the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Second order

Posted by Jeff Id on November 4, 2010

Judith Curry has a new blog post which has inspired me to write on Libertarians and climate.  She has written a couple of times with negative commentary toward libertarians and environmental causes.  While she never actually attacks the Libertarian philosophy herself, her points are widely believed.  For instance:

Libertarian think tanks, the traditional foes of the enviro advocacy groups, began countering with doubts about the science.

The point is hard to disagree with, but there are good reasons to go against the eviro advocacy groups and their anti-prosperity policies but I believe that consumption driven capitalist conservatives are by far the most environmentally friendly political group on the planet.  In fact, in my mind, it isn’t even a close call.

Protecting the environment requires doing things which have a benefit/cost relationship that is sometimes greater orless than 1.  Greater than one and you are financially incented to pursue the benefit, less than one and you will be pushed to ignore it as a bad deal.  If you want to dispose of mercury or some other caustic chemical and you are careless eventually the benefit/cost number can be far greater than 1 to society as a whole but on an individual company costs of handling the problem properly puts pressure on the business to behave badly. Regulations are sometimes necessary to communicate societies need to business, but the effects of those regulations are often poorly understood.  From the above,  it is very easy to conclude that Libertarian style capitalist consumption will lead  to widespread destruction of the environment.  Simple thinking people imagine resources consumed to their end, forests wiped out, brown skies and dead fish, but is that really what happens?

The most destructive enemy of humanity is not weather, it is poverty.  Poverty has destroyed more lives than any war can however, many wars came about from poverty which was often unnecessarily forced on populations by government policies.   Poverty is the enemy of the environment that should be battled, not capitalism and over-consumption as many climatologists believe.  Capitalism recognizes costs, it isn’t environmental policy that protects our forests in the US, it is the paper businesses protecting their own livelihood.  Forests are treated as tree-farms here, whereas in impoverished areas of the world, they are sometimes slaughtered to make money now – as America used to do a hundred years ago.

Changing a behavior away from the financially incentivized benefit/cost ratio, often requires money.   It is simply impossible for Zimbabwe to invest in more expensive programs to protect the environment.  Today China has become the whipping boy of the world for its consumption of resources and massive pollution, however, China is not the consumer, the world is.  America and Japan are also regularly hammered for the same issues, except that the pollution isn’t there to the same degree.  While we have exported many of our jobs to China, our more mature capitalist economies have developed enough sensible regulation that we are far cleaner in our production.  It is simply impossible for the poor regions of China to do anything more about pollution than they already do.  However, as our global money piles up there, that will also change.

A coal plant in the US emits very little particulate these days from sensible regulation, a coal plant in Pakistan or Venezuela is less regulated – out of poverty.  The bottom line is that you need the money to implement the regulatory controls.  The more money you have, the more controls you can implement and this is where the environmentalists often go wrong.  They see businesses producing, wealthy populations consuming and making a mess, and from the simple understanding of Libertarian policy, they only know that conservatism and capitalism are the enemy of the environment. It is easy to say, coal plants produce CO2, they are the enemy of the environment, we need to raise the cost to limit consumption.  Everyone can understand the sense of your policy, but will it give you the result you want?

The answer in the short run is yes but over decades of time is actually no!  You will get the opposite effect, and will in fact produce more CO2 and more pollution in the long run, and if you raise the cost enough, you will have wide spread poverty.  Some of the environmentalists are so extreme that they see this as a good thing, imagining equal but lower wealth spread around the world as a fantastic result.  Of course if you ask someone who has lived under equal-wealth policy, you may find that they weren’t as thrilled with the outcome as it sounds on paper.

