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[Update] Rot at the Core: Rob Bradley at "free market" MasterResource blog shows his true colors as a rent-seeker for fossil fuels

March 11th, 2009 2 comments

[Update:  I`ve added more background on Exxon, “Malthusians” and productive engagement.]

How has Rob Bradley showed his hand?  By shutting down reasoned (if challenging) debate at his blog, in the face of comments that were certainly more “free market” than displayed by Rob himself and his co-bloggers.

In a series of posts here and in comments at his blog, I have been critical of a number of obviously skewed and uninformative posts at MasterResource, the self-proclaimed “free market” energy blog of Rob Bradley‘s Institute for Energy Research, that downplay climate risks, cheer on coal and fossil fuels and point out problems with alternatives, while disappointingly show little evidence of a commitment to or understanding of free markets, much less a commitment to libertarian principles.  

Rob has fairly consistently simply ignored difficult questions from me on his posts, but what does he do when his guest bloggers (in particular, (a) Tom Tanton of  Pacific Research Institute, who jumped in on a post by Rob on drawbacks to wind that ignores the external costs of coal, and (b) climate scientist/paid policy consultant Chip Knappenberger) have no good answers to my comments and questions?  Even when I am just responding to his guest bloggers and others on the thread, he simply stops posting my remarks.  I am now blocked (“on moderation”) on all threads.  Granted, both Tanton and Knappenberger were in difficulty, but rather than allowing all (including other readers) to learn by having an open conversation, he apparently decided that open discourse with someone who can hold their own isn`t worth the potential embarrassment and distraction from the “mission”.  Tanton, to his credit, though he shows little understanding of market principles, at least chased me back to my linked blog post to throw in a few more parting words.

Of course the blog his plaything – or that of whoever funds it for him – so it’s entirely his right to decide whom he allows to comment.  But by deciding that hard questions and critical comments from a fundamentally libertarian, market perspective were too inconvenient, he’s tipped his hand that his interest is not in promoting “free markets” in energy, but in protecting the interests of his fossil fuel funders.  I noted on a previous post by Rob that boosted coal while bashing the “Malthusian anti-energy crusade” that:

I haven’t concluded here that Rob’s a rent-seeker; more evidence would be needed, but it’s fair to inquire and to wonder.

However, Austrians are problem solvers, not trying to win government
favor for a particular industry or bashing those with different views
for the benefit of clients.
It doesn’t looking like Rob is trying very
hard to be even-handed.

I think it’s fair to question what precisely are the objectives and
who is funding Rob, “Master Resources”, the Institute for Energy
Research, the American Energy Alliance and affiliated
institutions/personages. My understanding is that fossil fuel firms are
the principal funders, and it looks like the funding is rather generous.

So the jury is now in.

Too bad, as it’s just another manifestation of how powerful corporate interests work to manipulate the public debate (of course the wealthy citizens and corporations that fund enviros also deserve mention).  Further, it`s a turning away from principled and productive engagement over resource problems and the role of government in providing, facilitating or getting in the way of solutions to them. 

I queried Rob about his methods of engagement in response to a post by him entitled “Long Live King Coal?” in which he said that “coal looks to remain a mainstay in the domestic energy mix and bodes to help defeat the Malthusian anti-energy crusade.”  My comment?:

TokyoTom { 02.05.09 at 2:50 am }

are the John Badens, Terry Andersons, Bruce Yandles, Elinor Ostroms and
others who want to find ways to manage our commons better – by
improving ownership, incentives and pricing signals – also part of a
“Malthusian crusade”?

I just wanna make sure I know who to hate.

As for that big fly ash breach/spill in Tennessee, I’m glad that you
didn’t point out how this was a result of government ownership of TVA,
with the added benefit that costs will be borne not only by direct and
indirect victims, but by taxpayers as well. No sense in pointing out
how government is so often in the way, particularly if it detracts from
our “we hate enviros!” message. Last thing we ever want to do is to
reach a shared understanding with enviros of the institutional
underpinnings of problems, since that means our funders might lose some
of their fairly purchased, government-given special privileges.

