CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment3

Climate disruption denial: a natural by-product of libertarian values

Decrease in amount of carbon 13 isotope due to the burning of fossil fuels.  Credit: CDIAC

Decrease in amount of carbon 13 isotope due to the burning of fossil fuels. Credit: CDIAC

Part Three of a series

Industrial climate disruption – the disruption of the global climate as a result of human activity, especially our industrial consumption of fossil fuels – is more or less settled scientific fact. In order for industrial climate disruption to be incorrect, over a century of well-established science would have to be overturned. Some of the established science that would need to be significantly wrong include the Stefan-Boltzmann Law (thermal radiation from a body in space), quantum mechanics, significant portions of chemistry, radioisotope dating and profiling, several laws relating to the behavior of gases, and innumerable measurements of the fundamental physical properties of materials. As an example, if quantum mechanics were significantly wrong, that would mean that microwave ovens, carbon dioxide industrial cutting lasers, and most of modern electronics and electronic imaging would all work differently from how quantum mechanics predicts.

The problem for libertarians is that accepting human responsibility for climate disruption creates a threat to their values. The Iyer et al paper detailed in Part One of this series found that libertarians are fundamentally driven by a single moral good, specifically the liberty to be left alone to do as they pleased. Industrial climate disruption challenges both the primacy of personal liberty and, as a result, libertarians are highly motivated to reject the reality of industrial climate disruption.

Cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and motivated reasoning

There’s always a reason when a person denies something. That reason may be based on fact and verifiable reality, such as someone rejecting a claim that the sky is a beautiful shade of paisley. But sometimes denial is based not on facts, but rather on belief, values, or personality. For example, there is no question that the earth is older than 6,000 years old, yet fundamentalist Christians known as “young-Earth creationists” deny that fact because it conflicts with their literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. When beliefs or values conflict with fact and verifiable reality, certain psychological effects either force us to change our beliefs or to deny both fact and reality.

When people learn new things, they can suffer from a psychological condition known as cognitive dissonance. Simply put, cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling you get when you are trying to simultaneously hold two conflicting ideas at the same time. What happens is the person feeling cognitive dissonance wants to eliminate their discomfort and quickly and as thoroughly as possible. In the example above, a young-Earth creationist who was also a paleontologist would have to either change his views about the age of the Earth or rationalize a reason for why God would want to deceive humanity into thinking the earth was 4.5 billion years old.

One way to alleviate cognitive dissonance is with another psychological effect known as confirmation bias. This is the process by which a person only seeks out or remembers only that information which confirms his or her existing beliefs while ignoring or forgetting information in conflict with those beliefs. Confirmation bias can also relate to the way in which a person interprets new information such that it supports his or her existing beliefs, whether the new information actually supports those beliefs or not.

Interpreting new information in a way that supports your own beliefs can reduce cognitive dissonance, but sometimes it’s more than that. Confirmation bias can also be part of what’s known as motivated reasoning. The modern concept of motivated reasoning began with a 1990 paper by Ziva Kunda, and he found that people let their personal motivations affect their reasoning. For example, if a person discovered that a coworker was behaving unethically at work, the person might be motivated to reject the information because he or she didn’t want to report the coworker to a superior for disciplinary action. Motivated reasoning is the process by which the facts are mentally adjusted in order to conform to a desired outcome instead of adjusting the outcome to conform with the facts.

A classic example of motivated of motivated reasoning goes something like this: it’s difficult to convince someone to accept something when their job depends on not accepting it. In this case, the outcome motivating the denial is the desire to stay employed. Many libertarians use motivated reasoning to reject the reality of industrial climate disruption because it is more than a mere threat to their jobs – industridal climate disruption is a threat to their most deeply held libertarian values.

Industrial climate disruption threatens libertarian values

According to Iyer et al, libertarians essentially have a single moral good – liberty. Specifically, they value the idea of “negative” liberty, which is defined as the right to do with your life and possessions whatever you please so long as you don’t infringe upon the right of others to do the same. Iyer et al also found that libertarians very strongly valued self-direction (the right of individuals to make their own choices in life) and achievement, more so than either conservatives or liberals.

