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

Amy Payne At The Foundry: ‘Morning Bell: Obama Administration Buries Good News on Keystone Pipeline’

Full post here.

‘Late last Friday, the State Department released a positive environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama has been delaying this pipeline—which would carry oil from Canada to refineries in Texas—for more than three years.’

There could be more stalling to come, even with growing bi-partisan support for the pipeline and the State Department’s report, as the President and needs to work to keep his political coalition together (the unions want jobs, the greens want ecotopia).

The NY Times puts it another way:

“…a choice between alienating environmental advocates who overwhelmingly supported his candidacy or causing a deep and perhaps lasting rift with Canada.” 

Is this really where we are as a nation?  Alienating Canada? 

The line of reasoning I heard on the radio from the Sierra Club spokesman today was:  Even though Canada is shipping ever more tar sands oil down by rail to the Gulf anyways, we can wait out current Prime Minister Stephen Harper until the next election (he’s from Alberta and swimming, no doubt, in the pockets of big, dirty oil).   Using executive orders is how we got here in the first place, and the Sierra Club wants still more. 

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If you’re still on the fence on the matter, and see some good in this movement (who cleans up after a spill?…shouldn’t we conserve the natural environment?…don’t big business and big gov’t already get together on such matters anyways?), I’d argue that you should also weigh the true costs of environmental activism:  Much bigger and expanding bureaucracy, political coalitions like Obama’s (unions, greens, activists etc) tied more closely with the money supply.  There tends to be slower economic growth and costs shifted to consumers, businesses, and private property owners. 

Everybody tends to pay more for everything (especially gas) and there are fewer jobs, which doesn’t always lead to better conservation of the environment, but does tend to nudge society toward more collectivist principles of organization, rewarding some and punishing others along the way.   This is one of the big drivers of California’s current economic troubles.

Related On This Site: The best arguments for industrial regulation I’ve heard come from Mill’s harm principle:  From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘The Failure of Al Gore Part Three: Singing the Climate Blues’

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

From The American Spectator: ‘Environmentalism and the Leisure Class’From The Literary Review–Weather Channel Green Ideology: Founder John Coleman Upset….The Weather Channel’s Green Blog: A Little Too GreenFrom The Washington Post: The Weather Channel’s Forecast Earth Team Fired

Ronald Bailey At Reason: “The Paradox Of Energy Efficiency”

Full piece here.

‘These are all examples of the energy rebound effect where increased energy efficiency is offset by increases in energy use because increased fuel efficiency lowers the relative cost of consumption’

Related On This Site:  Jonathan Adler At The Atlantic: ‘A Conservative’s Approach to Combating Climate Change’ Monbiot invokes Isaiah Berlin and attacks libertarians:  From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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

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

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From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

Full piece here.

The old liberal vs libertarian battle rehashed…link sent in by a reader:

Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” found here.

According to Monbiot, libertarian conservatives in Britain (and I presume America) have turned “freedom into tyranny.”  He uses Isaiah Berlin’s definition of “negative liberty” to accuse said libertarians of not living up to it, and thus apparently, becoming tyrannous:

‘As Berlin noted, “no man’s activity is so completely private as never to obstruct the lives of others in any way. ‘Freedom for the pike is death for the minnows’”. So, he argued, some people’s freedom must sometimes be curtailed “to secure the freedom of others.” In other words, your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. The negative freedom not to have our noses punched is the freedom that green and social justice campaigns, exemplified by the Occupy movement, exist to defend.’

Yes, some people’s freedoms must sometimes be curtailed to ‘secure the freedoms of others.’  This is why we have laws.  No man is an island.  Most libertarians, I think, would agree that one fundamental freedom is the freedom from violence, whatever his/her moral reasoning.

