Richard Epstein At Hoover: ‘Scott Pruitt And The Environment’

Full piece here.

‘The current law is equally defective in its choice of remedies in the event of pollution. Everyone agrees that polluters should ordinarily be required to pay for the damage they cause to both public and private property, as was long required under the common law. But one key element in the private law equation was to wait until the potential nuisance was imminent or actual before issuing an injunction. The EPA does not worry about these limitations in the exercise of its enormous permit power, but requires the proponents of any new project to run a huge regulatory gauntlet that consumes years and many millions of dollars before anything can be done.

As previously posted:

Ron Bailey at Reason on Obama’s trip to Alaska:

‘In other words, whatever benefits the administration’s convoluted energy and emissions regulations may provide, they are costing American consumers and industry three times more than would a comparable carbon tax. Talk about negative impacts!’

I think this comment gets to the heart of what some folks are likely thinking:

‘Look, if we can model the economy, we can model the climate.’

YOU should feel guilty about the poor, the downtrodden, and the global victims of industrial activity. WE should ‘re-wild’ nature and bring it to a state it achieved before man came and despoiled it. Humans have the power to shape their world, but only if they follow the right ideals and the right knowledge, as well as perhaps feeling the guilt and commitment and passion that come with those ideals. WE should aim for a simpler, collective life, and feel ’empathy’ with everyone (oft times the noble savage) around the globe.

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To be fair, we don’t often see genuine socialists out in public in the United States pushing green causes, but there’s more than a little anti-corporate, anti-industrial activism that often finds expression within environmental movements. This activism can make its way into laws, and forms a major plank in the Democratic party platform nationally.

Whatever your thoughts on the natural world and conservation, I think it’s fair to say that from cartoons to schools to movies, there’s also been remarkable popular success in making environmental activism mainstream conventional wisdom; easy, cool and fun to join.

Rarely though, is there much discussion of the costs environmental laws can impose on private landowners and consumers (not just big real-estate developers and industrial interests) through compliance with the laws and higher prices. Supporters of environmental causes don’t often connect the dots between their interests and the potential for bureaucratic waste and mismanagement, nor the downright twisted incentives that can result for citizens, lawmakers and even budding scientists looking for grant money.

As we see in California, I think once you get enough public sentiment believing in the basic tenets of green thinking, then climate science, whatever its merits, often becomes a sideshow, while politics and money can become the main event.

***I think Monbiot was on much more stable ground when he appealed to J.S. Mill’s harm principle regarding people harmed by industrial activity. Sometimes people in industries just don’t care about some of the consequences of their actions, and legal recourse can be hard to come by for those without money or connections. There have been beneficial consequences to individuals’ health and to those parts of nature sought to be conserved…but again…at what cost?

It seems worth continually discussing.

From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…

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Related On This Site: A Wolf In Wolf’s Clothing?-’Rewilding’ And Ecological Balance

Repost-From The American Spectator: ‘Environmentalism and the Leisure Class’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From The Boston Review: ‘Libertarianism And Liberty: How Not To Argue For Limited Government And Lower Taxes’From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

Is it actual Nature, or a deep debate about civilization and morality, man and nature that fuels this Western debate: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’Karl Popper’s metaphysical theory: Falsifiability

Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?: Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?: From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit

Instead of global green governance, what about a World Leviathan…food for thought, and a little frightening: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes

Ronald Bailey At Reason: ‘Delusional in Durban’A Few Links On Environmentalism And Liberty

3 thoughts on “Richard Epstein At Hoover: ‘Scott Pruitt And The Environment’

  1. miriamrburden

    This is such an interesting topic. I studied sustainability, and dropped out because the only thing I learned of use in the job market was how to write a proposal for grant money, (something I could have wiki howed) Anyway, I found myself always getting into arguments with my classmates, because they were very idealistic people and not at all grounded in reality. A lot of them were pushing anti industrialist sentiment, which has been very polarizing for a lot of conservatives. Conservatives do have different brains! It turns out they are very attuned to threats, and I think they picked up on the threat to industry, as opposed to the threat that unchecked manufacturing has on the very existence of our species. The argument shouldn’t be against industry. It should be for stewardship and protection.

    1. Miriam,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I know quite a few people who know how to write proposals to get grant money, too!

      I have to confess, some of these ideas are coming from Roger Scruton, who has posited a more Church Of England conservative approach to environmental concerns and conservation.

      ***I often try and return to a base state with how I think about Nature and the natural world: A source of wonder, curiosity, awe and constant surprise and interest, but also constant challenge, death, violence, danger, fear (legitimate and not), disease, hunger etc.

      As to the brain stuff…some of it may be valid, but I tend to favor attributing the lion’s share of such differences between people to reasoning from principle, past experience, sentiment, one’s own experiences etc. I like to think we have much more in common when it comes to Nature.

      You say it well: Stewardship strikes me as a reasonable goal…destruction and lack of concern is easy for us (though I see civilization as too easily taken for granted, however, our triumph over the scarcity and suffering we must confront in Nature).

      Knowledge, understanding and stewardship are hard!

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