2011-03-16 03:27:22Libertarianism: Property Rights and Government Regulation
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

I've thought of an idea for a blog post, but I don't know if Skeptical Science is the appropriate venue.  It would be based on an ethics paper by Jonathan Adler, one that Judith Curry recently featured on her blog, although no one really got the point of it.  It asks a basic ethical question.  How do Libertarians resolve two conflicting principles in regards to Climate Change?   IOW, what market approach will balance between both maintaining the rights of other’s property, as well as, respect the personal rights of the individual to avoid government regulation (tyranny)?

 

Is this appropriate?  Thoughts?  Ideas?

2011-03-16 05:02:27
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

My first reaction would be 'no'.  There were a few complaints about the discussion of politics in the recent Republican reapealing laws of physics post.  But you might be able to make it appropriate as long as there's sufficient scientific content in the post.  Hard to say.

2011-03-16 07:28:40
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.200.128

Yeah, cue serious whining if there's another politically orientated post so soon after the last. Maybe a bit of a break before the next one?.

2011-03-16 18:17:22A possible need for this post
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.101.78

The cognitive scientists I've been talking with about doing a social science experiment on SkS are now ready to do the first experiment. They asked if we could post a controversial, possibly incendiary blog post that would get lots of comments, both pro and skeptic. I think this fits the bill quite nicely. So while it does go beyond our usual dry science style, could you put this together and I'll show it to the cognitive guys? Then they might have a few suggested changes, to tweak it so it pushes certain cognitive buttons.

So if you don't mind Skeptical Science being used as a petris dish with your blog post being a major part of the stimuli, post something here then I'll show it to the scientists.

2011-03-17 02:50:33The Libertarian Climate Conundrum (third draft)
grypo

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173.69.56.151

According the first principle of the Libertarian Party 2010 platform, "No individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government."  This is extended to personal property in the second principle, "Property rights are entitled to the same protection as all other human rights."  

CATO, a notable Libertarian policy advising body, describes the ice melt and seal level rise problem in Chapter 45 "Global Warming and Climate Change" of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers, 7th Edition (2009), as such:

The 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC (which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Gore) projects sea-level rise of between 9 and 19 inches in the 21st century, for its ‘‘midrange’’ estimate of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.  

*(grypo's note: These projections are overly conservative, now obsolete, and under scrutiny moving forward to AR5, as RealClimate illustrates)

The chapter goes to make other popular skeptic arguments, detailed here at SkS, such as, It has stopped warming and It's not Bad.  Disregarding whether this may be the case, an adherence to basic Libertarian principles creates an ethical quandary.  And this is problem that Jonathan Adler, noted Libertarian law professor, tries to balance in his paper, Taking Property Rights Seriously: The Case of Climate Change.  He states:

[I]t is not clear that the proper conservative or libertarian response to the threat of global warming is “do nothing.” To the contrary, this essay suggests, the consistent application of a stated commitment to property rights requires a complete rethinking of the conventional conservative and libertarian approach to climate change.

Later on, he responds to question of small changes in sea level:

[T]hose countries flooded by such an increase in sea level should not be forced to bear such costs if they are the foreseeable consequence of polluting activities by others.

Here is another example taken directly from another CATO publication, "What To Do About Climate Change", by Indur M. Goklany.

Through 2085, human well-being is likely to be highest under the richest-but-warmest (A1FI) scenario and lowest for the poorest (A2) scenario. Matters may be best in the A1FI world for some critical environmental indicators through 2100, but not necessarily for others. Either focused adaptation or broad pursuit of sustainable development would provide far greater benefits than even the deepest mitigation—and at no greater cost than that of the barely effective Kyoto Protocol.

Once again, setting aside that this argument does not assess the full range of possibilities and risk, is this really a libertarian argument?  Or is it a utilitarian one?  Is it consistant with the first two principles described by The Libertarian Party's platform?  Jonathan Adler says:

Such utilitarian analyses may be accurate, but they are not particularly responsive to the property-rights concern that underlies FME [free-market environmentalism]. Whether or not a given climate change policy would maximize net social welfare or have net positive effects on important social trends is less important than safeguarding the system of property rights upon which FME relies.

