And they’re complaining why, exactly?

Scary news stories are beginning to make the rounds of the blogosphere about endocrine disruptors – synthetic chemical pollutents that mimic the effects of estrogen and have supposedly already created a generation of feminized young men and boys with shrunken genitals and preferences shifted towards girls’ toys.

This viewing-with-alarm is, of course, brought to you by the same set of enviro-lefties that brought us the anthropogenic-global-warming panic. The wheels have been falling off that fraud for about a year now, as we’ve watched the extended solar minimum wipe out the entire warming trend since 1900 and make it pellucidly clear that variations in solar activity swamp whatever minor marginal effects atmospheric CO2 may have. I’ve actually been predicting for years that endocrine disruptors would be the next crisis manufactured by the professional doomsayers, and the time seems now to have arrived.

But this time I really have to wonder why they’re complaining. Feminized men? Lowered fertility? I’ve spent my entire life hearing the same crowd insist that these would be good things, that humans are a burden on the ecosphere and that all the evil in the world is caused by testosterone-driven male aggression. You’d think these bien pensants would be cheering the prospect that we’re endocrine-disrupting our way to a better world.

Funny enough yet? Oh, it gets better. The major source of estrogenizing compounds in the environment seems to be…wait for it…birth-control pills. Not all the estrogen in them is broken down by the body; women piss it into the sewage stream and it goes on to wreak havoc in fish populations. For real; the science suggesting effects on land animals and humans is poorly confirmed and hath the smell of junk about it, but it seems beyond doubt that freshwater and marine ecologies are being severely affected.

But banning the Pill would be unthinkable anti-feminist heresy even if it were possible. This guarantees that nothing effective will be done about the problem. We’ll hear a lot of screaming about organochlorines and phthalates in plastics instead; it will be like a reprise of CO2 vs. water vapor in the climate models, where the latter has six times the heat-trapping effect of the former but only CO2 gets headlines.

Focusing on water vapor, or the Pill, would interfere with the enviro-lefties’ real agenda: smashing consumer capitalism in our lifetime, or – more realistically – smothering it to death with regulation. For that, they’re even willing to be alarmed in favor of (gulp) masculinity. It would be the Devil’s own irony if, this time, they were actually talking up a real threat.

114 thoughts on “And they’re complaining why, exactly?

  1. Obviously what we need is a new “Toilet Czar.” His remit will be to redesign the toilet, or, at the very least design a new toilet for females It must capture their pee and, instead of simply flushing it into the sewer, stores it in a biosafe container. Then a government agency will collect and dispose of it responsibly.

    Thankfully, women, unlike all you yucky men, don’t just pee against trees, so we have a good controlled source for this collection and disposal effort.

    Of course not all women are on the pill, and, assuming you are willing to submit to the appropriate weekly tests, you can have a notation put on your drivers’ license indicating that you may pee with the boys.

  2. > But banning the Pill would be unthinkable anti-feminist heresy even if it were possible.

    No thinking endocrinologist in her right mind would take ‘the pill’.

    and “consumer capitalism” isn’t really something to which a thinking society would aspire, now is it?

    I think you’re just flame-baiting in order to ‘get read’.

  3. I’m curious on your take of the recent ‘BPA’ research (tied in with the manufacture of polycarbonate) (which you might also term a ‘scare’.)

    You might want to term this ‘off-topic’, but I think if you do, you’re running from the subject.

  4. Scary news stories are beginning to make the rounds of the blogosphere about endocrine disruptors – synthetic chemical pollutents that mimic the effects of estrogen and have supposedly already created a generation of feminized young men and boys with shrunken genitals and preferences shifted towards girls’ toys.

    To say nothing of girls developing secondary sex characteristics at age six. Early-onset puberty in females due to environmental estrogen is a significant, documented problem (the received wisdom that “girls mature faster than boys” didn’t always hold); however, like global warming, it’s one you choose to ignore. Not that it matters anyway; not only did we fuck up the atmosphere but we failed our saving throw, too.

  5. You’ve succumbed to the Slashdot Effect. That is, assuming the same people who bitch about one thing are the same people who bitch about the other.

  6. > Not that it matters anyway; not only did we fuck up
    > the atmosphere but we failed our saving throw, too

    I got through a page of the Lovelock article, and couldn’t read any more of the baloney. A couple of points though I thought worth making. He claims that by 2040 “Phoenix will become uninhabitable”. What he fails to recognize is that Phoenix is already uninhabitable, except for the fact that we have used technology to make it habitable.

    “The Chinese have nowhere to go but up into Siberia,” Lovelock says. “How will the Russians feel about that? I fear that war between Russia and China is probably inevitable.” ” Except to mention that there are huge swaths of China that are just about as cold as Siberia. However, whether war between China and Russia is inevitable, I’m not sure I disagree with that, but not because of “global warming”, more because of totalitarian states doing what they do.

    “And switching to energy-efficient light bulbs won’t save us. To Lovelock, cutting greenhouse-gas pollution won’t make much difference at this point, and much of what passes for sustainable development is little more than a scam to profit off disaster. ”

    So all the attempts to fix the problem by the green movement are doomed to fail? I agree, so lets stop wasting vast amounts of wealth on them and instead invest in advancing the technology of our civilization. That way we at least have a hope that we can fix the putative problems as they arise as a natural outflow of technological growth.

    In a free market system, you would be amazed how much money people will pay to save their own ass.

    (For the record, I write from the point of view of the predicted disaster. In truth I agree with ESR, that while there are small fragments of truth in the hypothesis of “climate change”, it is largely a bunch of overhyped nonsense and self aggrandizement.)

  7. There’s a bit more to releasing large amounts of estrogen-mimetic compounds into the environment than lowered semen counts and feminized boys. We don’t know the full effects on public health (e.g. the incidence of cancer) and we know even less about the effects on other animals. Fish and amphibians are showing the effects, too. Large numbers of feminized or poorly developed animals have been found, some of them infertile. In many places this is one more pressure on fisheries that are not doing so well to begin with.

  8. I’m curious if they’re going to be viewing-with-alarm on the estrogen analogs in tofu and other soy products. Somewhere in my bookmarks I have a pointer to an article that claims that post-menopausal women should consume soy in order to get these analogs in their diet. Since there is apparently a large enough effect to make soy consumption worthwhile one wonders if they’ll take the next step in analyzing estrogen mimics in our diets.

  9. Damn you, John Dougan! I actually like tofu – yeah, and I’m willing to admit it and endanger my image, too (I will now attempt a hasty repair by noting that I like a heap of spareribs or a good steak much better). Still, you come near depriving me of one of my pleasures with your inconvenient fact, there.

  10. “I’ve actually been predicting for years that endocrine disruptors would be the next crisis manufactured” – nice, but an actual link to the prediction would worth much more awesomeness points.

