Archive for the ‘Kinsella: climate change’ Category

[Update- apology] The Road Not Taken III: Stephan Kinsella plugs his ears on the Austrians` obstinate, willful irrelevancy in the climate debate?

November 2nd, 2009 5 comments

[Note: Stephan Kinsella tells me he has NOT put my posts on his thread on moderation.  I believe him, and so (even as I fail to understand why I was unable to post a particular comment after a number of attempts), as noted I would in my original post, I withdraw my charge that he put my comments on moderation, and offer my sincere apology to Stephan (and to LvMI readers) for my mistake and for the offense that I imagine I may have caused to his sense of fair play. I am happy to do this, though of course I deeply regret my mistake.

Stephan, I`m sorry. I take your word that the conclusion I jumped to was wrong.

I am still trying to puzzle through what happened; below I have restored an edited version of my prior post, with the unjustifed portions deleted.

Meanwhile, the discussion continues at the Mises Blog, at the above thread.]


In my preceding post I commented on Austrian (dis)engagement on climate issues, as exemplified by Stephan Kinsella`s Mises Blog post, “Physicist Howard Hayden’s one-letter disproof of global warming claims”.


Instead of the usual cheerful message LvMI provides when comments
are accepted (“Confirmation…  Your comment has been submitted!)”, my
attempts  to comment are now met with the message, “Thank you for commenting.  Your comment has been received and held for approval by the blog owner.”

While there are times that this message is automatically served up
for technical reasons, such as not providing proper email address
(i.e., by accidently typing in “.comh” instead of “.com”) or providing
too many links (which may trigger a spamblocking feature), this [seemed to me] to be fairly clearly NOT one of those occasions – I had just successfully
posted a couple of comments that included links, and my “failed” post
included my usual email address (properly formatted, as I can confirm
simply by backing up) and no links.


I copy below the comment that I
[had supposed] turned his playful non-responsiveness (see his comment to my prior post) into stony silence/silencing:

  • Published: October 31, 2009 1:00 PM
  • TokyoTom

    Stephan, if I may, I am appalled and offended by your shallow and
    fundamentally dishonest engagement here. That there are a string of
    others who have preceded you in this regard is no excuse.

    You: (i) post without significant comment a one-page letter from a
    scientist – as if the letter itself is vindication, victory or a
    roadmap for how we should seek to engage the views and preferences of

    (ii) refuse to answer my straightforward questions (both above and
    at my cross-linked post, which you visited) on how we engage others in
    the very active ongoing political debate, in a manner that actually
    defends and advances our policy agenda, (putting aside the
    insulting and disingenuous “Tokyo asked me to respond” and “it’s so
    rambling I am not sure what to respond to”); and

    (iii) then proceed to present your own view of the science, the
    motives and sanity “watermelons” (as if they`re running the show), a
    few helpful, free-market libertarian “solutions”, like open-air
    explosion of nuclear weapons to bring about a “nuclear winter” effect!

    And my attempt to bring your focus back to the question of how we
    actually deal with others in the POLITICAL bargaining that is, after
    all, underway is met with silence – other than your faithful report
    back from your trusty climate physicist expert policy guru friend about
    …. science (all being essentially irrelevant to my question, not
    merely the cute little folksy demonstration about how the troubling
    melting and thinning of Antarctic ice sheets actually now underway
    simply CAN`T be occurring, but also a further failure to address the
    very rapid ocean acidification our CO2 emissions are producing)!

    Maybe it`s me, but I find this type of insincere and shallow
    engagement on such a serious issue to be a shameful discredit to the
    Mises Blog (even if it does cater to those who prefer to think that the
    big to do about climate – which may very well result in a mass of
    ill-considered, costly and counterproductive legislation – is really
    groundless and so can simply be ignored, aside from a bit of internal
    fulminations here).

    If you are not actually interested in discussing policy on a serious issue, then consider refraining from posting on it.

    Maybe it`s not my position to expect better, but I do.



  • [Note: I had intended to excise the following from my comment,
    but it`s just as well that it slipped in, as it serves to illustrate
    what productive Austrian approaches to climate issues might look like.
    I`ve added a link to Roy Cordato.]

    Roy Cordato (linked at my name) said this:

    “The starting point for all Austrian welfare economics is the goal
    seeking individual and the ability of actors to formulate and execute
    plans within the context of their goals. … [S]ocial welfare or
    efficiency problems arise because of interpersonal conflict. [C] that
    similarly cannot be resolved by the market process, gives rise to
    catallactic inefficiency by preventing useful information from being
    captured by prices.”

