Tuesday, June 30, 2009

If Global Warming is Real, Freedom is the Solution

Beth at Wealth Is Not the Problem has published two posts here and here related to the issue of science versus politics. She makes the crucial point, rarely ever made, that the science of global warming does not imply anything politically. In other words, even if one could prove human-caused global warming, it does not imply that the state must pass certain types of legislation, e.g., a cap-and-trade bill that will destroy the American economy. I think it is often assumed, certainly by environmentalists, that if global warming can be proved, this fact alone implies some sort of statist takeover of the American economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if global warming is real, it would be cause for more economic freedom - not less. The economics of this argument were dealt with brilliantly by Dr. George Reisman in this post. He writes:
Even if you are absolutely convinced that human activities are responsible for global warming and, if nothing is done, will ultimately result in an intolerable rise in temperature, there is a very simple test that you need to apply. Pretend, for just a moment, that that same global warming is coming about independently of human activities, that it is strictly the product of natural forces. Then ask yourself, what would be the best fundamental method of coping with it? Maintaining a free market or establishing a centrally planned socialist system?

More fundamentally, what is the appropriate method for Man to use in dealing with Nature in general? Is it the motivated and coordinated human intelligence of all individual market participants that is provided by a free market and its price system? Or is it the unmotivated, discoordinated chaos in which one man, the Supreme Dictator, or a handful of men, the Supreme Dictator and his fellow members of the Central Planning Board, claim a monopoly on human intelligence and on the right to make fundamental decisions?
I can't help quoting one more passage:
The answer to the question of how best to cope with intolerable global warming caused by Nature is obviously the maintenance of the free market, not its replacement by Socialist central planning. Indeed, the answer is to make the free market freer than it now is—as much freer as is humanly possible. This is because while the primary reason for advocating a free market is the greater prosperity and enjoyment it brings to everyone in the course of his normal, everyday life, a major, secondary reason is to have the greatest possible industrial base available for coping with catastrophic events, whether those events be war, plague, meteors from outer space, intolerable global warming, or a new ice age.

In effect, what the environmentalists would have us do as the means of preparing for coping with a coming global warming is analogous to the imaginary absurdity of the United States in the 1930s having reduced its economy to the level, say, of Poland’s economy. Then, when World War II came, our country would have had to fight the war with horses instead of tanks and planes. In the same way, the environmentalists would have us cope with global warming by waving little fans instead of using air conditioners, refrigerators, and freezers....


madmax said...

These are great quotes from Reisman. Thanks.

Richard said...

I found it quite odd that his post ended praising von Mises, and not Ayn Rand. Indeed, that was a problem I often had with Reisman: to me, he seems to recurrently disregard non-economic fundamentals that he ought to use to support his economic viewpoint.

In all that I have read by him (I have not read his "Capitalism") I have not seen him direct readers to distinguish between true and false political requirements (or roots) of a free market, to the ethics required and perhaps the epistemological and metaphysical understandings & misunderstandings people also make.

I do not mean he should reiterate Rand, nor do I mean any exhaustive explanations. What I am referring to can be done with a few well placed words, and a reference directing readers to (say) Rand's better explanations. Instead, his works focus on concretes specifically as they pertain to the economic argument he is making (not that he doesn't choose excellent concretes!).

Going out on a limb, I am suspicious the above disconnect is similar to standing for free market economics the way Libertarians stand for freedom. That might further explain the rift between Reisman and ARI.

I imagine I have poked a leopard with a sharp stick, but I am interested in thoughtful responses.