The problem is that these values conflict with the strategies that have been proposed to adapt to and mitigate the effects of industrial climate disruption. As a result, libertarians have strong motivations to deny that industrial climate disruption is a problem.

By its very nature, industrial climate disruption is a global problem, and so the most effective responses to it will also be global in nature. Strategies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (the dominant cause of industrial climate disruption) will necessarily require cooperation among nations, communities, and individuals. Similarly, strategies to adapt to those effects that cannot be mitigated, such as increased incidence of river flooding and higher coastal storm surges, will greatly affect individuals as well as communities.

From a libertarian’s perspective, if industrial climate disruption is real, then his property rights are likely to be limited “for the greater good.” But there is no such thing as a “greater good” to a libertarian than individual rights, so right away this entire approach would be unacceptable to a libertarians. Furthermore, reducing greenhouse gas emissions could very well mean that more land needs to be cleared and easements across private property purchased for power lines to carry renewable energy from wherever it’s generated to the communities and industries that consume it. Or maybe some land would need to be seized by the government via eminent domain to build a wind turbine to generate electricity for someone else. Or maybe the property is located near sea level where models project the ocean will make the land unsuitable for habitation in 50 years. In these cases the libertarian would be motivated to reject any science that results in outcomes that are so contrary to his values.

But it goes beyond just property rights. According to Iyer et al, libertarians generally value altruism much lower than either conservatives or liberals, and they value egalitarianism lowest of all. Multiple analyses have demonstrated that the effects of industrial climate disruption will disproportionately affect the poor, and so one of the adaptation strategies planned is to provide additional aid to the poor. One example is the government helping to pay any increase in energy bills due to pricing greenhouse gases. But libertarians reject these kinds of aid (along with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security) because they interfere with the right of the wealthy to spend their wealth however they see fit. If industrial climate disruption means limiting economic liberty, then that provides yet another motivation for libertarians to deny industrial climate disruption.

In addition, both of the prior examples would require a strong national government in order to push through the kinds of changes needed to effectively address industrial climate disruption. A strong national government means a government that has the power to restrict individual liberties, and libertarians simply cannot accept that.

An example: values-motivated arguments regarding climate sensitivity

As shown above, industrial climate disruption is clearly a threat to the liberties that libertarians value the most. This means that there is tremendous motivation for libertarians to rationalize away the threat. Iyer et al found that libertarians are more systemizing than empathizing, meaning that they are more interested in systems with equations and variables to be fiddled with than they are interested in people’s emotions. This focus on rational systems makes libertarians particularly good at motivated reasoning – they’ll go hunting for data, process that data in a way that is subject to their confirmation biases against industrial climate disruption, and then create a superficially reasonable rationale for why the science is wrong.

We can illustrate this process in one of the many arguments that libertarians make against various aspects of climate science, specifically the argument that climate scientists have miscalculated how much the global temperature will increase as a result of a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere, aka the “climate sensitivity.” Deniers of industrial climate disruption often refer to the work of Richard Lindzen and Roy Spencer, both of whom claim that climate sensitivity is well below the generally accepted range of 3.6 to 8.1 °F (2.0 to 4.5 °C). Lindzen proposed a hypothesis in 2001 that climate sensitivity was much lower because there was an “iris” in the tropics that would result in more efficient radiation of heat from the tropics into space. But that hypothesis was rapidly challenged, and other scientists have repeatedly shown errors in Lindzen’s work that cast significant doubt on the “iris effect.”

Roy Spencer has an alternate, but also cloud-related, hypothesis that not only suggests that climate sensitivity is low, but that nearly every other climate scientist on the planet is wrong about the feedback mechanism between tropical clouds and the El Nino/Southern Oscillation. Spencer’s latest version of the hypothesis was thoroughly refuted by at two independent scientific papers and the problems found with the paper were so severe that the editor of the journal that published the paper resigned as a way to restore the journal’s credibility.

