Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Bob Murphy and Gene Callahan problem

If you've read their post about banning me, you may have by now a one-sided view of the dispute. I will explain here why I make so many posts on their blog that they find annoying. (some links missing and I apologize)

1) I have called out Bob on his deception of readers. As Bob admits here, his shameful op-ed was written to convince the public that carbon caps are necessarily stupid, a position he rejects. Now, when you are so misleading -- basically trivializing the suffering of hundreds of millions of people to justify why your gas should be cheaper -- yes, it will make you livid when someone points this out in front of others, and Bob's desire to ban me is a predictable manifestation this effect.

2) I regularly call out Gene on his selective invocation of rules of civility. Hey: having a civilzed discussion is great. But here's how Gene defines "civility":

Acceptable behavior:
-Lying about what someone believes (geo-engineering thread)
-Lying about the economics and morality of tradeable pollution caps (the op-ed above)
-Assuming the worst possible interpretation of any argument someone makes. (The discussion on the iMac and the "He must own the place" thread)
-Personal attacks, when Gene or Bob is making them. (apple thread and recent posts resulting in the ban consideration)

Non-acceptable behavior:
-Personal attacks, when Silas makes them.
-Asking for clarification (iMac thread)
-Suggesting that someone did in fact read a blog post just before submitting a full essay on it (in the case of Bryan Caplan's challenge)
-Mentioning that someone should have known something, given his job. (geo-engineering thread)
-Mentioning that someone know about the philosophy of others, given his job. (same)

Note here: Bob and Gene have repeatedly claimed that even when I do have a valid point, they dislike my posts because of the "tone". Well, I'll admit it: I do use a harsh tone, and I should. Their mistakes go well beyond the point where I can attribute it to mere stupidity or ignorance. They reflect a corrupted philosophy, one that says, "Whoa, you thought libertarians supported principled, private property rights? Hell no! We support cheap oil, first and foremost, even and especially if it permanently floods the residences of hundreds of millions of people. The right to slightly increased profits OBVIOUSLY supercedes the right not to have your homesteaded land permanently submerged."

When you have whored out your ideology, and so cheaply at that, a constant reminder from some, some ... nobody will put you into overdrive. It will cost you sleep. It will want you to shut up that voice in any way you can. Hence, the discussion of whether to ban me, which is where we are today.

I am appalled at the way libertarians have reacted to the global warming issue. While libertarians like Bob may have made valid cases why right now carbon caps can't be justified, in doing so, many of them have tipped their hands as to what philosophy they were really following the whole time -- and it's not pretty. If you were confused as to why I've been so harsh, you no longer are. And it is instances like these that give serious substantiation to the claims of those like Kevin Carson who say that many libertarians are more interested in shoving costs onto others than in seriously establishing principled private property rights.

In Bob's defense, he has written a paper on how a private law system would handle the current global warming evidence we've faced. I find it unacceptable (as I do Gene Callan's attempt to solve the economic calculation problem with protests), but we can save that for when it's publicly available. For now, I just want you to note Bob's prioritization: first, ridicule all attempts to define clear rights in the atmosphere. Then, much later, if ever, try to sort out what the libertarian position on atmospheric rights actually is. Oh, and support atmospheric socialism until a serious problem comes up.

17 comments:

Bob Murphy said...

I don't see any need to amend this statement. In fact, if we were having a trial, I would let you give my closing statement.

Just out of curiosity, what is your theory for why Gene is OK killing millions of people? Of course it makes sense why I'm doing it--I get paid to. But why is Gene doing it? His article in the Freeman isn't affecting gas prices one way or the other.

So not only is Gene evil, he is a serious strategic moron, right?

Silas Barta said...

Whenever you want to justify why you are horrified at eminent domain but perfectly okay with permanently submerging the homes of millions, I'll be glad to have that discussion.

The Blog God said...

Silas,

Keep up your attacks, you have fans you don't even know about. Gene and Booby need to be taught about truth, justice and honesty.

Gene Callahan said...

Blog God -- you are, in fact, Silas under another name, no?

Silas -- where have I ever written anything about "cheap oil"?

Bob Murphy said...

Whenever you want to justify why you are horrified at eminent domain but perfectly okay with permanently submerging the homes of millions, I'll be glad to have that discussion.

I'm procrastinating packing (road trip tomorrow), so why not? I'll bite, Silas. (Not to be confused with: "I'll bite Silas.")