Again, the result is not created from the first order effect.  Limitation does not mean less production in the long run, it means less money available for solutions.  As we adopt ever more limitation policies in America, our prosperity has dropped markedly.  I’m sure plenty of economists both disagree and agree with that assessment but it is largely due to the fact that they don’t actually live on daily orders from customers. Businesses in America today are pressured to their limits by taxation and regulation, their true output has dropped but that is hidden by the export of environmentally difficult production out of country.  Again, it has the effect of added cost, added shipping and in the end, more production of pollution because poor countries don’t have the wealth to control emissions of various pollutants.  Do you think that a barrel of oil is more likely to be dumped into a stream in Viet-Nam or America?  Which country would then spend money to clean it up?

Of course, general people don’t think too deeply on these things and first order effects are part of what keeps socialism so popular in the world despite the dramatically improved outcomes for life in a capitalist society.  California just voted for more cost to limit CO2, when it will have absolutely zero effect on their ability to solve the problem.  The first order effects sound nice, everyone likes clean air, but the reality is that California’s limitation policies have bankrupted their own government, pushed business and production to poorer areas of the country and world, and seriously limited their future ability to really help solve the problems they care about.

The IPCC as pointed out by Judith Curry’s blog post was structured from the beginning to make the conclusion it did.  Judith is the first scientist I’ve read to really speak so bluntly about this fact which was the subject of some of the first posts at tAV.  The IPCC is a political organization and although it claims scientific consensus, in my opinion it has very little science left in it today.  Climategate is almost a year old now, but its main lesson was – don’t trust the big government science industry.  It is an industry the same as any other, it has its own benefit/cost balance, and the ratio has biased the science.  The ‘benefit’ of government money and power for an extremist global warming position is obvious as are the costs of a moderate statement.  From climategate we have proof that it has biased the science, but any honest review of the IPCC leads to the same conclusions anyway.  They had to hide the decline one way or another to maintain their benefit.  It was either that or they had to admit that the conclusions they wanted to make were unsupported by the science. From the above, you can see that it is in fact, completely impossible to fix the bias in the IPCC.  Sure you can have more oversight, you can add layers of bureaucracy which may improve the bias, but in reality, even those layers will be positively affected by extremist conclusions they would be tasked to minimize.

So with all the exaggerated government industry ‘science’ out there, magnifying the costs of not acting on AGW and minimizing the costs of their limitation policy, it is no wonder that thinking individuals who can’t help but notice the benefits of free market capitalism, are viewed as the enemy.  What they so easily for politicians to forget is that, if you want to put money into ‘green’ technology, you had better find a way to make the money.  Borrowing money now to implement massively expensive solar plants and biofuels can do nothing but decrease our ability to address the problem with real solutions.  Unfortunately, our public educated society has lost the ability to think beyond the first order effects of these policies and left America in a dramatically weakened position to deal with our self-inflicted energy issues.

As strange as it seems to most in this world, Libertarian, conservative capitalism with a minimal government and widespread consumption is the environmentalists true friend.  Let the people lift themselves from poverty and they will have all the power they need to take care of Gaia for millennia to come.  Tax and regulate their consumption, spread the wealth by fiat, and you will get all the happy results that so many communist regimes have demonstrated so many times before. Of course convincing the IPCC of that will be difficult, as those at the top of socialist wealth spreading governments, want for nothing.

46 Responses to “Second order”

  1. Dagfinn said

    I’m not a libertarian (as far as I can tell ;)) but I agree with you 100 per cent that limiting consumption is not the way to protect the environment.

    The way I would frame the basic problem is that environmentalism starts from a systemic understanding that is too narrowly focused. The fundamental ecological insight is that you can’t control and manipulate an ecosystem because it’s too complex and that makes it difficult or impossible to predict the consequences of intervention. (Kill the bugs and the birds die, that sort of thing.)

    However, the same environmentalists who have learned to think in this way overlook the fact that human society is similarly complex and you get similar side effects when you try to change society through regulation or other political measures.

  2. kim said

    Progressives and libertarians both use as raw material an alien and idealized conception of humanity.