    Jeff, thanks for the link from Rolling Frickin’ Stone. Why not rather AlterNet.org?… Setting sarcasm aside, would you take me seriously with a Salisbury Review link?…

    I think it would be a really good idea if people with different worldviews could agree to a subset of the online media that can be considered reliable source of, well, if not facts but at least bits of information that can at least be given he benefit of doubt that they might actually proven be facts. Clue: Rolling Stone probably wouldn’t be one of them. OTOH virtual upvote for the RPG reference.

  11. You’re blaming it on enviro-lefties, but the relatives of mine that are complaining are all white-supremacist, male-supremacist right-wingers, who are desperately afraid that their sons have been tainted by female hormones, and that their grandsons will be gay because of it. That they farm soybeans for a living only adds to the irony.

  12. >“I’ve actually been predicting for years that endocrine disruptors would be the next crisis manufactured” – nice, but an actual link to the prediction would worth much more awesomeness points.

    I actually did have a specific prediction in mind, but it was on a private mailing list. If the Roxanne who just commented is Roxanne King from General Technics, she may be able to confirm it.

  13. esr: “I’ve actually been predicting for years that endocrine disruptors would be the next crisis manufactured”

    I’ll make a prediction of my own: carbon nanotube materials, which are now entering mass production, will be found to have some unexpected effects in the environment and some people will scream crisis.

    (Think plastic: only a little bit of the plastic ever manufactured has been burned and all the rest is still with us. Some of it is buried, but quite a bit is in tiny shreds all over the place. You probably cannot catch a fish or a bird today without a piece of plastic in it. Carbon nanotube materials are potentially even slower-decaying than plastic.)

  14. Let’s put the global warming controversy aside, since it concerns a particular prediction. It’s pretty clear that pumping carcinogens into the atmosphere is a bad thing. A real hacker would see these as technical issues to be solved, not part of some political battle against ‘enviro-lefties’, or any other such absurd paper tiger.

  15. > I actually did have a specific prediction in mind, but it was on a private mailing list.

    Even if your assertion is true, this one instance does not support “I’ve actually been predicting for years”.

    It might support “I predicted years ago”, but “I’ve actualy been predicting for years” strongly suggest a pattern of repeated prediction over a long period (several years).

  16. >only a little bit of the plastic ever manufactured has been burned and all the rest is still with us

    Leading to real ecodisasters like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I wish we had an environmental movement that actually cared about crap like this, and about other real issues like biodiversity loss in the tropics. Instead, they obsess about (probably nonexistent) anthropogenic global warming and block nuclear power, a combination of positions that’s crazy even in its own terms.

  17. >A real hacker would see these as technical issues to be solved, not part of some political battle against ‘enviro-lefties’, or any other such absurd paper tiger.

    Call me back when “environmentalism” becomes more than a stalking horse for intrusive statism. Because I’d love to see these tackled as purely technical issues, I truly would. Can’t happen, not while the Greens are still blindly running the KGB’s memetic-warfare program against capitalism.

  18. There are multiple factions within the ‘enviro-leftie’ group, many of which espouse contradictory positions. Relatively few people actually hold multiple contradictory beliefs. And leaving aside the ‘earth mother, balance-of-nature’ idiocy that is most often associated with ‘enviro-lefties’, from a technical perspective it is not at all a good idea to cause uncontrolled changes to a chaotic system which we depend on for survival.

  19. >Instead, they obsess about (probably nonexistent) anthropogenic global warming and block nuclear power, a combination of positions that’s crazy even in its own terms.

    I think you watch too much mainstream news. In any case, your pro-nuclear perspective is understandable, given that you come from the ‘worse is better’ school of software engineering. I think most of the open source movement would rather accept the first kind-of-workable solution to come along than invest time and money in any large-step technical advances.

  20. > Call me back when “environmentalism” becomes more than a stalking horse for intrusive statism. Because I’d love to see these tackled as purely technical issues, I truly would. Can’t happen, not while the Greens are still blindly running the KGB’s memetic-warfare program against capitalism.

    You’re conflating different positions. There are many people who are environmentalists (as in, we shouldn’t dump synthetic large molecules into chaotic chemical systems) and yet not ‘intrusive statists’–me, for instance. Though many people hold both positions, that doesn’t mean the positions are one and the same.

  21. >Call me back when “environmentalism” becomes more than a stalking horse for intrusive statism. Because I’d love to see these tackled as purely technical issues, I truly would. Can’t happen, not while the Greens are still blindly running the KGB’s memetic-warfare program against capitalism.

    Why aren’t you investing in the electric car? Solar power? Maybe these aren’t the most pressing projects, but getting them to the stage of viability would be a serious technical step forward. Your KGB line is another paper tiger; the fact that your imaginary friends ‘the Greens’ are politicising things is irrelevant. There is real science being done, but you’re against it because you have some kind of bizarre hatred for anything ‘lefty’.

  22. >Though many people hold both positions, that doesn’t mean the positions are one and the same.

    Of course I know that. I’d love to be on your side, man! Environmentalism doesn’t logically entail left-statism; John Muir was an individualist, and before the KGB’s Active Measures department got their fingers into it the conservation movement was primarily associated with wealthy conservatives trying to keep the hoi polloi from mucking up their nice wilderness areas. The problem is that it’s now sixty years later and pretty much the entire organizational armature of your movement is run by Willi Munzenberg’s lost children. They’ll use well-meaning people like you to get what they really think is important. I don’t care to be used that way.

  23. Not that I’d mind banning the Pill, but…

    Many, many pharmaceuticals are supposedly in our water. I wonder why we don’t filter them out of our waste water when we’re filtering out the rest of the nasties. Cost-prohibitive, I suppose.

    Relatively few people actually hold multiple contradictory beliefs.

    I beg to differ. I know *many, many* people who suffer from cognitive dissonance. I’ve even discovered it in myself a time or two, and sought to resolve it quickly. However, most people I know are considerably resistant to reason.

  24. >Why aren’t you investing in the electric car? Solar power?

    Because I don’t personally actually have enough money to make a difference on that level.

    However: there’s a guy I know who has an interesting business concept for environmentally-friendly electric mowers. When and if he shows signs of being ready to run a business at scale and presents me with a solid business plan, I’m going to pull a particular string I have in reserve and quite probably arrange to have about fifteen mill in VC money drop on him.

    I’m doing what I can, in my free-market way.

  25. >They’ll use well-meaning people like you to get what they really think is important. I don’t care to be used that way.

    And the logical recourse is to dump all over any environmentally-motivated science? Are you an expert in the endocrine system? How about meteorology? Why don’t you ever include full citations in your posts? Your position reeks of partisanship.