There are dozens of papers that are based on multiple different lines of evidence (bottom-up climate models, directly measured temperatures, ice cores, even the measured response of the Earth’s climate to the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo) that contradict both Lindzen and Spencer and that calculate climate sensitivity to be approximately in the accepted range – some are somewhat higher or lower, depending on the exact calculation methodology and data used. Yet libertarians regularly refer to one or the other of the two men as having the best estimates of climate sensitivity that is strictly based on observations instead of models. That both men use simplified models of their own devising (and that those models have been regularly found to be too simple for the purpose of estimating climate sensitivity) seems to be forgotten or justified in the service of reasoning away the reality of industrial climate disruption.

Another factor that is probably in play in libertarian arguments against high climate sensitivity is how libertarians process arguments. According to Iyer et al, libertarians focus on data and logic over “intangibles” like appearance or perceived credibility. This generally a good thing, but it can be taken too far, especially with respect to perceived credibility.

Lindzen and Spencer are both reasonably well-respected scientists. Lindzen is a professor at MIT and a member of the National Academy of Sciences because of his contributions to atmospheric physics. Spencer, along with his University of Alabama-Huntsville colleague John Christy, developed a methodology by which satellites could measure the Earth’s temperature at multiple altitudes using microwaves. But Lindzen and Spencer also have some credibility problems that should raise red flags about their objectivity on the issue of industrial climate disruption for anyone who’s reasoning is motivated by accuracy instead of ideology.

First, Lindzen has a decades-long history of proposing hypotheses about how the Earth’s climate works that have mostly turned out to be wrong. For a rundown of this by climate scientist Ray Pierrehumbert during his American Geophysical Union Tyndall lecture, skip ahead to about 33 minutes in the following video:

While Lindzen is often wrong, his questions and alternate hypotheses have largely improved the state of climate science and he’s mostly backed down from his ideas when they were thoroughly refuted. The same cannot necessarily be said for Spencer. Spencer and Christy have had to make at multiple significant corrections to their satellite temperature dataset, nearly all of which they had to make after others found problems with the satellites (annual variation in calibration targets, satellite orbital drift and decay, et al).

Table of most of the corrections made by UAH team to satellite record of global temperature.

Table of most of the corrections made by UAH team to satellite record of global temperature.

In addition, in 2012, Spencer manipulated the editor of the journal Remote Sensing into publishing a paper that purported to demonstrate that climate sensitivity was low. However, Spencer had provided a list of friendly reviewers to the editor and so the fundamentally flawed paper sailed through palpeer review with little to no oversight. Once the editor discovered he’d been used, he offered Spencer’s critics the opportunity to respond to Spencer in the journal and resigned as editor to restore the journal’s scientific credibility.

Finally, Spencer is a member of industrial climate disruption-denying, dominionist evangelical group the Cornwall Alliance. He wrote the science section of the Alliance’s white paper titled “A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor,” a document that is filled with misinformation and denial. This is perhaps not a surprise given Spencer’s history and his evangelical faith. But the same document’s “Theology” section justifies denying predictions of sea level rise by saying that God swore he’d never send another flood (p15), and elsewhere on the same page the document says that the last ice age was a direct result of Noah’s Flood. These claims are in direct conflict with scientific theories and data about ice ages and ice sheet formation. While Spencer himself did not write the theology section, his association with a group that is more interested in making data fit their theology than looking clearly at what the data raises serious questions about Spencer’s scientific credibility on the subject of industrial climate disruption.

Iyer et al found that libertarians need to examine things, to feel rational, before they make decisions. This strong need to be and feel rational does nothing to protect a libertarian from cognitive dissonance or to insulate them from confirmation bias. And it does nothing to immunize libertarians from rationalizing away inconvenient data or conclusions that threaten their values. If anything, the libertarian need to feel rational makes libertarians more prone to motivated reasoning, not less – the more you know about a subject, the more susceptible to motivated reasoning you become.