    “Environmental problems are brought to light as striking at the
    heart of the efficiency problem as typically seen by Austrians, that
    is, they generate human conflict and disrupt inter- and intra-personal
    plan formulation and execution.”

    “The focus of the Austrian approach to environmental economics is
    conflict resolution. The purpose of focusing on issues related to
    property rights is to describe the source of the conflict and to
    identify possible ways of resolving it.”

    “If a pollution problem exists then its solution must be found in
    either a clearer definition of property rights to the relevant
    resources or in the stricter enforcement of rights that already exist.
    This has been the approach taken to environmental problems by nearly
    all Austrians who have addressed these kinds of issues (see Mises 1998;
    Rothbard 1982; Lewin 1982; Cordato 1997). This shifts the perspective
    on pollution from one of “market failure” where the free market is seen
    as failing to generate an efficient outcome, to legal failure where the
    market process is prevented from proceeding efficiently because the
    necessary institutional framework, clearly defined and enforced
    property rights, is not in place.”

    The Road Not Taken III: Stephan Kinsella plugs his ears on the Austrians` obstinate, willful irrelevancy in the climate debate

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

October 30th, 2009 3 comments

[Update: Readers may wish to note the latest developments, as I note in these follow-up posts.]

Stephan Kinsella – whom I have engaged before on the ramifications of the decidedly non-libertarian state grant of limited liabiility to corporations – has a new post up on the Mises Blog on global warming;  his first on this subject, as far as I know.

The post is surprisingly short, and consists of a simple introduction by Stephan a copy of letter to the EPA (which he has appended) that one Howard Hayden, a retired physicist, one whom Stephan assures us is “a staunch advocate of sound energy policy” – whatever that means (hey, me too!) – submitted in connection with the EPA`s Supreme Court-mandated consideration of whether to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Stephan also refers to Dr. Hayden`s letter as a “one-letter disproof of global warming claims.”

I welcome Stephan to this discussion, which has taken place at the Mises Blog in fits and starts over the past few years. However, the absence of any commentary by Stephan leaves me scratching my head. Where`s the beef? Are this person`s scientific views on climate so convincing or obviously correct, and are the policy implication so straightforward, and correct, that we should all “get it” and agree, without any commentary by Stephan? Or Is Stephan simply playing with our credulity, and his own?

In any case, given both (1) the focus of Austrian economics on productively addressing conflicts between people with conflicting preferences (and the frequently negative role that governments play in resource tussles, generally to the benefit of entrenched insiders and to government itself) and (2) the recent Nobel prize award to Elinor Ostrom regarding the ways that humans work together successfully or not) to address common resources, I am simply disappointed. Is this all that Stephan has to offer?

Observing that Stephan fits within a grand tradition at Mises of shallow thought on climate and other “environmental” issues, I felt compelled to post a few thoughts at Stephan`s post, which I copy below:



Thanks for bringing your post to my attention.

My short response? Remember “Thank you, Prof. Block, for feeding our confirmation biases“?

But since I can`t resist doing what nobody else seems inclined to – I suppose it is, after all, why you invited me to this feast – let me make a few comments on matters that would apparently not otherwise occur to you or to the rest of the community.

The fact that most of the contents of Dr. Hayden`s letter is confused twaddle that has been explained in detail countless times (and personally by me, ad nauseum, to the extreme annoyance of most of the blog over the years 2006-2008) aside, it puzzles me that you and others prefer to treat the pages of the Mises Blog as a forum to dismiss – through drive-by postings like this (a la Walter Block) of a particular piece of “skepticism” that caught your fancy – extremely widespread scientific views (held by EVERY major national academy of science, including China and India), rather than engaging in a discussion of preferences, institutions and policies.

As I`ve asked Jeffrey Tucker previously, is science the forte of the Mises Blog, or its readers?

Even if those who believe that man`s rising emissions of CO2 have nothing to do with an observably rapidly changing world and pose no threat whatsoever – and that those who disagree are all deluded and/or evil – turn out, after we play our little massive and irreversible game with the Earth for another few centuries, to be absolutely right, is engaging with them by dismissing their concerns an approach that holds even the slightest prospect of success?

It`s as if Austrians were determined to ignore their own principles, stampede themselves into irrelevancy, and to make sure that we get the WORST policy outcomes possible.

Why not, if you think others all wrong, deluded or evil, play along with their game, and actually seek policy changes that might not only address the expressed concerns of others in a meaningful way, while also advancing a libertarian, freedom-seeking agenda?