  26. >And the logical recourse is to dump all over any environmentally-motivated science?

    No; you don’t see me refusing to look at satellite pictures of Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for example.

    But there’s a good rule of thumb: environmental “science” that is wedded to calls for more coercive regulation and market-rigging will, in general, be junk – and the degree of coercion called for will correlate strongly with the dubiousness of the science.

    I may run across an exception to this someday, but I haven’t yet. And I’ve been looking since about 1972.

    >Why don’t you ever include full citations in your posts?

    Quite often I do. This one was written in a hurry before martial-arts class. Here’s a good cite on endocrine disrupters: http://www.ohiopca.com/pdfs/insight/ed/EnvironmentalSource_ChemEndocrine.pdf

  27. >CO2 vs. water vapor in the climate models, where the latter has six times the heat-trapping effect of the former but only CO2 gets headlines.

    Do you know the difference between endogenous and exogenous variables?

    >variations in solar activity swamp whatever minor marginal effects atmospheric CO2 may have.

    Only over short (~10y?) timeframes. By analogy, the fact that it’s colder now than it was in June doesn’t mean there’s no global warming.

    It’s really hard to be well informed on climate change, because the science is bloody tricky and there’s a tonne of disinformation out there. Be careful you’re not fighting Big Oil’s* memetic warfare program.

    * ok, I don’t really mean “Big Oil”. You coined the word “prospiracy” right? I think the opposition comes from something self-organising like that.

  28. Relatively few people actually hold multiple contradictory beliefs.

    I beg to differ. I know *many, many* people who suffer from cognitive dissonance.

    In reality I would suspect a large majority of people hold multiple contradictory beliefs, but very few recognize it.

    Consider Obama’s suggestion to reduce electric consumption while increasing the numbers of plug-in hybrids (to reduce car exhaust, of course). There is simply no way to accomplish both goals.

    I’ll agree that even coal-fired power plants burn cleaner per unit of energy than gasoline engines, but the goal isn’t about pollution, it’s about consumption (because lower consumption should lead to lower pollution).

    Obama’s contradictory plan can be found at http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/factsheet_energy_speech_080308.pdf :

    > page 1: Put 1 million Plug‐In Hybrid cars – cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon – on the road by 2015

    > page 7: Barack Obama will set an aggressive energy efficiency goal—to reduce electricity demand 15 percent from DOE’s projected levels by 2020.

  29. >Quite often I do. This one was written in a hurry before martial-arts class. Here’s a good cite on endocrine disrupters: http://www.ohiopca.com/pdfs/insight/ed/EnvironmentalSource_ChemEndocrine.pdf

    That is definitely not a good citation. Are you familiar with even the basics of research? It is full of subjective opinion, and would be unlikely to be accepted for publication by any reputable journal. Moreover, it is published by the ‘CEI’, a thoroughly partisan group, and the partisanship shines through in the paper.

  30. >Moreover, it is published by the ‘CEI’, a thoroughly partisan group, and the partisanship shines through in the paper.

    Right. Like it doesn’t in the panic-mongers’ sources. Pull the other leg now, it’s got bells on.

  31. >Consider Obama’s suggestion to reduce electric consumption while increasing the numbers of plug-in hybrids (to reduce car exhaust, of course). There is simply no way to accomplish both goals.

    This is a myopic POV. Obama is a politician, and his plans are politically motivated; to point out that policy put forth by a presidential candidate is not logical is overstating the obvious. Regardless, this is a good idea over the long time, because it is investing in technology that has the potential to cut emissions drastically in the future.

  32. >Right. Like it doesn’t in the panic-mongers’ sources. Pull the other leg now, it’s got bells on.

    You are throwing a red herring here. The ‘panic-mongers’ have nothing to do with this. You are posting an opinion, and you have failed to justify it with the appropriate citations. The cite you gave contains subjective opinion, and is therefore not a credible source. Are you telling me that article would be accepted into a reputable scientific journal? You should be providing primary sources, however, you are likely unable to as you are not an expert in the field. So, you resort to borrowing your opinion from some partisan think-tank.

  33. > Right. Like it doesn’t in the panic-mongers’ sources. Pull the other leg now, it’s got bells on.
    So, you vilify these people while sinking to their level?

  34. This post makes me think about the current generation of boy-men who are the leading men in Hollywood today.

    Think about it: guys like Leo Dicaprio or Owen Wilson for example. These guys are not exactly manly men but seem more like teen boys.

    Where are the John Waynes of today? There don’t seem to be many, with the possible exceptions of a Gary Sinise and maybe James Woods.
    I know this probably is a lot of junk science, but don’t todays leading men seem a lot less manly than say a Robert Mitchum? Maybe these guys having grown up with chemicals in the water has made them more femme. And our feminized prissy culture shaped them too.

    And to Roxanne: are your relatives who grow soybeans really a bunch of white supremacists? I mean are they putting on white robes and going to clan meetings?

  35. > there’s a guy I know who has an interesting business concept for environmentally-friendly electric mowers.

    missing the point that your lawn is an ecological disaster area.

  36. “I know this probably is a lot of junk science, but don’t todays leading men seem a lot less manly than say a Robert Mitchum?”

    Do the ones that got their steroids from a vial count? There’s Ahnold and a whole host of wannabes. Then again injected hormones don’t seem to get you charisma or improve your acting skills. How about Russell Crowe? Jason Statham? (I can’t seem to think of any Americans.)

  37. >You should be providing primary sources, however, you are likely unable to as you are not an expert in the field

    The CEI article has 37 footnotes giving primary sources. I chose it over more popularized or journalistic accounts largely for that reason.

  38. “I know this probably is a lot of junk science, but don’t todays leading men seem a lot less manly than say a Robert Mitchum?”

    Do the ones that got their steroids from a vial count? There’s Ahnold and a whole host of wannabes. Then again injected hormones don’t seem to get you charisma or improve your acting skills. And Ahnold may have grown up on a pristine alpine creek with no endocrine disruptors. Or downstream of a Swiss drug lab, who knows.

    How about Russell Crowe? Hugh Jackman? Jason Statham? At least he’s from thoroughly polluted London. (I can’t seem to think of any Americans.)

  39. >Think about it: guys like Leo Dicaprio or Owen Wilson for example. These guys are not exactly manly men but seem more like teen boys.

    I was going to just comment about this, but I think it’s worth an entire post.

  40. >ok, I don’t really mean “Big Oil”. You coined the word “prospiracy” right? I think the opposition comes from something self-organising like that.

    I did, and I think that’s perceptive of you.

  41. Good point about Russell Crowe, he goes around beating people up for gosh sakes. :)

    If that’s not manly I’m turning in my membership card.
    Hugh Jackman, meh. He’s ok.

  42. >but I think it’s worth an entire post.

    I can’t wait to see that.

