Climate change and the strange death of libertarianism

by John Quiggin on January 18, 2020

It wasn’t that long ago that everyone was talking about the “libertarian moment” in the US. Now, libertarianism/propertarianism is pretty much dead. The support base, advocacy groups and so on have gone full Trumpists, while the intellectual energy has shifted to “liberaltarianism” or, a more recent variant, Tyler Cowen’s conversion to “state capacity libertarianism“.

Most of those departing to the left have mentioned the failure of libertarianism to handle climate change. It was critical for two reasons. First, any serious propertarian response would have required support ofr the creation of new property rights (emissions permits) and the restriction of existing ones (burning carbon). That would imply an acknowledgement that property rights are not natural relations between people (owners) and things (property). They are socially constructed relationships between people, allowing some people to use things and to stop other people from doing so. Second, the effort to deny the necessary implications of climate change inevitably resulted in denial of the scientific evidence that climate change was occurring. That contributed to a situation where most former libertarians are now Trumpists, happy to deny the evidence of their own eyes if that’s what the leader requires of them.

I’m working on a longer article spelling all this out. In the meantime, comments welcome.

{ 106 comments }

1

ADAM ROBERTS 01.18.20 at 7:33 am

“that property rights are natural relations between people (owners) and things (property)” Has a npt dropped out of this sentence?

2

jhn 01.18.20 at 9:52 am

“ That would imply an acknowledgement that property rights are natural relations between people (owners) and things (property).”

seems like this is missing a “not.”

3

Hidari 01.18.20 at 9:57 am

As one CT commentator (whose name I have now forgotten) stated in a passing comment:

‘Markets got us into this mess. Markets are not going to get us out it.’

Or to put it another way: markets. generally speaking, with some highly specific exceptions, are not going to be part of the solution. And this is because markets are a (large) part of the problem.

I really like Extinction Rebellion: who wouldn’t? But one thing that they state clearly on their website is: ‘Extinction Rebellion is not political’. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, bollocks.

There was a 13 point evaluation of the positions of the UK political parties on the environment, held last year. The Corbyn led Labour Party got a ‘good’ mark on 12 of these (the only exception was to do with nuclear power) (more than the Greens!). The Johnson led Tory Party got (if memory serves) zero.

The most radical (i.e. effective) plans to deal with climate change (e.g. the Green New Deal etc.) invariably and in all cases come from the left, and from the radical left most of all. The greenest prominent American politician (except for Jill Stein) is Bernie Sanders. The right has nothing to offer except lies (e.g. Johnson’s ‘promises’), equivocation, climate change denial and so on, and this is because they are all, without any exceptions whatsoever, in the pockets of fossil fuel Capital, and this cannot change (at least in the near future, when we need it to change).

Like so many problems of today (inequality, war etc.), climate change was caused by the Right (facilitated by Centrists, as always) and can only be solved by the Left. Anyone who says different, is simply not serious about climate change. And this is because climate change is a market failure, and can only be solved by what amounts to anti-market legislation (‘planning’ taxes on relevant businesses and industries, progressive taxation (NOT flat taxes) to fund green energy, anti-corporate legal action, nationalisation etc.).

Ergo, green libertarianism is a contradiction in terms.

4

Michael Stanley 01.18.20 at 10:29 am

One thing I didn’t see coming was the end of libertarianism being the favourite flavour of young right wingers. Those of them who came of age under Bush II tended to be come with a ‘low taxes and gay rights’ perspective. Then the alt right rolled into town and it vanished like the proverbial in the wind.

5

galanx 01.18.20 at 11:45 am

“That would imply an acknowledgement that property rights are natural relations between people (owners) and things (property).”

Is there a “not” missing? “…property rights are [not] natural relationships bteween people (owners) and things (property).” Or am I misunderstanding?

6

Pittsburgh Mike 01.18.20 at 12:11 pm

Is this really a new argument? Remembering back to my freshman year dorm debates, libertarians never knew what to do if person X, generating pollution on their property, reduced the property value of my neighboring property.

The main thing that climate change does is change the scale of the problem, since ‘neighbor’ now includes small islands in the Pacific that might get covered by rising sea water, countries whose farm land becomes desert, etc.

7

oldster 01.18.20 at 12:32 pm

“That would imply an acknowledgement that property rights are natural relations between people (owners) and things (property).”

You wanted a “not” in there, right?

8

Demigourd 01.18.20 at 12:39 pm

Not sure that libertarians reluctantly departed for the Trump camp when climate change became a pressing issue. More that libertarians, like all strains of conservative, are a working group contributing to the greater program of creating an authoritarian regime.

With Trump available they can simply take the masks off.

The local mob are stuck with it though, which is hilarious. John Roskam et al would love to run screaming through the streets in MAGA caps, but their political environment requires them to continue pretending to care about free markets.

9

Mike Huben 01.18.20 at 1:00 pm

I don’t see any death of libertarianism. Maybe a quieting when there isn’t a Democrat in the White House.

In my Introduction To Libertarianism, I divide libertarianism into 3 realms: political, individualistic and philosophical. I don’t see any reason for any of them to decline, only that it is not an opportune time for the political to make much noise when they are getting what they want (reductions regulation, reduction of taxes, etc.) from Trump.

For lots more, see my site Critiques of Libertarianism.

10

Stewart 01.18.20 at 1:11 pm

Should it be “Property rights are NOT natural relationships”?

11

Francis Spufford 01.18.20 at 1:37 pm

‘That property rights are not natural relations’, surely?

12

Ed 01.18.20 at 3:11 pm

“It wasn’t that long ago that everyone was talking about the “libertarian moment” in the US.”

How did I miss that?

13

Scott P. 01.18.20 at 5:07 pm

Is there a ‘not’ missing from the antepenultimate sentence?

14

BenK 01.18.20 at 5:15 pm

Any serious analysis of this should minimally argue that the motivation for the motivated reasoning of those who reject the ‘constructionist’ arguments is not at all the arbitrary whims of a personality cult leader, but instead an attempt to avoid being subject to the equally arbitrary whims of manifest dictators who will use any excuse to redefine, regulate, and confiscate. The reasoning is no less motivated, but the motivation makes more sense.

15

Jim Harrison 01.18.20 at 5:23 pm

“That would imply an acknowledgement that property rights are natural relations between people (owners) and things (property).” You left out the not.

16

Kiwanda 01.18.20 at 5:33 pm

I think reason.com considers itself to be libertarian, and does not appear to be either departing to the left, or Trumpist. I probably disagree with their editorial viewpoint on many topics, e.g. guns, medical care, some regulations, but their coverage of the failures of the U.S. “criminal justice” system, regarding civil asset forfeiture, qualified immunity, prison conditions, excessive charges to force plea bargaining, cash bail, junk forensics, prosecutorial immunity, no-knock raids, “drug-sniffing” dogs, and disproportionate sentencing, is quite valuable. Is reform of that system libertarian, liberaltarian, state capacity libertarian, left wing, right wing, neoliberal, liberneonal? I don’t know, I don’t care, I don’t see why anyone should.

They are also quite valuable and, and I think principled, regarding free speech and fair hearings, on campus and elsewhere. Free speech is not a Trumpist value, or a left wing one these days, unless it’s convenient.

I tried a bit to look for a libertarian equivalent of “I used to consider myself a Democrat, but thanks to 9/11, I’m really outraged by Chappaquiddick.” Is there one?

17

Diodotos 01.18.20 at 5:46 pm

“That would imply an acknowledgement that property rights are [ not ?? ] natural relations between people (owners) and things (property).”

18

Larry Hamelin 01.18.20 at 6:18 pm

“That would imply an acknowledgement that property rights are not natural relations between people (owners) and things (property).”

Right?

19

Kenny Easwaran 01.18.20 at 6:30 pm

I think part of what has happened is that the intellectual world has realized how out of touch we are with the general population. As far as I can recall, most people who bother to distinguish an “economic” left/right or liberal/conservative axis from a “social” one does so because they want to say they are “economically conservative and socially liberal”. However, when researchers have done actual studies of the population by asking for responses to particular questions that are meant to identify people’s positions, this quadrant is by far the least popular, while the “economically left and socially right” quadrant is actually slightly more popular than the ones that are paradigmatic of the two major political parties. The key to Trumpism has been unlocking this set of voters (who we used to call “Reagan Democrats”).

20

John Quiggin 01.18.20 at 6:55 pm

I feel like the guy who printed the Wicked Bible.

And now that we put all comments into moderation, no one can see that other people have already pointed out the error until I wake up and approve them. At least I know people are paying attention.

“Not” has been inserted as it should have been.

21

Collin Street 01.18.20 at 8:29 pm

Any serious analysis of this should minimally argue that the motivation for the motivated reasoning of those who reject the ‘constructionist’ arguments is not at all the arbitrary whims of a personality cult leader, but instead an attempt to avoid being subject to the equally arbitrary whims of manifest dictators who will use any excuse to redefine, regulate, and confiscate. The reasoning is no less motivated, but the motivation makes more sense.

Wishing don’t make it so.

