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Very eloquently said steve. You and Donald Bordreaux have both offered penetrating and interesting analysis of the "green" revolution.

Time magazine is using a very bad metaphor. I think it is intrinsically misleading. Here are a few reasons why.

1. The global warming issue has been discussed by scientists in many fields for many years. Most of them did not have a strong political agenda, other than what fell out from their evaluation of the data. Many of the war hawks are on record as wanting war in advance and seizing in any convenient excuse to have one. I doubt you can find a significant group of scientists with a similar perspective.

2. “Consensus” about a single factual claim – there were WMDs – and that we needed war to do something about it - was far less than the degree of agreement among scientists studying the issue that there is global warming and that there is a significant anthropogenic contribution to it. There is NO significant disagreement as to the first, declining disagreement as to the second.

We are discussing one of the most complex things science has ever studied – the atmosphere and its many feedback systems, positive and negative alike. Perfect consensus is probably impossible given the complexity of the data. Even so, there seems far more consensus there than there is or ever was regarding Iraq. That those in government who oppose the apparently growing consensus also oppose spending more research on the subject says about all I need to know about the issue. If they were sincere they would encourage more research. They do not.

3. A mistaken and evil war on Iraq has killed hundreds of thousands of people, and maimed many more. Let us assume for the moment that we take global warming seriously and later find ourselves to have been in error. This is certainly possible. Let us also suppose an intelligent approach to dealing with the issue (such as carbon taxes) is initially adopted. Then the following will have happened:

A. We will use far less petroleum and coal that we otherwise would have. The fortunes of many hideous dictatorships will have therefore shrunken substantially, forcing them to attend to the well-being of their subjects because they can no longer buy them off with oil profits. Among the candidates: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, Nigeria, Libya, Venezuela – and others.

B. The excuses for militarizing our own nation will be vastly weaker and many people who would have been killed by those dictators and our wars will be alive.

THESE TWO FACTORS ALONE justify from a genuinely freedom loving perspective reducing our dependence on petroleum and encouraging technologies that enable others to do so as well. But there is more.

B. Energy saving technology will be far more advanced than it otherwise would be. This will reduce the need for investments in energy production, many of which have unpleasant side-effects that are not currently internalized. From a property rights perspective externalities such as smog, water pollution, and the like are not trivial – and many are strongly linked to energy being far cheaper than it would be if these were internalized. If they were the case for energy efficiency would be much stronger.

C. IF a measure such as reducing income taxes while raising the same money through carbon taxes were adopted, there would be no increased government taking of people’s wealth. In fact, it might be less. Certainly our freedom will be no more limited than it is today.

D. Growth will be not so much slowed (which assumes a single metric, ‘growth,’ which is as un-Austrian concept as you can find) as shifted. Some will be slower, some faster. Cities will be denser, more public transportation will be available – public or private, the highway lobby will be weaker, the RR lobby stronger. Some impacts will be good, some not good.

But I do not see piles of bodies here, Steve, nor justifications for an American Caesar. The mathematical models some like to use to calculate the human costs of slower “growth” receive a great deal less consensus than does current global warming analysis that is rejected by classical liberals because it is ideologically inconvenient. Sort of like the moons of Jupiter and another all embracing ideology a few centuries back.

Finally, Many environmentalists – including this one – oppose subsidies to biofuels. It is America’s “market loving” corporations, especially those engaged in industrial agriculture, who are the chief advocates. These groups are usually not considered environmentalists.

A ‘carbon tax” that is offset by reductions in other taxes is far the most intelligent approach to the issue.



Any chance that future talks will be recorded in Mp3 format and put on your website?


That's not something we'd thought about doing, but we might for the ones coming next academic year.

I hope so. Econtalk and Mises.org get tonnes of traffic for their mp3s. Sure you would too.

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