Rights Do Not Depend on the Weather
It’s time for Global Warming hysteria to die. Unfortunately, libertarian writers are far too concerned with the science, neglecting the fact that the weather is never a sufficient justification for curtailing private property.
Recently, the Environmental Pollution Agency’s (EPA) best paid “leading expert on climate change” John Beale was convicted of fraud after lying to his boss, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, about working for the CIA. The 15 year fraud went unnoticed, even a year after Beale’s formal retirement. While dodging his duties, conman Beale “spent a lot of time reading … trying to find ways to fine tune [destroy] the capitalist system” in order to “discourage companies from damaging the environment” (comment added). After I posted the article covering the story, a good friend, who contacts me every so often to get a libertarian run-down on certain topics, asked me my thoughts on Global Warming.
I’m not a scientist. I don’t pretend to be. Is there evidence that individuals and organizations who argue that Global Warming is a real phenomenon have engaged in suspicious, even fraudulent, behavior? Sure. But let’s give those who think that human beings in general are responsible for some abnormal warming of the planet the benefit of the doubt. As we’ll see, whether the weather is changing is beside the point.
This is a position that libertarians do not take, or at least haven’t taken yet. In fact, most liberty-minded writers seem quite consumed with debating whether or not the science behind Global Warming is valid. Some even flaunt the banner of “climate denier,” reveling in the ensuing politically correct uproar from their socially acceptable friends. But it turns out that most of us are not climate scientists, nor is it necessary that we need to be in order to bash the real goal of Global Warming hysteria: eradicating private property.
Again, let’s grant that the climate is changing. Let’s grant that human activities of various sorts contribute to the allegedly climbing temperatures. This is the same tactic Mises used in his argument against socialism. He granted that government rulers really, truly are benevolent dictators with the best interests of their citizens at heart. Yet he was able to mount the most rigorous defense against socialism ever conceived. He pointed out that the abolition of private property that is necessary to implement the command economy meant the abolition of economic calculation. In other words, by stripping individuals of the right to own property, the central planner ruined the only mechanism that allowed for the rational allocation of scarce resources in society. After all, it’s ownership of resources that allows for exchange ratios (prices) to develop. How would it be possible to tell where, in what quantities, and of what quality goods and services should be allocated, if without prices? How else to know (and more importantly, to forecast) how much consumers would be willing to pay for goods and services in a particular industry, as opposed to another? The answer of course is that under central planning, allocation of scarce resources is ultimately arbitrary, unaffected by the actual tastes and preferences of consumers.
In other words, we need not engage in the climatologists’ squabbles to successfully defend against policies based on Global Warming mania. Just as Mises circumvented his critics by granting their lofty premises, we may grant the “scientific” claims that the planet is warming as a result of human activity. The fact remains that…
Private property rights are not a function of the weather. Individuals do not possess climate-conditional claims to their property. Weather patterns do not dictate to the natural law.
Individuals own themselves. This fact is not based on temperature. It is derived from the natural order of human nature. Ask yourself, if you do not own yourself, who does? Someone else? Some group of people? If so, have you sought this other individual’s–or group of individuals’–permission to read this article? To wake up this morning? I didn’t think so. Would your answer change if it was ten degrees hotter outside? Clearly, no.
Violence is only legitimate in defensive or retributive circumstances. In other words, if your neighbor steals your lawn mower, you’re justified in using violent force to retrieve it, or to defend against the initial theft. Notice in this example that whether the use of force is justified or not does not depend on the weather. It depends solely on the concept of rightful ownership.
In fact, going about some behavior that results in a rise in temperature throughout the globe (if this were even possible) is not a violent act. The climate is not a scarce good. As such, it cannot be owned. It is literally impossible to violate an individual’s right to a climate of a particular temperature. Why? No human being has a right to a global climate of a certain temperature in the first place!
The truth is that Global Warming hysteria has nothing to do with science, just like the Social Justice movement has nothing to do with justice. Global warming, climate change, or whatever the temporarily politically correct term for it is now is about control. It’s about intellectual justification for crushing private property and transferring the control of scarce resources from the hands of individuals to the state. In this light, Global Warming is an abject farce. Sadly, many libertarians are caught up in the science, instead of remembering their first principles.
Is the planet getting hotter? Maybe. If it is, does this justify violent, aggressive actions (or the threat thereof) against property owners? Of course not. If climate scientists were suddenly struck with a virulent chill, and were suddenly convinced that earth was doomed to imminent glacial freeze, private property rights would still reign supreme.
Hothead, blowhard global warming fanatics may cry wolf to their heart’s content, but weather will never be sufficient justification for the destruction of the single greatest intellectual innovation known to man: private property.