22

Chetan Murthy 01.18.20 at 9:48 pm

It seems like libertarianism is dying because its two basic tenets simply don’t allow it to adapt to and address the real challenges of our times. Libertarianism (or at least, libertarians) is predicated on the primacy of property rights, and a belief that unfettered markets are the best solution. But
(a) “property rights” means “property rights that I believe in, and no others” (as others have observed up-thread. It’s a Wilhoit’s Law problem: the only property rights they believe in are those that give them money and power, not the ones that constrain them.
(b) “the market” doesn’t actually deliver good outcomes for the vast majority, unless that majority has pretty much the same wealth. In the face of inequality, the market actually doesn’t work at all for the vast majority. Delong cited Negishi on this long ago ( https://www.bradford-delong.com/2016/08/must-read-welfare-economics-and-existence-of-an-equilibrium-for-a-competitive-economy-negishi-2006-metroeconomi.html ).

In the face of these facts, I think most libertarians just retreat into dogma. The one libertarian I actually interrogated closely eventually retreated to “the primacy of property rights is axiomatic” — and of course, he didn’t recognize any property rights related to clean air/water/etc.

It’s a religion.

23

Adam Roberts 01.18.20 at 10:02 pm

Well I managed to put a typo into my correction of your slip, which I think is worse.

24

Fake Dave 01.18.20 at 10:43 pm

I think libertarianism will thrive as long as there’s a steady supply of entitled young men who resent paying taxes. If the age of the “libertarian intellectual” is ending, it’s because the Kochs and their fellow travelers in the think tank ecosystem are getting old and dying off. The next generation “grassroots” libertarians (ie cranks) meanwhile have embraced their hatred and become “alt right.” In a decade or two, they’ll probably rediscover respectability politics and start quoting Von Mises and co, but first they’ll have to start paying the price for following that other Austrian.

25

Collin Street 01.19.20 at 12:01 am

In the face of these facts, I think most libertarians just retreat into dogma. The one libertarian I actually interrogated closely eventually retreated to “the primacy of property rights is axiomatic” — and of course, he didn’t recognize any property rights related to clean air/water/etc.

The… driving animus, I guess, of libertarianism is to produce a model of social relations that prioritises simplicity over anything else. Everything is reduced to rigid rules and the rules are reduced to a minimum; a libertarian society is a simple society, one where you can’t get into trouble unknowing.

So of course it neglects externalities. It’s not that it’s an oversight, or a theoretically-tricky point that wants proper integration. Externalities are complex; externalities can be incurred inadvertently; externalities require thinking about how your actions impact others.

The whole point of libertarianism is to produce a society where not thinking about that shit and doing what you like is perfectly OK.

Absolutely no amateur psychology, please. Last warning on this

26

anon/portly 01.19.20 at 1:18 am

Now, libertarianism/propertarianism is pretty much dead. The support base, advocacy groups and so on have gone full Trumpists….

This may be true, but why not provide a short list of the libertarian “advocacy groups” that have gone full Trumpist? There can’t be all that many – how many libertarian advocacy groups are (or were) there? Cato is the one I know, and I don’t believe they’ve gone anything like “full Trumpist” – or have they?

As far as the “support base” that has gone full Trumpist, this could mean something like “people who would normally vote Libertarian decided to vote for Trump in 2016,” but I am skeptical:

1976: 0.2 million
1980: 0.9 million (1.06%)
1984 – 2008: 0.2 – 0.5 million
2012: 1.3 million (1.0%)
2016: 4.5 million (3.3%)

Following the first link in the OP (to JQ’s own blog), I found this curious bit of election analysis:

Electorally, there could scarcely have been a better chance for a propertarian candidate, yet Johnson pulled in just 3 per cent of the vote.

I think we can all agree that 2016 was an easy year for third parties in the US to pick up votes – the per cent not voting R or D went from 1.74% to 5.73%, presumably because both main-party candidates were unusually unpopular. But my sense is that JQ’s “par” for the Libertarian Party in 2016 might be a tad unrealistic. I think that sentence might make more sense if you change “yet” to “as” and “just” to “over”.

Also does “propertarian” really make sense in the context of that sentence? Calling libertarians “propertarians” may or may not make sense in terms of libertarian thought, as it were, but does it make sense with regards to how and why the actual Libertarian Party appeals to actual voters? I would guess about 99.9% of actual L Party voters think they’re voting for a “small government” party and wouldn’t even understand what the term “propertarian” was supposed to refer to. If someone had started up a “Propertarian Party” in 2016 I don’t think it would have taken many votes away from the Libertarian Party, or any other party, but I could be wrong.

27

Greg Koos 01.19.20 at 2:45 am

The assumption that a libertarian philosophy was anything other than a polite wink and nod to rapacious rent seeking has become clear. Of course they have outed themselves as Trumpistas. Permission was granted.

28

Chip Daniels 01.19.20 at 2:49 am

@Collin Street #25
That’s been my experience as well, that unlike other political ideas like conservatism or liberalism, libertarians refuse to acknowledge and mediate the inherent contradictions in their goals of liberty and the order which protects it.

All ideologies have this tension between liberty and order; Conservatives and liberals resolve this by crafting a thick network of exceptions and provisos and logic tests for when these things clash. For example, we celebrate “free speech” but have all sorts of tests for when speech may be restricted. We have government order but we place limits and restriction on it.

Libertarians tend to shy away from this, and retreat into simple dogmatic statements like “All engagements should be voluntary.”

29

Murray Reiss 01.19.20 at 3:35 am

Speaking of typos: “Second, the effort to deny this inevitably result in denial of the scientific evidence that climate change was necessary.” The scientific evidence that climate change was necessary?

30

Glen Tomkins 01.19.20 at 3:58 am

Some forms of irrational belief are instructive to study, because it is useful to understand where basically reasonable and decent people might make a wrong turn.

Libertarianism is not one of these forms of irrational belief.

31

John Quiggin 01.19.20 at 4:27 am

Perils of late night blogging. I’ve made a few more changes responding to comments about typos, missing links etc.

32

John Quiggin 01.19.20 at 4:30 am

@26 The Cato Institute hasn’t changed its line, but just about everyone who made it significant has departed, for Niskanen and points left.

33

bekabot 01.19.20 at 4:56 am

If someone had started up a ‘Propertarian Party’ in 2016 I don’t think it would have taken many votes away from the Libertarian Party…but I could be wrong.

If someone had started up a Propertarian Party in 2016, it wouldn’t have taken any votes away from the Libertarian Party, because its pool of potential converts would already have been getting what they wanted from the Libertarians. Why switch?

34

Collin Street 01.19.20 at 4:58 am

I think libertarianism will thrive as long as there’s a steady supply of entitled young men who resent paying taxes.

Sure.

But taxes represent two costs: one is the value of the money, and the other is the lost autonomy that being told to pay represents. And for libertarians it really seems that the latter is more important: social insurance is just so much ludicrously cheaper than self-coverage that if it were about the money there’d be no question.

[because for self-coverage everybody needs to save the lump sum payout in full individually; for a 10% possibility, social insurance is a tenth the price. And it becomes cashflow rather than capital. And for lower-chance outcomes like traffic accident rehabilitation or cancer treatment or airline risk management the price difference just becomes insane.]

Liberalism gets you everything that libertarianism gets, cheaper and better. Except for that space-for-autonomy. “It’ll be cheaper” isn’t why people become libertarians.

35

ph 01.19.20 at 5:44 am

“…the effort to deny the necessary implications of climate change inevitably resulted in denial of the scientific evidence that climate change was occurring. That contributed to a situation where most former libertarians are now Trumpists, happy to deny the evidence of their own eyes if that’s what the leader requires of them…”

This seems sloppy and poorly substantiated. First, plenty of people who don’t support climate change advocacy (let’s not call it ‘alarmism’) acknowledge that climate change is occurring and that human actions play some role in these changes. Which leads to a second problem: your ham-fisted blanket mischaracterisation of the motivations of libertarian Trump supporters, most of whom, AFICT, don’t like Trump as a person, or persona, but are entirely behind Trump’s successful efforts to de-regulate the state, which would be a really good topic for discussion at some sort of left-leaning academic website.

The (damaging) knock-on effects of federal de-regulation include de-regulation at the state and local level – a crass exercise in cultism and self-interest trumpeted by the cynical and greedy and beloved by corporations, capitalists, the GOP in general and right-wingers across the globe.

I realize you’re formulating your ideas for a larger piece, but including nuance and detail will, I’m sure, increase the accuracy and utility of your piece, and very likely win you some readers outside the cloister.If you’re trying to actually convince people of the quality of your thinking, that is, and I’m certain you are. My own view is that libertarianism is a nonsense form of right-wing virtue signalling. They’re all happy enough to benefit from state funding and tax-breaks when it suits them.

36

bad Jim 01.19.20 at 8:34 am

To repurpose a Tom Lehrer quip, Libertarians dealing with climate change are like Christian Scientists dealing with appendicitis.

37

Chris Bertram 01.19.20 at 9:30 am

Another axis-of-fracture for libertarians has been migration, where the split is roughly between those who take freedom and individual rights seriously and who therefore become anti-restrictionist, and those who want to affirm a form of national collective property against outsiders (with all the problems that national collective property also entails for libertarians). Trump (and Miller) have forced people to take sides. But notice that this split is also mirrored on the left between the social democratic version of national collective propertarianism and cosmopolitan leftists affirming human rights against the state or prioritizing global equality over equality-within-borders.