Interestingly, though, apparently ExxonMobil – a well-run firm that Rob Bradley praises – has decided to actively promote carbon taxes. As I pointed out in a recent post, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson,in a speech on February 17 at the Stanford University-centered Global Climate and Energy Project (the world`s largest, and internationally collaborative research prject focussed on clean energy), which Exxon commenced funding six years ago and has committed $100 million over ten years to, specifically endorsed carbon taxes AND pointed out its support as an effort to persuade others:

is rare that a business lends its support to new taxes. But in this
case, given the risk-management challenges we face and the alternatives
under consideration, it is my judgment that a carbon tax is the best
course of public policy action. And it is a judgment I hope others in
the business community and beyond will come to share.”

This must pain Rob to no end, as IER was once funded by Exxon; Exxon cut off funding last year to IER and certain other climate change denial groups.  An Exxon spokesman noted:

“We discontinued contributions to several public-policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention
from the important discussion about how the world will secure the
energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible

Rob`s skewed data flow and perhaps even his own denial on climate science, investments and politics could be seen on his recent post in which he highlights comments from Exxon`s Tillerson about Exxon`s unwillingness to invest in renewables due to the unreliability of the government-provided incentives.  When I managed to get in a comment that pointed out Tillerson`s explicit endorsement  of carbon taxes, Rob responded that Exxon had not endorsed carbon taxes, but had argued that carbon taxes were simply preferrable to cap and trade.  Rob`s parsing of Exxon is ridiculous, as Exxon has clearing been signalling for the past few years that it believes that coordinated government action on climate change is merited.  But on top of that, I responded to Rob with a link to Tillerson`s Stanford speech, which clearly shows that Exxon HAS endorsed carbon taxes and that Rob is wrong.  But Rob won`t post this correction (which I made in earlier “moderated” comments as well), obviously preferring to continue to mislead his readers (with the statement that “ExxonMobil has not come out in favor of a carbon tax or pricing carbon
per se
; they favor a tax over cap-and-trade. Two different things.”).

If Rob doesn’t want to let me in over there (I’m hoping he’ll change his mind), I guess I’ll just have to start an “anti-MasterResource” thread here.  Maybe I’ll see if I can get funding from Exxon!

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

March 2nd, 2009 4 comments

In a series of posts at the self-declared “free market” blog of the fossil-fuel energy industry funded Institute for Energy Research, energy expert  Rob Bradley (former Ken Lay speechwriter and Enron policy wonk) explores his dark forebodings that the “Malthusian wing” of the Obama administration and the environmentalist Left are actually enjoying and welcoming the present economic predicament.  Says Bradley, putting words in the mouth of his Malthusian stalking strawman:

“The economic recession/depression is good, not bad. It lowers our carbon footprint in countless ways. It saves resources. It throttles back industrial society to sustainable levels that were exceeded long ago. Let the downturn continue to get us out of the growth mentality. Let rising expectations fall! Less is more!”

[From: The Malthusian Wing of the Party in Power: When Will They Speak Up?; see also Beware of the New “Limits to Growth” (and looking for ReaganVision to CarterVision).]  Bradley will apparently be transported by paroxyms of self-satisfied delight/misery if a lefty, particularly one inside the Administration, ventures to say something like this.

Bradley may very well prove to be right that someone on the left may assert that an end to the “growth is good” mentality may be a silver lining in our recession.  But in his focus on prognosticating what plots the “Malthusians” may be hatching, Bradley simply refuses to actually engage the “Malthusians” on either their premises or their proposed solutions – namely, that there are real and serious problems that our societies must address and that more government is needed.  Indeed, Bradley doesn’t even venture to explain why he considers the Malthusians to be wrong, apparently assuming that this is self-evident. 