Silas I have NEVER EVER EVER conceded that an outcome under any scenario with which I would be happy would involve the submersion of millions of homes. For one thing, in the real world, I think the IPCC consensus is wrong. I don't think carbon emissions will flood anybody's land this century.

But long ago we moved away from the real world, and under your rules, we are supposed to argue in reference to a parallel universe where the IPCC is correct. OK fine. Even here, as you well know, neither Gene nor I ever said, "Well damn, I guess those Bengalis had better learn the backstroke."

No, Gene and I have offered our thoughts on "how a free society would handle global warming." That word "handle" is important. It means, what do Gene and I think the free market would do to prevent the horrible outcomes you are so worried about.

Now maybe Gene and I are totally wrong. Fair enough. But then your criticism at best should be, "Gene and Bob are morons. They think they are going to avert these catastrophes but they are wrong. The Bengalis better hope people smarter than Gene and Bob implement policy."

But we have NEVER EVER EVER said anything remotely justifying your constant assertions that we are OK with millions of people being flooded, let alone because we want "cheap gas."

Now after you respond to these arguments, please also explain your theory as to Gene's motivation in all this. Again, it makes sense that you think I am consciously saying stupid things for a paycheck. But why is Gene doing it?

Silas Barta said...

@Gene: I know you won't believe me, as you didn't believe me when I remembered making the post I accused you of deleting, but Blog God is absolutely not me, and to be honest, he confuses me -- is he some guy trying to prod me to make even more extreme comments? I'm trying to figure out how to look up IP addresses for commenters right now.

As for your question: I don't believe you've specifically mentioned cheap oil anywhere, and neither has Bob. But rather, your philosophy has revealed where your priorities lie. In your Freeman essay, you showed you were willing to make a special, one-shot exemption from the economic calculation argument for the resource known as the atmosphere.

You argued that this cost can be sufficiently priced in via protests. In doing so (see the last link in the original post), you have basically rejected the economic calculation argument. If such an important, complex, rapidly-scarcening resource can be adequately valued by consumer boycotts, why not any other good? Why not replace all profit-driven valuation with public moral-suasion -driven valuation?

The lengths that you will go to in order to justify not making oil more expensive, in complete contravention of the rest of your libertarian philosophy, suffice as proof that you really rank cheap oil above the assignment of clear, principled private property rights.

Which disgusts me.

@Bob: You absolutely have stated that you are okay with people's land being permanently flooded. Every single "market solution" you have publicly listed involves the victims [1] (or charities for the victims) bearing the cost of getting themselves out of their mess. Rejecting the existence of any obligation on the part of anyone else to compensate them is equivalent to being okay with them being hurt that way.

Other than the "hah, get your own self out of your mess" "market solution" you've proposed, all that I've seen from you and Gene is, "hey! Look how government causes fossil fuels to be wasted!" BZZT The government not wasting them will just mean that oil will get eventually used to satsify a real consumer want, and I refuse to accept that you two don't see that.

Now as for my theory about what corrupted Gene ... I really think you're just asking that as a way to mock me, but on closer inspection, I think you deserve an answer. The answer is that I don't think any money was necessary to corrupt either of you. Rather, you two (wrongly) felt that you had to stay true to your past defenses of corporations that use oil, which were pretty reasonable given the stupidity back then of the people making them.

But now, you fail to appreciate the genuine scarcity that is arising now with the atmosphere (or at least in theory), which is perfectly parallel to the scarcity that arose in the agricultural revolution, when land was no longer superabundant, or the enclosure movement, where traditional rights to use the "commons" couldn't be sustained given the number of people who would be allowed to use that land. Thus, you are going to great depths to reject, reject, reject the prospect of any kind of property rights assignment that would lead to people paying more for the right to use oil. In fact, as far as I can tell, you refused to do any serious work (or even invoke someone else's work!) on what exactly the private property rights in the atmosphere should be.

So yes, you are doing MANY things that can only be explained by a VERY high priority on cheap oil over private property rights.

[1] Yes, Bob: VICTIMS. I know you think such a term is loaded, but the thing is, we don't even have to debate moral philosophy here. I don't need to promote some abstract, novel theory to justify the claim that the Bengals are victims. Even and especially if we go by ultra-Rothbardian neo-Lockean "sticky" private property rights, those Bengals are rightful homesteaders of that land and as such are entitle not to be kicked off, and therfore certainly not to be submerged without compensation from the people who submerged them, not their own funds!