38

Musicismath 01.19.20 at 10:41 am

I very much like this analysis, but part me wonders how complete an account of the “death” of libertarianism can be without taking into account the vast power and influence of the tech industry. I’m reminded of a recent quote from Jennifer Schaffer in The Baffler:

the unimaginative hedonism and fundamental sociopathy of the current tech boom: its insistence on alienating us from everything worth having, only to sell it back to us stripped down and restructured according to the values (and, worse, aesthetics) of ahistorical libertarian vampires, whose kink for giving billions of dollars to unqualified frat boys with underdog complexes had resulted in the disruption-beyond-recognition of subtlety and flirtation and dining and travel and journalism and democracy and one of America’s great counter-cultural cities, among other things I had loved absentmindedly, as though they could be taken for granted, before I realized how quickly they would be brought to their knees.

Our cities, relationships, market behaviour, and our basic habits of thought are vastly more libertarian now than they were even 15 years ago. That, it seems to me, is entirely down to the market power of the tech industry, which has managed to embed as default setting a naive Stanford-undergrad version of the world and convince us (via the hand-mind-smartphone interface) that it is in fact our shared reality.

39

J-D 01.19.20 at 10:58 am

Well I managed to put a typo into my correction of your slip, which I think is worse.

Good old Muphry’s Law!

40

nastywoman 01.19.20 at 12:00 pm

@3
‘Extinction Rebellion is not political’. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, bollocks”.

No it’s NOT ”bollocks”
As a member of the Friday for Future Movement we very much would like to see our movement as a ”not political” movement too –
even if it is true that –
”The most radical (i.e. effective) plans to deal with climate change (e.g. the Green New Deal etc.) invariably and in all cases come from the left, and from the radical left most of all”.

BUT that is… to say it very simple: Not good!
As our movement(s) -(including ‘Extinction Rebellion’) needs people – Humans – who FOCUS on fighting the Climate Crisis AND NOT on (distracting) ”political discourses” about some ”strange death of libertarianism”.

That might be a worth while subject for some – but NOT for anybody – who is pretty busy – trying to get ANYBODY into our -(”not political”) movements.

As haven’t you guys heard?

”Political” or ”Politics” is NOT a very popular word or ”expression” with… may I say:
”The younger crowd”?

41

Dipper 01.19.20 at 1:11 pm

@ Chris Bertram “Another axis-of-fracture for libertarians has been migration,”.

The migration issue for many UK voters is that if you simultaneously have a generous welfare state open to all people resident in a country and have freedom of movement into that country, then you will fairly quickly go bust. At some point you have to make a decision on which of those principles you are going to abandon, and saying that you can, so to speak, have your migration/welfare state cake and eat it, was overwhelmingly rejected at the last GE (and the GE before that and the EU referendum before that).

42

bianca steele 01.19.20 at 4:55 pm

Libertarianism in the US, I think, arises from a cultural tradition that equates freedom and personal responsibility with “grown-up” self-abnegation, and deals with the incoherence of this project (you actually can’t be a craftsman and as good as a rich man in any society that ever existed) by wishing the contradictions away. Liberaltarianism is an educated response that applies a few personal-freedom addendums to an essentially conservative cultural tradition, as if it hadn’t heard of the past century or two of similar addendums made by people whom liberaltarians find uncongenial. Trumpism is a commercially oriented, populist in the sense of uncultured, response that holds the same cultural tradition to be a mistake, because it developed into something now held by those uncongenial people. The connecting factor is that liberaltarians defend themselves from those people by agreeing with the deeper objections of the Trumpists. The tell is that the objections they make to liberalism amount to a case for making the world as they believe it ought to be (see my first sentence above), through more conservative culture—*not* through more exposure to liberal culture (where writers were liberal in their historical context, too, they appropriate them as actually conservative).

43

bianca steele 01.19.20 at 5:15 pm

I think another factor operating now, for instance maybe in Cowen’s case, is the emergence of a right-wing approach to material assistance for the “white working class.” I’m thinking of Kristof’s recent book with his wife. I’ve read excerpts and reviews of this book, read and listened to interviews, and nowhere does he express regret for even possibly having contributed to the appearance that nobody in ruling circles was concerned about such people, not even for mistakenly having thought they didn’t present a real problem. Instead, he claims that both pro-business* libertarians and social-reform liberals hate such people, *but assures the reader that he counts himself among neither of those*, and comes very close to proclaiming that nobody had the idea to care about white rural drug addicts before he personally thought of it, certainly not the Democrats.

* thus excluding liberaltarians

44

bianca steele 01.19.20 at 8:05 pm

I think the quote from the Baffler @38 can be interpreted as “tech bros ruined libertarianism for us cool kids.” Subtlety and flirting? Really? Let’s see, what’s the big question in the discourse lately, that a reader would think of when they saw “flirting”? It’s #MeToo. Clearly blaming the disgrace of Louis CK and Harvey Weinstein on techbros is ridiculous, but I guess obvious falsehood is what the cool kids mean by subtlety these days.

45

John Quiggin 01.19.20 at 8:17 pm

@ J-D LOLL

46

Musicismath 01.19.20 at 8:21 pm

@Dipper: The migration issue for many UK voters is that if you simultaneously have a generous welfare state open to all people resident in a country and have freedom of movement into that country, then you will fairly quickly go bust.

Except that’s not really the case, is it? In reality, there are a range of restrictions on what many immigrants can claim in terms of state benefits, even if they are “resident” in the UK. I (a Commonwealth migrant), for instance, had a big “No Recourse to Public Funds” notice on all my immigration documents for the first 10 or so years I lived in the UK. As do a great many UK residents of migrant origin. This despite the great wodges of tax I was paying into the system.

It does seem to be a fairly common assumption among some Brits (very common among hairdressers, in my experience) that migrants come to this country primarily in order to sign on. Which seems to be a fairly basic misunderstanding of the immigrant mindset. Immigrants, generally speaking, move to other countries in order to work and therefore gain income superior to those they could expect to receive in their countries of origin. The British welfare system (no matter how “generous” many Brits mistakenly believe it to be) is an unlikely pathway to these kinds of aspirations.

47

Chris Bertram 01.19.20 at 8:48 pm

@Dipper: the issue I was drawing attention to is the consistency of libertarian principles (or social democratic or liberal ones, for that matter) with immigration restrictions. The opinion of UK voters about whether there should be such restrictions or about whether immigrants are a burden or a benefit to the welfare state, even if correct, is strictly irrelevant to that question of consistency. (Tax-paying immigrants are, in fact, vital if we are to pay for the upkeep of unproductive old people like you. But you probably won’t recognize that until it is too late, if then.)

48

notGoodenough 01.19.20 at 8:49 pm

Musicmath @ 45

If I recall correctly it was the Daily Mail who pioneered quantum mechanics by bringing us Schrödinger’s Immigrant – someone who will simultaneously never work and just live off of Britain’s far-too-generous benefits, but who will also steal jobs from hardworking brits.

Truly landmark research. /s

49

J-D 01.19.20 at 9:12 pm

From the linked article at reason.com about Justin Amash:

The influential DeVos family from Amash’s own district, which has been his second-biggest donor over the years and with whom his family has various longstanding relationships, announced last year that its days of officially supporting the hometown libertarian were over, too.

Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that somebody wrote that sentence without mentioning that a member of the DeVos family is now a member of Donald Trump’s Cabinet?

50

Hidari 01.19.20 at 9:26 pm

@40
I don’t normally reply to your posts for reasons which are probably pretty obvious. But the objective fact is that (fantasies about citizen’s assemblies (with no real power) notwithstanding) climate change is a crisis that manifests itself primarily at the national and supra-national level and the solution to this problem (assuming there is one) will be created at the same level; i.e. by national governments and supra-national entities which consist of national governments (e.g. the EU, the UN). And given that we live in a society in which fossil fuels provide most of the ‘motor’ of capitalism, {not just via the usual suspects but via the other ‘additional’ industries which rely on fossil fuels directly (cars, trucks, motorbikes, the travel industry (i.e. all companies which to a greater or less extent rely on tourism)) and indirectly via industries which rely, so to speak, implicitly, on cheap fossil fuel powered growth (the surveillance and control technologies (Facebook, Google etc.) the media)} and given that, in the West, political parties of the Right are essentially ‘fronts’ for big business interests, all parties of the Right, all of them, with no exceptions, are committed to increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere (implicitly or explicitly) and centrists exist to cover this up.

But the thing is you know that. I went onto the webpage for your little organisation and the first thing I see is a video from the well known non-political organisation Novara media with the non-political title ‘Settler colonialism is behind climate denial’. https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/

There are no equivalent right wing media on your website because the Right (and the Centre) are your enemies. As you well know . The British State recently argued that Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace were ‘extremist threats’ and they were right to do so: the interests of ER and Greenpeace and irreconcilably opposed to those of the British State under Boris Johnson, which is why the cops arrest you guys and throw you in jail, and not the Tories (as they should, if we had a rule of law).

‘As haven’t you guys heard?

”Political” or ”Politics” is NOT a very popular word or ”expression” with… may I say:
”The younger crowd”?’

Not only have I not heard it, I haven’t heard it ‘cos it’s obviously not true.

https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/news/this-is-how-the-british-electoral-map-would-look-if-only-18-24s-were-allowed-to-vote/04/09/

But hey what do I care? Continue with your fantasy that your political movement is not political: it might help you cope with the inevitable defeat your movement will face if you fail to see who your real friends (and enemies) are.

51

bianca steele 01.19.20 at 10:14 pm

Is libertarianism very popular in the UK? I often feel, reading Brits (especially my age, 50s, or older) that what passes for “left” is more libertarian than would go in the US, very “socially liberal and economically conservative” in the US sense of being in favor of legalized drug use and low taxes and low regulation. US libertarians love The Economist but I can’t remember reading a British “classical liberal” writer ever referring to themself as a “libertarian.”

