Archive for the ‘Lew Rockwell’ Category

A note to Lew Rockwell regarding the reflexive irrelevancy of libertarians on the climate/big government morass

December 20th, 2009 4 comments

Lew Rockwell has a post up on the Mises Economics Blog – “The Left Fell into the Climate Morass” – that has just come to my attention. I`m not from the left, but as a right-leaning, free-market enviro, I offered Lew a few comments, which I copy below:

Lew, I think most of your criticism of the left and of environmentalists is apt, but “libertarians” have only to look in the mirror to see someone to blame for the lack of productive discourse on environmental and regulatory issues, and the reason why libertarians are being marginalized in the confused debate over the legitimate role of the state.

Libertarians in general continue to:

– ignore the opportunities created by widespread concerns about climate change risks to partner with both left and right to seek to undo counterproductive state/federal regulation:

– refuse to follow-up on their own analyses to dig more deeply to see that the roots of the disastrous cycle of regulation (and snowballing fights over the wheel of government) lie in the grant of limited liability to corporate investors, and the resulting externalization of risk and undermining of common law property protections:

– as Ed Dolan suggested, continue to act as the “conservatives” that Hayek despised by refusing to question the legitimacy of the favors provided to statist enterprises under the status quo, and turn a blind eye to the direct role that “libertarians” play in the gamesmanship such enterprises continue (such questions of motives being “ad homs” except when addressed to alarmists, in whch case it is “cui bono”):

– instead of acknowledging the legitimacy of concerns over man`s onslaught on nature and local communities (arising both from a lack of property rights problem and from the hand of kleptocratic governments) prefer a self-comforting irrelevancy, both on climate and on resource issues generally:

– rather than honest engagement, prefer a tribal hatred of misanthropic “watermelons” and a smug love of strawmen and ad-homs:

Time once again for some self-satisfied, but ultimately empty tribal holiday cheer?



In which I applaud another balanced, productive post by Dr. Reisman, and draw attention to a post by Lew Rockwell on the need for more power competition

April 23rd, 2009 11 comments

[Snark Factor:  Ridiculously High]

In honor of Earth Day, yesterday Dr. George Reisman, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Pepperdine University and author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics, put up a fun little post that mocks the full-employment arguments made by President Obama on behalf of environmentalists and investors in the wind and solar power industries.

On the comment thread, I couldn`t resist expressing my appreciation, while introducing newer readers to the deeper challenge to which Dr. Reisman invites his readers:

I too have enjoyed another delightful article from Dr. Reisman; bravo!

But Dr. Reisman`s style does seem to present problems of
interpretation for some readers, whom do not seem to understand that
while Dr. Reisman appears to simply be bashing environmentalists or
environmentalism generally (by focussing on the most absurd arguments
that some of them offer), he is in fact challenging his readers to do
precisely what he has studiously avoided.

That is, far from simply pulling the wings off of flies as he might
seem to some, Dr. Reisman is actually suggesting that serious students
of economics and libertarian approaches to society should diligently:

  • – seek to engage others productively and with sympathy, in a manner
    carefully designed to improve the functioning of markets and ancillary
    institutions that enhance plan formation across society;

    – note that there are many important, valuable open-access/unowed
    resources and government-owned resources – in which property rights and
    pricing mechanisms are working poorly at best;

    – acknowledge that while proposed “solutions” offered by
    environmentalists may be misguided, enviros have legitimate preferences
    as to how such resources should be protected, managed and distributed;

    – recognize that the concerns of enviros frequently arise in
    response to government interventions have clearly benefitted powerful
    insiders, including wealthy investors and large enterprises, while
    shifting costs and risks more broadly.

    As a result, Dr. Reisman`s tongue-in-cheek posts are in fact searing
    of the status quo and tbe fat cats who are using government
    to stifle open competition, consumer choice and innovation, while
    frequently generating large external costs. Unlike some who spoil the
    fun by engaging in the pedestrian task of spelling out the problems
    with the status quo that enviros are right to be dissatisfied with, Dr.
    Reisman treats his readers as adults by bracingly challenging them to
    use their thinking caps and to clear their own heads.

