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Author Topic: Seriously, though, how would a libertarian society address global warming?  (Read 27404 times)
barbarousrelic
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July 03, 2011, 02:15:37 PM
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I asked this in a related thread and it didn't get addressed so I'll ask again here. How would a libertarian society address the problem of certain entities emitting enormous amounts of C02, leading to global warming?

An answer I've received elsewhere was that a libertarian society would allow you to sue power companies that output large amounts of C02. I don't like this answer for two reasons:

1) Depending on the type of libertarian society there may not be a court system the power company would agree to be sued in, and they might not obey the decision anyway.

2) Even individual power companies don't emit enough C02 to noticeably affect global C02 levels. Global C02 levels only get measurably affected by the combined output of hundreds of the coal burning plants in the world. You would have to simultaneously sue every power company in the world, which is completely impossible right now and would be even harder still in a world with less centralization.

How would a libertarian political order address this? And more generally, how would it address the problems that arise when a great number of parties each contribute small amounts of pollution into common resources?

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July 03, 2011, 02:25:15 PM
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Here's one answer:

Start a clean power company that emits a lot less co2 than your competitors' power plants. People who value clean energy will be willing to spend more money on your power than on your competitors. If there aren't many people willing to pay the extra cost, then perhaps most people don't agree with you that emitting co2 into the atmosphere is a big problem, or that addressing it is worth the current cost.

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July 03, 2011, 02:41:35 PM
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Arguably humans are very bad at cost-benefit analysis when benefits are very immediate and costs are in the far future. It's also difficult to deal with problems where, when the major effects show up, it is too late to do anything about it. Humans also seem to be evolutionary designed to think about linear change much easier than non-linear change. All this to say, it's unlikely that global warming would be dealt with effectively in a libertarian society, but it doesn't seem to be being dealt with very well in non-libertarian societies as well.

There are a variety of problems like this though where I think that increasing the likelihood of socializing people to think of themselves as isolated individuals (which market-based transactions tend to do) rather than as part of a larger communities, including the community of beings living on this planet, can have bad effects overall.

Not an argument for authoritarian structures or states, since as mentioned I don't exactly see those dealing with this issue, and it is theoretically possible for an anarcho-capitalist society to deal with global warming, but it is unlikely I think.

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July 03, 2011, 02:42:36 PM
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How would a libertarian political order address this? And more generally, how would it address the problems that arise when a great number of parties each contribute small amounts of pollution into common resources?
The short answer is that no known system handles this well, other than perhaps a dictatorship with a dictator who really likes a cold planet. You can see how badly Democracies are handling this. However, the basic solution to these kinds of problems is prosperity and technology. So if you think a Libertarian society will lead to prosperity, you can expect it to solve these kinds of problems better than other systems. If you don't think it leads to prosperity, then you should reject it regardless of how it handles negative externalities.

Not long ago, the big negative externality was horse poop and rotting bodies in the streets. Technology and prosperity solved that.

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July 03, 2011, 02:59:55 PM
 #5

In a Libertarian society people would be well educated enough in science to realize that global warming is designed as a tool to push a tax scheme, not environmental policy, and that the earth is heating because of increased solar activity, not because of human activity.

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July 03, 2011, 03:11:00 PM
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMxgYY_q-AI

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July 03, 2011, 03:19:53 PM
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An answer I've received elsewhere was that a libertarian society would allow you to sue power companies that output large amounts of C02. I don't like this answer for two reasons:

1) Depending on the type of libertarian society there may not be a court system the power company would agree to be sued in, and they might not obey the decision anyway.

2) Even individual power companies don't emit enough C02 to noticeably affect global C02 levels. Global C02 levels only get measurably affected by the combined output of hundreds of the coal burning plants in the world. You would have to simultaneously sue every power company in the world, which is completely impossible right now and would be even harder still in a world with less centralization.

How would a libertarian political order address this? And more generally, how would it address the problems that arise when a great number of parties each contribute small amounts of pollution into common resources?

If a power company refuses to use courts then it will have a tough time settling disputes where it's the victim. It's going to be a riskier investment which means fewer people are going to invest and those that do invest will invest less. No business is going to get very far and a large business that requires a huge startup cost won't even get off the ground without agreeing to abide by a court's ruling. If it does agree to abide by a court's ruling yet fails to obey then it's violated a contract and can be forced to comply and be charged with the costs of forcing it to comply.

It doesn't matter how much pollution you emit. If you can prove damage is being done to your property and you can measure the amount of pollution emitted then you'll be able to sue proportionally to that damage. You also won't have to sue every polluter on the planet simultaneously. I'm not even sure why you asserted that. You can sue them one at a time. Also, assuming everyone will be a victim then a class action lawsuit can be filed and you won't even have to do much, just sign your name somewhere.

