A libertarian response to global warming

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Part 3. Politics

This is where this libertarian solution is clearly superior to the various social-democratic models. Even in today’s strongly anti-libertarian, big-government-friendly political environment, this proposal has a better chance at actually being passed by congress than do other plans. Remember how Kyoto got voted down 97-0? Other social-democratic solutions face the same hostile political climate, a climate that does not effect this proposal. Here is why:

Social democratic proposals require that just about everyone has to actually care about global warming. Not only do they have to care, but they have to care enough to sacrifice part of their lifestyle. In America today, this political will simply doesn’t exist. Not only that, but people don’t want to care. The have their own jobs, family, hobbies, and interests that they already care about. Global warming is somebody else’s problem.

The social democrats seem to thing that some sort of eco-messiah is going to come along, and convert all of America to their way of thinking. Perhaps that messiah is Al Gore. But then, he couldn’t even carry his home state in the last election he lost, so I doubt he’s going to single-handedly sway the nation now. And neither is anybody else. We don’t like being told how to think. It is un-American.

And that is where this proposal can potentially strike home with Americans. It tells them what they want to hear. Global warming isn’t their problem. They don’t have to co-operate, or hold hands, or change their lifestyles. Global warming is the responsibility of the companies who sold tens of gigatons of fossil fuels without adequately researching the side effects, or informing the consumer of the risks. So those companies, which are currently raking in record profits, can pay for the damages.

The higher energy prices that may eventually result from this plan might make people choose to change their lifestyles, but that would be their choice. Nobody is forced to do anything. And that’s how government should work.

The other political advantage of this plan is that it is difficult for the industry to fight. For 20 years, they have been telling us that global warming is a hoax, that it would be good for us, and that carbon dioxide is life. They would have a severe credibility problem if they instantly backflipped from “Global warming is natural and harmless” to “We can’t afford to pay for the damages.” Ultimately, the American ideal of fairness is rooted in responsibility, and this solution simply requires polluters to take responsibility for their products.


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