  3. Gary said

    The meme of rapacious Capitalism lingers from Marx and popular writings such as Dickens novels. The problem is that the individual characteristic of greed is assumed to be equivalent in the collective. It isn’t. Competing interests in freer societies ameliorate the inclination to pollute the commons. The correlation between economic freedom and clean environments is high.

  4. Kenneth Fritsch said

    I along with much of the rest of the world viewed the IPCC as a group of highly meritorious scientists, working hard and digging deep to assess the science, all the while fighting against the dark forces of politics and big oil. The biggest shock from reading the emails was that the IPCC assessment process had a substantial element of schoolyard bullies, trying to insulate their shoddy science from outside scrutiny and attacks by skeptics, over concern with their press and media attention, discrediting skeptics, etc. Now the argument is rightly made that behavior of scientists is not relevant to the truth of science. However, when the assessment of the science rests largely on expert judgment, the behavior and credibility of the experts becomes a very important issue.

    In this comment by Judith Curry, I think those of us, who saw what she now writes here as something loud and clear from the beginning, would have to say what took you so long. The evidence was clearly there before the climategate emails. Curry is currently, of course, the exceptional case for academia on the issue of IPCC, but perhaps it helps us understand the continuing silence and apparent naivety from that direction.

    As I recall from Curry’s initial posts at CA, she claimed to be a libertarian (note to Jeff ID: libertarians like me prefer to use the small “l” version as the capital “L” is reserved for the Libertarian party and once we get into parties the libertarian philosophy can get lost in the politics) but seem to not the like the positions that were coming out of a main libertarian publication, Cato. I was under the impression then that she was rather naive about what libertarianism was.

    I think this naivety is clear when climate scientists like Mann talk about a monolithic influence on skeptics by the fossil fuel industry. Climate scientists are not necessarily that well informed in other areas of life – or even other areas of climate science. And that is good reason to not wanting them suggesting government policy or advocating it or committing to a consensus position on AGW.

  5. RB said

    The IPCC as pointed out by Judith Curry’s blog post was structured from the beginning to make the conclusion it did. Judith is the first scientist I’ve read to really speak so bluntly about this fact which was the subject of some of the first posts at tAV.

    Indeed, it could very well be Ronald Reagan’s fault .
    US support was probably critical to IPCC’s establishment. And why did the US government support it? Assistant Undersecretary of State Bill Nitze wrote to me a few years later saying that our group’s activities played a significant role. Among other motivations, the US government saw the creation of the IPCC as a way to prevent the activism stimulated by my colleagues and me from controlling the policy agenda.

    Having said that Judith Curry’s narrative appears to be an aggregation of the various blogs she reads – nothing in there should surprise the skeptics.

  6. Andrew said

    This matter-Curry denigrating “Libertarian Think Tanks” speaks to something I brought up earlier and nobody paid attention to me and just kept praising her for how she has “seen the light”-perhaps in some ways, not others:

  7. James said

    The best site. Good jobs

  8. Brian H said

    Jeff, I wish you would stop ceding the claim that CO2 is pollution. Completely aside from the corrupting effects of the c/b ratios you point out on the scientists and “regulators”, that underlying lie is much of what keeps life in the de-industrialization push.

    The Earth is in a CO2 famine by paleohistory standards.

  9. Brian H said

    The inverse of your conclusion should also be emphasized: the correlation between command economies and massive pollution is not only high, it is explained by their heavy focus on forcing short-term “first-order” results to meet the targets of their “5-Year Plans”.

    The economist Bastiat pointed all this out a couple of centuries ago. His term for the second-order consequences was “the unseen”.

  10. Jim said

    Good post, Jeff, and right on target.

  11. kuhnkat said

    The statement you pick out shows the exact attitude of the Climate types that is so distasteful. Nowhere in the statement is there any suggestion of there being a possibility that there are valid reasons to doubt the science. It is such an assumption of the Libertarian think tanks acting in knee-jerk fashion with not one bit of evidence presented that that is what it was.