Gene Callahan said...

"Gene: I know you won't believe me, as you didn't believe me when I remembered making the post I accused you of deleting, but Blog God is absolutely not me,"

I was joking about Blog God being you.

As far as not believing you about your comment -- well, that was because, as we all saw, you never did post such a comment! I quite believe that, perhaps, you wrote one up and then forgot to click on "submit," or something of the sort -- but that comment never appeared on our site for us to delete!

"As for your question: I don't believe you've specifically mentioned cheap oil anywhere, and neither has Bob. But rather, your philosophy has revealed where your priorities lie. In your Freeman essay, you showed you were willing to make a special, one-shot exemption from the economic calculation argument for the resource known as the atmosphere."

No, Silas, I don't really care at all about "cheap oil" -- I'm just trying to devise alternatives to the massive regulatory scheme many people are recommending as an answer to global warming. If my answers fell short of the mark, I apologize -- but why do you want to attribute that inadequacy to bad faith on my part, when it is so much more likely, "Well, Callahan tried his best to grapple with a tough problem, and came up short."

And consumers voluntarily shunning certain products is quite a part of the market process -- why do you think that has anything to do with the SCD?

Gene Callahan said...

You see, here's the thing, Silas -- I'm quite willing to believe that my ideas in The Freeman piece fell short of the mark -- they were simply the best ideas I could come up with, and I suspect they DO fall short of the mark -- and if you had merely said, "Gene, I don't think boycotts are adequate, and here's why..." we would have had a cordial discussion about this. BUT, when you add, "and they inadequate because you care more about cheap oil than drowned Bengalis," you've become personal and offensive -- and for no reason, that I can see. You can perfectly well criticize my ideas without also attributing evil motives to me!

Bob Murphy said...

Gene said:

As far as not believing you about your comment -- well, that was because, as we all saw, you never did post such a comment! I quite believe that, perhaps, you wrote one up and then forgot to click on "submit," or something of the sort -- but that comment never appeared on our site for us to delete!

Ahh, it all comes together now. Silas must have been using one of those new cordless mice when he tried to post the comment.

Silas, for the record, all the places where you say "is equivalent to" I disagree with.

But anyway, I think I can post my paper next week and then I can point you to specific things and ask, "So when I said that, how am I implying Bengalis will pay for it?"

(BTW we keep using a different plural--it's Bengalis, isn't it? I think Bengals is a sports team.)

Bob Murphy said...

Two more things and then I am not allowing myself to look at this again for another 18 hours:

(1) Gene, FWIW, I thought you were truly accusing Silas of posting as Blog God or whatever.

(2) Silas, amongst your fundamental misconceptions is the following: You keep saying I am against property rights in the atmosphere. No I am not. I am "against" (meaning I don't want government to implement it, and I don't predict anything like it would emerge in a worldwide an-cap civilization) having a specific market in CO2 emissions. I do not think that is the way the property bundles would be arranged.

It would be like back in the days of the tragedy of commons in pastureland, if someone said, "I think the government should issue permits entitling a cow to one bite of grass. And then ranchers can trade those permits with each other."

I would think that would be an asinine system. It doesn't mean I "oppose property titles in pastureland."

Are you starting to get it? You have decided that the answer must look a very certain way, and you are apparently incapable of seeing that a different arrangement of property titles might handle the situation. No drowned Bengalis, and at the same time, no separate market for carbon emissions (or cow-mouthfuls of grass).

Silas Barta said...

@Gene: I'm just trying to devise alternatives to the massive regulatory scheme many people are recommending ... why do you want to attribute that inadequacy to bad faith on my part, when it is so much more likely, "Well, Callahan tried his best to grapple with a tough problem, and came up short."

Okay, I went too far, and I apologize: you did refer to the customary rights, mentioning specifically the salmon extraction restrictions. But you're rejecting an obvious application of the "tradeable caps on salmon extract" as being an excessive regulatory regime. Why not, just the same, call it "beginning the process of clear definition of property rights"?

At the point where you deliberately avoid suggesting anything that would add to the obligations of those who use oil, you indicate a preference for cheap oil over defining clear rights.

And consumers voluntarily shunning certain products is quite a part of the market process -- why do you think that has anything to do with the SCD?

