CABAL Blog: Goldsmith on Looming Spectre of Cap and Trade

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"Capn' Trade Cereal: Don't Buy It!"

 

2009 P. Gardner Goldsmith

 

            As Liberty Conspirators have discussed, there is a growing trend among Republidemocans to push something called "Cap and Trade" in energy "policy" (ie fascism and meddling in the energy market). Along with discussions about how the "Obama Plan" will "restore the economy", the Cap n' Trade salesmen claim that this is a "free market alternative" to federal regulations, one which will help reduce "climate emissions", and skirt around the problem of "the commons".

            Before we begin exploring the shadowy jungles of the claims that Cap n' Trade is a "free market" solution, we need to address the widespread fallacy that mankind is causing "global warming". This is not only unproven, the record shows that global temperatures leveled off in 1998, and have actually started to fall in the past two years. This might be why the people who pushed "global warming" now use the term "climate change", so that they can always win the argument. If you tell them, "Hey, the globe isn't warming!" they will now respond with "the climate is changing due to man's influence."

            Make no mistake, this is done to serve one purpose: to invade private property and regulate private commerce at nearly every level, from auto emissions, to home heating, to manufacturing and light bulbs. It is a voo-doo charm approach to science, creating amorphous threats without scientific backing, and then prescribing statist "solutions" to the threats. The agenda is to increase the power of the state, the excuse is that people will be hurt if action is not taken.

            Hence we see calls for the Kyoto Accord, and its stepchildren. We see CAFÉ standard requirements, and Supreme Court rulings that CO2 can be regulated as a "pollutant" by the EPA, we see alarmist calls for "Dark Hours" to "raise awareness" about "climate change" (uh, which way is it changing now, you guys?), and we see proposals like Cap n' Trade, given the slippery label of "free market alternatives" to outright government regulation of carbon emissions.

            Here is a message to those charlatans who would try to fool people into believing such nonsense: Some of us know better, jerks.

            Cap n' Trade, as manifested in things like the proposals of Barack Obama and John McCain, and in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative "Allowance Auctions" recently conducted in NH and other states, supposedly answers the oft-stated problem of the "tragedy of the commons" - wherein a resource is over-utilized because it is commonly held, or it is prone to pollution and large numbers of people can be hurt.

            But the Tragedy of the Commons is caused by the Commons (ie government pulling all together without choice), and is used here in a straw dog argument to excuse a-priori exclusion of private ownership, and regulations and restrictions on uses of private holdings. It is, simply put, a set of arbitrary, anti-freedom restrictions, whether the snake-oil salesmen call it "a free market alternative" or not.

            Property rights and strict liability adjudicated through private arbitration can solve and have solved the so-called Tragedy of the Commons. Have a problem with over use of a watershed or lake? Don't hold it in "common" through government control, where it can never be utilized efficiently, based on the true needs of only those involved; don't hold it in "common" where politics replaces true consumer and property owner interest, where someone is always at odds with someone else and satisfaction for all interested parties is rare. Let those truly interested use their own capital to reflect their interests; let them procure the resources privately, establish properly defined property rights over their use, and allow people real people, to work out their disputes through private arbitration, reputation, exclusion, and the use of their land and resources.

            When one sets up a straw dog argument, saying that disputes over pollutants in the air or water, or ownership of migratory beasts, can only be solved by government through restrictions, regulations, licenses, quotas for hunting, etc., what one is really admitting is not that the market cannot manage these, but that the common ownership of these does not work. Why does one need to set up a maximum quota for the hunting of an animal in a given state or on state land?

            Because the state precludes ownership of the land parcels and the animals. Over utilization will occur without restrictions because no one person is held responsible if the system is over used; everyone has an incentive to get as much as possible before some one else does.

            But in the private paradigm, well defined property rights create not only a feedback loop of price information, reflecting a resource's importance for consumers and suppliers alike, and thus offering an incentive for suppliers to better manage supplies - of animals, clean water, air-cleaning devices, etc. - they also offer an incentive for property owners to husband their resources, and guard against damaging someone else's resources.

            Clean  air and water are no different from other resources, be they radio waves or cattle. Humans have certain desires for certain amounts or qualities of clean air and water, up to a certain point, and they will spend money to have a cleaner environment to that point. Beyond it, they may calculate that greater expenditures are not worth it -- but the only way one can know is if he sees those multitudinous desires put into action in the market, where people showing their interests can help create a price mechanism for their interests.

            By the same token, these same market participants will make - and have made - an arbitration system whereby even interests in clean air can be addressed. Infringements of another's desire to breathe healthy air, or infringements of an energy producer's right to make energy without spurious claims being made by others, all can be -- and have been in various ways - worked out through recognition of private property rights, without using terms like "social utility" to excuse these a-priori restrictions on property that imagine "potential" harm against a non-person creation called "the state".

            The "state" can never have standing in a damage case. It is not a person.

            So-called "small government" statists are still statists. By this what is meant is that they often claim or believe they are promoting the free market, but never challenge their assumptions that certain things like air and water use cannot be managed through private interest and must somehow be attenuated, managed, through other people called politicians and bureaucrats forcing people to act in certain ways.

            These statists lay out rules that place things into the "Tragedy of the Commons". They claim that everyone has a "claim" to clean air, but it is a "common claim", not a private claim. They will not allow property rights for roads, utilities and private communities. Thus, because private claims are so restricted, to pretty much everything, except perhaps a private water well, you have government management of air, water, land for roads, car emissions, energy plan emissions, etc. They claim people have so-called "rights" to clean air, water, etc., but then mistakenly bundle those away so individuals cannot exercise their own so-called rights. The people and their "rights" are controlled, and actually belong to the "government" not individuals. One realizes that the statists lied. You don't really have rights to clean air, etc., because if you did, the government wouldn't make the decisions about those rights for you.

            In other words, they say you have these so-called rights, and then restrict their usage without your consent.

            Here's an analogy. Politicians now claim that people have "rights" to good health, and soon, under the socialized medical system that they will inevitably impose on us, they will manage and control our so-called "right" to health care. Now, in the case of the statists taking away our property rights when it comes to working out through the market what each of us wants for clean air, etc., they want to impose "allowances" for the supplier, thus creating external costs not worked out through supply and demand, but through arbitrary, artificial, political inventions.

            Taking the air and water cue:

            What if it were claimed under a government health system that all people had a new "common right" to a general level of health? And what if the politicians then sold "indulgence" allowances", whereby healthy people could get them cheaper, or more of them, and sell them off to unhealthier people, letting them continue their unhealthy ways, but imposing on them greater costs for it, and all this because we have a "common" view of health. Individual health and rights to control one's own body, and to determine one's own preferences are now "all of our concern".

            Would not most people (hopefully) laugh at "food allowances"? Why then, should we not laugh when government boosters bundle away our property rights for clean water and air, when something that can be recognized as manageable through private ownership, strict liability, and private interests, is taken away from us and thrust into the public sphere, where no one can show his true interest or preference?

            Cap n Trade is such a canard. It layers a set of costly regulations on top of an invasion of the market for clean air and water - then, we're told it's for our own good and that it is a "free market alternative" to regulation!

            Here's an idea as the proposals see more attention (they will push harder as the weather grows warmer): Let us decide how much clean air and water we ant, and how to get it. We will mix these concerns in with all the other concerns and needs we have, and, as people have shown time and time again, we will do a better job managing the environment and our other interests than the politicians and bureaucrats who would force us to live like animals in zoos.

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