Monday, April 22, 2013

Libertarians and the Environment


Today being Earth Day, I wanted to share some libertarian perspectives and resources on the environment. You might be likely to encounter conversations about Earth Day and the environment at the workplace, around the dinner table, or when you're out and about today and for the rest of this week.

Don't be caught unprepared with libertarian arguments:

1. Remind people first of all, that the worst polluter in the world is the United States government. Even if every last U.S. citizen aggressively reduced their use of energy and water, started recycling and reusing, and became just the most hardcore environmentalist in their personal lives that they possible could, it wouldn't make a dent in the amount of pollution in our world because state and county governments, and the federal government (especially the Department of Defense), pollute so much. Any earnest, intelligent, and effective effort to reduce pollution and environmental impacts MUST begin with rolling back the size, role, and influence of government, NOT call for even more government central planning and regulation.

2. Another great point to make is that in fact, the world and its environment are far cleaner today than they were a hundred years ago, and the reason is NOT environmental regulation, but private enterprise and the explosion in wealth. This makes sense because environmental protection is a consumption good that we can afford more of as we become more wealthy. Free markets and prosperous people create incentives for the most environmentally sustainable and low-impact economic activities. Less government and more voluntary human action are the right prescription for a healthy environment.

3. Also note by way of solutions that libertarians offer private property rights with their corresponding legal protections as the best solution to protect the environment.

4. Finally, remember that the language and "reasoning" of environmental hysteria is often without substance, fraudulent in its claims, bears the hallmarks of religious faith rather than scientific inquiry or philosophical discourse, and posits-- without justifications other than aesthetic appeals-- that the pristine, untouched (by humans) environment is somehow intrinsically valuable, and thereby implies necessarily that man is somehow flawed and alien to the intrinsically good "environment" around him, that humanity and the requirements for its survival are evil. Both those last two links (one to Mises, the other to the Ayn Rand Institute) are very important reads for establishing the philosophical framework for understanding the essence of the environmental debate as it has proceeded in recent history.

Please share all these resources!

[Note: This article was first published on Earth Day, 2012)