Why libertarians must deny climate change, in one short take

Part of the frustration of dealing with certain curmudgeons, for me at least, is misunderstanding how they can deny something as plain as day. Perhaps you feel same, maybe this will shed some light on such, and allow you to move forward.  Mind you, this article is a couple of years old.

via The Guardian

Don't Forget To Pay The Ferryman

Don’t Forget To Pay The Ferryman (Photo credit: Cayusa) (CC)

In a simple and very short tract, Matt Bruenig presents a devastating challenge to those who call themselves libertarians, and explains why they have no choice but to deny climate change and other environmental problems.

Bruenig explains what is now the core argument used by conservatives and libertarians: the procedural justice account of property rights. In brief, this means that if the process by which property was acquired was just, those who have acquired it should be free to use it as they wish, without social restraints or obligations to other people.

Their property rights are absolute and cannot be intruded upon by the state or by anyone else. Any interference with, or damage to, the value of their property without their consent – even by taxation – is an unwarranted infringement. This, with local variations, is the basic philosophy of the Republican candidates, the Tea Party movement, the lobby groups that call themselves “free market thinktanks” and much of the new right in the UK.

It is a pitiless, one-sided, mechanical view of the world, which elevates the rights of property over everything else, meaning that those who possess the most property end up with great power over others. Dressed up as freedom, it is a formula for oppression and bondage. It does nothing to address inequality, hardship or social exclusion. A transparently self-serving vision, it seeks to justify the greedy and selfish behaviour of those with wealth and power.

But, for the sake of argument, Bruenig says, let us accept it. Let us accept the idea that damage to the value of property without the owner’s consent is an unwarranted intrusion upon the owner’s freedoms. What this means is that as soon as libertarians encounter environmental issues, they’re stuffed.

Climate change, industrial pollution, ozone depletion, damage to the physical beauty of the area surrounding people’s homes (and therefore their value) – all these, if libertarians did not possess a shocking set of double standards, would be denounced by them as infringements on other people’s property.


  • Liam_McGonagle

    You know, they came up with maybe two good ideas, but buried it all in a bunch of worthless sh*t. It really makes it hard–if not plain impossible–to make partners of these people.

    • Number1Framer

      And don’t forget that shiny coat of grassroots-looking paint camoflaging the big money and allowing the corporate takeover to be painted as a people’s movement. We’re starved for something other than the status quo, and I don’t believe libertarianism is it.

      • Liam_McGonagle

        Agreed the Koch brothers fund the vehicle for these people. But I think they really do believe that in the absence of any active opposition, corporate power will just magically shrink and disappear. Something to do with you and me spending our sh*tty $1 a week with some alternative multinational corps.

        It reflects a profound misunderstanding of the interdependent workings of a global economy. But if you’re looking to appeal to a critical mass of people with a powerful, simple (but incorrect) vision, stupid probably is the way to go.

      • kowalityjesus

        I don’t think it was started as that, it honestly hearkens of something more sincere…. Clarity of information and high-quality individuals can solve a surprisingly large number of problems.

        • Number1Framer

          I agree with your point but don’t see much of either resource you mention in the mass movement it’s become. Though I think that may have more to do with the nature of critical mass movements. As with Occupy, the original Tea Partiers who brought the attractive new principles to the table have been usurped by money and power whores.

          • kowalityjesus

            “Aint it the truth?!” -drunken and depressed sovereign citizen

  • Andrew

    If you can legally own a gun as your personal property (and I do) but not be allowed to discharge it at your neighbor, I don’t see why restrictions on the use of private property that poisons other people’s air or water or food should be considered a big blow to freedom.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      You’re assuming a person interested in developing his relationships in the wider society. Which most people aren’t. The purpose of Capitalism is to trap us in our solopsistic fantasies of complete independence. As far as the libertarians are concerned, “mission accomplished”.

    • http://www.darkworkers.com Cado

      That’s the thing – your rights stop when you start harming someone else’s property. This whole article is an oversimplified caricature of the libertarian philosophy, and it doesn’t take into account how property works in tandem with trade in a truly free system where people are free to choose who they associate with and resources are hard to funnel to a single source.