    >Russell Crowe, he goes around beating people up for gosh sakes.

    He /starts/ a lot of fights I haven’t heard any reports of him /winning/ any of them.

  43. >The CEI article has 37 footnotes giving primary sources. I chose it over more popularized or journalistic accounts largely for that reason.

    That is not the same thing as citing primary sources yourself. You’re effectively just borrowing their opinion. Talk about intellectual laziness.

  44. >Talk about intellectual laziness.

    Thanks for the good laugh. You can go away now, troll.

  45. Think about it: guys like Leo Dicaprio or Owen Wilson for example. These guys are not exactly manly men but seem more like teen boys.

    B-but… but… EEEEE! BISHIE!!!!

  46. >[Crowe] /starts/ a lot of fights I haven’t heard any reports of him /winning/ any of them.

    A real man is both the last to start a fight and the last to finish one. Truth.

  47. >Do you also find it funny that last time I posted on your blog you had a hissy fit, banned me, and then quit blogging for more than a year?

    You think I quit blogging over you?

    You’re funny, you are. I don’t even know who you are, and don’t care. I don’t remember whatever incident you think you’re talking about. And from now on, you will be subject to arbitrary and unfair deletion at my whim, just to demonstrate that I don’t give a flying shit what your opinion is of me or my standards.

    I run this blog for my entertainment and education, not so pathetic little prickmice like you can posture at me and walk away feeling like they’ve accomplished something. Get thee back to thy mother’s basement, troll. I’m not interested and I’m not playing.

  48. @Darrencardinal: i think kim du toit’s famous commentary is more applicable to the current generation of actors.

  49. re: prospiracies: it seems like the greens (and most of the left in general) are a prospiracy descended from a real conspiracy (KGB-sponsored cultural activism). it might be interesting to look at how conspiracies can have their control centers completely destroyed, and yet live on as prospiracies.

  50. >re: prospiracies: it seems like the greens (and most of the left in general) are a prospiracy descended from a real conspiracy

    That’s exactly the way I read it. The puppetmasters at Moscow Center are long gone, but the puppets still dance. The real genius of Willi Munzenberg (and the reason he’s still relevant though he died in 1940) wasn’t the propaganda campaigns he ran, but that he mastered the trick of using Communist agents of influence to boot up anti-Western prospiracies within the intelligentsia of the West itself – which have since outlived the active-measures apparat that formed them.

  51. >Of course I know that. I’d love to be on your side, man! Environmentalism doesn’t logically entail left-statism.

    Unfortunately it does, at least according to your implicit definition of left-statism. You yourself mentioned the Tragedy of the Commons in The Magic Cauldron. There are two possibilities: (or if you prefer the General Semantified version, a continuum of two possibilities:)

    1. Environmental property rights (clean air, water, etc) are clearly defined (which they are not) and easily enforceable (which they are not). In this fantasy world everyone knows the exact consequences of their actions, and how they will affect nonconsenting others. Therefore, people can be trusted not to infringe upon others, because they know that a transgression will be swiftly punished and the victims compensated.

    2. There must be at least one piece of government coercion that prevents you in some respect from doing exactly what you want with your property. Why? Because you could hurt people in a way you don’t have an incentive to foresee, and, if you do manage to hurt people, your prosecutors have little clue whom you’ve hurt, how many you’ve hurt, and how much damage for which you must compensate.

  52. Maybe the above was a little abstruse; I’ll put it a little more concretely.
    It is impossible to divide up the air among individuals; it’s a lot saner if government owns the air and charges people for the right to pollute it.

  53. >Unfortunately it does, at least according to your implicit definition of left-statism.

    Nah. Study up on Coase’s Theorem. If you can drive transaction costs low enough, markets can and will internalize any externality. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this result; it is why the most important kind of libertarian activism, long term, is not political activism but techno-social hacks to reduce transaction costs. eBay was founded by a libertarian with thiis in mind.

    Coase’s Theorem was originally proposed in connection with government regulation of radio spectrum, but the standard modern expositions of it actually focus on environmental externalities exactly because that case seems so difficult. It’s not exaggerating much to say that the practicality of the entire libertarian program rests on whether transaction costs can be driven low enough to fold in every externality people might otherwise want a government to handle.

    I like to describe Coase’s Theorem as the Killer Joke of political economics. That is, you can spot the people who understand it in fullness easily – because they turn into libertarians.

  54. Hm. I was actually thinking of Coase’s theorem when I wrote that.
    > If you can drive transaction costs low enough, markets can and will internalize any externality.
    That’s a huge if. Negotiating compensation for environmental damage usually involves class-action lawsuits with highly-paid lawyers. Sure, you can sell your right to clean air to a company who will sue other companies on your behalf, but that’s basically what a government does. The only difference is whether you can choose to sell your rights. However, that is not a real choice. If it was really a coercion-free choice, a company would need the unanimous consent of everyone who could possibly be affected to pollute even the tiniest amount. What really must happen is that society develops a consensus for an acceptable level of pollution. Those distant from the consensus are unfortunately coerced into accepting it.

  55. >That’s a huge if

    I understand your objections. I take them as a program for action: as a libertarian, its my mission to make that “if” come true any way I can.

    It may turn out that transaction costs cannot in fact be driven low enough to replace all government action. But I behave on the assumption that they can, because I judge that efforts in that direction are worthwhile and value-creating in themselves. Besides, how else will we find out?

  56. >esr: What is the source for your claim that the environmental movement is a KGB propaganda campaign?

    Not that it is a KGB campaign, but that it was critically warped by one. Off-topic here. Read my post on Gramscian damage and reply there, please.

  57. “If you can drive transaction costs low enough, markets can and will internalize any externality.”

    AFAIK the Coase Theorem says only that it will lead to efficient outcomes. Such as the classical trains vs. farmers example – that the socially optimal number of trains will be ran. Not that f.e. the farmer won’t have a rightful grievance left unresolved, it doesn’t say that. And it doesn’t say that either that the farmer sooner or later won’t get pissed off real bad and tear down the rails or something like that.

    What I’m driving at is: economics is a very important tool in the intelligent person’s toolbox, but should not be made into a sole tool, should not be taken out of it’s assigned model realm (voluntary exchanges between rational adults regarding stuff they fully own) and extended into a general model of society, that’s a classical mistake of over-Rationalism, because society on the whole is way more complex than that.

  58. If you guys didn’t resist wearing a condom so much, us women should not have to take the goddam pill

  59. Honestly, Eric, I don’t know where you get your ideas about environmentalists. I’ve known about endocrine disruption for years. And as for

    it will be like a reprise of CO2 vs. water vapor in the climate models, where the latter has six times the heat-trapping effect of the former but only CO2 gets headlines.

    all climate scientists and campaigners state their targets in terms of CO2 equivalent (which includes water vapour, methane, and all other greenhouse gases). A common trick among politicians who want to ignore the problem is to take a target stated in terms of CO2 equivalent (say 450ppm) and then silently coerce it into 450ppm of CO2. Which is bugger-all use.