No-one, of any ideology, is fundamentally immune to motivated reasoning. But libertarians tend to be highly motivated by industrial climate disruption because it threatens their core values. High motivation plus easily available misinformation equals lots of opportunity for confirmation bias to manipulate reasoning.

Given all these facts it’s no wonder that there are so many libertarians among the ranks of industrial climate disruption deniers.

In Part Four we’ll look closer at why engineers deny climate disruption.

27 comments on “Climate disruption denial: a natural by-product of libertarian values

  1. —–
    From a libertarian’s perspective, if industrial climate disruption is real, then his property rights are likely to be limited “for the greater good.” But there is no such thing as a “greater good” to a libertarian than individual rights, so right away this entire approach would be unacceptable to a libertarians [sic].
    —-

    That’s a massive non sequitur. Libertarians understand that property rights are limited to that which is not aggression. If industrial climate disruption is real and if it damages the property of others (including their lives), then it is aggression, and therefore causing said disruption is not a “right,” and a libertarian would therefore accept its limitation in the same way he accepts that his property rights in owning a gun do not include the right to go around randomly shooting people.

    It may be that the complexity of the issue produces a libertarian bias toward denying that there IS an issue (although not all of us do deny it), but this particular argument you’re making just doesn’t hold water.

    • I don’t understand how my argument is a non sequitur. In this case, wouldn’t the aggression be that of the government over the individual? It was my understanding that natural forces couldn’t be “aggressors” or, in terms I’m more familiar with from my discussions with libertarians, nature can’t “coerce” an individual to do anything, but people can.

      In the particular case, I’m trying to say that libertarians don’t wish to be coerced to give up their property rights by governments, and especially not for any “greater good” that libertarians don’t consider moral in the first place. Does that make more sense?

      I don’t mean to imply that all libertarians deny industrial climate disruption. I have met and am on good terms with several. My point is only that the moral good identified by Iyer et al’s study of “negative” liberty is threatened by likely local, state, and national policies intended to mitigate and/or adapt to disrupted climate. I’m sorry if my speaking in general terms was interpreted as me speaking in universal terms instead.

      • Brian,

        Your argument is a non sequitur because its conclusion doesn’t follow from its premise.

        The premise is that libertarians believe there is no “greater good” than individual rights.

        The conclusion is that therefore any limitation to property rights claims is unacceptable to a libertarian.

        But most libertarians accept all kinds of limitations to property rights — not on the claim of a “greater good,” but on the claim that the limitation in question is a limitation on aggression. My fist is mine. I can swing it. But I am limited to not connecting it with your nose.

        If industrial climate disruption exists, and if industrial climate disruption is a form of aggression, then a libertarian will agree that it can be disallowed, or restitution required for it, or whatever.

        I do agree with you that many libertarians hate to confront the complexities involved in reaching that determination, and that many of them get around the necessity of such a confrontation by denying that industrial climate disruption exists. Thanks for a thoughtful series!

        • I think I see the problem – you’re interpreting my words as saying that libertarians are not willing to accept any limitations, and that’s not what I meant to say. However, upon re-reading it, I see that I wasn’t clear enough. Thanks.

          Now I need to figure out how to fix that, since I’m not a fan of logical fallacies in my writing. And thanks for reading.

  2. TLDR;
    But anyway the part of libertarian philosophy: “so long as you don’t infringe upon the right of others” seems to me to be fundamental to it. And destroying the planet we all share is plainly infringing on the rights of us all.

  3. There’s no doubt that thoughtful libertarians would see climate disruption as aggression once they accepted the science, but the predisposition to reject government action that restricts them makes their acceptance of the science difficult. Climate is the ultimate “tragedy of the commons” issue and getting anyone to pay attention, libertarian or not, prior to their own life being affected is proving astonishingly difficult. In a rational world, the 18 month severe drought in the midwest would have created millions of climate activists out of farmers. But most people just want the government to fix the climate so we can go back to the way it was. And it’s too late for that.

