Friday, August 22, 2008

Hee hee hee! ur so clev4r!

Well, Bob Murphy bites the bullet. I argue (in an unproductive email exchange series) that government enforcement of atmospheric property rights, while not optimal, is just as tolerable as government's enforcement of its minarchist authority (police, courts, army), such as when it detains killers. In other words, where are the outraged libertarian articles about how government police will evict someone for failure to honor a mortgage?

Well, Bob took it as a sign to show off his look-smart-to-a-sophomore-girl case for legalizing murder

So imagine we're initially in a free society, and then you hear that the government is moving in to town in order to monopolize civil society's possible responses to murderers. Are you going to feel safe to walk the streets now? Are you confident that a serial killer will be stopped as quickly as humanly possible? [emphasis added]

Right, assume the opposite of the current problem.

Bob must have missed, in any case, that I compared the carbon caps to the existence of a ban on murder, not the current enforcement methods. But no need to be rigorous when riding that bronco for all it's worth, eh?

And for anyone interested, I actually made the point Bob is responding to back in early June.

Quoting my comment at length:

...While a valid complaint, I honestly don't see how it's different from government's enforcement of other rights. Most libertarians, for example, have no problem with government enforcing (at least some of the existing) land titles, excluding murderers from interaction with the rest of us, putting out fires, etc., at least until private alternatives are [established]. The libertarian position is more like, "Hey, that would be a lot more efficient if done by privately-run organizations," rather than "Putting out fires is immoral." We should likewise view enforcement of the atmospheric property rights: yes, government will botch it horribly, but it's preferable to the tragedy of commons resulting from ZERO property rights.

But I don't see anyone here following this chain of reasoning. All I see (here and on a mailing list) is poorly thought out schemes: oh, we should give anyone a veto over any harmful emission; or we should never allow any [veto of pollution].

I'm very interested in learning where I'm wrong, but if even Bob_Murphy can't grasp basic issues like why carbon emission capacity is scarce, I'm not sure anyone here is even prepared to make the point.


So folks, if you want to know why I don't think Bob is taking this issue seriously, look no further than this. With one witty remark, he'll obviate about a month of discussion because of a premise assumption he never corrected when I made explicit, nor in any of the other discussion that implicitly depended on it.

His IER hit piece therefore was not really arguing, "Hey, politicians won't get the cap right because of political considerations." It was arguing:

"Government shouldn't do anything [so far so good--SB], and there's no point in even talking about why one government policy is better than another. If failure to define atmosphere rights (because politicians botch it and the free market is squelched) results in catastrophic damage to the earth's climate or even human existence ... so be it!"

I can understand why Bob had to obscure his real position for IER.

Ready to take the plunge and side with Bob? Just see if you can say this with a straight face:

How could the government continue to prosecute anything else, if people could say, "C'mon, murder is legal, and yet very few people do it. It would wreck your credit score! Who the heck wants that?!"

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