"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" UK jury approves damage to power plant in defense of a commons/ other private property; libertarians and conservatives freak out - TT's Lost in Tokyo

UK jury approves damage to power plant in defense of a commons/ other private property; libertarians and conservatives freak out

See this surprising decision in the UK, letting climate-change protesters/trespassers off the hook for damages resulting from spray-painting a coal plant smokestack, on the grounds that a UK law "allows damage to be caused to property to prevent even greater damage."

Why is this single jury verdict supposedly the end of the world (as Iain Murray of CEI, blogging at NRO's Planet Gore would have it)?  Libertarians (Rothbard, Block, Bratland, Cordato) have long argued that:

- we should move away from the statist regulation of polluters and return to a simpler world of a resort towards common law and courts (permitting injunctions on industrial activity for the slightest damage) to defend property; and that

- the issuance of a license allowing a firm lawfully "to pollute and, hence, invade or damage property of other parties" "entail[s} a fundamental and pervasive violation of property rights”; that

- one "observes that any detectable man-made climate change has occurred during periods of inadequate or nonexistent tort protection from air pollution"; and that

- "A sensible and thoughtful first crucial step in assuring a sustainable atmosphere for future generations is to assure adequate tort protection of the personal property rights for current generations"?

It is clear that I am on firm ground in expecting in response to this decision a rush by "skeptical" libertarians and conservatives to demand MORE action by government, rather than less of it.  After all, the defense offered by the greenies in the UK was based on a statute that can be simply amended, and thereby order restored (with nary a pang of concern for fusty old common-law doctrines).

And if this is what we get from libertarians, is there any wonder that greenies - including radicals like Austrian Ed Dolan and libertarians Jon Adler and Ron Bailey - think that resort to some sort of globally coordinated multi-state action is needed to deal with a global issue?

Oh, and let me add - it seems like a "wrong" decision to me, too.

Published Fri, Sep 12 2008 2:32 AM by TokyoTom

Comments

# re: UK jury approves damage to power plant in defense of a commons/ other private property; libertarians and conservatives freak out

Friday, September 12, 2008 10:31 AM by theblob

Another example might be when you push a woman from the street and she breaks her arm. If you saved her from beeing hit by a Truck, I don't think she can sucessfully sue her.

I think the decision of the jury is wrong, even under the assumption that anthropological global warming is real. There is just a too big gap of causation there between spraying and preventing global warming.

# re: UK jury approves damage to power plant in defense of a commons/ other private property; libertarians and conservatives freak out

Friday, September 12, 2008 10:42 AM by Person

T/T: I'm with you on your general point, but ... how the hell does spray-painting a smokestack stop net CO2 emissions?

Also of note: <i>"Professor James Hansen of Nasa, who had flown from American to give evidence,"</i>

ROFL!  Who wants to bet that his (statistical) contribution to CO2 emissions by taking this extra trip more than wiped out whatever the activists prevented?

Also, hansen <i>appealed to the Prime Minister personally to "take a leadership role" in cancelling the plan and scrapping the idea of a coal-fired future for Britain.</i>

One thing I'll never "get" is how so many people believe:

a) AGW is a SEVERE threat to humanity ...

b) but not as severe as using nuclear power plants.

Finally, as usual, this just highlight's how Gene Callahan's "just shun polluters" doesn't work, since you have to solve the entire economic calculation problem *without prices* to even figure out who needs to be shunned.  Oops!

I know, you don't like me crticizing Gene's shunning idea, apparently even if I do it politely, but it needs to be said.  AGW debates make libertarians use arguments they would never endorse in any other context.

# re: UK jury approves damage to power plant in defense of a commons/ other private property; libertarians and conservatives freak out

Friday, September 12, 2008 1:44 PM by TokyoTom

Silas, it is certainly true that "AGW debates make libertarians use arguments they would never endorse in any other context," but Austrians allow for - and the real world certainly contains - effective informal mechanisms.  Not everything works by price; moral suasion can be very powerful, and is obviously indispensible for getting legislators to agree to the quasi-market measures that you and many others think are necessary.

# re: UK jury approves damage to power plant in defense of a commons/ other private property; libertarians and conservatives freak out

Saturday, September 13, 2008 7:22 PM by crf

I find it a little irksome that some conservatives and libertarians ascribe a seeming lack of nuclear power to environmentalists. When did they take POWER and DECIDE for everyone that nuclear power was a greater threat than global warming? Honestly, I doubt many environmentalists believe that nuclear power is worse than global warming. A lot of environmentalists do not like nuclear at all, but they come by their opinions honestly, and would suggest that technologies and policies other than nuclear would be better. One might criticise those ideas, but they are not stupid.

The idea that it's environmentalists at fault for whatever direction the US takes its energy policy is even more laughable when you look at the construction of coal plants over the last decades: environmentalists hate coal even more.  They apparently stopped nuclear, but can't stop coal? Are environmentalists the reason we have such awful fuel economy in our cars? Did they suggest Detroit build trucks, rather than efficient cars (did environmentalists draft the "Chicken law")?