    • I’m not claiming that this is a portrayal of the opinion of libertarians. It’s based on a study of libertarian personality and values and attempts to logically extrapolate from that to why so there are so many libertarians among the ranks of industrial climate disruption deniers.

      The link to the original study is at the top – look for “Iyer et al.” It’s a fascinating study, which I summarized in Part One of this series.

  4. This article simply presents proposed solutions that are, at this point, simply theory, and then works backwards from these hypothetical situations to show why Libertarianism IS natuarally biased against the acceptance of climate change. This argument is tenuous at best.

    And secondly, your analogy of Quantum Mechanics is entirely off base. The predictions of quantum mechanics are routinely wrong, and this is why we still have theoretical physicists. They work continually to refine their models and improve the predictions. It’s why we have the prediction of the Higgs Boson. Science is ever evolving, and to make the assertion that we just know all there is to know about the global climate model is pure arrogance.

    • Whaaaaa??? “The predictios of QM are routinely wrong…” What? Can you name some? Are you perhaps mixed up with the fringes of the standard model of particle physics? Oh, here’s a prediction for you: “As of November 2006, the experimentally measured value of the g-factor of the muon is 2.0023318416(13), compared to the theoretical prediction of 2.0023318361(10).” A part per billion prediction not good enough for you? QM and quantum electrodynamics make some of the most astoundingly accurate predictions in all of science.

      • I am not attacking QM, and possibly the wording was a poor choice. I took exception with the analogy, not QM. In science, when an experimental outcome doesn’t agree with the prediction, it is what leads to new discovery. The article would have us believe that the theories of climate change should be accepted without question. While the evidence for climate change is strong, the predictive model is not meant to be accepted unchallenged.

        • In some sense I am asking you to accept that climate disruption is real and caused by human industry without providing the proof of it in this article. I consciously chose not to because it would have been a distraction. The comment thread would have devolved into another “but you didn’t consider this factor” argument, and I didn’t want that to overshadow the real point of the OP.

          So instead I stated that industrial climate disruption is real and listed a number of the major scientific theories that would have to be wrong in order for industrial climate disruption to not be real. I treat the first as an axiom for this post, and the second as a minor point in support of that axiom. Keep in mind that both are in the first paragraph of the introduction, not in the body of the arguments.

          If you’d like, you can review the state of the science either by reading the last seven years or so of my own work here at S&R or you can go to other science-focused sites like Skeptical Science for more information. And if you’d prefer, you can approach my argument as a hypothetical – if industrial climate disruption is real, then the policy responses to it will represent a threat to libertarian values.

          I happen to know that industrial climate disruption is real, and partly as a result of those reasons I mention, but this comment thread is not the place for that particular discussion.

        • I’ve thought about this a little more, and I’d like to offer up the following as an alternate response.

          If I’m asked to design electronics for an infrared camera that needs to see through the atmosphere, I’m not required to rederive the kinetic theory of gases before I take into account the effect of CO2 absorption on the sensor and signal to noise ratio. It’s been done so many times and been tested so thoroughly that I can accept it as “more or less settled scientific fact.”

          Or, if you’d prefer a less esoteric example, I don’t have to prove why the sky is blue before I write in a post that it is.

          The same is true of industrial climate disruption – I don’t have to prove it’s really happening every single time I mention it given how often it’s been checked, how solid the science is upon which it’s based, and so on.

    • I’m afraid that your information about QM is not entirely accurate. At the level of electronics, the predictions of QM are as solid as the predictions of gravitation. Electron, proton, and neutron behavior are all well understood, as are the QM properties of gases. And it’s the vibration mode quanta of diatomic molecules that is responsible for the IR absorption properties of water vapor and carbon dioxide (and why methane, CH4, is an even more powerful greenhouse gas – it has more vibration modes because it has 5 atoms instead of just 3.

