Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D
www.igc.org/gadfly

HOME PAGE                             
                                                   

The Gadfly's Blog

Editorials 
    Philosophy and Religion
    Ethics, Moral Issues, the Law
    The Environment
    Economics
    Education
    Science

On Politics
    The Crisis
    Foreign Relations, War, Peace
    The Media
    The Elections
    Civil Liberties a& Dissent
    Republicans & the Right
    Democrats & the Left
    Lies, Propaganda & Corruption
    Culture War & Religious Right
    Coup d'Etat, 2000

Published Papers

Unpublished Papers

Reviews, Lectures, etc.    

Internet Publications

Lecture Topics

Conscience of a Progressive
    (A Book in Progress)

Rawls and the Duty to Posterity
    (Doctoral Dissertation)

 

The Ecology Project

For Environmental Educators

The Russian Environment

NO MO PO MO
    (Critiques of Post Modernism)

Notes from the Brink
    (Peace Studies)

 

The Gadfly's Bio Sketch

The Gadfly's Publications

The Online Gadfly: Editorial Policy

A Roster of Environmental Ethicists
 


The Gadfly's E-Mail: gadfly@igc.org


Classical Guitar:
"The Other Profession
"

 

 

 

Conscience of a Progressive

Ernest Partridge


Chapter Eight

Privatization and Public Goods



In colonial Philadelphia, firefighters were employed by private insurance companies which, of course, had financial incentives to minimize damage to their clients’ properties. Plaques with the insurance company’s insignia were placed on buildings, so that the fire fighters would know whether or not it was their “business” to put out the fires on the premises. (These plaques are often found today in antique shops). If the “wrong” plaque was on the building, well, that was just tough luck. Of course, with their attention confined to a single building, fire fighters were ill-disposed to prevent a spreading of the fire to adjacent “non-client” structures.

Occasionally, when the building’s insurance affiliation was in some doubt, competing fire companies would fight each other for the privilege of putting out the fire, resulting in more water aimed at fire fighters than at burning buildings.

Eventually, the absurdity and outright danger of this system led one prominent Philadelphia citizen to come up with the idea of a publicly funded and administered fire department.

His name was Benjamin Franklin: America’s first anti-free-enterprise commie pinko nut-case.

Franklin’s subversive left-wing ideas were extended to include libraries, post offices, and public schools, and, if we are to believe some of today’s regressives, it’s been downhill ever since.1

These regressives contend that virtually all economic and social institutions are better managed when privatized and unregulated. According to this libertarian theory, the greed (i.e., “profit motive”) of investing private individuals is, in virtually all cases, mystically transformed into the optimum public good. The exceptions are the police, the military, the courts and the legislatures which, they concede, are properly confined to “the public sector.”2

However, today even these exceptions are succumbing to “creeping privatization,” as the hyphen in “military-industrial complex” dissolves, as members of Congress are clearly more beholden to their corporate sponsors (“contributors”) than to their constituents, and as “conservative” judges routinely rule that corporate “property rights” trump personal injury suits and civil liberties.

Critics such as William Greider3 charge that the Bush Administration and the conservative Republicans wish to take America back to the days of William McKinley. It appears that they have miscalculated by more than a century. Instead, it seems that the right-wing ideologues in charge of our government, want to take us back to the days before Benjamin Franklin. (As an added bonus, this would be before the American Revolution, and those troublesome documents, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.) So now that Ben Franklin’s socialist dispositions have come to light, surely these regressives will propose that William McKinley’s image replace that of Franklin on the $100 bill.

But is it just possible that old Ben Franklin had a point? Are we not all better off now that the fire department doesn’t look first for the insurance medallion on our homes before they turn on the hoses? Isn’t the function of the military to defend the country – all of us, rich and poor, male and female, white and “other” – from foreign enemies, rather than enrich the industries that supply the armed forces? And shouldn’t the members of Congress represent the public at large, and not the private corporations and individuals that finance their campaigns?


Are there Public Goods?

The issue turns on the question of whether or not there are such things as “public goods” and “public interests” – in fact, on whether there is such a thing as a “public” (or “society”) at all. Dame Margaret Thatcher, Ronnie Reagan’s favorite Brit, apparently didn’t think so when she famously wrote “There is no such thing as society, there are only individuals and families.”4

Earlier in this book (primarily in Chapter Five) I have argued emphatically that there are public goods and that a “society” is more than the sum of its component individuals. As noted above, fire protection is clearly a public good, since fires are without conscience and completely oblivious to the concept of property or property boundaries. As further evidence of the existence of “public goods” and (contra Thatcher) “society,” consider a parable.

Two communities are situated on opposite banks of a great river: on the right bank is “Randville,” and on the left bank is “Rawlsburg.” Randville5 is populated entirely by libertarians – rugged individualists all, who shun “collective” activity and who assume full responsibility for their personal safety, welfare and property. “Rawlsburg”6 is comprised of individuals who are properly covetous of their personal rights, yet fully aware of the desirability of promoting public goods and of acting collectively in the face of common emergencies.

News arrives at both communities from (gulp!) a government bureau, that a great flood is approaching from upstream. The citizens of Randville immediately get to work piling sandbags around each of their individual dwellings. Across the river in Rawlsburg, brigades of citizens are hard at work building a levee around the entire town.

