Monday, 19 November 2007

Cue Card Libertarianism - Environmentalism

ENVIRONMENTALISM: Encompasses various strands ranging from legitimate concerns about industrial pollution through to outright hostility towards industrial civilisation and technology. Libertarianism has no problem with the former, but is vehemently opposed to the latter – to the misanthropic or ecology strand which these days is all but mainstream.

The term ecology was coined by the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel in 1866. He defined it as the science of the relationship between organisms and their environment. As a philosophy it came to regard any disturbance of or harm to the organisms as necessarily detrimental to the whole environment. In its modern guise, it makes no distinction even between inanimate and animate matter, effectively claiming that all of existence, has intrinsic value in its virgin form, and should be regarded as inviolate. This includes such entities as trees, rocks and mud puddles, all by this “reasoning” granted equal importance to living, breathing human beings.

In 1905, Haeckel the zoologist became Haeckel the President of the Monist League, dedicated to promoting the forcible imposition of ecological ideals. Its zeal paid off in Germany’s “Green Revolution” of the 1930s, which began under the banners of “Blood and Soil” and “Back to the Land” and ended up by invading Poland and destroying most of Europe, and much of the inhabited world.

The ecology movement hibernated after World War Two and re-emerged in America in the 1960s. Initially deriving popularity from concerns about the use of pesticides raised by Rachael Carson in Silent Spring – concerns that led to the banning of DDT and the consequent death of up to 55 million people due to the return with renewed virulence of malaria -- the ecologists, deep ecologists and their deeper red felow travellers who saw an opportunity went on to posit implausible doomsday scenarios which all required big and bigger government to remedy.

Reputable scientists and disreputable politicians joined in doubting man’s or the earth’s chances of making it to the year 2000. Undaunted by the non-advent of any of the promised apocalypse scenarios, the doomsday merchants are still at it – Global Warming having supplanted an imminent Ice Age – demanding a tax-spend-regulate binge in the interests of the eco-system.

New Zealand’s Resource Management Act is an answer to any ecologist’s prayer. It prohibits (without a resource consent):
any use, erection, reconstruction, placement, alteration, extension, removal or demolition of any structure in, on, under or over land;
any excavation, drilling, tunnelling, or other disturbance of any land;
any destruction of, or damage to, or disturbance of, plants or animals in, on, or under the land;
any deposit of any substance in, on, or under the land;
any other use of land whatsoever [!!]
- – and it sets out the tortuous steps by which such a consent might be acquired and from whom.

As Ayn Rand points out, when the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce, then you may know your culture is doomed. The point should be obvious even to a product of today's education system.

It should be obvious enought that as a species human beings have a specific means of survival. The way we survive and (if we do well) flourish is not by renouncing ourselves or sacrificing to Gaia but by producing - by applying the mind to existence, transforming it for our own ends.

Thus are resources identified and produced: by application of our minds to this earth in the name of our own survival. It's said that resources themselves are finite, but that's not true. The human mind itself is the ultimate resource. Summarises Benjamin Marks in 'The Malthusian Trap,' it's possible to take seriously the warnings of the pessimists, but as George Reisman and Ludwig von Mises point out, "it comes true only under socialism" -- only under a system in which private property is banned, production is strangled and the tragedy of the commons remains in effect -- under a system of (non) production where the human mind is not able to read price signals and opportunities, and to adapt their own resources to suit.

Libertarians generally hold that there is a place for environmental laws, but that they must be based on the non-initiation of force principle. It is legitimate to protect human individuals from the enforced, involuntary ingestion of harmful substances, for example, but not legitimate to protect un-owned sand dunes from being “despoiled” by housing -– just one of the more absurd outcomes of the Resource Management Act.

Libertarians hold that the best answer to environmental concerns is the extension and better honouring of property rights through common law protection of private rights, whereby it would be unlawful to pollute, violate, or commandeer private property. Old ladies couldn’t be forced from their homes by government or local body fiat to make way for motorways or shopping malls; whole villages (of privately-owned houses) couldn’t be uprooted to make way for government mandated dams; private land couldn’t be invaded by a gold prospecting company or power lines with government backing – to cite some recent real-life examples.

Even trees, rocks, mud puddles and sand dunes would be inviolate if they are privately owned!

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by NZ libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The series itself is accumulating down on the right-hand sidebar, and in the archives here and here.

1 comment:

  1. "when the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce, then you may know your culture is doomed".

    This is wonderfull news. Our culture is worth preserving much in the first place.


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