But as I have noted any number of times, there is indeed a wide range of very real and serious issues to be discussed, both as to problems AND to proposed “solutions”, such as I have noted in these two posts:

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

Food shortages: Ron Bailey takes up the cry, are Malthus and “Green fascism” on the march?

As a result, Bradley does not appear to be interested in the slightest in engaging productively with the Obama administration or the Left, and so in effect uses the term “Malthusian” as a type of shibboleth (or even an article of faith?) among supposedly “right-minded” people, and as an ad hom against the left.  In this, Bradley echoes others such as George Will who, in a recent editorial about climate change, warned of “dark green doomsayers”.

While I do not agree with the Left that more government is always the right solution, those on the right cannot win these arguments simply by name-calling or by trotting out – as George Will did in his editorial – the 1980 bet that Paul Ehrlich and others lost to Julian Simon over the future prices of minerals and commodities.   But the Ehrich-Simon bet was well-known; why not use it?   Because those who do so have ignored the reason why the Simon triumphed and Ehrlich lost, which was that because people own mineral resources, markets functioned to both to change demand and to provide incentives for future supply (and Ehrlich was no economist).  But none of this logic holds true for unowned or “public”, open-access resources – like the acidifying oceans, tropical forests and the global atmosphere and the climate it modulates – for which there simply are no effective property rights or functioning markets.  Instead, we continue to see see destructive exploitation (and kleptocracy in the countries where powerful elites elevate their interests over those of citizens). 

So, in the context of the issues that the “Malthusians” are now raising – in this case, the atmosphere – the Simon-Ehrlich bet stands for a propositions whose conditions clearly at present are not fulfilled, and which will not be fulfilled without hard work.  Until that hard work of establishing property rights or other effective governance institutionsis completed, people with legitimate preferences as to such resources and who are concerned about the effects of modern market demands on them have little ways of expressing those preferences other than through pressure on policy makers and attempts at moral suasion.

As an aside, let me note that nowhere does Bradley acknowledge that the Obama administration and Left inherited our economic shambles from freedom- and market-loving Greenspan/Bush/Bernanke/Paulson and the Right.  In this, Bradley resembles NRO commentator Henry Payne, who recently was so quick to lay all of the woes of the US automakers at the foot of the Obama administration and Washington Dems.  It’s sad that what may otherwise be legitimate commentary is so skewed by such transparent partisan bias and inconsistency.  Such reflexive partisanship also ignores not merely the responsibility of the Right, but also ignores what appear to be fairly significantly weaknesses in the structure of Western capitalism, which have been commented on by Michael Lewis, Joe Nocera and James Glassman and William Nolan at the WSJ; viz., weaknesses stemming from the weak governance and moral hazard (and strong rent-seeking) that is encouraged by the state grant of limited liaibility to corporate shareholders.

In other words, there are lots of real issues to discuss, from difficult resource issues that require collective action to address to public choice problems inherent in the use of government.

Those who profess a love of reason should turn to it, and not hobble themselves by a reliance on facile assumption and shallow ad homs.  Unless, of course, the aim is not to resolve underlying issues of appropriate institutions, but either to “win” the argument by wresting control of policy (and of related rents) from perceived competitors or, if winning is not likely, to at least satisfy emotional needs by railing at foes while surrendering the field (and the selection of policies) to them.

Let me close with a note of one small irony:  while Bradley is expecting that the Left will embrace the recession as a way to deliberately slow growth, Bradley’s own associate at IER, Austrian economist Bob Murphy has just put up on his personal blog a “wonderful clip” by comedian Loius C.K., who comments:

“Those were simpler times, I think; I just feel that we may be going back to that, by the way.  In a way, good; because when I read things like, “the foundations of capitalism are shattering,” I’m like, maybe we need that; maybe we need some time where we are walking around with a donkey with pots clanging on the sides.  … Yeah, because everything is amazing right now, and nobody’s happy.”

