From Critiques Of Libertarianism
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Libertarians have no way of constraining damage to the environment or maintaining a healthy environment to live in. Capitalists will gleefully damage the environment in the name of profit until they are stopped. It is an issue libertarians prefer to pretend does not exist, which is why global warming denialism is so popular among libertarians. Ecosystem services are estimated at over $125 trillion per year, yet libertarians and others usually ignore externalities (such as pollution, habitat destruction, and global warming) that reduce these services dramatically.


A Forgotten Legacy of George H. W. Bush [More...]
Acid rain was and international problem solved with a cap-and-trade program in the 90s, despite industry resistance and denialism.
Cap And Trade (5 links)
A very successful "deregulation" strategy that replaces government regulation and Pigouvian taxes on harmful externalities with government-limited, salable rights to externalities. In other words, government power can create markets and use market mechanisms. This brings market efficiency to regulation; thus businesses hate cap and trade.
Cornucopism (2 links)
The crackpot idea that unlimited despoliation of the environment and unending population increase are a good. Makes the pollyanna assumption that technical solutions to problems of resource exhaustion and other crises will always arrive in time to prevent catastrophes. Promoted extensively by Julian Simon.
DDT (4 links)
The pesticide industry is attempting to blame Rachel Carson and her green followers for millions of malarial deaths because of "DDT bans". But in reality, that industry is responsible for the deaths because they have fostered pesticide resistance in mosquitos through indiscriminant sales of their pesticides. DDT has NOT been banned for public health use, only agricultural use.
Does Environmental Crime Pay? [More...]
"With chemical products in particular, the producers have a unique informational advantage: since they create these substances, they know much more about the nature and risks of these products than any outside party." Two solutions proposed: whistleblower rewards and taxing gag settlements.
Ecosystem services [More...]
Ecosystem services are the many and varied benefits that humans freely gain from the natural environment and from properly-functioning ecosystems. Such ecosystems include, for example, agroecosystems, forest ecosystems, grassland ecosystems and aquatic ecosystems. Collectively, these benefits are becoming known as 'ecosystem services', and are often integral to the provisioning of clean drinking water, the decomposition of wastes, and the natural pollination of crops and other plants.
Environmental Regulation (2 links)
Most economic activity has externalities for commons, a major market failure. Environmental regulation is a more cost-effective solution than torts, whether it is accomplished by permits, laws, or community governance.
Environmentalism poses a problem for libertarian ideology [More...]
"The short of is that environmentalists totally smash open the idea that property rights theories can really account for who is permitted to do what with the land that they own. Almost all uses of land will entail some infringement on some other piece of land that is owned by someone else. So how can that ever be permitted? No story about freedom and property rights can ever justify the pollution of the air or the burning of fuels because those things affect the freedom and property rights of others."
Free Market Environmentalism (2 links)
An astroturf public relations effort to privatize public lands, enriching large corporations. Evolved from the Sagebrush Rebellion and Wise Use Movement. Financed in part by the Koch brothers. Cliven Bundy was one of the dupes in this movement. Also used to describe tradeable pollution permits, but states decide how much pollution to allow.
Global Warming (26 links)
Libertarians generally align with "climate skeptics" (denialists of global warming) because market regulation by government is needed to reduce global warming. Opposition to global warming theory has been funded at very high levels by the petrochemical industry and the Koch brothers.
Greening Economics: It is time [More...]
"The concept of environmental capital is throughly entrenched in policy dicussions but largely missing from mainstream economic curriculums. [...] The teaching of economics, especially growth economics, should stop ignoring them."
How much is clean air worth? [More...]
"people are making defensive investments in a wide variety of other settings — cost of alarm systems, or to supplement public schools — and that just measuring the direct impacts, like the frequency of home robberies or test scores, is not sufficient if you want to develop a measure of the full costs or benefits of various interventions."
Libertarianism and Pollution [More...]
Libertarian Matt Zwolinski points out that the libertarian theories of rights of Nozick, Rothbard, and Mack don't work for pollution problems. He also says "[Free-Market Environmentalism] can serve as a supplement to a theory of rights, and never as a substitute for one." He concludes that there is currently no good libertarian solution, using the euphemism "a fruitful subject for future research." It never occurs to him that essentially government holds rights and powers which solve these problems. But with his libertarian blinders on, he never observes that the environment consists of commons that are resistant to privatization.
Local Commons (14 links)
Elinor Ostrom's real-world observed solutions to regulating commons without ownership. These require government protection of community rights to control the commons. This is not libertarian: no private property, and two levels of government.
Patterson and Kehoe, and the great lead debate [More...]
How Robert Kehoe developed the strategy that the lead industry used to avoid regulation and liability over the course of decades of poisoning of millions. A strategy replicated for tobacco, innumerable other pollutants, and global warming denialism.
Politics or Scholarship? [More...]