    I am not sure why you claim that this isn’t an attack on them. Most people reading this simply assumes she means that they were spreading doubt with no scientific basis. That is an attack. This type of passive aggressive verbiage is spread throughout her writings.

    She calls them liars and propagandists without actually saying the exact words. Because she is smart and can slide around it does NOT mean she never attacks them.

  12. BlueIce2HotSea said

    As Jeff alluded to, the clash between libertarians and enviro-advocacy extremists is understandable. The movement has been co-opted by traditional political foes of libertarians.

    But it is a legitimate concern that good science might also become a casulty. Judith Curry, who appears to be both a truth-loving climate scientist and a libertarian, has for some time stood in the crossfire. Some of the most malignant and disengenuous green bloggers out there have gone after here as they did with Steve McIntyre. Her crime? She believes that transparency in climate science is necessary to re-establish its credibility.

    She is particularly vulnerable because the future of her career and professional credibility depends somewhat upon overwhelmingly decent, honest collegues who are also somewhat cowardly in the face of the bullies in their profession. I post anon, because I, too, am a coward.

  13. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Hmmm. I ought to have said that in addition to the casualties caused by the internal rotten apples, good science has also suffered from broadsides delivered by overzealous libertarian think-tanks; collateral damage, if you will.

    Jeff, your points on the relative catastrophic harm caused by poverty vs. weather is very important in demonstrating the fallacious, selective application of the precautionary principle by policy-makers.

    There is the non-negligible potential that CO2 restricting legislation could cause far greater catastrophic harm than the dangers we may be trying to avert. A prudent application of the precautionary principle would dictate that such policies must be prohibited.

  14. Jason Calley said

    Dagfinn says at #1: “The fundamental ecological insight is that you can’t control and manipulate an ecosystem because it’s too complex and that makes it difficult or impossible to predict the consequences of intervention. (Kill the bugs and the birds die, that sort of thing.)
    However, the same environmentalists who have learned to think in this way overlook the fact that human society is similarly complex and you get similar side effects when you try to change society through regulation or other political measures.”

    That is so brilliant I just had to re-post it!

  15. sky said

    To Judith Curry I would say: If skeptics are in the service of Big Oil, where’s my paycheck? All others I would simply remind that political agendas are not the proper basis of sound science.

  16. Dagfinn said

    Jason #14: Thanks, you almost make me blush. 😉

  17. BlueIce2HotSea said


    Please re-read Judith Curry’s post. You were reading a historical perspective in which she is astonishingly critical of the IPCC “high priests” and the advantage to which it used religious dogma over the faithful scientists, who were told that the skeptics were in the service of big-oil. She is comparing the system to a mindless religion!

    My take is that she is risking all to take a courageous stand against anti-science conformity. Please disabuse me of this notion if I am wrong, because my admiration for her is quite deep. Perhaps I have become a heretic myself, guilty of worshiping the person (JC) instead of her ideas.

  18. sky said


    I have read JC’s post. The brevity of my comment apparently obscured the fact that I was urging her to use the classic defense against the Big Oil charges now being leveled against her by the very camp in which she was a highly-recognized fellow traveler. The wording “advise to say” rather than “say” would have conveyed that ironic intention more clearly.

    Nevertheless, I remain quite skeptical that JC truly is a deeply analytic skeptic of the all-too-“soft” science of climate. You can read her “Thermodynamics of Oceans and Atmospheres” from cover to cover and come away clueless about the central role of the hydrological cycle in governing climate. When asked by academics whether I would recommend that text, I invariably have to say “no!”

  19. Geoff Sherrington said

    Jeff, If you seek a personal case history to make some telling points, please feel free to expose my life and thought. At a minimum, it would show that there is another person who agrees with and endorses your lead-in.

    It is easy to show that extreme environmentalism is horse-s**t cult. Unfortunately it takes several volumes to make a case, because a throw-away line can take a chapter to refute. Thus, the need for highlighting.