The bottom line is, as long as people value pristine land, clean air and fresh water, there will be a cost associated with spoiling them. Businesses that can avoid these costs will increases their profits, expand and eventually drive the less green companies out of business. The market can handle pollution and has an incentive to do so, as long as we respective property rights and allow victims of pollution to recoup damages from polluters.
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July 03, 2011, 03:21:55 PM
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Here's one answer:

Start a clean power company that emits a lot less co2 than your competitors' power plants. People who value clean energy will be willing to spend more money on your power than on your competitors. If there aren't many people willing to pay the extra cost, then perhaps most people don't agree with you that emitting co2 into the atmosphere is a big problem, or that addressing it is worth the current cost.

The problem is that an individual's actions alone will have zero effect on the global C02 level. It is only when millions of peoples' actions are combined together that an effect is made. So an individual has to choose between the more expensive clean power source, with no measurable benefit for their individual decision, and the cheaper power source, with no measurable detriment to their individual decision.

Logical individuals, even if they highly value a low global C02 level, will choose the cheap and dirty power source because it has a net cost benefit for themselves with no measurable pollution increase for their individual decision.

Do not waste your time debating whether Bitcoin can work. It does work.

"Early adopters will profit" is not a sufficient condition to classify something as a pyramid or Ponzi scheme. If it was, Apple and Microsoft stock are Ponzi schemes.

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July 03, 2011, 03:22:17 PM
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One way I can see is communication, repeated communication, followed by boycotts and when a sufficient number of people agree, contingent contracts.

Contingent contracts are contracts that trigger after a sufficient number of people agree to a proposition. They can be combined with money amounts kept in escrow. Once a sufficient number of people agree to a contract, then the technologies that need to be developed are developed and people maintain an account of who contributed.

If the issue is serious enough, the boycotts on the people who did not contribute will be serious.

barbarousrelic
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July 03, 2011, 03:24:47 PM
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It doesn't matter how much pollution you emit. If you can prove damage is being done to your property and you can measure the amount of pollution emitted then you'll be able to sue proportionally to that damage. You also won't have to sue every polluter on the planet simultaneously. I'm not even sure why you asserted that. You can sue them one at a time. Also, assuming everyone will be a victim then a class action lawsuit can be filed and you won't even have to do much, just sign your name somewhere.
There is a safe (and necessary) level of C02 in the Earth's atmosphere. Suing an individual power plant will result in them saying, accurately, that their output alone does not bring the Earth's atmospheric C02 levels above the safe level.

Do not waste your time debating whether Bitcoin can work. It does work.

"Early adopters will profit" is not a sufficient condition to classify something as a pyramid or Ponzi scheme. If it was, Apple and Microsoft stock are Ponzi schemes.

There is no such thing as "market manipulation." There is only buying and selling.
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July 03, 2011, 03:31:22 PM
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There is a safe (and necessary) level of C02 in the Earth's atmosphere. Suing an individual power plant will result in them saying, accurately, that their output alone does not bring the Earth's atmospheric C02 levels above the safe level.

Let's say that you're standing inside of an empty tank that goes up over your head with your feet strapped to the bottom. Some guy dumps in a 5 gallon bucket of water. It splashes around your feet, no harm done.

Now let's say you're up to your neck in water in that same tank. Some guy dumps in a 5 gallon bucket of water and you drown. Is it a defense for him to say that his bucket of water alone wouldn't have killed you if the tank was empty?
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July 03, 2011, 03:36:14 PM
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Logical individuals, even if they highly value a low global C02 level, will choose the cheap and dirty power source because it has a net cost benefit for themselves with no measurable pollution increase for their individual decision.
They will do that until enough individuals enter into a mutually-binding agreement to all switch to a clean power source as soon as they reach a critical mass of people such that the individual benefit from switching exceeds the individual cost. They may even refuse to do business with people who refuse to enter into such agreements.

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July 03, 2011, 03:40:26 PM
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Logical individuals, even if they highly value a low global C02 level, will choose the cheap and dirty power source because it has a net cost benefit for themselves with no measurable pollution increase for their individual decision.
They will do that until enough individuals enter into a mutually-binding agreement to all switch to a clean power source as soon as they reach a critical mass of people such that the individual benefit from switching exceeds the individual cost. They may even refuse to do business with people who refuse to enter into such agreements.
It's often too late by then. Damage has already occurred.

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July 03, 2011, 03:41:50 PM
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The bottom line is, as long as people value pristine land, clean air and fresh water, there will be a cost associated with spoiling them. Businesses that can avoid these costs will increases their profits, expand and eventually drive the less green companies out of business. The market can handle pollution and has an incentive to do so, as long as we respective property rights and allow victims of pollution to recoup damages from polluters.

This type of thinking is so fallacious, it is absurd. Each business, an entity in its own right, and often small, focuses on serving its bottom line, and will always try and get away with what it can and assume that its competitors can and will do the good thing.

Is there money to be made by the timber industry in the Amazon basin? I think so. Are entities exploiting that? I think so. Is it destroying biodiversity as a result? I think so. Can we get that resource back? No.

As Paul R. Ehrlich says:

"The scale of the human socio-economic-political complex system is so large that it seriously interferes with the biospheric complex system upon which it is wholly dependant, and cultural evolution has been too slow to deal effectively with the resulting crisis."

