Debate:Libertarianism and the Environment

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Debate.png This is a Debate page.
Feel free to add your own spin on the story. Please keep it civil!
Information icon.svg This debate was created by HollowWorld.


Libertarianism and the Environment. These two cannot coexist, because as far as my simple mind understands Libertarianism it would mean putting restrictions on businesses so they do not pollute or destroy anything. Which goes directly against Libertarian ideas that say corporations should be entirely free to do whatever they want and make a profit, as it is their right to. Is this correct? Or does Libertarianism have a 'green' underbelly I don't know about? HollowWorld (talk) 16:45, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

If there's a market incentive for protecting the environment, the market will do so. P-FosterThe Grateful Dead were neither grateful nor dead. Discuss.Moderator 16:46, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
But what if there is a market incentive, but it would be more cost reducing to just green wash? HollowWorld (talk) 17:02, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
The market is never wrong. Why do you hate freedom? P-FosterThe Grateful Dead were neither grateful nor dead. Discuss.Moderator 17:04, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
It isn't freedom until we have brothels of attractive men and women in every state! When I open mine, all rationalwikians will have half off. The market can be wrong, and greenwashing happens all the time. Isn't saving money by cutting costs from more 'useless' endeavors part of the Libertarian way? HollowWorld (talk) 17:08, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
I am a radical libertarian, so I guess I should weigh in. The government cannot tell corporations what to do. They are limiting productivity by cap and trade and other disincentives to business. Spain tried green jobs and failed. Government cannot creep in this, or they will creep in everywhere. Does the government work for us, or do we work for the government?--Colonel Sanders (talk) 17:26, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
But you are concerned for the environment, how will you pull these two opposing things together to both promote ultimate free trade while keeping the planet from turning into an industrial wasteland not seen since The Genetic Opera? HollowWorld (talk) 18:00, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
The market will produce cleaner technology when it is needed. We need to take care of our world, but government is inefficient and does not need to do it. We will eventually run out of oil, and cars will be created and are in development to stop this. I am concerned about the environment, but think government intervention, such as taxes, is not the way. --Colonel Sanders (talk) 18:09, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
But where did I say government? Colonel, I would like it if you remained on the topic of debate rather than use this as a platform to rail against government. How can libertarianism and environmentalism coexist, especially when 'dirty' energy and the like is so much cheaper? Why do the years worth of research to make physical holograms when you still have loads of trees that are more cost effective to cut down and make into paper? Or whatever else, I guess. HollowWorld (talk) 18:14, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Ecology and economics are inseparable. Dirty energy is cheaper, but unsustainable. People, even now, are starting to invest in green energy. People are growing increasingly aware that oil is going to run out. People can stop purchasing products from dirty companies, and they will have to change.--Colonel Sanders (talk) 18:20, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Libertarianism as it is widely practiced now and the environment are fundamentally incompatible. This is pretty evident from the fact that the libertarian-leaning pundits and think tanks have, in general, just denied every environmental problem of the last half-century. Climate denial is now de rigeuer among libertarians. It is probably even more extreme today, as suddenly the cap-and-trade system suggested by many free market-types to deal with acid rain is now unholy government intervention, despite the fact that compliance costs have been less than estimated, it has spurred innovation by giving more incentives for development of clean technology, and cut emissions. Then as now, the fossil fuel industry has poured loads of money into denying the problem. Guys like Singer have been predicting a drop in oil usage for ages, but it hasn't happened yet. Meanwhile, we have already exceeded the first mitigation scenario of 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. How long do we wait for the market to work its magic? There is always the long run, but as Keynes famously said, "In the long run, we are all dead." Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 19:48, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

What he said. One major problem with the libertarian enthusiasm for free markets is that they have this idealized vision of a perfectly rational system with equal agents in which propaganda and power differentials do not matter at all. That is simply not a reflection of reality - economic activity that is on the whole a net loss because of damages to the environment can still be profitable for some, and if they are extraordinarily powerful, they will succeed in pushing the costs on society while hogging the associated profits. The fact of the matter is that a profit-oriented enterprise will not harm its revenue by implementing costly anti-pollution measures unless it is forced to or perceives being "green" as a marketing advantage. And the latter is only relevant when you're in the consumer goods business - if you sell industrial goods to corporate customers, you don't really have to care about your image, and such enterprises are among the worst polluters. Another problem is that privately-owned corporations usually neither have an incentive to care about the degradation of public goods, nor will they make long-term plans at a significant expense to short-term profits for stockholders. The improvements in air and water cleanness in many developed countries were not achieved through voluntary action on the part of corporations, but through regulation, fines and taxation. And the slippery slope argument that environmental regulations are a form of creeping socialism is manifestly nonsense, because we have been practicing them for decades without seriously infringing on the principles of a market-based economic order or drastically losing competitiveness. Röstigraben (talk) 21:06, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
I have just woken up from napping and remembered this as well. In the purely libertarian society, ultimately would not one corporation rise above the others and gain a monopoly in everything, stomping out all competition? Then they wouldn't even look at incentive to change because they're the only choice available. That may be a little dystopic, I admit. Market would not 'balance' them out, they are the market, and The Market would ignore the conservation of the planet and instead devour it. HollowWorld (talk) 02:35, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

There is no inherent contradiction between Libertarianism and Environmentalism, although there often is in practice. Libertarians usually feel the legitimate role of government is to protect people from each other, and polution causes harm to people. Rito (talk) 22:08, 11 December 2013 (UTC)