Seems like even Malthusian-haters will only be happy if we’re all more miserable!

Update from Rob Bradley: My BOOKS prove that I'm a free-marketer! (That's why I'm free to boost fossil fuels and bash enviros on my blogs!)

February 7th, 2009 No comments

I noted in a previous post that Rob Bradley, CEO of the Institute for Energy Research and lead blogger at MasterResource, has cheered on big coal and bashed what he calls “Malthusian anti-energy crusaders”,  but ignoring while he does so the questions of (1) whether there are any legitimate disputes as to the environmental impacts of coal production and consumption and (2) the role of government in contributing to or perpetuating these disputes.

In response, Rob says that his bona fides are not to be questioned.  I quote below the relevant portions of the comment thread (emphasis added):

TokyoTom { 02.05.09 at 2:50 am }

Rob, are the John Badens, Terry Andersons, Bruce Yandles, Elinor Ostroms and others who want to find ways to manage our commons better – by improving ownership, incentives and pricing signals – also part of a “Malthusian crusade”?

I just wanna make sure I know who to hate.

As for that big fly ash breach/spill in Tennessee, I’m glad that you didn’t point out how this was a result of government ownership of TVA, with the added benefit that costs will be borne not only by direct and indirect victims, but by taxpayers as well. No sense in pointing out how government is so often in the way, particularly if it detracts from our “we hate enviros!” message. Last thing we ever want to do is to reach a shared understanding with enviros of the institutional underpinnings of problems, since that means our funders might lose some of their fairly purchased, government-given special privileges.

rbradley { 02.05.09 at 9:46 pm }


I have several thousand pages in the public domain on free market theory and history applied to energy, including criticisms of political capitalism.

The ball is in your court to buy and read any of my six energy books–and to visit my website Particularly focus on Enron on this website.

Capitalism at Work (2009) is the latest book that I invite you to read and review.

TokyoTom { 02.05.09 at 10:21 pm }

Rob, does this mean that you are a “free-marketer” in principle, but can’t be bothered to show it in your public policy discussions?

rbradley { 02.06.09 at 9:28 am }


It means that you have to do your homework. I take on opposing views as a matter of course in my books and essays–I hope you understand that I do not have time to regurgitate my arguments in a personal debate with you.

But if you are really a “libertarian,” you need to get more critical toward climate alarmism and the history of Malthusianism–and more realistic towards government failure versus market failure.

I am signing off with you but look foward to your review of Capitalism at Work–a multi-disciplinary treatise on heroic capitalism that as a libertarian you should study.

TokyoTom { 02.07.09 at 4:44 am }

Rob, 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.”

Do you agree?

My focus in reviewing your comments and those of other posters is whether you are contributing in good faith to conflict RESOLUTION – conflict over readily understandable preferences – or to “winning” the struggle over government for the benefit of your clients.

I think that`s perfectly fair.

So far, I don`t see much of an effort at good faith engagement [with the enviros].

Here`s to hoping that you demonstrate here that you are a free-marketer, and not a rent-seeker.

Rob Bradley: EXTRA! In tough times, economy and jobs trump enviro priorities!

February 5th, 2009 No comments

Wow, what startling news.  Thanks for sharing it with us Rob.  Now perhaps you can catch your breath.

Rob Bradley trumpets an opinion poll that indicates that voters care more about more immediate and pressing issues than they do about distant problems like climate change that they can pass off to their children and others, queries in his headline “Global Warming Realism over Alarmism: Is the Public Leading?” and tells us:

Wow, what a victory for energy and climate realism in regard to an issue that future historians might consider to be the Malthusians’ last stand (am I too optimistic?).  …

What might such poll results mean at some of America’s top private foundations that have spent so much time and money hyping the climate issue, including the Pew Foundation itself? … 

Here’s hoping that these foundations demote climate alarmism in favor of meeting here-and-now human needs during these tough economic times. That would be a double win.