As I have noted in a litany of posts at my blog, most recently one addressed to Bob Murphy, such pro-freedom regulatory changes might include:

  • accelerating cleaner power investments by eliminating corporate income taxes or allowing immediate amortization of capital investment,
  • eliminating antitrust immunity for public utility monopolies (to allow consumer choice, peak pricing and “smart metering” that will rapidly push efficiency gains),
  • ending Clean Air Act handouts to the worst utilities (or otherwise unwinding burdensome regulations and moving to lighter and more common-law dependent approaches),
  • ending energy subsidies generally (including federal liability caps for nuclear power (and allowing states to license),
  • speeding economic growth and adaptation in the poorer countries most threatened by climate change by rolling back domestic agricultural corporate welfare programs (ethanol and sugar), and
  • if there is to be any type of carbon pricing at all, insisting that it is a per capita, fully-rebated carbon tax (puts the revenues in the hands of those with the best claim to it, eliminates regressive impact and price volatility, least new bureaucracy, most transparent, and least susceptible to pork).

Other policy changes could also be put on the table, such as an insistence that government resource management be improved by requiring that half of all royalties be rebated to citizens (with a slice to the administering agency).

As Rob Bradley once reluctantly acknowledged to me (in the halcyon days before he banned me from the “free-market” Master Resource blog), “a free-market approach is not about “do nothing” but implementing a whole new energy approach to remove myriad regulation and subsidies that have built up over a century or more.” But unfortunately the wheels of this principled concern have never hit the ground at MR [persistently pointing this out it, and questioning whether his blog was a front for fossil fuel interests, appears to be what earned me the boot].

There have been occasional   libertarian  climate  proposals floated over the past few years, but they have never graced the Mises Blog, instead falling gently to the ground unnoticed – apparently, except for me – like the proverbial unstrained koala tea of Mercy.

Austrians seem to act as if the love of reason requires a surrender of it in favor of the comforting distraction of a self-satisfied echo chamber of a type that would warm the cockles of any like-minded religious “alarmist” cult.

Then of course, we have our own  home-grown libertarians who are happy to participate actively in the debate (with many excellent points, naturally), but carefully skirt for the purposes of maximum effectiveness (and felicitously, for their own consciences) the fact that their views are funded by the dirtiest class of rent-seekers. Plus we have a few who are happy to regurgitate for us “heroic” “grassroots” efforts that are transparent corporate PR ploys.

Finally, since no one else seems to be remotely interesting in scratching the surface of Dr. Hayden`s letter, here is what a little due diligence turns up:

– sure, the solubility of CO2 in water decreases as water warms, and increases as water cools. Some skeptics use this to suggest that rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations are due not to man, but to a naturally warming. That`s why it`s so interesting that, despite a warming ocean, ocean pH is rising [oops, I meant pH is “falling”, as I`ve noted in a previous comment about rapidly changing ocean pH]  because dissolved CO2 is also rising (because man`s CO2 emissions are forcing more CO2 to be dissolved in water).

– You ask sarcastically, if the melting point of ice is 0 ºC in Antarctica, just as it is everywhere else, how will a putative few degrees of warming melt all the ice and inundate Florida, as is claimed by the warming alarmists? The answer is, simply, that (1) the warming oceans melt and undermine the coastal ice, and (2) as coastal buttresses are removed, gravity brings the continental ice down more rapidly. This process is well underway and apparently accelerating, as described in a study just published in Nature. Note also that not all of Antarctica lies precisely at the South Pole, and that some parts are melting directly as the atmosphere warms.

– finally, not all men are dinosaurs, nor is the rest of extant Creation (save birds, of course). Why should we feel comforted by the fact that we may, in the blink of an eye in geologic time (decades/centuries), be terra-forming the Earth for creatures that no longer exist, while stressing it for the rest of Creation? Do we have no right of preference in climate or in the life we share the Earth with, or have the investors in fossil fuel firms homesteaded the right to modify environmental matters willy nilly, come what may?

Thanks for providing the soapbox, Stephan.


I note that Stephan closes his introduction to Dr. Hayden`s letter with the following:

“I love Hayden’s email sign-off, “People will do anything to save the world … except take a course in science.””

Would that problems of governance of shared resources were so easy as taking a science course! Then ALL of us Austrians, and not merely our leading lights at the Mises Blog, could simply pack up and go home, and leave everything to a few philosopher-king scientists!