    It is fairly easy to show why several countries, starting from a similar historical base a couple of centuries ago, have achieved contrasting outcomes. It’s tied in with the the quality of leadership, which has a subset dealing the promotion of professionalism, with engineering, medicine and science among those obviously prominent.

    There is also an element of pervasive propaganda, as Dr Curry is now realising, though a little late.

    One of the most important functions of leadership is selection of those most capable of providing the best available advice, in the positive sense of top science as well as the negative sense of rejection of propagandists – and then acting on the advice.

  20. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Thanks for clarifying, Sky. Your prior post now makes perfect sense.

    However, to label Curry as a former “fellow traveler” in the same camp that levels the Big-Oil charges is extreme. Those guys are repulsive and malevolent. On the other hand, Curry has a stunning capacity for civility even while responding to attacks from those very types.

    You say you don’t like her book. I don’t know this for a fact, but I expect that to a certain extent she would agree with you, that some of the acclaim it has received was undeserved and due partly to a happenstance alignment with a crooked political agenda. What is she supposed to do about that other than what she is doing right now?

    Please try to soften your stance.

  21. sky said


    To my mind, the overarching issue in the great climate debate is scientific, not personal or political. We see a Very unintelligent ersatz (full of scientifically untenable concoctions such as runaway positive feedbacks in nature) masquerading as “settled science” and its proponents resorting to ad hominem tactics in order to squelch rigorously skeptical critics.

    My hard stance on JC, whom I’ve never met, stems entirely from her SCIENTIFIC positions, including hurricane-season forecasts that were trumpeted in the media in recent years, but all-too-conveniently overlooked when nature greatly disagreed. I’ll soften my stance when all of that stops. Civility of tone is a virtue that I much admire, but not to the point of acquiescing to the rape of good science. Personalities and politics are a distraction from that issue.

  22. Brian H said

    Sky, #21;
    I think it’s patently gone beyond the point where the issue and problem is either scientific or political or personal; it is all of the above, and they are irredeemably entangled. Clarity in any one helps straighten out the others, but can’t settle things.

    Notice how the political wing of the “pay us to fix the planet” cabal is rapidly diversifying to other vehicles, like ocean de-alkalizination (aka acidification), biodiversity, and others, all with the implicit or explicit Oh-so-sorrowful conclusion in view that triage must be performed on humanity.

  23. sky said

    Brian H #22:

    No doubt the debate has gone patently beyond the scientific. All that I’m saying is that if the science had been done rigorously, there would be no issue to debate. Serious scientific scepticism should cut the ground out from underneath the pseudo-scientific contentions, instead of flying into the turbulence of political cant and recant.

  24. Brian H said

    Sorta maybe. Research is paid for. By someone(s). Who can stop funding if they don’t like the results.

    So it is interesting that the funding pipeline from the beginning fed almost solely confirmatory studies of what G&T rightly call “a speculation”. Right away that removes the focus and center of gravity from science to politicized financial. The science is almost irrelevant until that is addressed.

  25. BlueIce2HotSea said

    “My hard stance on JC, … stems entirely from her SCIENTIFIC positions, including hurricane-season forecasts…”

    Now you’ve lost me again.

    You seem to be claiming that her book is incomplete and she blew a hurricane forecast. This is a trivial complaint given the larger problems in climate science.

    And did you read Colorado State’s forecast? Also blew it. And BTW, I don’t know if there is a more publicly ant-Gore climate scientist than Dr William Gray. (Read his Discover mag. interview.) Nevertheless, his forecast was wrong.

    The science still needs work. I thought we would’ve agreed on that.

  26. sky said


    That much of science is incomplete and virtually all real-world forecasts are wrong to some extent is a given. The issue is to what extent any scientist recognizes the scope and limits of their knowledge and acts accordingly.

    It’s far from trivial that the demonstrably central role of the hydrological cycle in terrestrial thermodynamics is unrecognized in JC’s text. And her forecast, based on vague empirical connections between “global warming” and hurricane intensity that no rigorous physical researcher would rely upon, was blown most spectacularly!

