Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Can Optimus Prime Defeat Global Warming?

Pollution.  Global warming.  Climate Change.  Scary words, right?  There is a lot of heated debate on these topics.  Emotions run high.  The world hangs in the balance.  Entire economies are at risk.  So what do we make of all this when we try to apply the principles of liberty?  That's a great question, but first, a word about the proper use of force:

The non-aggression principle shows us that it is wrong to initiate force, but you can certainly use force to defend yourself.  So how do you do that if you don’t catch the aggressor in the act?  A jury trial.  Every person certainly has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and we, as a society, have decided that jury trials are the best way to not trample that right.  Therefore, any act that coerces an individual to pay for the damage he has caused must only be carried out after guilt has been proven to a jury, or after the individual has admitted his guilt (or after any arbitration process upon which all involved parties agree).  Any alternative to that would be presuming guilt and violating the rights of that individual.  Now, on to the imaginary scenario!

Let’s say Megatron decides that he’s too lazy to take his trash to the dump so he dumps it on Optimus Prime’s front yard.  Megatron has clearly aggressed against Optimus Prime.  Optimus has every right to use the government or another enforcement agency to force Megatron to pay for damages.  Of course, to do that, Optimus will have to convince a jury that trash was dumped on his yard and that it was, in fact, Megatron who did the dumping.  If Optimus can convince a jury of that he will have successfully defended his property against pollution.   And just like that, any environmental concern you ever had is solved!

"You're welcome"

You’re not convinced?  Let’s spice up the scenario a bit.  There is basically no difference between the trash-dumping scenario and more complex forms of pollution.  If Megatron had Soundwave blast loud music towards Optimus’ house, Optimus would have to go through the same process as he tries to prove the noise pollution to a jury.  If Optimus thought that the exhaust from Megatron’s car was making it difficult to breathe, he would still have to prove it to a jury.  If Optimus thought that the fumes from Megatron’s factory were harming his property, he would, again, have to prove it to a jury.  If Optimus thought that the cumulative effects of all of Megatron’s activity were causing his property to warm up a few degrees, he would, of course, have to prove it to a jury.

As you can imagine, some forms of pollution would be difficult to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, to a jury.  But that’s part of having a process of proving guilt; so that innocent people don’t have to pay for damages they didn’t cause.  So how should you view laws and regulations that try to combat climate change?  Virtually every example of legislation and regulation aimed at curbing climate change has one thing in common:  It forces property owners to do something they don’t want to do, whether it forces car owners to pay for expensive testing and repairs, or forces power generating stations to abide by endless regulations, or forces car manufacturers to only sell cars that meet certain requirements.  Once again this shows that the government is the embodiment of force.  But the non-aggression principle shows us that these actions are wrong because it is wrong to initiate force.  Therefore, environmental regulations, like all regulations, have absolutely no place in a free society.  They are exactly the same as handing down guilty verdicts without the opportunity for a trial.  Regulations make the government judge, jury, and executioner.

So, when applying the principles of liberty, your position on climate change should have absolutely no impact.  I won’t even mention all the problems with climate change theories.  I won’t bother to mention all these articles that expose the incompleteness of scientists’ understanding of climate.  I won’t mention how people aren’t even sure if climate change is good or bad.  I certainly will not mention the fact that, according to the scientific method, theories can never be proven as fact, and theories, in order to be valid, must make falsifiable predictions, in that they must be capable of being proven false through experimentation (something that somehow never applies to climate change theories).  I refuse to mention all these things because they truly do not matter when applying the principles of liberty.

So, let’s say that you are truly concerned about the environment and worried that people are ruining it.  What can you do?  You have some options.  Your options are to take anyone who pollutes your land to court, help other property owners take polluters to court, and advocate for policies that recognize that all property owners have this right.

Additional resources:

Property Rights and Air Pollution by Murray N. Rothbard

Wikipedia article on "Free-market environmentalism"

YouTube video on "Negative Externalities and the Coase Theorem" (property rights can solve pollution problems)


  1. Well said. I am in agreement in principle, and think a case by case analysis, within the principles of liberty, is required to accomplish justice for all.

    1. Exactly! The unfortunate pattern that I see is: 1. People see a problem (real or imagined). 2. People or their representatives vote for a top-down, one-size-fits-all, law to try to fix it. 3. The law is ineffective. 4. The law proves extremely divisive. 5. People are actually appalled when the law is applied in the mindless, zero-tolerance, fashion which is required by the letter of the law. 6. Repeat.