52

nastywoman 01.19.20 at 11:39 pm

@50
”But hey what do I care? Continue with your fantasy that your political movement is not political”

Well?
If you went to the website – and hopefully researched a bit more perhaps you hopefully read:

”If young people have to mobilise because of the adults’ inaction, we could consider that the politicians’ main purpose to serve the people they represent seems to have been lost. We can have the impression that decision-makers worldwide act first and foremost with the objective of being re-elected, with short-term politics, and that it pushes them to inaction in the face of climate change. Because those who would think long-term, introduce carbon emissions taxes, close coal-power stations or cut subsidies to fossil energies industries, would probably not be re-elected. But postponing action against global warming won’t serve the future generations. Politics should rely on science to protect the next generations’ future, and this is what the young demonstrators are demanding”.

AND:

“What is the point of learning facts when the most important facts given by the finest scientists are ignored by our politicians ”?

AND:

”Our demands are actually a consequence of the politicians’ inaction that has lasted for years. Scientists have warned about the dangers of global warming for more than forty years. One could thus wonder about the purpose of politicians these days”.

AND as I actually suspect – that you very much care – that we don’t consider our movement ”political” in the sense that we very strongly believe that ”Politics” and ”Politicians” have failed US – just –
Y’ALL support US –
as you rightfully mentioned that the Right-Wing Climate Change Deniers – won’t!

How about that?

53

notGoodenough 01.19.20 at 11:48 pm

Hidari @ 50

Thank you for your comments here and on the “consumed by fire” thread. If I may, I would like to slightly disagree. This might seem like a minor quibble – and to be clear I don’t think I fundamentally differ to a degree worth noting in the generals – but you have made very strong claims regarding the necessity of fossil fuels which I’m not sure are warranted, and seem to go against my experience as someone working (tangentially) in this area.

I would say that civilisation and capitalism (two different things, of course) are dependent on energy, not fossil fuels. This might sound like nit-picking, as fossil fuels are admittedly currently the go-to choice. However, I haven’t seen anything to show that fundamentally it would be impossible to transition to alternatives powered by a mixture of renewables and thorium reactors. Now, to be clear, I am not saying this would be easy, or that there should not be big changes in our approach to living (better planning, decreasing our environmental impact) as this would seem to be just good common sense. But, when you suggest that there could be no air travel without fossil fuels, I wonder if that is true – for example, hydrogen could make it feasible, even if the ranges were more limited and people would have to plan for stopovers. In short, while we should make big changes, and we need to cut CO2 emissions rapidly and soon, it would not seem impossible that advances in appropriate technologies could make it an adaptation and readjustment rather than an end to life as it is.

Of course, I could be wrong – perhaps you have more expertise in this field than me – but it seems to me as though the opposition to mitigating climate change is more about short term profit and ideology, than the practical requirements.

54

J-D 01.20.20 at 12:09 am

BenK

Were you deliberately aiming at being cryptic, or was it an unintended effect?

55

Hidari 01.20.20 at 7:04 am

@53

Vis a vis flying, I was going by this article:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/sep/19/aviations-flight-towards-low-emissions-only-fuels-the-crisis

The whole thing is worth reading but the general gist would seem to be that genuinely electric planes (i.e. commercial passenger planes) aren’t really going to be possible before 2035 at the earliest and won’t be in a position to take over form ‘normal’ planes until some years/decades after that.

Vis a vis thorium, yes it looks interesting. But you really can’t get away from this (to quote Wikipedia): ‘As of 2020, there are no operational thorium reactors in the world’.

See also this, which thorium advocates tend to glide over:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium-based_nuclear_power#Possible_disadvantages

There is no real reason to think that, whatever the physics, the economic and political path to building a thorium nuclear reactor will be any shorter and quicker and easier than the path for any other kind of nuclear reactor.

So that’s a problem.

56

Z 01.20.20 at 9:58 am

Most of those departing to the left have mentioned the failure of libertarianism to handle climate change.

It is not surprising that an ideology which believes that every voluntary market-mediated transaction is permissible and desirable, no matter how initially unequal the parties are, and that the outcomes of such transactions are fair and desirable, no matter how unequal they may be and independently of any possible externalities found itself poorly equipped to face the emerging defining issue of our times: the dual crisis of inequalities and environmental destruction*.

But there is a deeper link between propertarianism, engineered credulity passing for hard-edged skepticism, the falsification of science and good old political propaganda. A link that is as active as ever. That link is a vision of knowledge heavily influenced by Silicon Valley techno-utopia, in which peer-review, independence, bibliographic work and more generally the notion of an autonomous ethics of scientific work which would be the by-product of an autonomous field of scientific and academic inquiry is to be replaced by private channels. This is the pseudo-academic work of techno-libertarian bloggers, as produced by institutes in name only (like Cato), and then disseminated through private relays (like Quillette), private forums (like Youtube, or more prestigiously conferences and commencement addresses). It is a vision that pushes the idea that environmental destruction is real but will be solved by the newest app which is coming any moment now out of Palo Alto or Mountain View. That inequalities reflect deeply ingrained human biodiversity or at best the subpar “institutions” that mysteriously kill Black babies and ensure that children of ultra-rich tech entrepreneurs enter ultra-wealthy universities and which can be “fixed” or “hacked” by billionaire philanthropy, charter schools and (of course) apps that will help put your human capital to optimal use. That the worse we could do about these problems would be to try a collective solution and that everyone would know all this if not for the cancel culture of SJW. The dream world of Steven Pinker, Jordan Peterson, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk and their techno-libertarian epigones.

*The blindness of propertarianism is so perfectly matched with this crucial dual issue that it seems to me infinitely more probable that the popularity of propertarianism is a reaction to the crisis (in a “No, absolutely don’t look there!” way) than an independent phenomenon, or a even a cause: it’s because inequalities have been rising passed the point where they destroy society and because environmental destruction has been obvious to everyone willing to see that some people have turned propertarian, not the reverse. I think it is not misinterpreting Piketty’s latest book to note that he points a similar phenomenon in the early and mid-19th century with respect to slavery. In the seven or eight decades in which slavery proved to be too contradictory to the rising conception of human beings are fundamentally equal, there was a parallel rise in propertarian thinking: “sure, men are equal, and sure eventually we will have to free our slaves, but hey, at the moment they are our property, and surely you don’t want to endanger the sacred right of property now do you?”

57

SusanC 01.20.20 at 11:25 am

@51: It’s very rare for a Brit to call themself Libertarian.

The writer George Orwell (in for example, Animal Farm or 1984) might be considered a fairly typical British leftist: note, especially, the opposition to Soviet Union-style Communism.

However, there is some political distance between George Orwell and Ayn Rand,

58

derrida derider 01.20.20 at 12:52 pm

Of course even in the US libertarianism never had many people behind it, just a lot of money that gave it a voice out of proportion to its popularity. As Lenin said of their left wing (anarchist) counterparts “an ideology for children”.

59

notGoodenough 01.20.20 at 1:05 pm

Hidari @ 55

Thank you for your response – much appreciated!

I certainly agree that there are huge problems with electric planes (and I say this as a battery person), but I believe there are possibilities via hydrogen fuel cells. Certainly it is also true that nuclear power is difficult and takes a lot of time to institute. However, it is worth noting that even if we had to plan ahead for nuclear but began pushing renewables more, combined with carbon capture, etc., it would still be a significant improvement on the near-nothing being done now. There could also be interesting alternatives in terms of improving distribution grids and the like (though that too has its own challenges).

Of course, I don´t want to suggest that technology alone will be a panacea – action, at the individual and collective levels, will likely also be necessary – but I think that there are ways of mitigating climate change via improvements at both the societal and technological levels, some of which are more immediate than others :-)

Again, I don´t think we fundamentally disagree on this topic – and what now follows is just a very personal opinion (and please feel free to agree to disagree on this point, as it probably isn´t so important as to be worth quibbling over).

My concern (and this is my genuine concern, based on the anti-AGW propaganda being churned out) is that by framing it as fossil fuels are inherently necessary, we run the risk of implying that the choice is “everyone lives in a cave again” vs. “climate change”, which then plays a bit into the hands of those who benefit by saying “well, we could mitigate climate change, but it probably won´t be that bad and besides you don´t want to give up driving do you?”.

I think my preferred framing is “mitigate climate change, which will involve some lifestyle changes” vs. “let global warming continue, which will involve huge, unpredictable lifestyle changes and the eventual collapse of civilisation” – the point being, of course, that the costs of mitigation only seem large when you don´t compare to the costs of not.

Again though, maybe this isn´t the best approach – so feel free to ignore me, as I certainly will understand if you don´t agree regarding this.

As a general comment – and this is not aimed at you! – it is perhaps also worth pointing out to the “let´s not do anything now” crowd that the sooner we push the technologies, the sooner we are prepared. If those in power had pushed in this direction when climate change was well established, we would probably be looking at more-or-less being ready by now. I must confess, given the potential financial incentives for whoever cracks the problem first, it does genuinely baffle me that the more profitable companies (for example, those in the oil business) don´t invest more in this – the money would be a drop in the bucket for them, and potentially they would then be well placed to keep turning oil into plastics (and making a profit on their current business model) and seize command of the energy market. I would have thought even hyper-capitalists should appreciate that. Sadly, it seems we are chained to the whims of a far too short-sighted system.

