The Right to Dark Skies

From: J
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2018 7:16 PM
Subject: The right to dark skies
Dear Dr. Block, I write from Mexico. I ask: As a libertarian, what do you think of the “Right to dark skies”? and what would be the free market solution to this problem? Thank you for your time and your answer.

My friend and mentor Murray N. Rothbard used to say that it is silly to try to parody the left, as they accept all parodies; they revel in them. But this is a new one to me, and I’m sure it would have been to Murray as well. I think about him all the time, wondering what he would say to the latest lunacy. Well, he’s not here any more (I’m an atheist, but I just know he’s up there somewhere, looking down on us, and rooting us on) so we, his followers, can only do the best we can to follow his path. So, here goes.

The single best essay ever written on environmentalism, trespass, pollution in general, is this:

Rothbard, Murray N. 1982 [1990]. “Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution,” Cato Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring; reprinted in Block, Walter E. Ed. Economics and the Environment: A Reconciliation, Vancouver: The Fraser Institute, 1990, pp. 233-279;;;

Extrapolating from the splendid insights contained therein, I would say the following in response to your very important question/challenge: Which country more heavily “violates” this newly discovered right to dark skies: North or South Korea? Answer: the latter. If you look at a map depicting this sort of thing, South Korea is lit up like a birthday cake more for someone my age (76) than that of my twin grandsons (3), while for North Korea the very opposite is the case. So, the more capitalist of these two countries is a greater violator of this new right than the communist one? That would be the implication of the new “right” to dark skies.

I will say this, however. If someone lit up a gigantic light right next to where a telescope was located, such that the latter could no longer explore our solar system and all other heavenly bodies, then and only then would the former be a rights violator. I make this claim on the basis of two libertarian, considerations. First, homesteading. Read on this material written by John Locke, Murray Rothbard, Hans Hermann Hoppe and Stephan Kinsella (these are my mentors on issues of homesteading). The point here is that if the bright light was there first, and the telescope “comes to the nuisance” then the latter may not legally complain about the absence of dark skies needed by astronomers. But, if the telescope were there first, then the bright lighter is a trespasser, in effect.

Secondly there is the continuum problem. Just how dark does the sky does the sky have to be? Is South Korea really a rights violator? Should we all follow, ugh, the economic path of North Korea? I have written this issue: Block, Walter E. and William Barnett II. 2008. “Continuums” Journal Etica e Politica / Ethics & Politics, Vol. 1, pp. 151-166, June;; )

David Friedman attempts to undermine private property rights. He writes about someone shining a gigantic flashlight at someone else’s house, bright enough to burn it down. Here’s my critical rejoinder to him: Block, Walter E. 2011. “David Friedman and Libertarianism: A Critique,” Libertarian Papers, Vol. 3, Article 35;; I have asked him to respond to this essay of mine. So far, he has not complied.

Hey, are you guys gonna pay for that wall Trump wants on our border or not?


1:31 pm on March 28, 2018