    Nuclear power is a source of bitter argument within the environmental movement: some reckon it’s our only chance, some have been campaigning against it for so long that they can’t bring themselves to support it. Some point out that nuclear plants take decades to build, always cost far more than budgeted for, and are less cost-effective a means of reducing CO2 (equivalent) levels than almost anything else. But still, better than building new coal plants, that’s for sure.

    A lot of environmentalists are left-wingers, it’s true. But by no means all.

  60. This post reminded me of a similar but currently much more important enviro-hypocrisy: for the past few decades, greens and leftists have been telling us that automobiles are a horrible scourge on Mother Earth and that everyone should abandon their cars and take the mass transit, bike and walk around instead. So you’d expect that they would now be cheering the demise of the American automobile industry and strongly oppose the bailout, yes?

  61. > >Consider Obama’s suggestion to reduce electric consumption while increasing the numbers of plug-in hybrids (to reduce car exhaust, of course). There is simply no way to accomplish both goals.

    > This is a myopic POV. Obama is a politician, and his plans are politically motivated; to point out that policy put forth by a presidential candidate is not logical is overstating the obvious.

    But how many people believe these contradictory policies must be implemented? Quite a few.

    Just like there are people who believe both (1) we should keep gas prices low so that poor people can drive cars, while at the same time (2) keep gas prices high to cause everybody to use mass transit, or (1) high property taxes will fix all sorts of school problems, but (2) developers who build expensive properties are evil and affordable housing must be promoted at great cost ( http://tjic.com/?p=3143 ), or the government is both corrupt but also the only salvation against corrupt and mean corporations ( http://www.villagevoice.com/2008-03-11/news/why-i-am-no-longer-a-brain-dead-liberal/1 ).

    It’s common enough that there’s a term for it: cognitive dissonance.

  62. >If you guys didn’t resist wearing a condom so much, us women should not have to take the goddam pill

    That’s unlikely to change; condoms are sensation-killers. Perversely, for many men (including myself) they also make controlling ejaculation more difficult – so it’s a double whammy of less pleasure and poor performance.

    Women don’t understand this; my guess is it’s because the vagina is much less innervated — much less sensitive — than the penis is. Try to imagine having sex with your clitoris partly anesthetized and you might understand why men won’t use condoms if there’s any way to avoid it.

  63. >That’s unlikely to change; condoms are sensation-killers.

    I guess it’s better than dying of an AIDS-related illness or other STD. It’s things like this that illustrate the “is-ought problem” that seems to affect evolutionary psychology. It might be a man’s biological advantage to have sex with random women, but the knowledge of all the various sexually-transmitted diseases makes this strategy a bad idea. Plus, the availability of birth control and good pre/postnatal care makes childbirth a less risky proposition than it was in the bad old days. Men don’t need to procreate with many women or even procreate at all. If you insist on having sex without a condom, it’s better to do it in monogamous relationship and get periodically tested for STDs, including AIDS.

  64. >I guess it’s better than dying of an AIDS-related illness or other STD. It’s things like this that illustrate the “is-ought problem” that seems to affect evolutionary psychology. It might be a man’s biological advantage to have sex with random women, but the knowledge of all the various sexually-transmitted diseases makes this strategy a bad idea.

    Top-of-the-forebrain knowledge has little to do with instinct or preferences. You need to bear in mind that in the environment of ancestral adaptation, STDs were a very low risk factor because human breeding groups were small and didn’t mix that much at the edges.

    There’s no “is-ought” problem here because I’m not making any “ought” claim, just explaining why mens’ preferences made sense for the ancestral environment even if they’re somewhat maladaptive for the modern one.

  65. > That’s unlikely to change; condoms are sensation-killers.

    It already has changed, at least for those of us who grew up post-AIDS. For my generation, not wearing a condom is simply gross irresponsibility. But the Pill is no longer the most effective female-controlled means of contraception: hormonal implants, the depo provera injection, and modern IUDs have significantly lower conception rates and no risk of user error. I couldn’t tell you about their effect as endocrine disruptors, though.

  66. So you’d expect that they would now be cheering the demise of the American automobile industry and strongly oppose the bailout, yes?

    Most of the left-wingers I know hold precisely this position. N.b.: Do not confuse “left-winger” with a politician from the Democratic party. As Richard Stallman said, the way government functions in the United States is as a slave or puppet to the large corporations. And that goes for both parties.

  67. Most of the left-wingers I know hold precisely this position.

    Some of the right-wingers I know hold it too, and it’s rather easy to see why. Tune in Top Gear sometime, or find some videos on YouTube; American cars frequently receive a well-deserved drubbing from the reviewers, who are serious about design and engineering, rather than marketing which constitutes the bulk of the American automotive experience[0]. From a free-market perspective, the Big Three deserve to lose, and lose hard.

    [0] Neal Stephenson described a minivan as something like “two tons of plastic and marketing”.

  68. Where are the John Waynes of today?

    Do you mean on screen or off? On screen: Jackie Chan. Will Smith. Samuel L. Jackson. Denzel Washington. Arnold Schwarzenegger (I’m not real familiar with the last three, but I know they do action movies.) We have tough guys, they just aren’t white Americans.

  69. > something like “two tons of plastic and marketing”

    I believe the phrase was ‘nebula of air, upholstery and marketing’.

  70. > Neal Stephenson described a minivan as
    > something like “two tons of plastic and
    > marketing”.

    This is typical Clarkson snobbishness. Just because it doesn’t go fast, or have a manual transmission makes it bad? The fact is that the minivan has very high utility for the demographic it is aimed at. In fact, the minivan is pretty much the last good thing Detroit did.

  71. Jeff’s comment above about the two business parties exemplifies perfectly something I was going to say, and I think shows how Eric’s wrong about environmentalism being a cover for creeping statism. Environmentalists know exactly how far Western governments are in the pockets of the polluting industries, as only those involved in active opposition to insane policies can. Their call for regulation is based not on a love of governments, but on something akin to Eric’s support for the War on Terror: given that the time for action is now so short (we’re starting to see melting of the methane-stuffed Arctic permafrost, which will basically be game over), we must use the only tool we have for action on that scale, and that’s currently governments.

    We get the creeping statists show up to our demos, sure. But the bloody Socialist Workers show up to anti-ID card demonstrations too, and they’re not welcome there either.

  72. Or rather, they’re welcome to show up, but they’re not welcome to co-opt our movement and turn it into yet another branch of the battle for World Communism.

