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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Monday, July 10, 2006

On Government Regulation: First, Do No Harm

It stands to reason, even if you're not a doctrinaire libertarian, that before you start thinking of new regulations to solve a problem, it would be better to put a stop to government actions that exacerbate the problem. Jim Henley agrees:

The very first thing the government, at all levels, can do for the environment is stop paying to foul it up....

If you really take climate change seriously, it means that a lot of things are going to change. That means liberals are going to need to resist calls to subsidize outmoded living arrangements.... If people don’t want to live in the plains, let the Buffalo have it back - even, heaven forfend, the Sioux. If Florida is too expensive for some people to bear the true cost of living there, so much the better for the ecology of Florida. And if people need to move closer to places work is plentiful, that’s a beneficial ecological and social change for a society trying to moderate fossil fuel consumption.

While we're at it, if the existing corporate system depends for its survival on government subsidized Interstates and airports, and a foreign policy that guarantees "safe, abundant, and affordable energy to American economy," then so much the worse for the existing corporate system. And if giant agribusiness plantations out West turn into deserts without subsidized irration water, and can't afford to ship their produce across the country without highway subsidies, I guess people will be growing a lot more broccoli and lettuce on the eastern seaboard.


Blogger GD said...

It's easy to miss how thoroughly structured our economy is by the so-called "real estate" system. Between single-use zoning laws, required setbacks and other "aesthetic" regulations, highways, home mortgage subsidies and lending regulations - that's a huge amount of distortion in how we do our business and HOW WE LIVE OUR LIVES - almost all of which distortion is environmentally harmful.

The messed up thing is, these nuisance laws have the appearance of installing themselves automatically and 'neutrally' at every single level of government. Repealing them all would essentially require super-majorities all the way from the US Senate to the county council.

July 11, 2006 6:46 AM  
Blogger Matt Jenny said...

Sorry for the off-topic, but Kevin, where do you, as a "environmentally aware libertarian", stand on the whole global warming issue? I am really undecided yet because I find both the Big Government conspiracy theory and the Big Business conspiracy theory not too convincing. Many "right" libertarians say that it's a hoax when people say that humanity is heavily influencing the world's climate. But some "right" libertarian also say a lot of crap. So, I'd like to hear your opinion, if you have one.

July 11, 2006 5:20 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Black guile,

Yes, the market is massively distorted. But the beauty of all these forms of "neutral" laws passed for the common good (after all, the rich man is equally forbidden to urinate in public and sleep under bridges) is that they make exploitation invisible. The slave of antiquity or the medieval peasant had a personalized conception of who was screwing him. But since our exploitation is mediated through a "neutral" legal framework, we just have a pounding sensation in the ass with no clear idea where it's coming from.


I think even global warming skeptics acknowlege in principle that higher CO2 levels would lead to higher temperatures, all other things being equal. And it's my hunch (nothing more) that recent warming trends are at least in part the result of human activity. But as to the steepness of the human-generated increase, and how much of it is natural phenomena like solar intensity, I honestly don't know.

My political approach, though, is simply to apply market principles to energy and transportation consumption. If the costs were internalized in price, the issue would probably be moot, because we'd be getting by on a fraction of our present energy consumption. If human-generated global warming is a serious problem, it's a result of subsidized energy consumption.

July 14, 2006 11:39 PM  

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