I would also admit that greed (and unreflected pursuit of self-interest in a twisted system of incentives), in part, led to the bundling of bad debt and its sale to hapless investors that’s occurred on Wall Street.  A good libertarian, however, would also argue that those incentives were helped to be skewed by people seeking social justice, increased home-ownership, an expanded middle-class, and also political self-interest and money.  In this case, the very people standing up for liberty (rights based liberty…justice…a piece of the pie), also have arguably posed threats to negative freedom and contributed to the mess we’re in.

Regardless, it’s not clear to me that the recession impinges upon an individual’s negative freedom.

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Instead of focusing on social justice nor the negative freedoms of the greens (for which Monbiot, as many greens do, uses a Romantic poet’s conception of Nature as central), there are the Occupy protestors.

The negative freedom of protesters, to my knowledge, was not impinged upon very much nor very often.  They exercised both freedom of speech and freedom of assembly within legal limits (and they can’t rebuild at Zuccotti Park again, lawfully).  Eventually, many protestors impinged upon other citizen’s negative freedom by taking over public and private spaces for themselves, making those spaces unclean and unsafe, and even criminally dangerous.  It turns out the State (through the police force) had to eventually intervene and protect many of the protestors from one another.

Monbiot continues:

‘Claire Fox is a feared interrogator on the BBC show The Moral Maze. Yet when I asked her a simple question – “do you accept that some people’s freedoms intrude upon other people’s freedoms?” – I saw an ideology shatter like a windscreen. I used the example of a Romanian lead smelting plant I had visited in 2000, whose freedom to pollute is shortening the lives of its neighbours(7). Surely the plant should be regulated in order to enhance the negative freedoms – freedom from pollution, freedom from poisoning – of its neighbours? ‘

I can’t speak for Ms. Fox, but yes, people’s health can be negatively impacted by industrial activity, and I don’t imagine it’s hard to find such injustice near a smelting plant, nor people who worked with asbestos, nor say Chernobyl, nor even in, say, rapidly industrializing, old Communist China.   But this particular plant is in Romania (and I will take Monbiot’s one cited study as valid).  Politics is best done locally and I should hope the people so affected have legal recourse in Romania.  It’s not clear how effective Monbiot’s definition of liberty, narrowed to fit a global green ideology, would be in practically helping Romanian villagers to be negatively free.

He continues:

‘Modern libertarianism is the disguise adopted by those who wish to exploit without restraint. It pretends that only the state intrudes on our liberties. It ignores the role of banks, corporations and the rich in making us less free. It denies the need for the state to curb them in order to protect the freedoms of weaker people. This bastardised, one-eyed philosophy is a con trick, whose promoters attempt to wrongfoot justice by pitching it against liberty. By this means they have turned “freedom” into an instrument of oppression.’

Now that Monbiot has his definition of freedom, he draws a small circle around it and proceeds to demonize the opposition (with a lot of heated rhetoric and political posturing).   Of course, this is actually quite an illiberal stance to take.

No, the State isn’t the only entity (made up of people) which intrudes upon our liberties.  We need to be protected from one another, and from public and private groups of people pursuing their own interests and from the tyranny of the mob.  The U.S., at least, is a nation of laws.

Yes, banks, incorporated entities and “the rich” can by Berlin’s definition, intrude upon the negative freedoms of individuals (eminent domain, abuse or manipulations of law, crony capitalism, lawful but ethically challenged business practices).  But consistent libertarians stand up for such causes every day (see Reason Magazine).  Non-libertarians and a plurality, if not a majority, of Americans recognize that such activites are the price of having a both free and open society, and of being equal under the law.

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Additionally, I take Berlin’s point about positive freedom to mean that for each of us it’s necessary to maintain our moral lights enough to also protect us from ourselves and our passions.  One way people choose to do this is through the moral doctrines of the Church (God is free and thus so is Man, cast as he is in God’s image…with free will to choose).  Religious zeal, righteous certainty, passionate conviction and blind belief are threats to liberty of course, but they are not merely the province of religion.

Related On This Site:  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

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