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July 03, 2011, 03:45:02 PM
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There is a safe (and necessary) level of C02 in the Earth's atmosphere. Suing an individual power plant will result in them saying, accurately, that their output alone does not bring the Earth's atmospheric C02 levels above the safe level.

Let's say that you're standing inside of an empty tank that goes up over your head with your feet strapped to the bottom. Some guy dumps in a 5 gallon bucket of water. It splashes around your feet, no harm done.

Now let's say you're up to your neck in water in that same tank. Some guy dumps in a 5 gallon bucket of water and you drown. Is it a defense for him to say that his bucket of water alone wouldn't have killed you if the tank was empty?

I think this is a more accurate analogy: Let's say you're wearing cement shoes in a tank that drains out 6 gallons per minute and normally has 3 gallons a minute flowing in. Four people have also come along and start throwing in 1 gallon per minute each. Is any one of them legally liable for killing you?

They will each argue that their 1 gallon per minute was well within the safe level of contribution that the tank would accept without causing any danger to its inhabitants.


The liability analysis gets even more muddled when you multiply all the numbers by several thousand.

Do not waste your time debating whether Bitcoin can work. It does work.

"Early adopters will profit" is not a sufficient condition to classify something as a pyramid or Ponzi scheme. If it was, Apple and Microsoft stock are Ponzi schemes.

There is no such thing as "market manipulation." There is only buying and selling.
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July 03, 2011, 03:47:45 PM
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Do corporations want to drill in the Arctic Refuge? Yes, they do. Will they if allowed to? Yes! What if there were no governing regulations with regard to that? They'd already be there in large numbers.

Do the Chileans want to build a large hydroelectric system in Patagonia? Some entities do. It's all about the bottom line. Destroy and damage that which you can't get back, to service the bottom line.

It's fallacious thinking that will leave us with nothing in the end. It's the classic slippery slope. The first real example of it was the mass megafauna extinctions in Europe and North America around 13,000 years ago. And it's been going on since then.

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July 03, 2011, 03:48:51 PM
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This type of thinking is so fallacious, it is absurd.

Just put forth your argument. There's no need to make this personal. That kind of comment adds absolutely nothing to the discussion and only serves to make it less civil.

Each business, an entity in its own right, and often small, focuses on serving its bottom line, and will always try and get away with what it can and assume that its competitors can and will do the good thing. Is there money to be made by the timber industry in the Amazon basin? I think so. Are entities exploiting that? I think so. Is it destroying biodiversity as a result? I think so. Can we get that resource back? No.

Which business is going to last longer, one that clear cuts until it runs out of a trees or one that cuts down trees and plants new ones? The business that plans for the future will be around longer. It's better for the long term bottom line to engage in sustainable practices.

As for biodiversity, how much rain forest do we need? Just mark off a section of it and claim it has an ecological preserve. Problem solved. I'm sure plenty of medical companies will also donate a little to this because who knows, some species of bug may cure cancer someday.
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July 03, 2011, 03:51:23 PM
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I think this is a more accurate analogy: Let's say you're wearing cement shoes in a tank that drains out 6 gallons per minute and normally has 3 gallons a minute flowing in. Four people have also come along and start throwing in 1 gallon per minute each. Is any one of them legally liable for killing you?

They will each argue that their 1 gallon per minute was well within the safe level of contribution that the tank would accept without causing any danger to its inhabitants.


The liability analysis gets even more muddled when you multiply all the numbers by several thousand.

Each of them are legally liable for murder.
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July 03, 2011, 03:56:42 PM
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Which business is going to last longer, one that clear cuts until it runs out of a trees or one that cuts down trees and plants new ones? The business that plans for the future will be around longer. It's better for the long term bottom line to engage in sustainable practices.
Businesses that believe replanting clear cut forests is a substitute for preexisting old growth forests are engaging in the destruction of a resource that is not being replenished, as replanted clear cut sections are not the same as old growth forests. Thus, by your way of thinking, the businesses either don't realize the destruction they are causing, or do it willfully.  

As for biodiversity, how much rain forest do we need? Just mark off a section of it and claim it has an ecological preserve. Problem solved. I'm sure plenty of medical companies will also donate a little to this because who knows, some species of bug may cure cancer someday.
What's destroyed, and what is being destroyed could be what we need in the future. And when it is destroyed, then we start looking to that which is not destroyed. For example, the Arctic Refuge or Patagonia. It doesn't stop.

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July 03, 2011, 04:03:02 PM
 #20

bitcoin2cash:

Your arguments are only showing your naivete. There is a balance here, and the size of human impact has reached a point where it cannot be allowed to continue at its current rate. It's been going on for a long time, and the pace is increasing. Your proposed methods will not decrease this pace. They will only increase it.

Your proposals encourage a reactive rather than proactive method. However, the reactive method only reacts when excessive irreversible damage has been done. Already, irreversible damage has been done. There is a finely nuanced understanding that is required by all entities involved, and servicing the bottom line encourages glossing over those finer nuances. Your arguments are an example of selectively choosing to ignore those finer nuances.

And that is the heart of it right there: when servicing the bottom line, one can always choose to be ignorant about the finer details if it will allow greater profitability.

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