  73. >Or rather, they’re welcome to show up, but they’re not welcome to co-opt our movement and turn it into yet another branch of the battle for World Communism.

    Um…I hate to break this to you, but I think their puppetmasters already pulled off that trick with respect to the environmental movement, around the time I was in diapers.

  74. > It’s pretty clear that pumping carcinogens into the atmosphere is a bad thing.

    Please provide a list of acceptable things to pump into the atmosphere. (Note that everything is toxic at some level by at least one mechanism. Yes, that includes O2 and even 80% N2/20% O2.)

    I note that Ames (of the Ames test) now argues that it’s all bunk.

  75. > Why aren’t you investing in the electric car? Solar power?

    The better question would be why poweruser isn’t spending his money on these worthwhile things instead of demanding that others do so.

    If he’s correct, he’ll do good and get rich, the latter enabling him to do even more good.

  76. The problem with being a strident anti-socialist is that it blinds you to the fact that socialism works. An example, not related to the environment:

    We live in the 21st century now, and it’s possible to conduct most of your financial transactions with an EMV-chip-equipped smart card. These chips provide secure communication of financial data and reduce the level of credit card fraud.

    Except if you happen to live in the United States, where credit card fraud is rampant and growing, adding to a host of other economic problems.

    See, the strength of government in European countries is such that EMV deployment could be mandated across the board. The mega-banks in the United States just didn’t see the business case for EMV deployment, so they never bothered to roll it out.

    Similarly, big industry simply can’t be arsed to spend the time and money it takes to practice basic stewardship of the environment. So they continue to externalize costs by plaguing the world with their waste. Honking about Coase’s theorem hasn’t produced a single free-market-based solution to this problem; meanwhile, a worldwide ban on CFCs has had measurable positive effects on the ozone layer; and fishing regulations have prevented the salmon from disappearing from our rivers.

    Government regulation works. Often, it’s the only solution.

  77. Men don’t need to procreate with many women or even procreate at all.

    At six and a half billion human beings on a planet that can only support four billion, not procreating is beginning to look like an attractive option from a species standpoint.

  78. “At six and a half billion human beings on a planet that can only support four billion, not procreating is beginning to look like an attractive option from a species standpoint.”

    Depends on who is not procreating. Overpopulation is largely the problem of the poorest and least educated populations, and is largely caused by three factors 1) religion (Islam and Catholicism being anti-contraception) 2) machismo (many children = a sign virility) 3) sort of a pension scheme: having 6-12 maxes out your chances that someone will feed you when you are old. It’s not likely this will change soon, and with a utilitarian measurement (number of people suffering multiplied by the severity of the suffering) it’s absolutely the No. 1 problem of the world as within a generation or two it will very literally lead to billions starving to death. Or killing each other or something like that.

    OTOH it’s not a particularly good idea for the westerns societies to not procreate as it collapses the Ponzi scheme of social security systems, which depend on inputs from the next generation.

  79. > Um…I hate to break this to you, but I think their puppetmasters already pulled off that trick with respect to the environmental movement, around the time I was in diapers.

    I’m aware that you think that, and I’d like to suggest that that’s because you get all your information about the environmental movement from right-leaning sources, instead of from actual environmentalists.

    > I like to describe Coase’s Theorem as the Killer Joke of political economics. That is, you can spot the people who understand it in fullness easily – because they turn into libertarians.

    Well, it sounds interesting, but I’m a bit worried about the assumptions. First off, it seems to depend on the usual “rational self-interested actor” stuff, but I’m more interested in the assumption of zero transaction costs. As you should know from your mathematical training, it’s not legitimate to take the leap from “if X = 0 then Y” to “if we can make X small enough, then Y”: there are systems which behave qualitatively differently when some parameter X is zero and when it’s arbitrarily small but positive. I’m particularly thinking of inviscid and viscous fluids here: conventional flight is impossible in a truly inviscid fluid, but possible in one with positive viscosity. Perhaps you can explain to me why this consideration doesn’t apply here.

    Shenpen:
    > Overpopulation is largely the problem of the poorest and least educated populations, and is largely caused by three factors 1) religion (Islam and Catholicism being anti-contraception) 2) machismo (many children = a sign virility) 3) sort of a pension scheme: having 6-12 maxes out your chances that someone will feed you when you are old.

    Nah, not exactly. It depends basically on child mortality rates: you don’t get American or French Catholics raising huge families, in general. But there’s a lag of a generation or two, as culture takes time to catch up with the facts on the ground. The most extreme population growth, therefore, happens in societies which have recently had their child mortality rates lowered.

  80. Re overpopulation: Fertility has been declining for a long time. U.S. fertility declined about 1/3 between 1800 and 1850 (well before general urbanization). In recent years, fertility has dropped massively in dozens of countries: 31% in China, 42% in Saudi Arabia and South Korea, 33% in Mexico and Peru, 44% in Poland, 38% in Ghana, 72% (!) in Iran. Huge chunks of the world are below the 2.1 replacement level or approaching it: most of South America, all of Europe and the former USSR, all of east Asia, most of southeast Asia.

    The lagging areas are mainly in Africa. (It should be noted that there are still absolute differences in fertility, even among the decliners – Europe is down below 2.0, whereas much of the Middle East is still around 3.0.)

    At this time, It seems very probable that this very broad, deep, and long trend to lower fertility will continue, and that world population will not grow much further (less than 50%), and will begin to shrink in the foreseeable future – without mass starvation: something that was predicted as an imminent certainty forty years ago.

  81. >I’m aware that you think that, and I’d like to suggest that that’s because you get all your information about the environmental movement from right-leaning sources, instead of from actual environmentalists.

    Nah. I made a point of reading a lot of environmentalist theory and propaganda back in the 1970s, for the specific reason that I wanted to understand why they were so irrationally opposed to nuclear power, when it was the only prospect for replacing *really* filthy coal- and oil-fired plants. That seemed crazy to me. The environmental load from coal-burning, in particular, is just horrendous.

    What I discovered was that I was dealing with what I later called a prospiracy — the opposition was actually completely rational with respect to a set of inner goals they were concealing from outsiders and only half-admitting to themselves. The most important of these were the suppression of economic growth and free-market capitalism.

    One of the smoking guns was a quote I don’t remember the exact phrasing of by one of the movement’s central theorists. The effect was that environmentalism was a wonderful thing because it provided a rationale for a degree of centralized government control that decent people had long been advocating without much success. The phrase “decent people” was central to the quote; I remember that particularly. Because years later, when I learned that the casual equation of Communist goals with those of unspecified “decent people” was a signature trope of Willi Munzenberg’s agents of influence, it assumed new significance for me.