It’s hard to see on what basis Bradley sees the poll as particularly revealing, but it is interesting that he hopes that other private foundations – funded by wealthy individuals and firms that have different policy priorities than the individuals and firms that fund Rob’s own foundation, Institute for Energy Research (including, until recently, Exxon), and other foundations that Rob is associated with (Cato and CEI) – will change THEIR priorities to match HIS.  Not a bad idea, to be sure, but is Rob holding out any olive branches or otherwise trying to productive engage PEW or others?  Or is it just that his preferences (and those of the people/firms that fund him) are so obviously better, and ridicule works better than discourse?

Here’s to hoping that Rob Bradley (and foundations that he associates with) will explore ways to engage productively with the evil/idiotic climate alarmists/Malthusians, with the goal of meeting human energy AND environmental needs through better functioning markets. That would be a double win.

Oh, and here are the comments I left to Rob on his post:

No, Rob, the public trails. Not particularly a surprise for a long-term commons problem, especially when we’ve fallen into a depression.

Thank goodness, ‘cuz us Austrians never want to figure out how to address commons problems. At least not ones involving fossil fuels.

Categories: energy, Rob Bradley Tags:

Rob Bradley cheers on coal, but are all those who want to better manage commons and environmental impacts "Malthusian" idiots, or only in the case of coal?

February 5th, 2009 No comments

Rob Bradley has a new post up at MasterResource, cheering on big (and now “clean”) coal, which has apparently received assurances from the Obama administration – after being bad-mouthed by NASA scientist Jim Hansen, Steven Chu and Obama himself – that, despite pressures from the “Malthusian anti-energy crusade” regarding climate change impacts, the recent massive TVA fly-ash spill and opposition to destructive mountaintop removal practices in Appalachia, coal will remain profitable during Obama’s term and central to US energy supplies.  Hooray!

But I wasn’t quite clear on all of Rob’s message, so I asked him a few questions in the comment thread:

Rob, are the John Badens, Terry Andersons, Bruce Yandles, Elinor Ostroms and others who want to find ways to manage our commons better – by improving ownership, incentives and pricing signals – also part of a[n evil] “Malthusian crusade”?

I just wanna make sure I know who to hate.

As for that big fly-ash breach/spill in Tennessee, I’m glad that you didn’t point out how this was a result of government ownership of TVA, with the added benefit that costs will be borne not only by direct and indirect victims, but by taxpayers as well. No sense in pointing out how government is so often in the way, particularly if it detracts from our “we hate enviros!” message. Last thing we ever want to do is to reach a shared understanding with enviros of the institutional underpinnings of problems, since that means our funders might lose some of their fairly purchased, government-given special privileges.

While it’s clear that “free-market” Rob cares little about whether the coal industry continues commercial activities that shift the environmental costs and risks (including potential costs arising from GHG emissions) to others, I forgot to ask Rob whether, as a hearty cheerleader for those poor coal underdogs, he also supports their position that the government should subsidize their change in business model by (a) having Uncle Sam pay the bulk of capital costs for IGCC (integrated gas combined cycle plant) [something like $1 billion for the first one with CCS], (b) giving them a further break (reduced royalties) on the sweet deals they already have for stripping coal from public lands and (c) – now that the federal government is getting into the busy of running the financial sector – making sure that power producers that want to use coal have easy access to credit, by twisting the arms of those uppity Wall Street financiers who with their fancy new “Carbon Principles” and “Enhanced Due Diligence” seem a bit too reluctant to extend credit for coal-fired power plants.

Here’s hoping Rob weighs in further.  I want to make sure I’m not messing up when I try to distinguish the “white hats” from the “black hats”.   From what I can tell so far, seeking to manipulate government policy for your own benefit is evil – as long as you’re not a coal firm, and we call the evil ones “Malthusians”.  Right?