Anyway, in short – thank you for clarifying your position, and I very much appreciate the thoughtful discussion. I won´t post again on this thread regarding this point as I don´t want to end up sidetracking another thread with my personal tedious tendencies :-)

60

Lee A. Arnold 01.20.20 at 1:55 pm

John, I wrote the same things in a short comment at Brad DeLong’s, 15 years ago:
https://www.bradford-delong.com/2005/07/the_battle_of_i.html#comment-6a00e551f08003883400e55239214e8834

61

nastywoman 01.20.20 at 2:05 pm

– and YES!

I know, I know – that:

”Everything is Politics” –

– at least that’s what Germany’s ”utmost unpolitical” author Thomas Mann – said
and so –
perhaps? –
when I was accused – just a day ago – that the only reason why I hate the Clownstick so much – is because I am this ”Crazy Socialistic Lefty” – and I had a really hard time to correct this false impression by saying that I really –
REALLY!!
HATE –
”Climate Change Denying”
and
”Politicians who don’t do anything to help fighting the Climate Crises”
AND
”Racism”
AND
”Small minded attitudes”
and as some people -(like the Clownstick) impersonates ALL of the above –
I just… hate him!
But so many people think – that if I hate Trump – It must have something to do with ”Trumps Politics”
-(which I hate too)
”but I’m still with Reich-Ranicki, who maintains that Mann was essentially an unpolitical person who judged politics JUST from an artist’s point of view.

62

SusanC 01.20.20 at 3:42 pm

Is “Trumpism” even a political ideology? As opposed to a form of politicsl rhetoric, whose main feature is that bullshit replaces anything resembling a coherent argument,

Is was going to compare Libertarianism to Trumpism, but ran into the lack of a coherent thing to compare,

Insofar as Trumpism has an ideology, it appears to be: socially conservative, “populist”, in favour of relatively direct democracy (e.g. Having a referendum over Brexit), and opposed to procedural machinations by the executive/clique of party insiders to thwart the intent of the voters (e.g. In favour of “mandatory reselection” in the UK context; opposed to impeachemt of The Donald himself in the US context; presumably also opposed to attempts by the executive to lean on Facebook to prevent users posting Trumpist things)

63

reason 01.20.20 at 3:47 pm

Z @56
This reads well, but I think it ignores the actual history of Libertarianism, which predates Techno-Libertarianism by some decades and arose in a quite different period.

I am old enough to remember Milton Friedman as a public figure, and to remember his very public long distance debate against J K Galbraith as the dominant intellectual discussion of the period (the 70s). Milton Friedman was a member of the Mount Pelerin Society which eventually evolved into the Libertarian movement in the 1980s and 1990s. AGW became a major theme first much later – with increasing urgency first in this century.

I find Anon’s point about actual votes for the Libertarian Party interesting (but given the US’s 2 party system clearly not definitive – a better line can maybe be won from the Liberal Party in Germany). But at least from blogs it is noticeable that Libertarians are no longer as prevalent and confident as they were.

64

MarkW 01.20.20 at 4:31 pm

These libertarians (The Institute for Justice) don’t seem to be dead or Trumpists (nor focused on climate change in any way). The two cases they’ve highlighted on their ‘cases’ page are:

West vs Winfield: Institute for Justice Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Hold Government Officials Accountable For Destroying Idaho Home with Grenades

and

Pittsburgh Airport Forfeiture: Pittsburgh Retiree Sues Federal Government to Get His Life Savings Back

Both are cases having to do with protecting individual property rights being abused (in their view) by the government and yet I think most CTers would be on the same side as IJ on these cases, no?

65

bianca steele 01.20.20 at 7:41 pm

@62

I’d say if Trumpism is in favor of democracy, it assumes before any vote what the outcome will be: a culture most Americans will recognize as white, individualistic but civic-oriented, Christian in a worldly and civically oriented way. IOW if everyone (who’s not damaged in some way) behaves according to what the like, that white male supremacist mostly-Protestant (Christian but not too Christian, if you know what I mean) culture is what will result. Any other result is proof to them that the vote wasn’t really valid. A culture of people who are respectable and need to be recognized as better than black people (who define “respectable” as “not behaving the ways they think black people behave”), but who don’t put on airs and pretend they’re better than other respectable people . . . And know their place, don’t pretend they’re as good as the ruling class, who don’t come around to rub their noses in it. Which is less democratic. This doesn’t seem to have a European or even English counterpart.

Libertarians similarly generally feel that if the government got off everyone’s back, everyone would naturally generate something like that same culture, maybe just with a little more economic inequality.

66

nastywoman 01.20.20 at 8:54 pm

@61
”but I’m still with Reich-Ranicki, who maintains that Mann was essentially an unpolitical person who judged politics JUST from an artist’s point of view”.

– and for everybody who has learned ”Artist” in school – the concept that ”property rights are not natural relations between people (owners) and things (property). They are socially constructed relationships between people, allowing some people to use things and to stop other people from doing so”-
always was/is a ”known known” – and I once had an (American) boyfriend – who said he was a ”Libertarian” but he never ever let me drive his car.

But otherwise he never denied ”climate change” –
(as we once got caught in one of these horrendous downpours on the north side of the Alpen – where over night our Hotel in Soave got flooded and we had to be saved by boats) – and so he never denied ”the necessary implications of climate change” or only like Trump – when he had eaten a bad hamberder.

And that’s what makes life so unpredictable – that people who might even think themselves that they are ”Libertarians” are actually ”Trumpists” – if being a ”Trumpists” means you can be anything ”poltical” whenever you want.

As long as a ”Socialist” doesn’t force you to become a Vegetarian!

67

faustusnotes 01.21.20 at 1:39 am

Bianca Steele, I read that reference to “subtlety and flirting” as being about online dating, I guess trying to imply that techbros ruined online dating with things like Tinder. Except online dating is vastly better than going to seedy bars hoping to find someone, or relying on meeting friends of friends, or whatever we did 20 years ago before the internet made life easier. I don’t think it’s a coded reference to metoo.

SusanC, I have always thought Orwell was anti-communist because they personally screwed him over (in Spain), not because of a particular ideological inclination towards libertarianism.

I’ve always read libertarians as naive fascists. As middle and upper class white boys, they want the state to destroy all competition to their birthright, but unlike actual fascists, they want to pretend it’s not happening, and compete against each other in a protected social space where no one can actually lose. And they want to be able to freely use drugs, without having any solidarity with the black people who have historically suffered in the war on drugs. It’s just playtime politics before they grow up and become real fascists. It’s also facially naive and silly, and there’s no point in taking it seriously.

68

nastywoman 01.21.20 at 6:17 am

AND at The Intercept Glenn Greenwald had this article where he reported the ”dismissal” of the Brazilian Culture Minister – and as it reminded me – that there once was this rumour – that Glenn Greenwald once was? the GREATEST Libertarian of them all I HAD to comment:

AND the real problem with all of this… ”Brazilians playing Nazis” –
it’s just too… faaar too funny?
It’s like watching ”Jojo Rabbit” instead of ”Schindlers Liste”
OR
”Duck Soup” of the Marx Brothers instead of ”the far more chilling ”Producers” by Mel Brooks.
OR
”Die Fledermaus” von Johann Strauss – instead of a ”serious deeply unsettling Wagner Opera -where the heroes all murder each other with the hate of ”authentic German Nazis” or ”the White Supremacist of Charlottsville”.

AND it completely contradicts ALL of Glenn Greenwald ideas – that Bolsonaro could be ”worst” than the truly evil Trump.

So lets face it Brazilians doing ”Fascism” – is a little bit like Brazilians doing Carnival instead of the much more ”heavy and unsettling Medieval dark German Schwäbisch-Alemannische Fasnet…!
So – If you want to see ”Real Heavy Opera” – y’all need to come to the Eröffnung of the Bayreuther Festspiele and not to some silly superficial South-American Theatre!

and then:
”AND who in the World? –
EVER? –
took Glenn Greenwalds idea, that Bolsonara is kind of ”worst” or ”more dangerous” than Trump – seriously?!
Who?!…”

and then:
– and it’s weird? –
but somehow this Brazilian Operette reminded me on the first time Glenn banned me from one of his Blogs –
And not because I gave a Goebbel Speech to Wagner Music –
NO!
Because I made fun of the crazy Libertarian ”Pauls” – and joked that he might be the victim of some kind of ”Libertarian Gedankengut” too – which he didn’t find funny at all.
And it reminded me – because this… described by Glenn:
”Nazi content, style and aesthetics of the 6-minute speech, set to the score of a Wagnerian opera – impossible to overstate or even adequately describe in words and has to be seen to be believed –
is nearly as… ”nutty” and ”hilarious” – as when hard core US Libertarians explain their world view…

69

Chetan Murthy 01.21.20 at 7:10 am

MarkW @ 64:
Without clicking-thru and reading the stories, I’ll just note that these sound like
government overreach being visited upon those least able to push back”, and hence not exactly solely a libertarian concern. Indeed, it’s *progressive* concern, that poor (really, not-rich) people get smacked-around by the government, where rich people are treated with kid gloves.

Shrinking the size of government won’t solve that problem — it’ll just leave rich people to do whatever they want without any limitations, and the poor won’t have what limited protection they get today.