    The intellectual root of the problem lies with watered-down curricula in “environmental” science that became the fashion in academia a few decades ago. The rigorous disciplines of mathematics, physics, and chemistry were subordinated to descriptive narrative with an agenda. I hope that your take on matters scientific is not a product of such a curriculum. Let’s leave it at that.

  27. Brian H said

    “The science still needs work.” Understatement of the year.

    In pragmatic and political-economic terms, means, “The science should not yet be used to form any significant policies and decisions, especially those not readily reversed.”

  28. BlueIce2HotSea said


    The danger in resorting to ad hominen attacks in order to portray opponents as weak-minded thinkers is that ad homs are generally the favorite tool of a weak-minded thinker. But, since Curry avoids this, she has a head-start on most of her critics.

    BTW, I am 100% certain that Curry has if not expertise, then technical familiarity with the role of hydrological processes in ocean-atmosphere interactions. Don’t you agree, also?

  29. Mark T said

    28.BlueIce2HotSea said

    “But, since Curry avoids this, she has a head-start on most of her critics.”

    No she doesn’t. I believe it was Lindzen that did not know what he was talking about because his brain is “fossilized,” i.e., he is too old and thus wrong. Sorry, she’s just as bad as any of the rest…


  30. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Mark T-

    You have a point, “fossilized” brain is definitely intemperate, although one incident is not a pattern.

    Are sure she said this about Lindzen? Reference?

  31. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Mark T

    I had forgotten about this. It was a comment JC made about William Gray in response to some blunt criticism by Gray.

    So, two scientists I admire got into a little cat fight. I hope it’s over and they have kissed and made up.

  32. M. Simon said

    My dear Kim. Your comment is exactly why I don’t visit JOM any more.

  33. Mark T said

    May have been Gray, I don’t recall the specifics… that was certainly her approach at the time, which soured my initial opinion, though her willingness to continue torturing data until it confesses colors my opinion now.

  34. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Mark T #33 Feb 2, 2006

  35. Mark T said

    Yes, I recall now. It does sort of prove my conslusion that she does not avoid such things. Even in your linked paper she adds that (paraphrased) “nobody listens to him except a few groupies,” i.e., “he’s not mainstream therefore he is wrong.” An argumentum ad-hominem if ever there was one. Interestingly, at the time (maybe still today,) he was actually mainstream and most people did listen to him.

    His complaint, btw, centered on the fact that she likes to torture data. Something I have yet to see change in climatology in general (anybody that wants their pet theory to be true does the same… Michael Mann, for example.)


  36. Mark T said

    One point I have always given her: she seems to understand feedback better than most in climatological circles. Oh, the humanity of what I have read.


  37. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Mark T

    Here’s another positive.

    The ongoing discussion that Jeff has initiated here with Anastassia Makarieva was preceeded by about one year in dialogs between Curry and Makarieva.

    Her reaction could have been, “This is preposterous. The temperature-differential paradigm for wind generation in hurricanes has been replaced with condensation… crackpot outsiders!”

    But instead she tried to find a reason other than prejudice to reject the research and was drawn in. She gets high marks from me for curiosity and civility. I like that in a scientist.

    And now that my defense of Dr. Curry has become borderline pathological, I had probably better back off for awhile. You may have the last word.


  38. Mark T said

    My last word is simply what I’ve already said… I never really claimed she was as bad as all the rest, just that she does exhibit some of the same traits. If she can get over the typical ego we see so often from so many, more power to her and anyone that wants to listen.


  39. Alexander Harvey said


    “Let the people lift themselves from poverty and they will have all the power they need to take care of Gaia for millennia to come.”

    I wish to consider this in terms not just of the global, but of the nation state, I will say more on this later, before finally a short comment on your view of the question at hand, and why I am bothering with this at all.

