"He's a snake in the grass, I tell ya guys; he may look dumb but that's just a disguise; he's a mastermind in the ways of espionage." Charlie Daniels, "Uneasy Rider" [Update] A left-wing economist discusses "Libertarians and global warming" - TT's Lost in Tokyo

[Update] A left-wing economist discusses "Libertarians and global warming"

Australian economist John Quiggin (whom I've cited previously on climate change costs) has a post up with this title, both at his own blog and at Crooked Timber.  Does anybody care to comment?

My own response to John was as follows:

John, thanks for this piece. As a libertarian who believes that climate change IS a problem, I share some of your puzzlement and have done considerable commenting on this issue. Allow me to offer a few thoughts on various factors at work in the general libertarian resistance to taking government action on climate change:

– As Chris Horner noted in your linked piece, many libertarians see “global warming [as] the bottomless well of excuses for the relentless growth of Big Government.”  Even those who agree that is AGW is a serious problem are worried, for good reason, that government approaches to climate change will be a train wreck – in other words, that the government “cure” will be worse than the problem.

– Libertarians have in general drifted quite far from environmentalists. Even though they still share a mistrust of big government, environmentalists generally believe that MORE government is the answer, while ignoring all of the problems associated with inefficient bureaucratic management (witness the crashing of many managed fisheries in the US), the manipulation of such managment to benefit bureaucratic interests, special interests and insiders (wildfire fighting budgets, fossil fuel and hard rock mining, etc.) and the resultant and inescapable politicization of all disputes due to the absence of private markets. Libertarians see that socialized property rights regimes can be just as “tragedy of the commons” ruinous as cases where community or private solutions have not yet developed, and have concluded that, without privatization, government involvement inevitably expands. Thus, libertarians often see environmentalists as simply another group fighting to expand government, and are hostile as a result.

– Libertarians are as subject to reflexive, partisan position-taking as any one else. Because they are reflexively opposed to government action, they find it easier to operate from a position of skepticism in trying to bat down AGW scientific and economic arguments (and to slam the motives of those arguing that AGW must be addressed by government) than to open-mindedly review the evidence. This is a shame( but human), because it blunts the libertarian message in explaining what libertarians understand very well – that environmental problems arise when property rights over resources are not clearly defined or enforceable, and also when governments (mis)manage resources.



Published Wed, Jun 18 2008 11:12 AM by TokyoTom