Sent: Tuesday, August 27, 2019 10:12 PM
Subject: Question about rainforest fires and privatization
Hello Dr Block,
I’d like to get your thoughts on the rainforest fires in Brazil and the government of Jair Bolsonaro.
There has been an association made between Bolsonaro and libertarianism which seems to have some merit because some libertarian activists have made a pragmatic alliance with his government in order to enact certain market reforms.
See Scott Horton’s interview with Reason’s Jim Epstein:
Many have compared this situation with similar efforts by Chicago school economists to align with Pinochet in Chili.
I’d argue that even temporary alliances with figures like Pinochet and Bolsonaro risk tarnishing genuine libertarian ideology with the specter of right-wing authoritarianism.
Regarding the rainforest fires, do you think there is genuine cause for alarm? Or are the fires well within historical averages?
This issue got me thinking about libertarian philosophy and the natural environment. Surely humanity as a whole benefits from having certain environments left relatively unmolested by human activity? It would seem that the rainforest is one of the principle areas where this would be the case.
But by what right could libertarians prevent the total deforestation of the rainforest if private companies were so inclined?
Maybe one answer is to respect the property rights of the small number of indigenous people who live there. But certainly the percentage of property that they could reasonably claim is extremely small compared to the entire acreage of the rainforest.
Another answer might be that private environmentalists could buy up the rainforest in order to preserve it.
But how could a person homestead a large sector of land if the entire idea is to leave that land pristine for the good of the common welfare? They can’t exactly mix their labor with the entirety of the rainforest without undermining the very purpose of their desire to own it.
I haven’t yet read a very good answer to this apparent dilemma.
Maybe you could point me to some good libertarian literature on the subject?
Thanks for your time. J
From: Walter Block <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Wednesday, August 28, 2019 3:32 PM
Subject: RE: Question about rainforest fires and privatization
Yes, the left wing environmentalists should purchase forest land, and preserve them. That’s a good libertarian solution.
I don’t know much about the extent of the fires in Brazil.
I think it is a good idea for the Chicago boys to help out the economy of Chile, and, similarly, for good economists to help with the Brazilian economy. Yes, the left will then claim libertarians are fascists, but, they already do, so no big loss there.
As to this very important question: “But how could a person homestead a large sector of land if the entire idea is to leave that land pristine for the good of the common welfare? They can’t exactly mix their labor with the entirety of the rainforest without undermining the very purpose of their desire to own it”
Block, Walter E. and Michael R. Edelstein. 2012. “Popsicle sticks and homesteading land for nature preserves.” Romanian Economic and Business Review. Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring, pp. 7-13;
Walter1:03 am on September 23, 2019 Email Walter E. Block