    There is a reading of your sentence that raises a concept akin to a notion of human husbandry. It turns on the meaning of the word “let”. Is this a disinterested or interested term, does it simply mean an absence of repression or does it encompass a form of assistance. An sssistance coming in many forms, material, ideological, moral, intellectual, capital, and doubtless many more.

    You must pardon me for I must think that the strong libertarian position would be:

    To take positive benefit from the raising of the poor out of their poverty and to enjoy its consequences.

    I will reveal something, and you may now view me as nemesis, a socialist, and my views as tainted.

    I would say that you have nothing to fear from me as I be not enemy but a consequence of geography and history. I would think that the circumspect libertarian position would be to concern oneself primarily with the causes of socialism.

    For me, socialism is not an ideology, it is a reflex that arises, (when crudely put), due to a failure to wisely invest in the means of production. That said, I am a radical socialist of a sort maybe even an extremist. The sort whose belief is that if socialism needs doing it needs doing well, and even forcefully.

    This is socialism as in the nation state in intensive care. Its objective is to rehabilitate the nation state not to subjugate it.

    I am taking the bother of writing this for several reasons.

    Firstly because I think that you might be able to comprehend my point of view. Secondly because I would not wish any nation state to sow the seeds of socialism through a failure of capitalism. Thirdly because of concerns due to a percieved conflict between globalised capitalism and the concept of the nation state. Forthly to appeal to all libertarians towards circumspection with regard to socialism and to consider whether it is the necessary consequence of failure. Fifthly because I read your views on methods and consequences regarding how to approach the problem at hand and found little to argue about. Lastly to put clear water between myself and those you may view as socialists, and I would view as liberals.

    I hope my views be not unwelcome.


  40. Jeff Id said

    Well Alex,

    I don’t agree with govt control of most of what they control in most of the world. ‘Tis my curse that I would be born to a world with little say in which should be controlled. ‘Tis my benefit that thoughtful people exist amongst the average masses.

    The chance for exceptionalism in exchange for guaranteed mediocrity of socialism no matter the effort, is too great a price for those who have a taste of the chance.

  41. Alexander Harvey said

    Well Jeff,

    The reason that I am writing is that I concur.

    More later, I write very slowly. As a tit-bit I consider myself as a radical socialist. Most liberals might view me as akin with a anarcho-capitialist 🙂

    I arise when

    “The chance for exceptionalism in exchange for guaranteed mediocrity of socialism no matter the effort, is too great a price for those who have a taste of the chance.”

    ceases to exist, when there no longer exists a realistic opportunity for all to taste that chance.

    I am that nasty spectre that arises when that bargain breaks down. If you are a US citizen as I presume, I would have something to say regarding avoiding sowing the seeds of socialism through allowing that essential fair bargain to break down. Strangely almost the only people likely to see my viewpoint will be of the libertarian persuasion.


  42. Alexander Harvey said

    Here is some of my world view but I end on why it does not necessitate a divergence from your approach to the issue at hand, although my ideas on the subject may not be as nuanced as yours, as they be more rooted in a particular sentiment.

    I am not sure why I am writing this but I think it is to divorce socialism from a name used to describe a green planet hugging, do gooding, polically correct, bourgeois liberal lunatic fringe.

    So bear with me while I say why I see that to be the case.

    There are two inherently incompatible types of freedom. Freedom to, and freedom from. And two extreme types of wellbeing, sickness and health.

    The state of health tends to prize freedom-to, and the state of sickness prizes freedom-from.

    Socialism is born of sickness and specialises in freedom-from. Libertarian capitalism specialises in freedom-to.

    Both systems fail when they neglect to embrace the needs for the opposite type of freedom.

    The inherent instability of socialism is obvious. Once the patient is out of intensive care its needs for freedom-to, will tear the system down.

    The flaw in capitalism may not be inherent but is a persistent tendancy to fail to ensure a sufficient degree of freedom-from.