"Free market" Rob Bradley prefers to mock enviros rather than to make common cause

February 4th, 2009 No comments

Robert L. Bradley, Jr. is an energy expert (author, former speechwriter for Key Lay and director of public policy analysis at Enron, founder and CEO of Institute for Energy Research) with libertarian leanings. 

But in a series of posts on climate issues on the recently launched  “free market” energy group blog MasterResource that he spearheads, Rob doesn’t come off as much of a libertarian, free-market guy as he suggests, since he doesn’t so much advocate for free market approaches to such issues as he takes evident pleasure in mocking enviros (and the preferences they share with many others) – all while ignoring that the status quo isn’t free of rent-seekers (precisely as Roderick Long and Ed Dolan have criticized libertarians).

1.  Take, for example, his January 25 post, Why Do the Alarmists Feel Bad About Debates–and Debating?.  In this post, Rob examines an online debate between scientist Joe Romm of Climate Progress and Jerry Taylor of Cato, notes that Joe later seems to acknowledge that Jerry did better in the debate, but skips over some of Joe’s chief criticisms of “skeptic” opponents by concluding:

Mr. Romm has all but conceded that the skeptics of climate alarmism beat the alarmists in debate, posting about it here and here. He blames it on the dishonesty of the “deniers,” but in fact they might have a much stronger intellectual and practical case. And I dare say that Romm does not feel he did particularly well against Taylor in their online debate and is not itching to debate him again, particularly in person.

But if I am wrong, I say: let’s get a big audience for it. Make the stakes high. Sell tickets. Poll the audience. It will be that entertaining!

Here was my comment to Rob:

Well Rob, Joe Romm isn’t ALL alarmists, but I’d say it’s rather clear that he’s saying that “scientists” are not good policy debaters – as it’s something that they’re not trained in. I suppose you would hardly disagree.

On top of that, Joe Romm and others simply are not trained in public choice or Austrian perspectives on political economy issues, so he clearly doesn’t understand what Jerry patiently tries to explain. But there’s rather alot of that to go around – across the political spectrum and on many, many issues – and I rather fail to understand how mocking that who lack understanding is a good way to open their minds to how wealth creation occurs and to the perils of using the state.

In addition, Jerry Taylor is clearly different from – more open and intellectually honest – most of the other debaters Joe Romm refers to.

2.  In another thread, Rob suggested that “doing nothing” was the preferred policy approach to climate; thankfully, in response to a comment from me, Rob expressly noted that

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.

Great!  Inquiring minds are waiting to hear about what it is that Rob Bradley and others at “MasterResource” actually recommend as an approach to climate concerns!

Meanwhile, can we stop pretending that “enviros” are the only ones fighting over the wheel of government, much less that they can hold a candle to wealthy corporate insiders?

Bob Murphy’s Bogus “Consensus” Argument on Climate Change

October 24th, 2019 No comments

Bob Murphy’s got a new climate change post, originally written for the Institute of Energy Research, now gracing the pages of The Mises Institute.

I made a few remarks, but my links seem to have triggered a spam filter, so I’m re-posting them here.


what they actually found was that of the sampled papers on climate change, only one-third of them expressed a view about its causes, and then of that subset, 97% agreed that humans were at least one cause of climate change.

Thanks, Bob. That sounds like there are damned near ZERO climate scientists who argue that human activities (CO2, other GHGs, soot, particulates?) AREN’T a cause of climate change.

I co-authored a Cato study with climate scientists Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger, in which we strongly opposed a U.S. carbon tax. Yet both Michaels and Knappenberger would be climate scientists who were part of the “97% consensus” according to Cook et al. That is, Michaels and Knappenberger both agree that, other things equal, human activity that emits carbon dioxide will make the world warmer than it otherwise would be.

WOW. So EVEN the Cato guys (the ones who deceived Jerry Taylor into thinking CO2 does nothing, and who quit and started Niskanen when he realized he’d been lied to) AGREE that human-emitted CO2 (fossil-fuel emissions; that have increased global atmospheric levels by ~50%, and are also affecting ocean pH and vegetation) WILL MAKE THE WORLD WARMER? [Alarmists!] Do YOU agree with them too, Bob?