So how do Libertarians deal with the problem of climate change?  There is the possibility that particular people are ignoring the science, which, if that is the case, the IPCC and SkS are the best places to start reading.  Or there is the CATO approach of denying the existence of the upper bound effects and paying no attention to the possible risks, but even this method of cherry-picking still implies that the use of fossil fuels here will affect other persons and property elsewhere, violating the first two principles of the Libertarian platform. Furthermore, as a recent study says, adding to the already extensive literature, "populations contributing the most to greenhouse gas emissions on a per capita basis are unlikely to experience the worst impacts of climate change, satisfying the conditions for a moral hazard in climate change policies", supplying yet another dimension to the ethical problem.

What does Jonathan Adler suggest the free market environmentalists do to alleviate the issue?  One idea, he borrowed from a noted climate scientist:

A Fee-and-Dividend approach would be more transparent, less vulnerable to special interest pleading, more conducive to investment in technological innovation (because it would avoid the price volatility produced by cap-and-trade), would be easier to implement within existing trade rules (and would not require a new international agreement for this purpose), and — if implemented as Hansen suggests — be less costly to most Americans. (Emphasis mine)

Yes, a Libertarian agrees with James Hansen's free market approach to dealing with climate change.

So, as the evidence accumulates in past observations, present observations, and future predictions in accordance with theory and basic physical reality, how does the Libertarian resolve this dilemma of property rights and individual liberty?  How long can Libertarians place faith in a no consequences result from climate change?  Is there any law system in play at the moment that can deal with these issues on a global basis?  The answer is obviously, no.  

I would suggest they listen more to Jonathan Adler and less to policy handbooks from corporate funded Washington DC think tanks.  I would suggest they research real free market solutions that deal with the first principles of Libertarian thought.  Otherwise, this policy argument will move on without them.  It's time for Libertarians to get on board and bring their principles along too.

Sources:

Chapter 45 "Global Warming and Climate Change" of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers, 7th Edition, 2009

Taking Property Rights Seriously: The Case of Climate Change, Jonathan Adler 2009

Geographic disparities and moral hazards in the predicted impacts of climate change on human populations, J. Samson et al. 2011

What To Do About Climate Change, Indur M. Goklany 2008

Further reading for libertarians on climate change policy:

Tokyo Tom "Towards a productive libertarian approach on climate, energy and environmental issues"  

2011-03-17 02:51:49
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

I'm looking for a more catchy title.  And all comments welcome please.

 

this may punch a few liberatirians in the gut.  perhaps not.

2011-03-17 03:29:08comments
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

"The chapter goes to make other known popular skeptic arguments"

"Disregarding whether this may be the case (even though these projections are under extreme scrutiny, even from the newest conservative estimates)," => this is rather awkward wording and I'm not sure exactly what you're trying to say.  I see from the link that you're referring to criticisms that the IPCC underestimated sea level rise projections, but that's not clear from your text.

"There is the process of outright denial, which, if that is the case, the IPCC and SkS is are the best places to start reading." => if you're in denial, reading the IPCC and SkS won't help you.  Perhaps change "denial" to "ignorance", and then refer to the CATO approach of ignoring the upper bound as "denial" (which normally we wouldn't do, but since we're going for a controversial and incendiary post, perhaps using the term "denial" is the way to go).

"but even if this method of cherry-picking and risk is used, this still means that the use of fossil fuels here will affect other persons and property elsewhere, in dispute with violating the first two principles of the Libertarian platform"

Here's a link to John's post on the Samson paper.  We should publish his before we publish yours so you can link to it.

Here's a link to Hansen's discussion of fee and dividend.  I'd link this to the text "Hansen's free market approach"

"It's time for them Libertarians to get on board and bring their principles along too."

2011-03-17 05:42:56
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

Thanks Dana.  Fixed.  In regards to the use of "denyng", I did switch it because it does fit better with the CATO argument.  But I think this is a good use of the word either way, and I know we can all agree about it here, but I say we let them whine about this use of it.  They really can't expect to erase a useful out of the dictionary.  If they are going to complain about "deny" then they should really keep it words like "denier" being used as a broad brush to paint all skeptics.  I think my use is focused and fair.