TL;DR “stopped clock tells correct time twice a day, film at 11”

70

Hidari 01.21.20 at 8:27 am

@61

I had a long reply to this post and the previous one, and then I lost the will to live.
So I’ll just leave this link to the current front page of the FT. Which, hopefully, says it all.

https://twitter.com/FinancialTimes/status/1219375333822038021

Extinction Rebellion will learn the lesson, and succeed, or fail to learn the lesson, and fail. These are the two options.

71

Z 01.21.20 at 9:59 am

@reason 63.

I agree with you! Libertarianism/propertarianism as intellectual movement has roots going much deeper. I’m not sure I understand where Milton Friedman comes from, intellectually speaking, but as for the Austrian, this is pretty clear, well-documented and the object of many careful analyses (including Corey Robin’s here). Needless to say, these intellectual roots have nothing to do with climate disruption.

On the other hand, libertarianism/propertarianism has actual social phenomenon with an actual following seems to me quite intricately linked with the rise of the dual crisis. Sometime between the late 1970s and the mid-1990s, a group of socially favored, educated Americans found themselves in an economically ascendent trajectory that let others (say blue-collar workers or first-generation high-school graduates Black Americans) way behind and voilà! there was a ready-made ideology to explain why this was fair and why trying collective action to remedy this state of affair was bound to horribly backfire. So a French intellectual non-entity (Basquiat) and a vaguely sinister Austrian (Hayek) suddenly went all the rage.

30 years later, the pretext is transparent for anyone to see so most people have shifted to other mode of justifications. In the English-speaking world of Trump, Johnson and Morrison, classical scapegoating of the victims and the left (“Everything would fine if not for these lazy Muslims/Mexicans/Blacks/Criminals and the SJW who make excuses for them”) is at the moment prevalent, but I can assure you that the pillaging technocrat version (“We have hard choices to make in order to ensure that the 0,1% keep a 12% growth rate in estate value”) structurally functions in much the same and is not at all more palatable.

I very seriously doubt that the techno-libertarian version (“The choices of superiorly clever people expressed through proprietary apps will solve everything”) would be any improvement on either in terms of form or function.

72

MarkW 01.21.20 at 11:16 pm

@Chetan Murphy 69
I’ll just note that these sound like government overreach being visited upon those least able to push back”, and hence not exactly solely a libertarian concern.

Of course not — there can be quite a lot of overlap. Here, for example, is a really great example of progressives and libertarians working together on a major civil liberties issue.

Though I’ll note that progressives will sometimes fail to stand up for those ‘least able to push back’ when they want to preserve government power. In Gonzales v Raich particularly, all of the progressive justices joined together in ruling against Angel Raich (for growing her own medical marijuana) because, it was assumed, they wanted to preserve an expansive reading of the commerce clause. Similarly, in Kelo vs New London all of the progressive justices voted to let New London, CT use eminent domain to take Susan Kelo’s house and give it to a giant corporation (Pfizer).

Shrinking the size of government won’t solve that problem — it’ll just leave rich people to do whatever they want without any limitations

Progressives often (always?) fail to notice that wealthy people and powerful corporations very often use government powers to do things to people who can’t push back (things that the powerful otherwise could not do). What Pfizer did to Susan Kelo, it could only do with New London’s powers of eminent domain. Without that government power, she would have been free to thumb her nose at Pfizer, and there would have been nothing they could have done to push her out of her house. It took expansive government power to make that possible.

TL;DR “stopped clock tells correct time twice a day, film at 11”

Look back at the link from my previous post. One page deep will get you very short descriptions of a number of cases. I suspect you’d be on the IJ’s side for most (but not all) — including, I hope, the anti-qualified immunity effort.

73

Kiwanda 01.22.20 at 12:25 am

I know it’s crazy, but I was curious about what libertarians actually *say* about climate change. Apparently, some accept the science (albeit a bit slowly and grudgingly). Then the question is, what can be done about it? Low and behold, back when, one libertarian/conservative proposed approach was something weird called a “carbon tax”. (Sounds like a terrible idea; is there anyone around with an econ background, who could explain it?)

So (some) libertarians favor action on climate change, and support reproductive rights, free speech, due process, ending the War on Drugs, and relatedly (as I noted) criminal justice reform on a variety of fronts. With the unfortunate exceptions of free speech and due process, I’d guess that “the left” has much the same goals on these topics. But after all, what’s important is not working toward common goals, it’s owning the techdudebros, so whatever.

74

John Quiggin 01.22.20 at 1:22 am

Dial down the snark, Kiwanda.

The whole point of the post (and the longer article) is that, while libertarians might have adopted market-based policies, they have in fact overwhelmingly rejected them.

And, while Adler is better than most, his presentation of Michaels and Balling is highly misleading. They are deniers who maintain just enough ambiguity to reject the label. In fact, as I mention in the longer article, Cato has just decided that there is no more mileage in denial and given Michaels the boot, along with their entire “science” group.

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/5/28/1860852/-CATO-Quietly-Folds-Center-For-Study-of-Science-After-Pat-Michaels-Finally-Tells-A-Truth-About-Heart

75

Chetan Murthy 01.22.20 at 5:38 am

MarkW @ 72:

Progressives often (always?) fail to notice that wealthy people and powerful corporations very often use government powers to do things to people who can’t push back (things that the powerful otherwise could not do). What Pfizer did to Susan Kelo, it could only do with New London’s powers of eminent domain. Without that government power, she would have been free to thumb her nose at Pfizer, and there would have been nothing they could have done to push her out of her house. It took expansive government power to make that possible.

The many striking workers who’ve had their heads busted-in by Pinkerton (and other) strike-breakers might disagree. Rich and powerful people and corps get their way unless government blocks them; then they go about regulatory (and other) capture. The position of libertarians is always that that last bit (capture by the rich) is the be-all and end-all of government.

“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” –Ronald Reagan

Sure. Sure.

76

Chetan Murthy 01.22.20 at 5:45 am

MarkW @ 72:
I should have addressed your substantive points directly, since it’s so easy. Libertarians always argue that “government overreach” can be corrected by restraining government. But their entire philosophy is about doing more than merely restraining government — it’s about hogtying it so that it can’t do a thing. And in such state, well, Pfizer could have done what it wanted to Susan Kelo, b/c there’d have been no government to stop them.

77

Kiwanda 01.22.20 at 6:10 am

It’s not clear to me that libertarianism was ever much of a force in American politics, or that it’s immediately clear that self-identifying libertarians would regard accepting the reality of climate change and the need for state action to fight it as a “move to the left”. As of 2017, the chair of the Libertarian National Committee was against collective action to fight climate change; I was unable to find evidence of Trumpism at that website. I don’t see how it’s possible to know whether the “rank and file” of Libertarians, or the ones regarded as notable by wikipedia, have done the “Trump or leftward” move; no evidence regarding any such general clear notion of “what libertarians are doing” has been advanced. It’s not very convincing to refute any given counter-example (Bailey, Adler, et al) as “no true libertarian”.

But mainly, I don’t understand the point of the exercise: the main claim is that libertarianism (well, maybe specifically “propertarianism”) is dead. I see *some* people and institutions who still seem to consider themselves to be libertarians, who are doing rigorous reporting and zealous advocacy in support of a various goals, many of which are worthy, as I’ve described a couple times above. (Radly Balko is doing the Lord’s work, for example.) I don’t see much point in denying their libertarian identity, if that’s what they think they are, or celebrating the death of what is declared to be their movement. Instead, it seems more useful to agree with them when they’re right, and disagree with them when they’re wrong.

78

Raven Onthill 01.22.20 at 6:23 am

Mmmm. Me, writing in 2015:

As a young man I was much more conservative and sympathetic to libertarian views. But since Reagan we had 30 years of increasing conservatism and policies called libertarian. Nothing has worked out as promised, nothing. The tax cuts blew up the national debt. The wars and militarism made enemies without promoting democracy. The freedom libertarian economics promised turned out to be freedom for the rich only, and subservience to corporations for everyone else. Deregulation enabled extensive corruption, rather than releasing creativity and economic growth. Even neo-liberal economics, with an impeccable intellectual pedigree, failed the acid test of the collapse of 2007-8 – https://adviceunasked.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-failure-of-right-and-questions-for.html

Me, writing in 2020:

The cascading changes and the need to respond to unexpected consequences demand a managed economy. Not managed in minute detail, no, there is no need to pre-calculate exactly the number of each type of widget a factory is to produce, but management that responds to gross systemic needs as they emerge. This is exactly what conservatives have been fighting against, all these years. In their fight, they rejected every moderate solution, until a managed economy is the best hope that remains. – https://adviceunasked.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-socialist-green-future.html

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faustusnotes 01.22.20 at 7:53 am

Kiwanda, that article you link to by Adler is an incredibly mealy-mouthed and passive-aggressive attempt to minimize the damage done by climate change. It’s the single work of a single libertarian, and as JQ observes it doesn’t even properly recognize the role all the other libertarians have had in fighting climate science. It ends with a pissy call for a carbon tax, which is not going to be enough to fight global warming, and only after making clear that Adler thinks climate change will be “just a nuisance” and will have positive benefits that might even outweigh the negatives. And even after he wrote that piece for the article, Adler himself was still spinning his bullshit, such as this just a year later on the Volokh Conspiracy:

Meaningful GHG reductions are exceedingly costly. Stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of GHGs requires doing far more than the EPA has contemplated to date, and even that won’t be enough. Until meaningful GHG reductions are cheap and easy, they won’t happen. So until climate activists focus their efforts on reducing the costs of climate action, little progress will be made

He’s a denialist through-and-through and a single article in the Atlantic to greenwash himself as part of applying for a job at WaPo is not sufficient evidence. You know that, if you are familiar with his output, so why do you waste your time with this defensiveness?

