WorldSys: Austrian Home Study Course, Week 22

READINGS: “The Environmentalist Threat” in Lew Rockwell’s The Economics of Liberty

1 How is the environmentalist movement similar to Marxism?

It’s a utopian, absolutist constellation of ideas nestled firmly within Leftism and perfectly comfortable with outrageous violations of basic civil liberties.

2 Whom does Rockwell consider the father of environmentalism?

Jean-Jacques Rosseau.

3 Aren’t extreme environmentalists just a harmless fringe group?

If they bought some territory in Montana and didn’t bother anyone, they might be, but as it stands they aim to use the coercive might of the State to force the rest of us to behave in the manner they deem fit.

This is far from harmless.

4 How is environmentalism a type of religion?

Quite a lot of environmentalism is explicitly religious, conceiving of the biosphere as a kind of integrated system which is Holy in an important way and worth preserving even at significant human cost.

5 What are the alleged sins of Christianity, according to some ecologists?

It provided the foundations for capitalism and industrialism, which you may recall as being two of the most profound forces for material advancement in the history of Earth.

6 What is the acceptable standard of living for humans, according to some ecologists?

Only barely above subsistence.

7 What was Albert J. Nock’s view of Nature?

As a dangerous adversary to be tamed. Most of nature is either inhospitable or actively dangerous to human beings, which might account for why humans have been changing their environments for something like a quarter of a million years.

8 Describe the dangerous legal trends illustrated in the Exxon case.

It suggests a return to the feudal policy of holding the ‘master’ (in this case, Exxon Mobile) responsible for the actions of subordinates (in this case, an employee that violated company policy by getting drunk on the job).

This will put a significant legal onus on companies and make it far easier to go after them in court, even when they have taken all the safety precautions required under any sensible set of rules.

9 Is wetlands policy moderate at least under Republican administrations?

No. Rockwell describes a case in which a Hungarian immigrant bought an old junkyard, improved it by cleaning away the refuse and putting down a layer of topsoil, and was slapped with steep legal penalties as a result because his property was technically classified as ‘wetlands’ under the clean water act.

10 Describe some of the environmentalist warnings that are based on dubious scientific claims.

Environmentalists would have us believe we’re a few years away from living amidst garbage piles towering over us as far as the eye can see. Needless to say, this has never proven true in the many decades since they’ve begun issuing this dire proclamation.

John Holdren, a physicist, claimed in the mid ’80’s that by 2020 climate-change-driven famines would kill as many as a billion people. We’re part of the way through 2018 and nothing remotely like such a calamity appears forthcoming.

11 Which U.S. president does Rockwell associate with the rise of the modern environmentalist movement?

Theodore Roosevelt.

12 How does environmentalism promote world government?

The terrestrial environment is not neatly delineated at the same places national boundaries are; there is simply no way to take seriously the policy proposals of even moderate environmentalists without realizing that their implementation would require something like a powerful world government enforcing supranational standards.

13 How would a free market address environmentalist concerns?

Any number of ways. Steven Cheung’s pioneering work on externalities demonstrated that orchard owners and beekeepers had done rather a nifty job of arranging mutually-beneficial pollination services between themselves, and there’s no reason to think similar such policies couldn’t obtain in the economy more generally.

One of the best ways to protect the environment is with a robust private-property regime. In the 19th century American courts frequently ruled against plaintiffs in cases wherein damages were sought for air or water pollution because it was believed that a healthy manufacturing sector was ‘in the public interest’. Had this precedent not been established it might be easier to sue factory owners when they foul the environment in ways deleterious to the public’s health, and such enterprises might be less inclined to due so.

Better yet, sell the rivers and make them private property. It’s always easier to pollute a thing that no one legally owns.

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