[From Leder’s New Republic piece:]

Deniers have managed to undermine how the public views climate science, which in turn makes voters less likely to support climate action.

Interesting that you don’t address this charge about rent-seeking/-defending behavior at all. Could it have something to do with who funds IER, which pays you? IER and its more honestly political sister group American Energy Alliance (which also pays you) are fossil fuel industry front groups; they were once funded in part by Exxon, until it decided (1) in 2008 to “discontinue[] contributions to [IER and] several public-policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion about how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner” and (2) to come out in 2009 in support of carbon taxes:

Your unwillingness to be straight up with your motives on this topic, especially at the Mises Institute, is disappointing — and doubly so, since you’ve made a noble appeal for truth-in-advertising, something foreign in the political discussion to which all AGW issues now seem to descend.

The sad result? Unfortunately at Mises Institute it’s pretty much exactly the debasement that you decry: “the reaction here is to guffaw at the hubris and creepy lack of doubt about how the world [works],” on the parts of scientists and other alarmists.

It’s too bad our leading Austrian thinkers won’t explain, much less live up to, their principles, but I DO thank you for showing more careful readers how strong you, Pat and Chip think the case is among scientists for concern about AGW. 


I wonder if Bob’s posting at the right site? Or is this the kind of crap that the Mises Institute wants for traffic and that ‘Austrians’ these days lap up in order to avoid hard thinking about big-government crony capitalism?

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

In which I try to help Bob Murphy clear the air on climate proposals by the Niskanen Center

April 2nd, 2015 No comments

I left this comment at Bob Murphy’s Free Advice blog, where he has post noting A Critique of Jerry Taylor’s “Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax”, which links to a piece authored by Bob at the “Institute for Energy Research”. [Note: I’m not sure when/if Bob will actually clear this comment.]

Bob, I know that as senior economist for the Institute for Energy Research DC fossil fuels lobbying outfit (one that was expressly abandoned by Exxon in 2008 because its “position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion about how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner”) you’re not allowed to make consistent libertarian/market-principled arguments on climate/energy policy, so allow me to note my old post that summarized what I thought might be a productive libertarian approach to climate:

Btw, I see that Jerry Taylor/Niskanen Center has responded to you here:



P.S. Here are a few of my old blog posts on IER, from when my blog was still hosted at the gracious Mises Institute:

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Who wants to trouble with "moral scrupulosity", when we can pretend that the state-created capitalism we're cheering on isn't profoundly corrupt?

June 3rd, 2011 2 comments

I tried to leave a few thoughts with Jefrey Tucker in response to his June 2 post, Scrupulosity and the Condemnation of Every Existing Business, but it looks like my immoderate use of links has landed me in moderation, again.

So, here are my comments, which I have confidence Jeffrey will soon personally let through (I fixed a typo and added a link):

Sorry, Jeffrey, but weren’t YOU exemplifying the same “moral scrupulosity” you now protest when you and others somehow found a way a couple of weeks ago to fault efforts by those who love fish to use markets to put water back into overdrawn Western rivers and streams (by finding ways to connect buyers of water with those with absolute homesteaded water rights)?


Further, it seems to me that there are good explanations for the rise of the “moral scrupulosity” that you can’t seems to get around to puzzling out — could it be that there’s a massive rise in corporate statism, or at least in the feeling that corporate statism is out of control? And of the sense that now is an important time for libertarians to point out such statism and to suggest ways to roll it back?


You suggest that our new shibboleth ought to be to “ask ‘do you love commerce?’ to ferret out real defenders of real markets as versus those who just enjoy standing in moral judgement (sic) over the whole world as it really exists.” Besides that being itself a very neat trick of standing in moral judgment of others, I would suggest a different question: do you love corporations? Those state-created entities that institutionalize moral hazard via an absentee shareholder class that was ab initio absolved of residual responsibility for the acts of the the legal fiction they own, and whose CEOs and executives operate without responsibility to any owners?


