[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
Yesterday’s election brought high points and low. It was a relief to see the unbearable Rick Santorum go down to defeat in Pennsylvania, but not so delightful to see the despicable Elliot Spitzer gain the governorship in New York. On the whole, though, I’m glad to see the Republicans get trounced as they deserve. And divided government is one step closer to no government.
The real question now is whether the newly empowered Democrats will stand up to Bush on questions of war and civil liberties, or whether they will merely take the opportunity to indulge in their usual programs of job destruction (a.k.a. “minimum wage laws”), victim disarmament (a.k.a. “gun control”), etc.
One reason for pessimism is the way the Democrats abjectly rolled over for Bush in the wake of 9/11. Another is the way they’ve been endlessly coy about whether they want to end the war or just fight it better. Still another is this observation that “[m]any of the newly elected Democrats come from the moderate to conservative wing of the party. They are national security hawks in the main and most do not favour a quick withdrawal from Iraq. Many of them are social conservatives and protectionists ….” Oh, goody.
On the other hand, one reason for optimism is that antiwar sentiment nonetheless clearly played a central role in bringing about yesterday’s Democratic victories. Thus the Democrats may have to throw some sort of antiwar bone to their constituents. We’ll see.
In longer-term electoral politics, what I’d really like to see is a Green/Libertarian coalition. The Greens’ ten values are perfectly consistent with libertarianism, though the means chosen to achieve them may not always be. I’m largely in agreement with this piece by Dan Sullivan, though I favour a different solution to the land question – and I also think making agreement on any one solution to the land question a precondition for Green/Libertarian cooperation is strategically self-defeating. (In practical terms the best solution for disagreements over land policy is decentralisation. Kick the disagreement downstairs and tussle over it at the local level; that way no one solution gets imposed on everybody else.) For some other Green/Libertarian proposals see here, here, here, and here. (One approach to Green/Libertarian cooperation that I don’t favour is this one, which I initially thought was a joke – but apparently not.)
From the ten values:
“We must counter-balance the drive for short-term profits by assuring that economic development, new technologies, and fiscal policies are responsible to future generations who will inherit the results of our actions.”
I thought libertarians were for free markets.That doesn’t sound a bit like free markets to me, which isn’t surprising since greens abhor free markets.
While most Greens would certainly take that line to have anti-market implications, its real implications are pro-market. That’s because it’s interventionist government policies, not free markets, that encourage the short-term, short-sighted corporate policies that Greens complain about.
One obvious example is the way the government hands out logging rights on federal lands — on the one hand at a lower price than market value, on the other hand withholding ownership of the land itself, thus encouraging over-harvesting rather than stewardship. But I think you can find that sort of thing all over the place. Thus Libertarian means will generally be the most effective means to Green ends.
The two chief obstacles to Green/Lib cooperation, then, are that a) Libertarians don’t care that much about Green ends, and b) Greens don’t much trust Libertarian means. And these two obstacles are mutually reinforcing: one reason Libs are skittish about Green ends is that Greens so often sound like statists, and one reason Greens are skittish about Libertarian means is that Libs so often sound dismissive of Green values.
But I claim that Green values are in fact worthy ends, and that Libertarian means are in fact effective at promoting those ends; and once a large enough coalition is built of people who shares those two beleifs, it will be easier to get a Green/Lib coaltiion going.
“We must counter-balance the drive for short-term profits by assuring that economic development, new technologies, and fiscal policies are responsible to future generations who will inherit the results of our actions”
This could be interpreted as being anti-deficit spending and anti-inflation, since inflation is the primary reason for short term “scorched earth” corporate policies.
One obvious example is the way the government hands out logging rights on federal lands — on the one hand at a lower price than market value, on the other hand withholding ownership of the land itself, thus encouraging over-harvesting rather than stewardship.
How’s this for green-libertarian synergy: Loggers can’t own land under libertarianism – land is just a natural resource, which cannot, by itself, be owned. Hence libertarians should disapprove of police coming to arrest protestors, tree-huggers, and tree-spikers, since the loggers don’t own the land on which those activities are conducted.
As much as I agree with what you’re saying in principle, I must take issue with the claim that minimum wages destroy jobs. Employment is a monopsonistic market and minimum wage jobs are usually the sort that no-one wants to do unless they have to. The combination of the two factors means that minimum wage increases have marginal, if any, negative effects on employment – and in some instances it may even improve employment figures. Those are the facts.
