Monday, December 21, 2009

Okay wise guy, what's your plan?

What can libertarians do about global warming? Kevin Carson on the basics:

Art engages in the same tactic Al Gore is accused of, but from the opposite direction: worrying about whose hands an argument plays into, rather than whether it's backed up by the facts. Questions of truth take a second place to the need to stonewall on acknowledging any fact that "the enemy" might benefit from. It doesn't matter whether something is true or not, if it's something the eco-socialists agree with.

Believe it or not, Art, statism does not inevitably follow from the acknowledgment that human activity may be significantly increasing mean temperatures. The fact that you assume it does demonstrates that you have assumptions in common with many of the "eco-socialists": that existing economic trends result from the free market, and that state intervention is necessary to counter them.

In fact, just the opposite is true. The government needs to stop subsidizing the consumption of energy and transportation, so that the full cost of transportation is reflected in its price, and the full cost of shipping goods long distance is internalized in their price. If such government intervention were eliminated, we might be buying stuff made in efficient small factories 20 miles away instead of huge factories 1000 miles away, or buying produce grown close to home instead of from factory farms with subsidized irrigation water in California. We might be living closer to where we shop and work, instead of maintaining two separate communities for living and working, each with its own utility grid, and commuting back and forth between them.

The free market is the solution, not the problem.

I can think of plenty of other libertarian remedies, just off the top of my head. Free market nuclear energy? More privately owned toll roads (people will drive less when they have to pay every time)? Abolishing the US military? Ending subsidies to the oil industry and other polluters?

Eliminating all taxes and regulatory barriers currently imposed on companies (and people) trying to innovate would certainly be a good start.

In the mean time, the best we can really do is educate people and encourage green capitalism. Even though it (apparently) makes you a tree hugging, granola munching commie.

UPDATE: I just noticed, as soon as I finished typing this post, that a Google ad at the top of our blog reads, Global warming reduction: Help Coke in their effort to protect polar bears & their habitat (link). And there are still libertarians who think accepting AGW (along with some 97% of active climatologists) means accepting statism? Pshaw.


  1. Carson has his own agenda (big business is bad!), so his position on "global warming" doesn't really surprise me.

    Yes, I agree with him that subsides and corporate welfare should end, but small is not ALWAYS better, and I doubt we could feed a huge population without "factory farms", as he seems to think.

  2. Most Libertarians are just embarrassed Republicans. I think that's the main problem. Lew Rockwell, Alex Jones, Ron Paul... they're just Republicans who realized early on they had to unhitch from Bush. They're going to have a lot of the residual Republican nonsense still dripping off them.

  3. Carson has his own agenda

    And John Stossel, Penn & Teller, Lord Monckton, etc. don't?

    FTR I actually agree with you about the "smallness" thing (which is why the left-libertarians like 'Brainpolice' have smoke pour out of their ears when I show up in an online conversation :)

  4. Ginx,

    Alex Jones is most certainly not a libertarian. He's very socially conservative and a protectionist IIRC.

  5. Ginx has no idea what he's saying, in general.

  6. Thanks, Cork.

    SE, the only "position" I took on global warming in the linked piece was that, even if valid, it wouldn't imply the need for any particular statist measures. I lean toward a belief that anthropogenic global warming exists and that it's a bad thing, but I don't advocate a carbon tax or cap-and-trade or anything of the sort. I believe that the actual fuel prices that result from Peak Oil will be more or less isomorphic with the fuel prices the Kyoto/Copenhagen folks want, without any government action at all.

  7. I believe that the actual fuel prices that result from Peak Oil will be more or less isomorphic with the fuel prices the Kyoto/Copenhagen folks want, without any government action at all.

    Kevin, I'm actually a fan of your work.

    Yes, I agree with you on that point, but with the hysteria being whipped up, will we be able to forestall draconian statist measures being enacted?

  8. Thanks, SE. Just a guess, but I suspect any significant curtailment of CO2 emissions (as opposed to a cap that reflects the status quo, and lots and lots of poorly defined offsets) will be politically almost impossible to pass. Anything that requires significant sacrifice, before EROEI (which can't be filibustered) kicks in, will be a non-starter. The political coalition behind cap-and-trade, Joe Lieberman and all, doesn't strike me as being very resilient when the debate actually moves to the Senate and replaces healthcare as the Next Big Thing. The required sixty votes will go soft pretty fast when the townhall meetings get underway.


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