    In fact, the environmental movement in the 1970s became my type case for the “prospiracy”. It wasn’t until twenty years later that I realized there was in fact good reason to believe the prospiracy had been been bent into the shape I found it in by Soviet agents of influence. That notion only moved from being paranoid fantasy to historically plausible after the Venona material began to leak.

    >As you should know from your mathematical training, it’s not legitimate to take the leap from “if X = 0 then Y” to “if we can make X small enough, then Y”:

    Absolutely. Which is why it’s important that we do actually see, empirically, evidence of Coasian effects as transaction costs drop. Free-market solutions to externality problems doesn’t require transaction costs to go to zero, just to low enough that they’re noise.

  82. >Just because [a minivan] doesn’t go fast, or have a manual transmission makes it bad?

    Did anybody actually say that? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you that I don’t like minivans because of the gas mileage. If I needed one for the extra space, I’d still keep my car and only drive the minivan when it was absolutely necessary. When I see that half the vehicles on the streets in my town are minivans with no passengers or cargo, I get irritated.

    > …greens and leftists have been telling us that automobiles are a horrible scourge on Mother Earth and that everyone should abandon their cars and take the mass transit, bike and walk around instead.

    Don’t know about horrible scourges, but I’d rather walk or ride a bicycle for my own personal benefit. I’ve always seen things in either or: either I’m pushing myself forward or slipping backward. Taking a car is easy; therefore, it doesn’t force me to push myself; therefore, I’m slipping backward if I do it too often. Besides, it saves me money…

    Eric, I was home-schooled, and my protestant, fundamentalist Christian curriculum advocated a certain “stewardship of” (read: responsibility to) the environment. I still have quite a few of my radical conservative beliefs, so I guess I serve as a counter-example to the idea that leftism and environmentalism are inseparable.

    If you want to see environmental regulation in action, visit Japan. I lived in Shizuoka for a year, where even the public garbage cans come in fours– one for glass, one for burnable garbage, one for plastic bottles, and one for everything else. I kept the recycling habit after I moved back to the US, even though it isn’t as heavily regulated here.

    This all leads up to my two-part question: Do you believe in recycling? And do you, personally, recycle? I’m trying to find out whether you think it’s important for individuals to make small contributions, or whether it’s more important to find large-scale solutions to the problem.

    In other words, is this a delegation problem– where John works on solving environmental problems while Mary works on improving the light-blub? Or is it a personal responsibility problem– where Mary finds the most environmentally friendly ways to work on improving the light-bulb? Feel free to call me out if I missed a false alternative here.

  83. >I guess I serve as a counter-example to the idea that leftism and environmentalism are inseparable.

    I previously noted that the connection is not logically entailed. I think you’re actually doing a pretty good job of respresenting the environmentalism of John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt, back when it was an essentially conservative cause. The Soviets didn’t get their hooks in until later.

    >Do you believe in recycling?

    When it makes economic sense, yes. Mostly it doesn’t; there’s a *huge* oversupply of low-value feedstocks from residential recycling, so much so that a lot of it is being quietly buried or sent to Third World countries while local-government authorities look the other way.

    >And do you, personally, recycle?

    Yes, because my municipality requires it and I’m not intrinsically opposed to the idea. I do not fool myself that it is likely to be doing any actual good, however.

    >I’m trying to find out whether you think it’s important for individuals to make small contributions, or whether it’s more important to find large-scale solutions to the problem.

    The latter, definitely. Near as I can tell, residential and other individual-level recycling initiatives are nearly pointless except as a way for middle-class liberals to make a ritualized gesture in the direction of virtue. It’s far more important to tune industrial processes so they emit less waste, make more efficient use of feedstocks, and (where possible) use garbage as feedstocks.

    Fortunately, this is exactly the direction in which market incentives point industrial producers – I give you as an example the rise of minimills for re-smelting scrap steel.

  84. I work or have worked in the Power Industry, Drinking Water Industry and Waste Water Industry. There is some question of what effects the abundant pharmaceuticals that get flush daily with our body waste in to the environment have. But we really do not have clue if any harm is being done. That tells me that the danger is at a very low level if present at all. Every time our ability to detect chemicals increases for lower levels new concerns surface because now we can analyze and find them. I have worked in jobs that concern the environment most of my adult life. I think most likely we are now entering a period of global cooling. Since global warming advocates have hitch their cause to the environment movement, I am fearful that the environment movement will lose credibility. We have real environment problems that still need attention and those real problems could be ignored.

  85. Rich Rostrom, you are one of the rare people that know the facts that you wrote about. I remember books like the Population Bomb in the sixties. Boy were they wrong , Although a few brave souls knew and wrote about the true trend. People still push those ideas to push their true agenda which is political. The science supports what you wrote . Who would thought that the big problem of the 21 century would be a lack of people? The history of science is full of wrong predictions and beliefs. Remember Y2K . Those predictions never came true. People are too resourceful for that problem to shut down civilization. I think that the global warming hysteria will also fall into the same class as the above examples.

  86. >Since global warming advocates have hitch their cause to the environment movement, I am fearful that the environment movement will lose credibility. We have real environment problems that still need attention and those real problems could be ignored.

    I’m more worried that the environmental movement will never recover from having been manipulated into an anti-capitalist prospiracy. But yes, my reasons for wanting it restored to health and good reputation are probably similar to yours.

  87. Unfortunately, the traditional libertarian response to environmentalism is to respond “The liberals are for it, so I’m going to be against it!” I’m surprised that people who claim to support a free market don’t see more entreprenurial opportunities to deal with pollution. I think the real solution is more Fuller-esque ephemeralization.

  88. >Unfortunately, the traditional libertarian response to environmentalism is to respond “The liberals are for it, so I’m going to be against it!”

    Nah. That’s the traditional conservative response. The traditional libertarian response is more like: fine, as long as no new taxes or regulation are involved. Libertarians don’t feel any compulsive need to oppose liberal positions – most of us support, for example, church/state separation and gay marriage and abortion rights.

    >I think the real solution is more Fuller-esque ephemeralization.

    Agreed.

  89. David: people who claim to support a free market do IN FACT see entrepreneurial opportunities to deal with pollution. Of course, the market for polluting is fucked up by the government, which gives away free licenses to pollute up to a certain quantity.

  90. Jeff Read Says: “not procreating is beginning to look like an attractive option from a species standpoint.”

    Do me a favor, Jeff: don’t fuck off, but die anyway. That way, you will get what you want (a world with fewer people), and we’ll be spared the genetics of someone who thinks procreating is a bad idea.

  91. Jeff Read points out that “where credit card fraud is rampant and growing,” in the US, where the problem is one of the merchant bank, who has decided to address the problem in the cheapest manner: to tolerate a small amount of fraud. He compares this to the Europeans, who have decided to force everybody to adopt the same solution without regard for the cost. Then he goes on to claim, without providing ANY usable evidence, that socialism is good and regulation works.

