has recently been under attack by some environmentalists who smugly
claim that it is more important for libertarians to stick to their
ideology than to have a reasonable approach to solving the global
warming problem. Unfortunately for the critics of libertarianism
who make such charges, libertarianism stands unscathed.
There are two
main points that are important to remember when defending the philosophy
of libertarianism (pure freedom on all counts) against avid environmentalists:
(1) the ends do not justify the means, and (2) global warming does
not render economic forces inoperable.
These two points
remain valid even if global warming is true. There are a plethora
of articles circulating the internet that are written by good libertarians,
yet the vast majority of those articles attack the merits of global
warming itself, assuming it is false. The more challenging task
is to assume global warming is true, at least on a moderate scale
as most scientists believe, and demonstrate how the free market
and libertarian principles still apply. That is exactly what I do
here: I assume global warming is true and will cause negative environmental
effects in the future.
I will address
each point separately.
- The ends
do not justify the means.
- Global warming
does not render economic forces inoperable.
made against libertarians can be summarized as follows: "The
non-aggression principle is fine under ordinary circumstances.
However, desperate times call for desperate measures. Libertarians
have to abandon their principled stand to save mankind from global
will also be addressed below under the second point, as well,
because it seems to make the false assumption that the negative
effects of global climate change happen in one fell swoop. I will
leave that aside for now.
justifying the means is an argument touted all the time by advocates
of aggressive wars. The general rule that the ends never justify
the means is abandoned, because it is seen as an impediment to
the end: the war. The fact is that mass murder can never be justified,
so the advocates of this point of view are not concerned with
means at all. Instead, the righteousness of the end is placed
front and center, while the means are marginalized or viewed as
has been demonstrated many times throughout history: the march
toward communism, where millions were slaughtered in the name
of bringing about "equality" and the rise of the new
socialist man; the placing of Japanese Americans in internment
camps; the war against Vietnam to stop the spread of communism
and the millions of military and civilian deaths that resulted;
and even the current war in Iraq is a prime example. The list
could go on and on.
the ends do not justify the means because it would require violating
individual rights. Should someone aggress against and kill Person
A in the name of saving Person B? Should someone rob Person C
in order to provide for Person D? No! No, on both counts, because
it is obvious that such action would be a violation of the rights
of one person for the sake of another. Once the principle of non-aggression
is abandoned, there is no logical place for it to stop, and the
rights of individuals would be forever lost to the endless ambitions
It is exactly
this type of faulty logic that global warming alarmists wish to
employ. People today are to be aggressed against in the name of
preserving people in the future. The aggression would be levied
by government (an institutionalized rights violator) in the form
of taxation (legalized theft), restrictions of voluntary trade
(coercion), and wealth transfers (stealing from one to give to
another) in the form of subsidies to certain types of clean or
efficient energy and technology.
So, for point
one alone, government coercion in the name of fighting global
warming can be rejected.
initiating aggression and violating the rights of others in the
name of saving future people, voluntary interaction among people
in the free market should be allowed to adjust to whatever problems
global warming may present in the future.
to note that the climate change alarmists present the public with
a false choice: either implement massive government control of the
economy now or face devastation in the future. Why is this a false
choice? Well, even the most outrageous claims about the impact of
global warming, projects such changes to take place between the
present and 2100. In other words, there isn't going to be a massive
tidal wave on day one of year 2100 that sweeps up coast lines around
the globe and devours possibly up to two feet. No, in actuality,
such changes will take place over almost a century, which can be
readily adjusted to by private actors in the free market.
in the free market adjust to increased risk in the future all the
time. If, for instance, insurance providers for houses on the coast
realize that over a period of years certain properties will be in
danger of coastal flooding, the policies will not be renewed, which
would provide an incentive for people to move slightly farther inland.
In fact, demand for lands and housing in the danger or flood zone
would fall drastically, which would decrease the value of the property,
making such property virtually impossible to sell in the future.
So, in the aggregate, there would be a tendency for people to move
out of the possible flood regions and into non-flood regions. Again,
this would take place over nearly a century.
can be adjusted, if need be, over the course of the century as well.
Over time, certain lands may become less valuable in their use for
farming, while other lands become more valuable for farming. It
is the task of entrepreneurs in the market to adjust these scarce
factors of production to serve the wants of consumers. Lands that
become more useful for farming will be undervalued in proportion
to consumer desires, which is where the entrepreneur comes in: the
entrepreneur, realizing the discrepancy in value, sees a potential
for profit. He enters the market and bids the scarce factors away
from their present use and toward their more highly valued use,
which in this example would be providing farm land to grow food
for consumers. Thus, in the long run, land most valued in its use
for farming will be allocated accordingly by entrepreneurs seeking
to provide for consumers. And the most amazing thing about this
entire process is that no government force or coercion is necessary
to accomplish it; it is accomplished entirely on a voluntary basis.
It should also
be recognized that there are numerous ways that entrepreneurs can
innovate in order to adjust to the changing climate conditions.
However, it is certainly possible to conceive of ways, as I have
done above, in which the free market would and could remedy problems
that might arise at some point in the future.
So, point two
further makes the need for government intervention unnecessary.
The avid environmentalists lose out on both counts.
The fact is
that global warming alarmists — that is, those that advocate using
government force to remedy potential problems associated with global
warming — look at human beings as pawns that need to be controlled
by elites that know better. It is the same mentality that has permeated
socialist thought over the centuries; it's merely carrying a new
Why does the
public continue to buy into all the hysteria? Perhaps it is because
the intellectual elites over the centuries have done well at indoctrinating
people to believe that human beings interacting voluntarily can't
be trusted. The sad part in it all is that history has been repeating
a chilling story, and it is a story no one seems to be listening
to. The millions who have died at the hands of those who claimed
to know better will continue to plead unheard into the dark recesses
Shore [send him mail] is
a law student at Texas Tech University School of Law.