    For those for whom this task is too difficult, perhaps this piece by Lew Rockwell might be a good start:

    “Just who is in charge of getting electricity to residents? A
    public utility, which, in the absurd American lexicon, means
    “state-run” and “state-managed,” perhaps with a veneer of private
    trappings. If you look at the electrical grid on a map, it is organized
    by region. If you look at the jurisdiction of management, it is
    organized by political boundaries.

    “In other ways, the provision of power is organized precisely as
    a central planner of the old school might plan something: not according
    to economics but according to some textbook idea of how to be
    “organized.” It is “organized” the same way the Soviets organized grain
    production or the New Deal organized bridge building.

    “All of centralization and cartelization began nearly a century
    ago, as Robert Bradley points out in Energy: The Master Resource, when
    industry leaders obtained what was known as a regulatory covenant. They
    received franchise protection from market competition in exchange for
    which they agreed to price controls based on a cost-plus formula — a
    formula that survives to this day.

    “Then the economists got involved ex post and declared that
    electrical power is a “public good,” under the belief that private
    enterprise is not up to the job of providing the essentials of life.

    “What industry leaders received from this pact with the devil was
    a certain level of cartel-like protection, the same type that the
    English crown granted tea or the US government grants first-class
    postal mail. It is a government privilege that subjects them to
    regulation and immunizes companies from business failure. It’s great
    for a handful of producers, but not so great for everyone else.

    “There are many costs. Customers are not in charge. They are
    courted only for political reasons but they are not the first concern
    of the production process. Entrepreneurial development is hindered. Our
    current system of electrical provision is stuck in time. Meanwhile,
    sectors that provide DSL and other forms of internet and
    telecommunication services are expanded and advancing day by day — not
    with perfect results but at least with the desire to serve consumers.

    “How New York and California consumers would adore a setting in
    which power companies were begging for their business and encouraging
    them to turn down their thermostats to the coldest point. Competition
    would lead to price reductions, innovation, and an ever greater variety
    of services — the same as we find in the computer industry.

    “What we are learning in our times is that no essential sector of
    life can be entrusted to the state. Energy is far too important to the
    very core of life to be administered by a bureaucracy that lacks the
    economic means to provide for the public. How it should be organized we
    can’t say in advance: it should be left to the markets. Whatever the
    result, you can bet the grid would not look like it does today, nor
    would its management be dependent on the whims of political

    What we need today is full, radical, complete, uncompromised
    deregulation and privatization. We need competition. That doesn’t mean
    that we need two or more companies serving every market (though that
    was common up through the 1960s). What we need is the absence of legal
    barriers to enter the market.

    Thanks, again, Dr. Reisman, for challenging us, and not pandering to the dullest and laziest among us, the way Lew Rockwell does!

    Your admiring pupil (and fellow enviro-hater),


  • Published: April 23, 2009 5:32 AM


For those who think that Dr. Reisman is being serious in his one-sided attack on enviros while ignoring the problems of ongoing rent-seeking by entrenched statist corporations, I would be pleased to refer to other posts in which he is clearly posting tongue-in-cheek and intends no rancor or imbalance.  A good example would be his light-hearted post in March 2007, Global Warming: Environmentalism’s Threat of Hell on Earth, in which Dr. Reisman appeared to seriously argue that

there is a case for considering
the possible detonation, on uninhabited land north of 70° latitude,
say, of a limited number of hydrogen bombs. … This is certainly
something that should be seriously considered by everyone who is
concerned with global warming and who also desires to preserve modern
industrial civilization and retain and increase its amenities.
there really is any possibility of global warming so great as to cause
major disturbances, this kind of solution should be studied and
perfected. Atomic testing should be resumed for the purpose of empirically testing its feasibility.

While apparently serious, how could this possibly be a libertarian, nonstatist proposal?  The answer clearly MUST be – since Dr. Reisman is a lover of freedom and markets, and not of big government, goverment-run mega projects or statist corporate rent-seeking  – that Dr. Reisman was NOT being serious.  Instead, in his usual playful manner, he was simply inviting his readers to see through his words, and to productively engage those who are concerned with climate or other commons issues, on the basis of a cool consideration of libertarian and market principles.

Inquiring minds might like to note that I have remarked on Dr. Reisman`s  productive and insightful playfulness on a number of other occasions, on top of comments on his environment-related posts,  which have been fertilizing the LVMI pages since the 2005 Earth Day.