in this others here are likely to disagree with me) should be doing more to help them combat their own environmental and institutional problems, as well as to work to create meaningful property rights in tropical forests (in other countries) and oceans.

On the climate change front, of course we have trade levers to use in getting them to sign onto measures that will help us all to rein in our impacts on climate, and help them to control their destruction of their own environments.

The use of trade levers must be coordinated with others, but clearly we have NO legal claims to prevent them from developing their economies, even were we to consider it moral – for the sake of the planet – to restrain them.

I am in favor of much greater and proactive efforts to deal with our various tragedy of the commons problems, but as they require international cooperation clearly we are not going to make much headway if we make China, India and development generally our enemy. We have to remain focussed on the problems, and under an Austrian framework, that means engagement.

Using the State to solve common resource problems?

October 12th, 2007 No comments

How exactly do you transfer commons into private ownership in a fair way, even for easily divided up stuff like land?

That’s the trillion dollar question that someone asked me on a recent thread ( regarding my suggestion that better definition and enforcement of property rights is key to addressing climate change and other environmental problems in the developing world.  I have excerpted and augmented my response here:

Libertarians do not insist that open-access resources (or common property resources/CPR) be divided up by creating individual property rights; cooperative ownership  via formal agreements or informally developed practices and customs (such those developed by Maine lobstermen, English angling clubs, indigenous peoples and Wikipedia and online communities) may work better at solving the prisoners’ dilemma issues and are just as acceptable.

But technological advances and greater demand often swamp CPR regimes, so such regimes remain vulnerable if they are not accorded legal protection. My understanding of the UK enclosures in this regard is that they were actually a legislative theft of common property by the powerful.

Can states play positive roles in solving problems? At least internally, it is rather clear that the answer is that the state works best by allowing, and providing judicial mechanisms to enforce, private transactions, and works least well when it tries to specify detailed and rigid “solutions” itself – since the government itself never has perfect information, often plays favorites and once a regulatory regime is put in place, parties have no ability to work out their differences directly with each other, but are forever in the position of trying to influence the state and in adversarial positions vis-a-vis each other.  But states can also play a positive role by disseminating information and by acting to facilitate deals between various resources users, particularly in cross-border/multi-state problems.

Elinor Ostrom is the guru of CPR regimes; anyone interested should look into her fascinating and highly-regarded work, particularly her seminal Governing the Commons (1990).

[She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, and a recipient of a number of prestigious awards. Her other books include Rules, Games, and Common-Pool Resources (1994); The Commons in the New Millennium: Challenges and Adaptations (2003); The Samaritan’s Dilemma: The Political Economy of Development Aid (2005); Understanding Institutional Diversity (2005); and Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice (2007).]

Here is one link to get readers started:  Elinor Ostrom et al., Revisiting the Commons: Local Lessons, Global Challenges, Science 9 April 1999:

Technology seems to provide us ability to create property rights regimes in ocean fisheries.

The stickiest problems are those where the resource is located in a country where we cannot ourselves create or enforce legal rights and in the atmosphere, which no one owns and to which all have access.  Unfortunately, many libertarians don’t even want to acknowledge, much less discuss, these problems. Since they are not confined to any one country, clearly we need to coordinate with others – for which purposes our state apparatus cannot be avoided.

Reaching any kind of effective solution for problems of this type will require much more focussed attention and bridge-building (abroad and at home), and if libertarians do not want to be part of the discussion, clearly they will have little influence on the results.

[Previously posted (with some tweaks) on a recent thread ( in response to someone who is concerned about environmental problems but is unfamiliar with Austrian approaches.]

Libertarian denial; clever but not wise

October 12th, 2007 13 comments

[Previously posted on a recent thread (Malthus and Mein Kampf come to Cork – thanks, Sean Corrigan!) in response to someone who is concerned about environmental problems but is unfamiliar with Austrian approaches.]

Man is clever but not wise (“homo sapiens” is a misnomer) and we remain very much a part of the ecosystems that we pretend to master even as we swamp them with the growing demands that our rapidly improving technology and burgeoning populations impose.

While our demands on the natural environment is much tempered in the developed economies by the feedback mechanisms of property rights, markets and pricing signals, those signals are flawed in our own economies as a result of government interference, and in any event are not working well with respect to many resources and products acquired from developing economies – due to the interwined problems of a lack of clear and enforceable property rights, government ownership and regulation/fiat, and kleptocracy and corruption for the benefit of elites.

For other shared resources/ecosystems – the atmosphere and oceans – the lack of property rights or other accepted management regime is leading to clear stresses, as we wipe out one fish stock after another and continue to unintentionally modify our global climate by various economic behavior for which actors have no liability to others.

And in the developing world, our improving technology and growing market demands are devasting tropical forests – which indigenous inhabitants are hapless to defend against theft by governments and elites – and leading to severe environmental problems in places where there are no effective ownership rights or liability rules.

As a result, despite a fair degree of property-rights-based managment in the developed economies, it does rather seem that mankind is eating itself out of house and home, and leaving less and less to our coinhabitants – other than those we`ve made expressly a part of our food chain.

These are very difficult problems that will not go away. My own view is that the reticence with which others here approach these issues is informed by the rather glaring truth – especially in the US – that the government is always susceptible to rent-seeking by parties looking for a handout or special treatment at the cost of others, hopelessly incompetent and always subject to corruption and self-aggrandizement by bureaucrats and power-broking politicians.

The concern about “socialism” is a code for the very worst excesses of government (particularly war and genocide) that we saw in the last century and are still evident today.

Libertarians have been preoccupied with trying to fight government and restore greater human dignity and freedom, and have tended (as the Western environmental crises have been largely resolved) to overlook – as largely out of view – problems of the type that you have been pointing out, while seeing those with environmental concerns as merely another set of obnoxious people trying to get what they want not through the marketplace but by pushing greater governmental involvement. Besides, they are in principle opposed to governments acting, and so find themselves at a loss to address problems that arise are a result of ineffective governance elsewhere.

So they tend to prefer to argue with you over ways in which YOU misunderstand markets (such as correctly explaining that peak oil is not a real problem as it will be handled by the markets as it involves owned resources) rather than how THEY are ignoring the significant cases where the markets are functioning very poorly due to a lack of clear and enforceable property rights.

… [MORE]

It used to be that nature itself kept us in check and our impact on the natural world relative limited. But modern, industrial man is no longer threatened by predators and our cooperative organizational abilities and evolving technology literally mean that we are eating most life on this planet out of house and home. I read recently that humans now consume something like 25% of the world`s primary production.

The question is how do we best regulate our impact? I think we have to acknowledge that man will always place a priority on satisying our personal needs, at the cost of both shared needs and concerns (more or less shared) about the broader environment that supports us and the rest of creation. But there are signs of hope in the west (as Lomborg correctly notes), even as one is easily dismayed by the destruction taking place in the oceans and in less developed countries. The hope is proved by the recovery of domestic environments when people move to protect property rights and regulate industrial activities that are ecologically/economically damaging.

The more difficult problem lies in those places where those who are concerned about the abusive use of resources are unable to express their preferences by directly acquiring and protecting resources or persuading others to do so, because of a want of sufficent law and order.

It seems that, in the face of the ongoing development of parts of the world that are still experiencing population growth, the best we can hope for is the preservation of scraps of the natural world, and that – after ocean fisheries and tropical forests are largely destroyed – that various ownership and management regimes will finally arise that will find economic benefit in restoring parts of the wild.