Libertarian Argument for Emissions Controls

In fact there is and has always been a coherent libertarian view that takes the real risks of global change seriously.

Mark Boslough goes into more detail than is usual. Alas, this is at the link-grubber site HuffPo, so the odds of reproducing here are not worth pursuing. But the article is interesting enough.

The trouble is that there is no coherent libertarian recommendation for a useful policy. And, as we see from Tom Athanasiou’s contribution, international justice arguments from national sovereignty don’t bode well for the wealthy countries. The right tends to be big on national sovereignty. So where are the theories of how to adjust the market so it doesn’t slaughter us?

Unlike many readers, I really don’t WANT to be a leftist. But the right, even when not ducking the problem, seems to avoid coming up with any solutions.


  1. Well one extreme Right Wing solution would be eco-fascism - where carbon emissions are rigidly controlled and relate to CO2 levels - So all carbon combustion would be used only to manufacture and deploy clean energy systems. And then carbon energy would be eliminated entirely ASAP, PDQ even.

    As a lefty-warmist, I might prefer the term eco-totalitarianism - but eco-fascism works just as well. Either way, our failure to face the issue makes us suicidal psychopaths.

  2. The libertarian right has this endearing way of considering fascism left wing.

    So this idea doesn't help identify a libertarian policy. Your point does raise the paradoxof the alliance between libertarianism on one hand and nationalist militarist crypto-racism on the other. It is not something that ever made any sense to me. But I would like to hear some suggestions from actual lIbertarians that go beyond shrugging in the general direction of a carbon tax and identify how to actually identify and implement global constraints.

    In particular, how, barring the apparently impossible treaty, do countries or other subsets of the world get emissions trajectories that don't drive us off the cliff.

  3. Great discussion.

    If we metaphor/model the world as Spaceship Earth with its environmental system stuck on high heat, then all passengers and crew must agree to fix it. (Or agree to roast together.) Could Libertarians accept that basic science/engineering? And after we know basic environmental climate science, what is our responsibility?

    Another question is whether Anarchists (left wing Libertarians?)could also accept the rules of fundamental survival systems.

    Yikes! Have we moved the discussion to ethics? Does ANYONE have the right to interfere with the survival of others? Is that a Libertarian question? Or must this be universally asked and answered?

  4. "Another question is whether Anarchists (left wing Libertarians?)could also accept the rules of fundamental survival systems."

    Left Libertarian-ism is system based on a local sustainable economy and community collective organization. It disposes of large capitalist enterprises and hierarchical representative government and exchanges them for worker co-ops and consensus democracy.

    So two major problems are gone at the get-go.

  5. So are about 90% of the population.

    I guess I haven't asked the question very well. I'll get back to it.

    Not to suppress idealistic fantasies but we are well past the point where 18th century romanticism can save us.

  6. The phrase "all passengers and crew must agree to fix it" stands out in my reading of this discussion. Does that sound sort of like the "dictatorship of the proletariat"? (LOL) Of course, this is the problem, how many people are going to agree? If it's up to each individual, um, let's see: if each electric meter were rigged to reveal pounds of mercury or tons of CO2 emitted, then a true libertarian would see this as his responsibility, work to reduce his load, find another source, find a way to reimburse for the damage.... ....but his equally libertarian neighbor might look at the same numbers, shrug, and say, "The solution to pollution is dilution." Ultimately, any effective libertarian market-based solution is going to depend on a political majority that agrees on the urgency of the problem and the need to act. So, ultimately, the state is going to have to force people to pay for the externalities of carbon emissions, and I don't see how that is going to be anything other than a "statist" solution. Perhaps a real libertarian reading this that has a better imagination than I do could chime in with a suggestion.

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