      You are correct that the proposed solutions are only theoretical at this point. But they are essentially standard mitigation and adaptation measures that could reasonably apply to various places in the United States where there is private property and where libertarians might live. I could have chosen increased wildfire risk or enhanced drought and developed similar examples for those. I fail to see how my hypothetical arguments are tenuous, given each of them challenges the central value(s) of libertarianism.

  5. Quote: If anything, the libertarian need to feel rational makes libertarians more prone to motivated reasoning, not less – the more you know about a subject, the more susceptible to motivated reasoning you become.

    Does this only apply to Libertarians or to all people regardless of political persuasion?

  6. The first part applies to just libertarians, while the second applies more or less universally. So yes, liberals and conservatives who know a great deal about climate science are more likely to fall victim to their own motivated reasoning as well.

    There are ways to avoid or identify motivated reasoning, however. Some people are more motivated by a need to be accurate than they are motivated by a need to be right, and people who are motivated by accuracy are less susceptible to motivated reasoning. A willingness to correct errors when the errors are pointed out (and demonstrated, not merely claimed) is one indicator of such a mind.

    In the case of scientists, peer review exists partly because it serves to counter motivated reasoning and confirmation bias. While peer review does not guarantee that reviewed papers are correct, it does provide a better check against motivated reasoning and confirmation bias than no peer review of any kind.

  7. Your observation about libertarians may be accurate, but the reason why is different than what you may think from my perspective. Libertarians are some of the most clear thinking group of individuals i know. If the evidence and necessary solution was clear then you wouldn’t need government force. It’s not libertarians you gotta worry about. Libertarians most of all know about social cooperation and responsibility of their actions.

    • Svetoslav, I generally agree with you when it’s issues that don’t touch the core libertarian value of negative liberty. But when it comes to industrial climate disruption, it is interpreted as being such a threat to liberty that most libertarians contrive all sorts of faulty explanations for why it has to be wrong rather than face the threat. As I put it in Part Five, “industrial climate disruption threatens the values and livelihoods of many libertarians, and many have chosen to flee to the perceived safety of denial. But that safety is illusory….”

      I can give you an example from Alec Rawls, the guy who unethically published the IPCC second order draft a few weeks ago. On his website, he bases much his denial of industrial climate disruption on a few faulty claims. One is that continual forcing must create continual ocean surface temperature increases, another is that energy added to the ocean over one time scale must be released from the ocean over the same time scale. You only need to boil water to disprove the second, and the first pretends that the ocean has a single time constant, which is not physically accurate for a host of reasons that Alec either hasn’t considered or hasn’t understood.

      The problem is larger than just Alec, however. Most of the deniers I know who are identifiable as libertarians have the same problem. They’ve taken a misunderstood concept or an error in logic or a mathematical mistake and built their entire denial upon that one mistake. Unfortunately, most refuse to let go of the mistake even when the mistake is revealed to them. Tell me, how is this not motivated reasoning in service of denial?

      In addition, most industrial climate disruption deniers (including libertarians) tend to believe mutually incompatible things without realizing that their beliefs are incompatible. Perhaps the most common is that climate disruption is natural and that the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide is low. The Earth’s temperature has changed dramatically in the past due to small changes in energy input, indicating a high value for climate sensitivity. There’s nothing special about the adding energy to the Earth’s climate – energy is energy, whether it’s from orbital/solar variations increasing input or added CO2 reducing output. So the Earth’s climate having a high sensitivity to more energy from one source requires that the Earth have a high sensitivity to more energy from other sources too.

      Most libertarians (about 84% – see Part Five) deny industrial climate disruption. But the only explanation that fits all the facts is that human industry is emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, those gases are reducing the amount of energy radiated back into space, and as a result the increasing energy is increasing the average temperature of the Earth.