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nastywoman 01.22.20 at 9:55 am

“This is not about right or left, we couldn’t care less about your party politics. From a sustainability perspective, the right, the left, as well as the center have all failed. No political ideology or economic structure has been able to tackle the climate and environmental emergency and create a cohesive and sustainable world.”

Opening remarks from Greta in Davos –
not only for Hidari…

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MarkW 01.22.20 at 12:35 pm

Chetan Murphy @76

But their entire philosophy is about doing more than merely restraining government — it’s about hogtying it so that it can’t do a thing. And in such state, well, Pfizer could have done what it wanted to Susan Kelo, b/c there’d have been no government to stop them.

Neither of those propositions are true. The libertarian argument in Kelo was not that government should never do anything ever (a strawman). Nor was it even that government should not be able to use eminent domain for genuine public uses (to build a highway, for example). The argument was that government should not be able to condemn your property and hand it over to a rich, powerful, well-connected private business simply because that business would generate more economic activity and pay more property taxes. Do you disagree? Do you think the progressive justices were correct in letting New London condemn Kelo’s house and neighborhood and turn it all over to Pfizer? Or isn’t that a question you’re willing to answer?

But I think your argument nicely captures the problem with the progressive view of these cases — the reasoning seems to be that if we don’t allow the powerful to crush the weak in these specific instances, then we’ll be placing undesirable restraints on government power, so we must allow the crushing to proceed (sorry Susan Kelo, it’s not personal, it’s business).

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nastywoman 01.22.20 at 3:09 pm

AND if the following is true:

“This is not about right or left, we couldn’t care less about your party politics. From a sustainability perspective, the right, the left, as well as the center have all failed. No political ideology or economic structure has been able to tackle the climate and environmental emergency and create a cohesive and sustainable world.”

– and somehow I believe it’s true? – perhaps a ”longer article” spelling out – that –
”the effort to deny the necessary implications of climate change inevitably NOT ONLY resulted in denial of the scientific evidence that climate change was occurring – concerning – former libertarians turning Trumpists –
BUT also – as… as hinted –
concerning all kind of -(young ”libertarians” or ”non-libertarians”) to turn:

”Geh mir weg mit Politik”!

– entirely!

83

Hidari 01.22.20 at 7:57 pm

@80 Anyone who says ‘I don’t care about politics’ invariably and always means ‘I care deeply about politics but you won’t like my politics’.

Or to put it another way, you might not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.

Since 1992, incidentally, when the worst of the climate ecogeddon has happened (has been happening) the only states on planet Earth (with the possible exception of Cuba and NK) have been capitalist states. So it’s reasonable to infer that the problem of climate change is very much caused by laissez faire, fossil fuelled capitalism, and that a solution to this problem might be its removal from the political stage. Implying ‘guilt on both sides’ is to pretend that the trajectory of history since about 1979 has been anything other than endless victories for the right and endless defeats for the left. At the same time as a series of endless victories for Capital and endless defeats for the environment. A coincidence, doubtless.

‘The Davos conference demonstrates only one thing: If the billionaire stranglehold over global politics is not broken, we are all going to fry in a future climate hell…

Nevertheless, a few still have some glimmerings of a conscience — which probably explains why somebody arranged for climate activist Greta Thunberg to attend one of the discussion panels. Oligarchs always want to have some well-scrubbed youth at their conferences to talk about the importance of “raising awareness” about “the issues,” preferably in order to gather some private charity donations. The ultra-wealthy are happy to kick a few pennies to supplicant nonprofit organizations to eradicate guinea worm or whatever. It makes their near-chokehold over global politics seem softer and more reasonable….

Indeed, this is far from the first time oligarchs have attempted to co-opt Thunberg’s celebrity. Barack Obama ended a meeting with Thunberg with a fist bump, declaring “You and me, we’re a team.” Left unmentioned was Obama’s record of pushing fracking and pipeline construction to such an extent that the U.S. became the largest producer of oil and gas in the world under his watch — ahead of even Saudi Arabia and Russia. As Osita Nwanevu writes at The New Republic, “Greta Thunberg and Barack Obama are not on the same team.”‘ (Maybe not, but it would be better if it was Greta, and not Osita Nwaneyu, who was pointing this out).

‘Any climate policy worth the name will have to tear up these Mont Pelerin structures by the roots. Taxes on the rich will have to go up drastically, both to cut the vast carbon emissions of the oligarch class and to fund a crash decarbonization program around the world. ‘

This is true, and in fact, the solution to the climate crisis if fairly simple: raise income tax and corporation tax radically, with the explicit aim of bankrupting those industries most based on fossil fuels, a planned economy pursuing sustainable goals (with no concern, whatsoever, for ‘growth’), nationalisation of key industries (and shutting large swathes of them down), massive investment in nationalised firms pursuing green energy, legal action with hefty jail sentences for climate criminals (almost all contemporary CEOs, especially of course, those involved in fossil fuel production). ‘

Etc. etc. etc.

This is the only solution and anyone who says different is not serious. If ER says different, they are not serious.

Laissez faire capitalism and the continuance of the human race are antonyms.

https://theweek.com/articles/890660/davos-billionaires-are-happy-let-world-burn

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Tom 01.23.20 at 1:33 am

Z @71, I think (and hope!) you meant Bastiat, not Basquiat.

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Raven Onthill 01.23.20 at 3:02 am

Jim Henley, from the sadly defunct blog Unqualified Offerings on September 26, 2011. I was impressed enough to make an archival copy before it evaporated, and I’m glad I did.

My suggestion is that “libertarians” are like tiddlywinks discs that haven’t been flipped yet. Sooner or later, the Great Squidger, Circumstance, presses on you, and you end up in one of the cups over here on the left or over there on the right. At that point you may still be proud of your unique translucency or striking striations, but you have jumped one way or the other. You may formally renounce your libertarianism. You may insist on keeping the label while justifying what amounts to joining the conservative coalition on the grounds that “Economics is primary, and the Republican Party is the lesser of two evils economically,” or explaining away operational liberalism because, “while liberals tend to overreach in regulating the free market, at least they want to keep the Hand of the State away from your nether parts.”

For a lot of so-called neo-libertarians, the squidger was the Global War on Terror. In particular, supporting the Iraq War tended to align them with neoconservatives and “Jacksonians” in the GOP coalition, and over time they became “Republican Party Reptiles” and, eventually, just reptiles. The Global Financial Crisis and the ensuing Great Recession pushed others leftward. These people decided events had falsified the strong version of the Efficient Markets Hypothesis, and demonstrated that Wealth would always be able to make the political system socialize its own risks. In such an environment, gutting such safety nets as exist for the non-wealthy amounted to unilateral disarmament by the bottom 90% of the income distribution.

And maybe you think that second category is me, and maybe I had to delete “us” and “we” from the first version I wrote, because it would have been dishonest. Because I think my real *flip* was the Bush Administration’s social-security privatization proposal in 2005-6, and the enthusiastic advocacy for it by libertarians like my, well, young friend Will Wilkinson. As long as privatized social security was abstract, I was all for it. But when it became, seemingly, a real possibility, I looked at the law, and I looked at the Henley-family finances, and I knew fear. Real “maybe I won’t sleep; maybe I’ll just stare at the ceiling all night” terror. Somewhere in there, I recovered enough other-directedness to recall that we are very far from the worst-off household I know. And I realized that my stated beliefs were a sham. A luxury. I leapt, at least in my secret heart, into one of the available cups.

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Raven Onthill 01.23.20 at 3:03 am

I see I didn’t add my postscript. So perhaps this has been quietly going on all along, but climate change is just one walloping big squidger.

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John Quiggin 01.24.20 at 9:02 am

Coming in after the official close, but I wanted to mention that when I first read Jim Henley’s blog back in the early 2000s, I tagged him as “left-liberal”. He protested (nicely) at the time, but I turned out to be right in the end. More generally, a gratifying feature of the death of libertarianism is that the libertarians I liked have nearly all become liberaltarians (or gone further left) while the shmibertarians I disliked have gone full Trumpist.

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ycmbn 01.24.20 at 1:36 pm

Here’s an interesting thread of mostly male techies commenting on tribulations (a la Ayn Rand’s hypocrisies) of a toxic old fart who decades ago did useful work on publicizing “Open Source Software”:

https://news.slashdot.org/story/19/06/08/1531247/eric-s-raymond-survives-new-medical-problems

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nastywoman 01.24.20 at 7:48 pm

@83
and by quoting the article – you quoted – you for sure knew about ”the politics” of leaving out the following:

”But Thunberg offered the Davos robber barons no such moral alibi. Instead she attacked the attendees like she always does at such events. She said world leaders are “cheating and fiddling around with numbers” with untested schemes to get emissions down by scrubbing carbon out of the atmosphere. She correctly scoffed at a new plan joined even by Trump to supposedly plant 1 trillion trees (so as to absorb carbon) as inadequate. “Planting trees is good of course, but it’s nowhere near enough,” she said. “It cannot replace mitigation.”

Right?

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John Quiggin 01.24.20 at 8:03 pm

@MarkW The problem with the propertarian position is that you would presumably be just as opposed if New London wanted to resume land from Pfizer to build low-income housing.