2011-03-17 05:56:13incendiary
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

The other problem is that it seems like a pretty reasonable post to me, not terribly incendiary.  It'll probably get a similar reaction to my Republican physics repealing post.  But I'll let John weigh in on that aspect, whether he wants to throw in some more "deniers" or something :-)

2011-03-17 07:39:19Incendiary
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.101.78
Maybe that's the wrong word. The main thing it needs is to provoke lots of comments from both sides. The experiment only works if there's lots of comments. Dana's post got heaps of comments, I expect this will too.
2011-03-17 07:57:56
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.208.99

Maybe I should write a post on the looming collapse of human civilization. I guarantee that will wind everyone up!.

2011-03-17 11:52:35
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

I could get a little more incendiary, as I have many problems with what has happened with the capture of the Libertarian movement by corporate interests, but I'll see how this goes in the comments, and I want to stay focused one point at a time anyway.  

 

BTW, How's "The Libertarian Party:  The Party of Principle?" for a title?

 

lp

2011-03-17 12:35:56
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.208.99

You want to be provocative, you'll need to try harder, something a bit snarkier that encapsulates what they're all about. Aren't they the "what's in it for me" party?.

2011-03-17 12:49:39You had them at 'Libertarian'
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.101.78

Forget incendiary. This post as is will have people frothing at the mouth and falling over themselves to post comments. You had them after the first word in the title. I don't think you need to snark it up. But I'll post the current draft to the cognitive scientists, see what they think.

2011-03-17 13:19:29
Alex C

coultera@umich...
67.149.101.148

At the same time, merely using the LP's slogan as a title will be misleading, in the sense that you're not trying to advertise for the party.  I think a simple "this is what we're discussing" title would be best.  Don't need snark, and yet you want your audience to have at least a small idea of what the article is about before they read it.

2011-03-17 17:06:24Title
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
69.230.107.233
How about "The Libertarian Climate Conundrum"?
2011-03-17 19:37:13
Andy S

skucea@telus...
92.90.17.1

Grypo, you might be interested in the position of Tokyo Tom who is a die-hard libertarian but who is also a climate realist and has been a scourge of libertarian denialists.  

I think that you need to be careful in distinguishing between small l and the big L libertarians represented by the US Libertarian Party. By the very nature of their philosophy, libertarians tend to be individualistic and fractious. The ones I know are reluctant to defer to any political party, even the Libertarian Party and they are a very argumentative bunch, even amongst themselves. Using "they"  in your article will raise, perhaps valid, criticim that you are generalizing about libertarians too much.

2011-03-17 22:25:56
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

Andy S, thanks.  Yes, I'm aware of Tom and now reflecting on it, I'm going to add some additional reading of his at the end.  I ran into Tom at Curry's and thanked him for restoring some of my faith in the intellectual pursuit in the individualist movement.  I’m hoping he shows up in the comments.

 

As far as use of "they", I am attacking the establishment Libertarian Party with whom I think has been hijacked by corporate interests.  Libertarian thought has roots that go back to Europe in the 1800's when a split happened in Marxism (OMG!). Those libertarians were just as against the accumulation of capital and usury as they were about the government's support of that behavior.  

 

Tom's case and ostracism lends more support to the fact that the establishment is no longer interested in maximizing liberty but are now merely market fundamentalists.

 

--

 

Dana, that’s good.  Consensus?

2011-03-18 01:13:47
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

Aye on Sir Dana's title.

2011-03-19 02:48:36
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

I've done a third draft (sorry, I'm a drafting nut) and changed the title (thanks Dana), strengthened the argument by addressing utilitarian argument from CATO, and added sources and further reading (h/t Andy S).

2011-03-19 06:47:11Re the cognitive experiment
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.101.78
Had a talk with the cognitive guys yesterday who had a look at this post. Turns out this doesn't quite match what they need for their experiment. This is more of an opinion piece and what they need is a science based blog post where they test how the comments affect how people retain the science concepts in the post. So I'm going to use something different for the experiment post.

In other words, this post is free to be published when it's ready - you don't need to wait for the experiment.

2011-03-19 10:32:38
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

I've saved it here.

 

You can queue it up.  I'm done unless there are further corrections.

2011-03-21 14:22:11Cued for late Monday
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.20.55

Added it to this week's schedule.

Note - also renamed the filename to http://www.skepticalscience.com/Libertarian-Climate-Conundrum.html - just a nitpicky search engine optimisation thing - I like to include keywords in the URL, just helps us rank higher for google searches. Every little bit counts :-)