    I beleive that when libertarianism is debated as an ideology, the question of how to resolve the issue of freedom-from is contentious and centres around whether there is a duty of, or an imperative towards charity, or not.

    I would make the case that the stabilisation of libertarian capitalism rests on its embrace of a sentiment I would call human husbandry, in part from duty and in part from self-interest.

    The challenge to libertarianism comes in the bad times. How to deal with societal issues during periods of recession and in particular a descent of the human means of production into increasing poverty. If it wishes to maintain its dominance it must address the freedom-from needs before these needs engender institutionalised support.

    I challenge the libertarian capitalists to defend their system. Not aginst me but against the seeds of its own destruction.

    As I understand it, capitalism as a theory that engenders the common good rests on two principles that are difficult to maintain. The fair bargain and optimal investment in the means of production. If the bargain is not fair and the investment not optimal, the common good gives way to naked greed.

    Now that has gotten the traditonal conflict out of the way.

    So onto the alleged socialists for whom I save my greatest ire for they be a particular type of liberal. They want a limited personal freedom-to and institutional freedom-from. They specialise in the institutionalisation of problems. They engender the social professions who they can call upon to sort out the problems of the needy so they don’t have to; even if the needy be their kith or even kin.

    As for me, I am a socialist created by history and geography not by a misplaced ideology in fighting other people’s causes. Born into a broken country on a broken continent, I am not a liberal and I do not support “big government”, for it is the enemy of the struggling poor. And I get a bit fed up with feeling guilt by association to the petit liberal bourgeoisie that some climate skeptics call socialists.

    I am also an environmentalist and I get a bit peeved by association with people who think that saving the planet by denying access to the energy that powers the means of production and sustains both peasant and industrial worker alike is a smart idea.

    During my foray in that field I have learned at first hand that if you wish to save the wildlife, you must first save the wild. And if you wish to save the wild you must address the needs of the people who both live in it and rely on it.

    So I guess if one wishes to save the planet one must first address the needs of the people who both live on it and rely on it.

    I don’t suppose we would disagree much on my last point.


  43. kim said

    Please come back, M. Simon. Your voice is informed and unique.

    Years ago I argued endlessly with a rigorous libertarian, without ever winning a single point. The subjects of his polity were not human.

  44. Jeff Id said


    “I am not sure why I am writing this”

    My guess is that you need to let it out or vent a little. Sometimes it feels good.

    In my opinion the ‘Freedom from’ aspects of capitalism are exaggerated by those in power who prefer their power. One thing I’ve learned from this blog is that the Europeans have the view that American capitalism dumps the non-functional to the curb. Nothing could be further from the truth but how can a blogger fight against 24-7 media coverage to the opposite.

    The poor in the US have more than the poor in any country anywhere in the world, but you wouldn’t know that from the BBC. The reason we have 30 million immigrants pour over the border is to come here and take sub-minimum wage jobs and sign up for American poverty. We have a wall being built to stop people from becoming America’s volunteer poor.

    Right now we have a government which is intentionally bankrupting us into a socialist system. They are paying off unions for votes with our money and receiving the same money back in contributions to elections. Simultaneously they are signing people into overpaid do-nothing government jobs in huge numbers. The result will be the complete destruction of American business and the enslavement to the govt. It will be interesting to see what happens to the poor who vote for this system when the money stops.

  45. Mark T said

    “It will be interesting to see what happens to the poor who vote for this system when the money stops.”

    You mean “It will be interesting to see what happens to the poor who vote for this system when they run out of other peoples’ money.”


  46. Mark T said

    Oh, I should add, I know a lot of people that would fit the “poor” bill, or at least, they are in the bracket that qualifies for “poverty.” They have hard times, don’t get me wrong, but they have more than most in the world (still) and not one of them thinks government control, particularly to this level, or socialism, is a good idea. They are all either decidedly conservative or libertarian. Not all poor people are voting for the idiots currently setting government economic policy.


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