    Sigh.

    Oh, and Richard Stallman is a slave or puppet to Noam Chomsky.

  92. Credit cards are simply not very widespread in Continental Europe. (In the UK they are more.) People do have one, sure, for Internet purchases from overseas, but mostly just use debit cards in the brick-and-mortar stores. Even in the UK most Internet stores accept debit cards like Switch/Solo/Maestro because not everybody has a credit one.

  93. Here is an older article that claims correlation between fatherless households and early onset puberty in girls. This might be harder to track in the future because “two parent household” was recently redefined so “Mom’s current boyfriend lives here” counts.

    I asked some High School teachers about the tofu/puberty link and trendy vegetarianism. Their gut reaction was that those kinds of trendy choices start after puberty so it likely had little impact. And yes, that’s just an anecdote.

  94. > >Just because [a minivan] doesn’t go fast, or
    > >have a manual transmission makes it bad?

    > Did anybody actually say that?

    Not here, I was echoing an attitude of Jeremy Clarkson.

    >I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you that I
    > don’t like minivans because of the gas mileage.

    Curious. Mostly minivans are used for short journeys: taking the kids to school, soccer, going to the grocery store. Most likely the short journey aspect has far more effect on the gas useage of these vehicles than anything intrinsic about the car itself. (That is to say if you drove most other cars you wouldn’t do much better.)

    However, I think it would be great if we had a system whereby people could make a choice between different utilities: for example, the utility of the convenience of a minivan verses the utility of using gas in a different way.

    Oh, hold on we do have such a system… it is called money.

    > If I needed one for the extra space, I’d still keep my
    > car and only drive the minivan when it was absolutely
    > necessary.

    So you would rather have all the extra expense and environmental damage incurred by having two cars? That doesn’t seem like a good choice to me, but YMMV (literally.)

    > When I see that half the vehicles on the streets in my
    > town are minivans with no passengers or cargo, I get
    > irritated.

    Really? Wow, you must be fun at parties.

  95. pete says “the science is bloody tricky”. Exactly why we shouldn’t take extreme measures, like fighting a War on Carbon.

    Tricky as in too hard for an amateur to get their head around. Not so tricky that the broader scientific community can’t make a few reasonable predictions.

    You can always find some extremist strawmen, but almost no one is advocating “extreme measures, like fighting a War on Carbon”. Most of us would be happy if we set a price on carbon so that Coase’s theorem could do its work.

    I like to describe Coase’s Theorem as the Killer Joke of political economics. That is, you can spot the people who understand it in fullness easily – because they turn into libertarians.

    Unless you think that defining and enforcing the appropriate property rights takes some sort of coordinated action.

  96. >Unless you think that defining and enforcing the appropriate property rights takes some sort of coordinated action.

    Of course it does. Fortunately, markets are good at that.

  97. >Of course it does. Fortunately, markets are good at that.

    I’m not sure I follow what you’re saying. Markets are only good at allocating resources once the necessary property rights and enforcement mechanisms are in place.

    How do you go from a commons to a Coasian market without first negotiating some set of rules?

  98. >I’m not sure I follow what you’re saying. Markets are only good at allocating resources once the necessary property rights and enforcement mechanisms are in place.

    >How do you go from a commons to a Coasian market without first negotiating some set of rules?

    You don’t. However, it is clear from both theory and numerous historical examples that government is not required to get that far. Neither property-rights enforcement nor the establishment of customary law have serious externality or free-rider problems; this makes them easier to boot up an in ungoverned free market than solutions to problems like national defense or pollution, which do have serious problems of both kinds. It’s at the second stage, where you already have a functional equivalent of Anglo-American common law, that Coasian effects become important enough to require serious attention to driving down transaction costs.

    This is pretty well-plowed ground; see for example David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom.

  99. >solutions to problems like national defense or pollution, which do have serious problems of both kinds.

    Ok, now I see why we talking past each other — I was still talking about solutions to the problem of pollution. I can see how markets in, say “stuff” can get started without government intervention. But how do we set up in market in, e.g. “rights to emit carbon”?

    I’m pretty excited to see what sort of innovative solutions to global warming a free market can provide. But until we see a price on carbon, the proper incentives just aren’t there. And I don’t see any path to putting a price on carbon except through Kyoto/Poznan.

  100. >But how do we set up in market in, e.g. “rights to emit carbon”?

    The standard libertarian answer starts with treating pollution like a tortious assault. CO2 is particularly susceptible to this kind of market internalization because, while it’s not toxic at the concentrations industrial processes emit, it’s associated with other combustion byproducts that definitely are.

    To get a Coase effect going, you need a second step: a market in causes of action. So, say I’m Greenpeace and I want to sue a polluter to clean up their act. What I do is, I announce what I’m interested in doing, and ask individuals to sell or assign me their right to recover pollution-related damages. I collect a million or so of those, then then go to the court system. From there it’s all process issues about how you enforce the law; the answers vary depending on whether you’re a minarchist or an anarchist.

  101. >you need a second step: a market in causes of action … ask individuals to sell or assign me their right to recover pollution-related damages.

    What “right to recover pollution-related damages”? Would you be collecting these causes of action with the hope that a judge would “legislate from the bench” that you have such a right?

    I can see how such a system could work in theory. But what if you have many polluters as well as many claimants? If you have billions of claimants and billions of polluters, can you really push transaction costs down when you’re relying on the court system?

  102. >What “right to recover pollution-related damages”? Would you be collecting these causes of action with the hope that a judge would “legislate from the bench” that you have such a right? I can see how such a system could work in theory. But what if you have many polluters as well as many claimants? If you have billions of claimants and billions of pollution

    These questions have answers, but this isn’t the right thread to wander that far off into political theory. The Market For Liberty and Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom might answer them to your satisfaction.

  103. >this isn’t the right thread to wander that far off into political theory

    I’ll try to read the material linked in time for that thread then.

    If you’re looking for a libertarian political theory topic to write on, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Somalia’s “private coast guards”.

  104. amusingly, the endocrine-disruptor alarum is derived mostly from fish — the effect of the selfsame chemicals on mammals is minor at best.

    still: bad for the world-as-a-whole — worthy of being drastically reduced.

  105. >The Market For Liberty

    I forced myself to read through the first couple of chapters, but so far it’s nothing but reheated Ayn Rand and some poorly understood Econ 101. Does it get better later on? Or was this some kind of practical joke?

  106. “pellucidly clear?” isn’t that like saying “placidly calm” or “darkly black?”

  107. you’re munging the usage of “clear” in the sense of “understandability” with that of the sense of “being transparent”. the deliberately witty(english sense)/ironic(american sense) combination of an adverb referencing the first sense’s homophone may have confused you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>