On the subject of green and libertarian fusion, there was a book published some years ago by Austrian economist Edwin G Dolan called “TANSTAAFL : The Economic Strategy for Environmental Crisis”. The book is now going on Amazon for about 1c a copy but that exchange-value doesn’t reflect it’s real use-value. The book was from the early seventies and addressed the more-fiction-than-fact “Limits To Growth” / Club of Rome scare of the time, rather than the more-fact-than-fiction Global Warming scare of today. Dolan was addressing issues, rather than focusing on political alliances. The title was inspired by Sci Fi author Robert Heinlein’s book “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress”, which centres on a future Moon colony’s revolutionary war for independence motivated by a mix of libertarian and ecological motivations.
Anonymous2: How’s this for green-libertarian synergy: Loggers can’t own land under libertarianism – land is just a natural resource, which cannot, by itself, be owned.
If that were true, nobody could own anything, even themselves; see my argument here.
Lev Lafayette: Employment is a monopsonistic market and minimum wage jobs are usually the sort that no-one wants to do unless they have to. The combination of the two factors means that minimum wage increases have marginal, if any, negative effects on employment – and in some instances it may even improve employment figures.
I don’t follow the argument. First, while employment is a more monopsonistic market than it would be under free competition, it’s certainly not purely monopsonistic. Second, even if it were, unless the demand for labour is perfectly inelastic, I don’t see how raising the cost of providing jobs isn’t going to reduce the supply.
If that were true, nobody could own anything, even themselves
But people mix their labor with themselves, and thereby own themselves. Logging companies do nothing to present a valid claim to cut down trees on “their” land; they just cut down the trees. Therefore when a tree-hugger is “occupying” a tree, the police should restrain the loggers instead of the hugger, as is currently the practice.
*to be grammatically correct, that should read “which is currently the practice.”
An alliance with the greens, at least as they are presently constituted, would be as disastrous as an alliance with ultra-nationalists. Both greens and ultr-nationalists have a collectivist view of the common good being derived from a quasi-mystical nation or ‘the environment’. In each case the actual nation and the actual environment has very little in common with their respective political idols. Libertarians are justly tired of the dead end of their historical alliance with conservative nationalists, there is very little to show for it after decades of loyal sevitude. Substituting a new collectivist over-lord for an old one may have some appeal, but “better the devil you know”. In all likelihood the green movement as currently constituted, in many ways a post-socialist politcal refuge for collectivist left, may simply be a new incipient totalitarianism. At least socialism claimed to have the material benefit of the masses at it heart. In practice socialist anti-market policies undermined propserity and this internal contradiction led to it’s ultimate collapse. The greens are frankly hostile to mass prosperity and thus would have no qualms in riding their anti-market agenda until the horse is dead. Although they have presented some opposition to some of the imperialist and repressive policies of the conservative nationalists, they are addicted to global solutions and global governance so they are in fact uber-imperialists. Their civil liberties stance is apparently better than the conservative nationalists, but they completely fail to recognise the repressive nature of the controls they advocate to support recycling, conservation, etc. Recently we have seen greens in Australia for example urge governments to intoduce ‘neighbors reporting on neighbors’ to enforce water rationing. The same groups lobbied against anti-terrorist tiplines as fascist but apparently could not see the contradiction.
I think rockwell made a similar argument in his (rather poorly written) anti-environmentalist manifesto. Anyway, i’m very skeptical that any but a few greens are really against human prosperity when it’s not in conflict with the ecosystem. Could you give some examples? I think what they complain about primarily is capitalism, and not the free market per se. Of course many of them are in the habbit of saying that the state needs to restrain the capitalistic tendencies of the market, but if they knew economics very well, they would probably be the most enthusiastic anarchists of any of us.
social justice advocates are concerned with distribution after production and thus want to use the state to regulate business.
distributive justice advocates are concerned with ethical questions regarding access to the natural commons before production and are thus concerned with privilege as privilege granted by the state allows one group (excluders) to have a legal claim on the wages of those they exclude.
governance on the other hand is set-up to insure no one’s absolute right of self-ownership is violated…
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