Fracking Industry Resorts to Crude Caricatures and Economic Nationalism

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The hydraulic fracturing (fracking)  industry is fighting regulations or outright bans against fracking in a variety of states and localities. There are many reasons to oppose government restrictions on fracking, of course. If a fracking operation can arrange to frack on private land and pay market rates (not subsidized rates) for water, then there is no reason why a private company should not be free to do so. If fracking results in polluting a neighbor’s land or water, the fracking organization in question should be liable in the fashion outlined by Rothbard for dealing with polluters.

One reason to not support fracking, though, is because it is good for “energy independence” or economic nationalism. Both concepts have long been dreams of militarists and economic interventionists who believe that investors, consumers, and private citizens should be dictated to by government as to what they can buy, where they should invest, and whom they should be able to work for. Every now and then, one sees a new article coming from nationalists such as Pat Buchanan who claim that it is a matter of “national security” that the United State attempt autarky in food production, energy production, and, of course, production of the machinery of war.  Since capital and labor move constantly to better accommodate consumers and do not respect national borders, such autarky can only be achieved through government regulation, prohibition, and force.

Thus, you can understand my disappointment when I noticed this video from a pro-fracking industry group called Friends for Safe Energy that argues for freedom in fracking, not because freedom or respect for private property are good things, but because fracking is (allegedly) bad for the Russians. In other words, faced with the option of appealing to basic human rights (such as private property) or appealing to rank and crude nationalism, the fracking group decided to go with the latter:

Why bother with a pro-freedom argument when you can employ nationalistic fear-mongering and ethnic stereotypes instead?

As an argument, this is barely a step up from the “If you Ride Alone You Ride With Hitler” propaganda campaign which lectured Americans about not contributing enough to “energy independence.” They didn’t use that term back then, but that’s what they meant. Yes, it’s true that the stated goal (at least on the surface) of “Friends of Safe Energy” is more freedom for frackers and their clients, but is it necessary to make their case by employing inherently statist canards? It’s also true that there’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to carpool, but we all know that to encourage economic nationalism, whether it’s anti-Hitler or anti-Russian, is to posture against free trade, free association, and consumer freedom.

Not that we should be surprised. Numerous major industries, including the oil industry have long had a very bad record on free trade and free markets. From the sugar industry, to steel, all the way back to Jefferson’s trade embargo, many domestic industries have been more than happy to encourage xenophobia and nationalism to help the bottom line.

Friends for Safe Energy is apparently carrying on this tradition, and if they’re the best we can hope for in making the case for free markets, we are in deep trouble indeed.

5:01 pm on September 4, 2014