Yes, shunning is a part of the market process -- as long as it's *on top of* rights in the scarce resource in question. Imagine that there were no property rights in unharvested trees: that is, if anyone had the legal right to claim *any* tree he could cut or yank out of the ground, regardless of who owns the land it's on. Would you then say, "Don't worry, trees could *still* get accurately priced! Just boycott anyone who wastes timber!"

Of course not. You would recognize that entrepreneurs across the economy cannot get accurate timber prices without private property in planted trees.

Likewise, when you claim that shunning (a binary decision to buy one product with many inputs) can accurately signal entrepreneurs as to which resource uses are wasteful, a decision which requires also valuing the ends for which they'll be used, you are claiming it can work for all resources and thus pricing is not necessary. Hey, we can just have a free-for-all in resource accumulation, and then just shun those who are wasteful with the stuff they grabbed up!

***

In your defense, I probably should have already put these criticisms in one place and offered it as my critique of your essay, rather than accusing you based on my conclusions. I'd been meaning to make a post on it. But really, how far of an inferential jump did I make in any of that? How flimsy is my claim that you had to have mentioned tradeable carbon caps as a species of property right? That your "just shun!" solution generalizes to all resources, which (per the SCD) implies prices are unnecessary? That you are uninterested in any attempt to make the causers of flooding legally obligated to pay?

Silas Barta said...

@Bob: Silas, for the record, all the places where you say "is equivalent to" I disagree with.

Yes, you keep saying that. So, a group of people collectively cause 100 million other people to be permanently displaced via land submersion. Every solution you mention involves the 100 million fully bearing or begging the cost of this imposition. If that's not "equivalent to" being "okay" with them being hurt that way, words don't have meaning.

I'll look up the right Bengal/i term.

It would be like back in the days of the tragedy of commons in pastureland, if someone said, "I think the government should issue permits entitling a cow to one bite of grass. And then ranchers can trade those permits with each other." I would think that would be an asinine system. ...

You have decided that the answer must look a very certain way, and you are apparently incapable of seeing that a different arrangement of property titles


Not true. I accept that a different outcome can be the right one -- so long as it follows the constraint that those *causing* the Bengals to be screwed over should have to pay. And if you notice, in all the innovative, non-asinine commons solutions (like traditional access rights before population was too high) if you took beyond what the system could handle, *you suffered a penalty*.

But every solution you propose lets the people causing the problem to begin with, to walk away with impunity. Therein lies the problem. And therein lies the basis for claiming you reject property rights in the atmosphere: any such rights would have, you know, an actual penalty for violating.

Gene Callahan said...

"Okay, I went too far, and I apologize: you did refer to the customary rights, mentioning specifically the salmon extraction restrictions."

Well, thank you, Silas. I'm sure my piece WAS inadequate -- I did the best I could to devise libertarian solutions to the problem of AGW at the request of The Freeman's editor. To whatever extent I failed to cope with the issue adequately, it was a result of limited time and limited ingenuity, and not because i had sold out to bog oil!

Gene Callahan said...

Of course, I meant "big oil," not "bog oil"!

Bob Murphy said...

Gene said:

Of course, I meant "big oil," not "bog oil"!

An obvious Freudian slip. How much is bog oil paying you, Gene, and how much does Big Bog stand to lose under cap & trade?

Bob Murphy said...

Silas,

I'll post my paper the next time my laptop is online (I have it with me at my parents' house, but right now I'm using their computer).

It will make more sense for me to answer your criticisms where I can point to a page number and say, "How in the heck does this require money from the Bengalis?" But to anticipate, I'm going to point to the real estate tycoons buying call options and the insurance companies. I imagine Bengali coastlines are not the most valuable things to be destroyed by rising water, and so I don't think they are going to do most of the paying. It will instead be rich people living in Florida and California.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This is just like the old days at ASC! Now all we need is Paul Birch trotting out a very technical argument to the effect that since the demand for energy is effectively pretty inelastic, the only viable solution is for Queen Bessie to own all the atmosphere!

Bob, may I ask a question? What government-based solution to the problem would you find acceptable, in lieu of the unlikelihood of a truly market-based one in the forseeable future?

Silas, may I ask a question? What solution do see to the very real possibility that socialists and eco-nutzis would take advantage of any government-based approach, and thus do grave damage to property right?

RacerX