      It’s similar to how people complain about big corporations and monopolies or near monopolies when it comes to companies like Wal-Mart and yet fail to account for the fact that such things wouldn’t likely exist if it wasn’t for the preferential treatment they receive under the law as well as the various regulations that harm small competitors far more than large corporations. (And what’s worse is many of these regulations are redundant or serve no purpose whatsoever; they simply make doing business more complicated and expensive.)

      • Jonas Planck

        The libertarian straw man problem is one of scale (to borrow another commentator’s words.)…. Visualize it like this: the span between conventional leftist politics and right wing politics is the visible spectrum of light, Roy G. Biv if you will. “liberal” is on one end, and “conservative” on the other, both in their most commonly used forms (stereotypically depicted in the form of a dogmatic cult, but 99% of the time it’s just a mild proclivity.) Almost everything else in electromagnetic spectrum, on beyond infrared and ultraviolet, is conveniently classified under the blanket term “libertarian,” because there aren’t really enough words in the language for the diversity of opinion that individuals can hold. If you were to do the Glenn Beck thing and draw a chart up on the chalkboard (I would include confusing equations in mine), you might posit that total anarchy and total tyranny form the extreme poles represented in this metaphor by Gamma rays on one end and ELF radio waves on the other, but this is arbitrary and ultimately pointless unless you want to malign someone for their beliefs by trying to pinpoint where they fit in this stupid metaphor… Gleck himself self-describes as a “libertarian,” but a more accurate term would be a charismatic preacher/theocratic authoritarian demagogue with a small streak of vaudeville. The confusion does not end there, not by a DAMN sight! …

        John Stossel, anarcho-capitalist fake ideologue opportunist.
        Penn Jillette, an Iconoclast atheist skeptic showman with a HUGE streak of vaudeville.
        Neil Boortz, La Veyyan satanist, so authoritarian as to be almost Nazi.
        Trey Parker (and Matt Stone), Satirist critic/iconoclast anti-authoritarians with a streak of Broadway.
        “uncle” Thomas Sowell, neo-conservative corporatist authoritarian. Clint Eastwood, who is Clint Fucking Eastwood.
        Tommy Chong, bohemian pacifist hippy drug enthusiast.
        Neal Peart, devout percussionist.
        David Koch, oil baron/dark lord of the Sith.
        Robert Anton Wilson, Discordian prophet.
        Ron Paul, sad old man who is continually baffled and disheartened by the sheer volume of the stupidity that surrounds him. Poor guy.
        Rand Paul, Pacifist egalitarian republican corporatist and living paradox.
        Big Boi, community-oriented pragmatist, egalitarian anti-interventionist.
        Alex Jones, paranoiac conspiracy hunter / Run-for-the-hills-ist.
        Russel Brand, pretend messiah/guru opportunist wannabe iconoclast that just can’t quite manage to clast any icons but he keeps tryin’ god bless ‘im.
        Joe Rogan, psychonaut / transcendentalist jock.
        Governor Jesse Ventura, goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus.
        Bill Mahar, poster boy for snarky liberal douchebag-ism.
        Rupert Murdoch, neo-conservative imperialist authoritarian propagandist.

        …and these are just a few who self-identify as “libertarian.”
        Now which ones are real libertarians and which ones are fake libertarians? Is it even possible to paint that kind of diversity of opinion with a broad brush, and can you even FIND a brush that’s broad enough? Or is the word itself so vaguely defined as to be almost meaningless? It’s as if it’s not even possible to describe “libertarians” without invoking a straw man just by doing so. The stereotype of the childish college sophomore seems to be what most people are talking about when they do so… I usually concentrate on the Orwellian cult of Fox-news’ hate mongering when I go to rant against the most awful kinds of conservative mentalities, but to call it “libertarianism” is just ASKING to be misunderstood, because ISMs are already misleading, laden with connotations, they are straw men in and of themselves. Libertarianism, however, could mean damn near ANYTHING to ANYONE and it would still be valid as a descriptive term. That inhibits communication. I’m a libertarian myself, but I have to specify that I’m a Robert Heinlein libertarian, which nobody is sure what that is anyway. (futurist, humanist, technocrat, anti-religious, quasi-mystical yet skeptical at the same time,individualist but not disdainful of man’s duty to his fellow man.) <— All that takes a long time to write, can I have a new word to describe it, please?
        Anyway, I have no idea what a "true" Libertarian is, but I know how to spot a True Scotsman… he's got nae troos on.