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John Quiggin 01.24.20 at 8:48 pm

Kiwanda @77 “Radly Balko is doing the Lord’s work, for example.” Yes he is, with the liberaltarians at Niskanen.

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Kiwanda 01.24.20 at 9:49 pm

Re Radley Balko: As of 2014, well after his work on the Cory Maye case and on police militarization was underway, he called himself a libertarian. Cato has apparently not made him a non-person. Does it matter if people you regard as liberaltarians continue to call themselves libertarians? (Actually, I have no idea about his views on climate change, that make-or-break issue.)

faustusnotes: it’s great that you know Adler’s *real* motivations, based on your ability to glean the *real* meaning of a couple articles by him, using your knowledge of his *real* motivations.

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J-D 01.24.20 at 11:37 pm

On my reading of history, most of the time weak government means the rich have the poor at their mercy, and most of the time strong government means the rich have the poor at their mercy.

(Most of the time, not always. Of course there’s a historical record of some victories for the poor over the rich. The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; but that’s the way to bet.)

So, returning to my first point, ‘more government or less government?’ is the wrong question.

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Collin Street 01.25.20 at 12:31 am

@MarkW The problem with the propertarian position is that you would presumably be just as opposed if New London wanted to resume land from Pfizer to build low-income housing.

No presumably about it, surely. If the purpose mattered then property rights are socially responsive, ergo socially constructed. And, well, that’s liberalism.

[although! Market-rate compensation inescapably underpays people; if they valued the goods at market rates they’d be on the market for sale at market rates. It’s literally economics 101 that the people who aren’t on the market get more value from owning the goods than they would from turning the goods into money at the clearance price. Not to say that “give them whatever they ask for” [iow, no compulsory powers] doesn’t have its own problems [say, price elasticity and railway alignments]]

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engels 01.25.20 at 1:39 am

I guess this is partly a glass half-empty thing; is ‘liberaltarianism’ the vanquishor of libertarianism or a new, more resistant mutation?

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MarkW 01.25.20 at 1:24 pm

John Quiggin @89

The problem with the propertarian position is that you would presumably be just as opposed if New London wanted to resume land from Pfizer to build low-income housing.

No — if the land was for publicly-owned and operated low-income housing, that would fall within the bounds of eminent-domain in the U.S. constitution. I might still be opposed, though, if the government tried (as it often does) to low-ball the fair-market value of properties so it can grab them on the cheap. It’s not an unusual strategy here for governments to make the low-ball offer with the threat of eminent domain if the offer is not accepted. I might also be opposed if the New London government had other, less onerous options for locating the public-housing or could acquire the land on the open market (here, for example, is a recent local example where a developer acquired an entire block for an apartment complex by negotiating with all the owners to sell their properties).

But no, eminent-domain can indeed be a legitimate exercise of government power — though it should be used sparingly for projects (like roads) could not be built any other way, and should not be used because it’s an easy way to intimidate property owners or to grab land at below market values. And it should never be used when government is acting as the muscle for a well-connected private developer. Can we agree on that?

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MarkW 01.25.20 at 1:30 pm

John Quiggen @90

Radly Balko is doing the Lord’s work, for example.” Yes he is, with the liberaltarians at Niskanen.

And before that, for quite a long time, he did the same kind of work with the libertarians at Reason. The folks at the Institute for Justice are working on many of the same issues. I specifically pointed to the efforts (joined by civil rights groups across the political spectrum) against the doctrine of ‘qualified immunity’, which enables many of the worst police abuses? Do you agree that this is the Lord’s work as well?

98

Tm 01.25.20 at 7:42 pm

This very American debate (sorry JQ) has always been a mystery to me. The mystery is less that the Right is trying to appropriate the idea of Liberty for its purposes (the Nazis did that too, btw, there is nothing novel about this); the mystery is why the Left again and again accepts the framing promoted by the Right. For example I often heard progressives accept the patently absurd premise that the Right support „Small government“. There’s even an example in this very thread. Incidentally, these terms „Big government“ vs „Small government“ are untranslatable because it’s obvious to most non-Americans that they make no sense. Right wing governments tend to be authoritarian, militaristic, value tradition over individual freedoms and give the police extensive powers. How is that „small“ government? In the US of course, as outsiders quickly notice, the rhetoric of liberty is omnipresent but the real thing, less so. This is a country of harsh penal laws, home to the world‘s largest prison population. Historically, the country of Prohibition, and of course of slavery. This is not unrelated to the present debate, after all, slave owners too claimed the idea of Liberty. I don’t know whether there were „libertarian“ slave holders but I wouldn’t be in the least surprised. The appropriation of „Liberty“ by her worst enemies has a long tradition.

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Hidari 01.26.20 at 8:26 am

@89

And these are political problems that will either be solved by political parties of the Left or else made worse by centrists and political parties of the Right. You can swither and recite cliches about ‘I’m not party political’ all you want, but these are the objective facts.

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MarkW 01.26.20 at 12:35 pm

Collin Street @94

No presumably about it, surely. If the purpose mattered then property rights are socially responsive, ergo socially constructed. And, well, that’s liberalism.

There is no need to take such a black-and-white view. One can argue that the presumption in favor of people being secure in their property should be very strong and exceptions should be as limited as possible. The wording of the U.S. 5th amendment allows the government to take land for public use. Public uses are inherently limited. In the case of New London, the argument was that public benefit was equivalent to public use. But that’s simply not the case. Public benefit is nebulous. Virtually any seizure of property could be justified by some ‘public benefit’ sophistry. Eminent domain limited by a ‘public-benefit’ test is not meaningfully limited at all. Such a view leads to powerful and wealthy businesses and private institutions (like Pfizer and Columbia University) using political connections to have governments seize property from the poor and politically weak (which is almost universally the case — governments don’t seize properties from the wealthy and well-connected).

Libertarians are of the opinion that Susan Kelo and these brothers should have been free to tell Pfizer and Columbia to to f#*k off.

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Hidari 01.26.20 at 1:39 pm

@89

Oh and incidentally (and this will be the last I post on this, as I am going seriously off topic), here’s some more context.

‘The billionaire helping to bankroll Extinction Rebellion became the world’s top hedge fund manager last year thanks to major investments in firms hit by environmental scandals.
Sir Chris Hohn, who has donated £200,000 to the controversial climate change pressure group and is feared in City boardrooms for putting pressure on companies, saw his investment firm join the ranks of the world’s largest hedge funds last year after a stunning performance….

But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the winning streak involved huge bets on companies that have been embroiled in environmental scandals. They include Canada’s two biggest rail firms which have been fined in recent years for their failings….

Meanwhile, a US rail company backed by TCI is under investigation over whether it broke environmental laws after cancers in the Houston area were feared to be linked to contamination from the company’s rail yard. ‘

And so on.

Do we think that ER would be more, or less, likely to get lots of money from rich people (and ER is, to a great extent, funded by the 1%) if it dropped the absurd fantasy that it was ‘non-political’ and accepted the objective reality that it is ONLY politicians of the left (and indeed the radical left) who are proposing serious solutions to this problem?

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-7929379/How-Extinction-Rebellions-British-hedge-fund-backer-profits-dirty-firms.html

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oldster 01.26.20 at 4:38 pm

Raven @85–

That Jim Henley excerpt is really, really good. Thanks for preserving it.

I have lost track of JH — is he still blogging anywhere?

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John Quiggin 01.26.20 at 8:37 pm

MarkW It seems as if we are in furious agreement. I agree that Kelo vs New London was an inappropriate use of eminent domain. I think mainstream liberals will benefit from more interaction with liberaltarians who support income redistribution, action on climate change and so on, but are sceptical of government intervention to promote business. While people like Will Wilkinson and Brink Lindsey were at Cato, and therefore ultimately aligned with the Republican Party, it was easy for Dems to ignore them,

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K 01.26.20 at 9:36 pm

1) Libertarism has never been anything but a beard for thuglican hucksters pushing for right to profit by exploiting, and destroying, the “commons”. It started as an intellectual lie and descended quickly into a hucksters realm of a con.

2) interesting that libertarianism tried to co-opt the arguements for anarchist’s ( ignoring syndicalism, Swiss watch makers, the Paris commune and Catalonia) but instead of placing the protection of humans and humanity as the priority they enshrined property as their new god and worshipped at the feet of nothing but a bigger and bigger pile of “stuff” ( usually brown and a waste product)

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Brett 01.26.20 at 10:50 pm

There’s an obvious difference between how Libertarians have behaved in practice versus what the ideology says, but I always though Libertarian Ideology on pollution was straight-forward: treat it as a wrong done to someone’s person and property, and let them sue tort-style for damages or to have it stopped. Applied to climate change, that would entail allowing people to sue fossil fuel companies (and more) for damages that could potentially be high enough to bankrupt them (especially if you allowed for international suits, which the US does under the Alien Torts Act).

That’s faded out in the US because we switched to a more predictable regulation-and-fines route, as did most places. But that system is flawed as well – the inspections and enforcement of regulations tend to be major targets for political sabotage by polluters, not to mention evasion.

Couple climate tort suits with an explicit carbon permit system, and they’d reinforce each other because people and firms could be hit hard with suits if they can’t prove they had the permits to emit the carbon dioxide they did through their activities.

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Collin Street 01.27.20 at 12:08 am

If you abandon property-rights absolutism, then who should have what property rights becomes an empirical question.

And empirically, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, right now, the property rights of the rich need less protection, and the property rights of the poor need more protection.

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