We have a serious and growing rot at the core of capitalism, easily visible in TEPCO, BP, the entire banking/securities/rating sector, Enron, the auto industry, Big Ag, Big Pharma, you name it. But for you, the real problem is a lack of cheerleaders for our rotten free markets!


Kind regards, your friendly enviro-fascist,




PS: A few recent and relevant posts:


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Clear-sighted myopia: prominent libertarians quoting Ayn Rand miss that industry itself undermines Hayek's "market morals"

May 11th, 2011 No comments

Rob Bradley has up a post at the fossil-fuel cheering “free-market” Master Resource energy blog on April 25 that shows Ayn Rand’s familiarity with the mis-regulation of the energy industry. The post itself is fairly apt, except that while it paints the energy producers as victims of erratic government regulations it ignores those whose health and property were damaged by the energy industry and gives little play to the role of major firms in pushing for and benefitting from regulation.

But the chief point I wish to make is that Bradley’s post ends with a quote from Rand that is intended to criticize government but actually resonates because of the statism and poor decision-making of the major industry players themselves: (emphasis added)

There is no “natural” or geological crisis; there is an enormous political one. It is in the nature of a mixed economy that its policies are rationally inexplicable, that there are no identifiable causes, no accountable initiators, no ascertainable villains — and that you are losing your jobs, giving up your automobiles, catching pneumonia in unheated bedrooms, not because some giant evildoers are plotting your destruction, but because some seedy hack wanted an unearned salary, and some crummy professor wanted an undeserved prestige, and some measly shyster wanted a chance to fish in muddy laws, and none of them cared to or could watch the state of the country’s economy, and the sum of such termite aspirations has eaten through the pillars of the structure so that one kick from a sheik was sufficient to make it crumble.

Hundreds of thousands of people’s livelihoods and thousands of businesses have been disrupted along the Gulf Coast and nearby TEPCO’s Fukushima nuclear power plants, and millions of power consumers in and around Tokyo have been and will be affected for several years, not because of “giant evildoers”, but because major energy firms –  protected by government from full liability and with weak shareholder classes – are themselves highly bureaucratized with no clear locus of responsibility, with executives who look out for their own  interests but have no personal responsibility or liability for the damages resulting from lightly considered but materialized risks.

As I noted in March, F.A. Hayek (in an essay that Jeffrey Tucker has since kindly tracked down and made available generally) noted that:

Where previously perhaps only the aristocracy and its servants were strangers to the rules of the market, the growth of large organisations in business, commerce, finance, and ultimately in government, increased the number of people who grew up without being taught the morals of the market which had been developed in the course of the preceding 2,000 years.  …

We are now in the extraordinary situation that, while we live in a world with a large and growing population which can be kept alive thanks only to the prevalence of the market system, the vast majority of people (I do not exaggerate) no longer believes in the market.

It is a crucial question for the future preservation of civilisation and one which must be faced before the arguments of socialism return us to a primitive morality. We must again suppress those innate feelings which have welled up in us once we ceased to learn the taut discipline of the market, before they destroy our capacity to feed the population through the co-ordinating system of the market.

People are losing faith in the market because large energy firms themselves are partially insulated from the market and as a consequence are not fully subject to its “taut discipline” – and, as a result, are making decisions that are highly damaging.

One can rightly protest that such firms are creatures of government and have been cosseted by government, so that government is responsible for skewed decision-making. But pointing this does not address the problem posed by institutionalized moral hazard.

Only reforms that restore responsibility and market discipline will do that. Such reforms should include not simply increasing competition and ending government ownership of resources and oversight of corporate risk-managment, but finding ways to ensure that there are real principals who are incentivized to hold corporate agents accountable. Otherwise, pervasive moral hazard and risk-shifting will persist.

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