        • misinformation

          I agree with pretty much everything you wrote in your second two sections…and I’m sure there was some stuff in the first, as well but I can’t remember.

          Reading your (presuming it’s yours) list, it struck me that you could take an equally long list of those who identify as ‘Republican’ or ‘Democrat’ (or whichever club one considers themselves a member of) and come to a similarly confusing ‘definition’.

          This is one block in the ability for multiple people to have an intelligent discussion about anything – labels.

          I keep expecting that everyone else will see that the internet makes this explicit and therefor, more effort should be made to avoid labeling and the narrow reality tunnel it creates.

        • Andrew

        • nubwaxer

          “Bill Mahar, poster boy for snarky liberal douchebag-ism.”
          sorry, i’ve never heard bill maher identify himself as a libertarian but i have often heard him use the word progressive.

      • Andrew

        I’ve read descriptions of how free markets would supposedly protect the environment, and I don’t buy them for a minute. While I agree that free markets are a noble goal, I don’t agree that they’re the means to all ends.

  • BuzzCoastin

    > how can they deny something as plain as day?

    has noboady read Bob Wilson’s reality tunnel stuff?

    it’s rare to find people who live in accord with their professed belifes
    it’s even more rare to fine someone who knows their shadow

    • Simon Valentine

      Ra, they said, therefore i know my shadow
      then they were trapped
      Set set in then
      then there was denial
      …jokes about square ears
      and adjectivizable denyability
      training for the forces of Seti

      such simple scrolls early written

      • Opposite Day

        Are you an EBE?

        • Simon Valentine

          you’re not the first to ask that

          i’d imagine you’re far from the last
          frankly, nothing i am sticks or stays very long
          “the impossible is not null” is occasionally less of a pseudo vector field or sudo poppy field than it is … a something i no longer have the ability to speak so much as talk about
          the disruption is often difficult to traverse, but round-abouts seem simple enough

          i cannot truthfully answer the question nor shall i lie
          i guess it’s up to you
          i hope that’s not too weird
          or too rock-paper-shotgun

          • error403

            rock-paper-shotgun? I just laughed so hard..

        • Jonas Planck

          Depends on how you define E.

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    Leave it to the Great Moonbat to write an essay on the problem of “Externalities” without mentioning the word “Externality”.

    Instead of providing nomenclature which his readers could use to easily investigate a rather well developed facet of economics, he acts like these notions, as presented to him by Matt Bruenig, are novel.

    I would also like to point out that U.S. Libertarianism isn’t the same thing as “Libertarianism”. More to the point, there is an entire Left Libertarian movement which rejects the notion of a non-egalitarian property rights scheme.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      It’s awfully hard for the average person to split ideas so finely. Even people who should know better probably willingly submit to broad characterizations for sake of understanding. In a certain rhetorical sense, if enough people make the same mistake, it becomes the new correct standard.

      • Jonas Planck

        Not being able to see the fractal forest for the binomial trees? Yeah, it is kind of hard to take it all in sometimes…

    • Simon Valentine

      “i can” + reality = “you can’t”

      one of many pigeon hole combinatorial manifestations traipsed about in by many seemingly disparate algorithms that share one timely lack of a solution in common – species

      one cannot eat the leaf of a Binomial Tree so much as beleaf one in as much as one is one is part of the ingenium

      souls aren’t exactly like shadows
      but near

      • laurakfalconer

        my buddy’s sister makes $87 every hour on the internet
        . She has been unemployed for 6 months but last month her payment was $19402
        just working on the internet for a few hours. go right here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  • VaudeVillain

    Shorter version:

    Because Libertarians are, by and large, members of a fraudulent, fabricated movement designed, implemented and funded by fossil fuel industrialists.

    You might as well explain why Scientologists are fucking crazy.

  • LifelongLIb

    Property isn’t a right, it’s an arrangement. What can be owned, how it can be used, and the ways it can be exchanged are all defined by law/regulation. Like markets, property can’t exist in the absence of some sort of legal framework. The alternative to that framework is not freedom but an anarchy in which people bash each others’ heads in and take what they want.

  • nubwaxer

    it seems simple to me that one side exalts the supremacy of property, profit, and privilege while the other side advocates the imperative of the constitution to provide for the general welfare that puts people first.