Is it possible that there is a lack of new nuclear power stations because it is expensive to build them, staff them with highly educated workers and managers, regulate them, dispose of their waste safely and attempt to restrictively control knowledge and materials to prevent nuclear proliferation?

Even if one thinks, as I do, that nuclear could in the future become ever more important in the power mix, do you not think there are arguments related to timing and scale that suggest a large short term increase in nuclear power could be unwise and inefficient?

At any rate, a carbon tax, and perhaps some limited subsidies and oversight to get the nuclear industry's act together (read Joe Romm's take on the currently inefficient and misrun nuclear industry), could make nuclear power more competitive vis-a-vis coal, and especially coal with (the fanciful) carbon capture and storage solutions (read Vaclav Smil about how ccs is not likely to be a large solution). The investor may then like to fund the nuclear industry, and with funding you'll see plants built.

# re: UK jury approves damage to power plant in defense of a commons/ other private property; libertarians and conservatives freak out

Saturday, September 13, 2008 11:09 PM by Silas

TT: Yes, moral suasion is necessary to get legislatures to start the quasi-market measures, but that doesn't save Gene's position, since he opposes that!

crf: "A lot of environmentalists do not like nuclear at all, but they come by their opinions honestly, and would suggest that technologies and policies other than nuclear would be better."

If you really think AGW will be catastrophic, you must believe nuclear poses a similar threat in order to so strongly oppose it, OR have a truly bizarre preference ordering which justifies the title "stupid".

"environmentalists hate coal even more.  They apparently stopped nuclear, but can't stop coal? Are environmentalists the reason we have such awful fuel economy in our cars?"

What do you think would have happened if environmentalists had (sensibly) promoted the idea of:

"Increase the energy supply by adding wind/solar power BEFORE resorting to nuclear power BEFORE resorting to any expansion of coal usage"

instead of:

"Increase the energy supply by adding solar/wing power BEFORE resorting to coal BEFORE resorting to nuclear"

Do you see what happens?  If legislators do what environmentalists say, but don't want to approve big enough subsidies to wind/solar, what happens?  You get a much worse energy source.

Now am I justified blaming the larger environmentalist movement for its painfully poor ability to prioritize?

# re: UK jury approves damage to power plant in defense of a commons/ other private property; libertarians and conservatives freak out

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 7:49 PM by crf

Let me rephrase my main points. The market explains much of the relative lack of nuclear power today, and the rest of our energy use. And even in a fairer market (with carbon taxes), I don't believe a short term ramp-up of nuclear would be cost-effective, and that a freer market would not support it to a great degree, as opposed to other forms of energy. (Wouldn't it be great to test this, in a market with proper carbon taxes!) In the free market side of things, this is because it is hugely capital intensive, doesn't scale particularly well, and is a mis-run industry in terms of the number of companies involved and designs, and requires highly skilled and educated workers who are short supply. In the regulatory side of things nuclear also has special issues not present in other energy choices, which greatly hinder its freedom in the marketplace: there is no free market is nuclear knowledge or workers or regulators, nor can its waste be dealt with in anything but a highly regulated and expensive manner, and the market for the supply of uranium is also very constrained and regulated. And many of those constrainsts to the free market cannot be alleviated, due to safety and national security concerns.

"If you really think AGW will be catastrophic, you must believe nuclear poses a similar threat in order to so strongly oppose it, OR have a truly bizarre preference ordering which justifies the title "stupid""

So if you argue against nuclear, you're in favour of unchecked global warming. Hmm.

You've not even addressed the point of what I earlier wrote. Perhaps some people (environmentalists, economists, capitalists, citizens, politicians, whatever ...) do not think nuclear can help alleviate fossil fuel use in a certain short time frame, as you do. You simply assume nuclear will work, and is the most cost efficient to do it quickly. But why?

You continue to pretend that it is anti-nuclear environmental activists who were standing in the way of what would be (could be) a near term nuclear renaissance. I pointed out in my post many reasons, most market based, and some regulatory and security based, which you don't address, for why nuclear may be believed to be costly short term. And I pointed out that anti-nuclear activists and environmentalists have never, ever been the drivers of energy policy.

This is your argument, with extra sarcasm:

You don't like what some environmentalists and anti-nuclear activists say about nuclear.

You just know nuclear is The Answer. And, because it is The Answer you say people who might argue differently have to now explain why they think it is better to have unchecked global warming. People who argue fairly do not resort to trickery like this.

You seem to believe that markets have had no large role play in why nuclear has a lower proportion of power than you might like. And it is due mostly to anti-nuclear environmentalists who took power and decided that few plants would be built.

Which politicians are listening to enviromentalists when crafting policy? And when was there a unified message from enviros which suggested "first wind/solar/renewables, then coal, then nuclear"? And, supposing this were the case, why do you think that if they said "first wind/solar/renewables, then nuclear, then coal" it would make a difference? Are you suggesting that, absent carbon taxes, and absent credits for wind/solar/renewables, that money would then flow from congress for nuclear plants if only enviros had prioritised them above coal? Do you really think coal plants would not be built (to a degree outstripping nuclear), absent carbon taxes, if only the enviros had prioritized their message properly?