      • I’m surprised. From my observation Libertarians are not individuals that would burry their head in the sand at the sight of a threat. I believe the founders of the USA were mostly libertarian leaning, yet they were able to come together and organize against a mutual threat. I think the “problem” doesn’t lie in the value code, but rather in the naturally suspecious nature of libertarian thought. If a big asteroid were to head towards earth, then you’d have no problem gaining cooperation from libertarians. I think the main reason why you get heads turning away is the ambiguity of the issue. Libertarians do believe in a limited government which protects the population from threats. Those threats include natural disasters like asteroids etc. The government is just not to be trusted with sucking resources for the aftermath of such event.

  8. Pingback: Libertarians and engineers should embrace industrial climate disruption, not deny it | Scholars and Rogues

  9. Your statement:

    “But libertarians reject these kinds of aid (along with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security) because they interfere with the right of the wealthy to spend their wealth however they see fit.”

    is not based on Libertarian philosophy.

    Libertarians oppose government social programs such as Social Security, Medicare and any proposed payments to the poor for increased energy costs, because the government is initiating force against an individual, through the use of coercive taxation, to take money from one person to give to another.

    Your interpretation leads me to believe that you may not understand Libertarianism very well. Or, your own confirmation bias leads you to make statements that unfairly characterize Libertarians (e.g. Libertarians are so selfish they will not help the poor with higher energy bills.)

    • And how, exactly, does “the right of the wealthy to spend their wealth however they see fit” conflict with opposition to “initiating force against an individual”? It strikes me that the only difference is that you’re talking about an individual in general while I’m referring to an individual who is wealthy.

      • Well, first of all, to be factually correct it should have read ” the right of all people [poor or wealthy] to spend their wealth however they see fit.” You are using a straw man argument.

        • Let’s put the shoe on the other foot: Liberals believe they have the right to take money, by force, from other people to pay for their pet social projects.

        • If “by force” you mean “taxation” and if by “pet social projects” you mean things like the interstate highway system (which was a massive economic booster and job creator, thus qualifies as both an infrastructure project and a social project), then you’re absolutely right.

          Of course, that’s not the point of the article, so if you’ll kindly bring your comments back to the topic at hand, I would greatly appreciate it.

        • Let’s take the whole statement from the OP in context, shall we?

          But it goes beyond just property rights. According to Iyer et al, libertarians generally value altruism much lower than either conservatives or liberals, and they value egalitarianism lowest of all. Multiple analyses have demonstrated that the effects of industrial climate disruption will disproportionately affect the poor, and so one of the adaptation strategies planned is to provide additional aid to the poor. One example is the government helping to pay any increase in energy bills due to pricing greenhouse gases. But libertarians reject these kinds of aid (along with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security) because they interfere with the right of the wealthy to spend their wealth however they see fit.

          You only quoted what I emphasized, but when you put the quote in context, I’m clearly talking about aid that would necessarily be somewhat redistributive. The methods used (carbon taxes and cap-and-trade are the two preferred options) would take money from those people who are generating the most greenhouse gas emissions but who can most easily adapt their behavior accordingly and give it to those people who’s poverty limits their ability to adapt. And clearly, this only works in the direction of wealthy to poor, not the other way around.

          Put in context, the sentence you quoted is accurate and applicable, and you’re suggested correction would actually make the sentence nonsensical. Thus my statement is both accurate and reasonable and your complaints are not.

          I find it interesting that you latched onto this particular statement as the one that you think indicates I don’t really understand libertarians. Given how much I’m saying about libertarians throughout this series, that you’d latch onto one where I mention the wealthy is curious.

    • As you said, “the government is initiating force against an individual, through the use of coercive taxation, to take money from one person to give to another.” That describes all taxation, not just aid to the poor. It includes all spending for infrastructure, all defense, and all public utilities (why should I pay for a bridge in Montana or a weather satellite?), or subsidies to oil and gas companies. To be consistent, you’d have to be against all government taxation or make taxation voluntary. You’re welcome to go set up a little libertarian enclave and try that out. I would expect a “Lord of the Flies” outcome, eventually.

Leave us a reply. All replies are moderated according to our Comment Policy (see "About S&R")

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s