The libertarian utopia of a society in which the individual is completely sovereign over his or her private domain would lead to an environmentalism so extreme that it would preclude human life. Nor is free market environmentalism really a libertarian solution: it is just a way of empowering state decisions on pollution.
PolluterWatch [More...]
"PolluterWatch is a project of Greenpeace that holds polluters accountable for the work they’re doing to block the transition from the dirty fossil fuels of the past to the clean energy sources of the future."
Pollution (5 links)
While libertarians may claim they are opposed to pollution, their solutions (self-regulation, torts, etc.) are ineffective in the real world. Regulation is necessary to preserve the environmental commons.
The Commons (7 links)
With private property ascendant, the fact that we have and need a huge amount of commons is often overlooked. Ecological services, the genetic commons, commons of language, government, infrastructure, society and many other things are very important to our daily lives. Regulated commons can also be a good substitute for private property where there are problems, for example airspace over property (which used to belong to the landowners.)
The Genetic Commons (7 links)
Unregulated markets in antibiotics and pesticides select strongly for resistant genes, resulting in widespread resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. This is a classic tragedy of the commons, requiring regulation. Examples include DDT, MRSA, and resistance to RoundUp.
The Lead Industry (8 links)
The lead industry obstructed government regulation of lead in paint, water pipes and gasoline for more than 50 years after it was discovered to cause retardation. This resulted in millions of children poisoned by lead, a process that is still continuing because of ubiquitous lead paint in older houses. Major government efforts worldwide have greatly reduced the problem.
Tragedy Of The Commons (7 links)
The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently and rationally according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource. In other words, due to capitalist greed. But there is only a tragedy of an UNREGULATED commons, as history has shown. Regulation is an obvious workable solution.
Varieties of Institutional Failure [More...]
James Acheson describes failures of resource management by markets, private property, government, and communal management. Libertarian emphasis on the first two only is inappropriate.


The great demon of libertarianism -- environmentalism -- is actually about making sure that our collective property (Earth) is pleasant and habitable enough that you would want to own your own slice of it. The value of your home or land is increased if everyone sticks together to keep the world a clean, habitable place.
Amanda Marcotte, "A small round of applause for decent Time Magazine writing"
Normally, conservatives extol the magic of markets and the adaptability of the private sector, which is supposedly able to transcend with ease any constraints posed by, say, limited supplies of natural resources. But as soon as anyone proposes adding a few limits to reflect environmental issues -- such as a cap on carbon emissions -- those all-capable corporations supposedly lose any ability to cope with change.
Paul Krugman, "Crazy Climate Economics"
The short of is that environmentalists totally smash open the idea that property rights theories can really account for who is permitted to do what with the land that they own. Almost all uses of land will entail some infringement on some other piece of land that is owned by someone else. So how can that ever be permitted? No story about freedom and property rights can ever justify the pollution of the air or the burning of fuels because those things affect the freedom and property rights of others.
Matt Bruenig, "Environmentalism poses a problem for libertarian ideology"
Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.
George Monbiot, "Neoliberalism, the ideology at the root of all our problems"
The environment is the libertarian Waterloo: it reveals the flaws of the doctrine in a way that seems to ensure that no "answer" is forthcoming. Rather than hoping for a miracle that would preserve their fundamentally political self-conception, perhaps the best thing libertarians can now do is put their dreams of changing the world on hold while they attempt simply to understand it.
Jeffrey Friedman, "Politics or Scholarship?"
The pricing of environmental goods that is generated by free-market environmentalist devices relies on an initial political determination of how much a given pollutant should be reduced. A government must first decide which pollutants to control, then by what amount, before it can know how many emissions permits to issue. The market in such permits does not replace politics; it supplements it by providing the most efficient means for achieving politically determined ends... free-market environmentalism is statist at its core.
Jeffrey Friedman, "Politics or Scholarship?"
There are some men -- it’s almost always men -- who become enraged at any suggestion that they must give up something they want for the common good. Often, the rage is disproportionate to the sacrifice: for example, prominent conservatives suggesting violence against government officials because they don’t like the performance of phosphate-free detergent. But polluter’s rage isn’t about rational thought.
Paul Krugman, "The Id That Ate the Planet"
Free-market fundamentalists prefer rejecting science to admitting that there are ever cases when government regulation is necessary.
Paul Krugman, "The Id That Ate the Planet"
The market fundamentalists of Technology Liberation Front and Silicon Valley would love you to believe that “permissionless innovation” is somehow organic to “the internet,” but in fact it is an experiment we conducted for a long time in the US, and the experiment proved that it does not work. From the EPA to the FDA to OSHA, nearly every Federal (and State) regulatory agency exists because of significant, usually deadly failures of industry to restrain itself.
David Golumbia, "“Permissionless Innovation”: Using Technology to Dismantle the Republic"