April 19, 2017 by Anders Ingemarson
Earth Day is once again upon us, and environmentalists are as usual using it as an opportunity to fuel alarmism around the alleged pending environmental calamity called climate change.
Let’s pause and put things in perspective before joining the throngs advocating for more individual rights violating shackles on human activity in the name of avoiding this supposed Armageddon.
First, the climate has always changed and will always continue to change. Periods of warming are followed by periods of cooling, which are followed by periods of warming, in perpetuity, whether human beings are present on the planet or not.
Second, (1) if human activity does have more than a negligible impact, and (2) if that impact is proven harmful beyond a reasonable doubt—both highly contested by scientists with the integrity and courage to withstand agenda-pushing governments, universities and environmental organizations—then the only moral and practical solution to deal with the threat is to create a political environment that unleashes human ingenuity and potential for invention, an essential part of which is using our resources efficiently.
As human beings, we apply our capacity for invention and ingenuity in trying to do more with less. It is in our rational self-interest to always get more bang for our buck, and to reduce time spent on chores for the benefit of time spent on what and who we love. We are constantly on the lookout for ideas that will help us squeeze more value out of every unit of input, be it time or money: a new washing machine extending the life of our clothes by treating them more gently, a new car with better gas mileage, a new medical procedure to extend and improve our quality of life, a coupon for 15% off at the grocery store or our favorite restaurant—the list is endless. We have one life to live, and we try to squeeze the most out of it.
Businesses in every industry—groups of individuals working together as employers and employees—pursue the same goals. They try to increase profits by producing and selling more with less. They invent solutions that use less raw materials, that mechanize manual tasks, and that shorten time to market. And what they are not specialists in, they purchase from other businesses. Over time, this results in a never-ending virtuous cycle of increasing efficiency, leading to better products and services offering more value for less money and time. Today’s poster child is the cellphone which packs more time-saving, life-enhancing functionality into some 6 cubic inches, something that would have required rooms full of equipment only 20 years ago, and large swaths of land 50 years ago (had it been hypothetically possible to replicate the functionality with the technology available at the time). History, especially since the dawn of the industrial revolution, is ripe with such examples from every industry.
As individuals and businesses trading and cooperating with one another we form a resource-efficient society. We pool our capacity for invention and ingenuity, sharing an implied pursuit of doing more with less simply because it’s in our self-interest.
For a resource-efficient society to flourish, we need a political system that protects the rights of individuals and corporations to pursue their desire to use resource efficiently. Only one such system exists: laissez-faire Capitalism.
Laissez-faire Capitalism holds that any interference by the state in the economy is immoral as it violates the individual rights, including property rights, of some for the supposed benefit of others.
In practice, such interference throws a wrench in the intricate works of voluntary exchange between individuals pursuing their goal of getting the most out of their lives, of using their resources—their time and money—efficiently.
Therefore, laissez-faire Capitalism demands total separation of state and the economy for both moral and practical reasons.
What happens when Capitalism is not the political system of choice? The past one hundred years provide glaring examples of how anti- and semi-capitalist societies without separation of state and the economy, prevent resource-efficiency from taking place. Watch the resource abuse and associated environmental disasters under Communism in Russia, the former Soviet republics, and in Eastern Europe. Observe the current levels of pollution in China, a country that does not respect property rights, and that applies central planning to vast swaths of its economy—housing, infrastructure, banking and finance, manufacturing, etc.—resulting in enormous resource inefficiencies. And note the crippling impacts of regulations and subsidies in the welfare states of Western Europe and here in the United States—bans on nuclear development effectively killing the development of promising, energy-efficient technologies such as LFTR, and government funding of energy inefficient technologies such as wind and solar power, to mention a couple of examples.
What does all of this have to do with climate change? Let’s for a moment give the benefit of the doubt to the human-caused-harmful-impact-climate-change believers. Let’s accept their highly-contested claim that man-made CO2 emissions are contributing to changing the earth’s temperature. And let’s accept their highly dubious assertion that it is harmful. The only moral and practical solution to address the problem is to promote global laissez-faire Capitalism with total separation of state and the economy.
Why? Because laissez-faire Capitalism unleashes human invention and ingenuity, it gives free reins to our ambition to do more with less, to use our resources efficiently. Over time, laissez-faire Capitalism leads to new and more efficient forms and sources of energy to be exploited, and to existing forms and sources to be more efficiently used.
The only role of government as it relates to the environment is to protect individual rights at home and, through international agreements, abroad, primarily by providing an outlet for civil lawsuits through the court system. For example, if my pasture is downstream from a mining site, and runoff poisons my cattle feed, my rights have been violated and I may sue the mining company for compensation. Similarly, if my oceanic fishing area as determined by international agreement (fictitious but not farfetched example if human ingenuity is allowed to roam free of government regulations) has been polluted by an oil spill, and my expected catch has been objectively reduced, I can take the polluter to court. And if someone objectively proved an individual rights violation caused by increased CO2 emissions from a specific source, the same principle would apply.
If you are troubled by the impact of human activity on the climate, first check the facts. If you are still concerned, then advocate laissez-faire Capitalism as the solution. It is the only political system that allows human invention and ingenuity to flourish by respecting our individual rights to manage our resources efficiently, while granting the same rights to our fellow men. It is the only system under which it may be even remotely possible to move the needle on climate change—if it needs to be moved in the first place.
It is telling that the Earth Day environmentalists look at Capitalism as the cause of the alleged problems, not as the solution to them. It is telling that instead of unleashing the human potential for invention and ingenuity, they want to limit it with a plethora of new taxes, government imposed carbon emission “trading” schemes, and international regulations. Their professed concern for the planet and their fear-mongering look more and more like a thin veneer covering up the same age-old desire: to wield power over and to control your fellow men.
This is why we need Earth Day climate change; a change of climate to where people concerned with real, fact based environmental issues take control of the environmental movement, advocating for laissez-faire Capitalism as the only sustainable solution.