Come the flood, the puny separate efforts of the rugged Randville individualists prove to be futile, while the substantial communal levee surrounding Rawlsburg holds firm and the community is spared.

“Now hold on!,” the libertarian retorts. “Surely, faced with this common emergency, the folks at Randville would volunteer to build a levee. That’s just common sense.”

Very well, but what about those Randvillians who say: “you guys go right ahead and build that levee. I’d rather stay at home – I have other priorities.” Surely the good libertarians wouldn’t want to force anyone to contribute to the common defense!

And so we have the well-known “free rider problem,” whereby an individual gains unearned and cost-free advantage from the labor of others. A profound injustice on the face of it. The solution? What else than to coerce a contribution to the common effort, either by labor or, failing that, cash assessments.

In other words, taxes.

So it comes to this: The only way for the Randvillians to deal with “the free riders” is to coerce labor on the levees, or assess taxes in lieu of labor. They must do so in behalf (are you ready for this?) of the “common good” of the community-as-a-whole. Just as the Rawlsburgers are doing across the river.

The free rider problem exemplifies a larger conundrum which we explored in the previous chapters: the tragedy of the commons. One additional voluntary laborer at the levee will not save the town, so the rational egoist might just as well stay at home and let the other “suckers” do the work for him. (“Good for each, bad for all”). Yet he might willingly, even enthusiastically, pitch in if he appreciated that all citizens were required to do so, since this requirement might assure a successful defense of the town from the oncoming flood. (“Bad for each, good for all”). “Mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon,” Garret Hardin calls it. In other words, government. And if we must have government, then by all means let it be a democratic government, under rule of law, and protective of the rights of all citizens. The sort of thing that our founding fathers had in mind when they ratified the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

To the contrary, the libertarian doctrine behind the radical right-wing declares that government is “the enemy” – that the free market and the self-interested use of private property will, via Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” invariably result in the best result for society at large. Good for each, good for all; bad for each, bad for all.

The Randville and Rawlsburg example is a fictitious thought-experiment. If it seems far-fetched, then forget Randville and think New Orleans, August, 2005.

And consider next two cases that are quite real.

In April, 2003, California Governor Gray Davis requested $430 million in federal funds to reduce the fire hazard in the southern California forests. The request was ignored until, on October 24, George Bush rejected it.7  A few hours later, “the Old Fire” broke out in the San Bernardino mountains, followed by several more fires, eventually consuming three quarter of a million acres and 3577 homes, and causing 22 fatalities.

This particular disaster struck close to home – precisely 150 feet close to my home, where the fire was stopped at my property line. “The Old Fire” almost surrounded the cluster of houses in our neighborhood, and only the combined, coordinated and professional effort of the US forest Service and the state and local firefighters saved our homes. Several days earlier the county Sheriff ordered us off the mountain while these “big government bureaucracies” did their work – magnificently.8   

Presumably, the method preferred by the libertarians would have been to de-fund the government fire-control agencies and then to leave it to each of us individual property owners to take a valiant stand by our individual homes, garden hoses in hand. Who can doubt that had we tried that, all our houses would have been reduced to ashes and many of us would have ended up as “crispy critters.”

In his 2000 debate with Al Gore, George Bush said "I think you can spend your money more wisely than the federal government can." In November, 2003, all of us San Bernardino mountaineers – democrats, republican, independents – were convinced, contrary to George Bush, that “the government” spent our money better than we could.

One final example: Had the December, 2004 tsunami occurred in the Pacific Ocean instead of the Indian Ocean, the death toll would have been much lower. This is because there is an international tsunami warning system in place in the Pacific, and following the earthquake that triggered it, populations around the Pacific rim would have had advance warning from several minutes to several hours. (In deep water, tsunami waves travel up to 500 mph, and much slower near shore). Because there is no such system in the Indian Ocean, the December 26 tsunami struck without warning.

An international tsunami warning system, and the scientific research and development behind it, is clearly beyond the resources or the incentives of private individuals, or even of corporations. Only governments are capable of such an undertaking. And governments are singularly authorized for such an undertaking, for public safety is not an exclusively private matter, it is, as they say “in the public interest.”

The role of government in protecting the lives and property of its citizens, one of the sole legitimate functions of government recognized by the libertarians, is universally acknowledged in civilized societies, as it was in the United States until, apparently, January 2001. No longer. The policy of the Bush government is to cut the FEMA funds and put a political hack in charge, send the National Guard to Iraq, and slash the funding for the New Orleans levees. And if you don’t like it, private citizen, here’s a shovel and a sand bag, now get to work!

Just remember, to the Busheviks and the GOP, “government is not the solution, government is the problem.” And so, after our government has been drowned in Grover Norquist’s bathtub, we will all be on our own in George Bush’s “ownership society.”

Well that’s just fine if you happen to be one of the fortunate 1% who has “invested” in the GOP and Bush campaign juggernaut, and are thus the beneficiary of Bush’s tax cuts and deregulation. If not, then you are out in the cold – or if you are poor and in New Orleans, stuck in the toxic soup.

So why did Michael Brown, the former horse-trader and subsequent Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, allow FEMA to fail so spectacularly? Simply because he was not appointed to manage emergencies. He was appointed to dismantle the Agency – one of many Busheviks selected to “starve the beast” of government bureaucracy.

Michael Brown, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, and their sort failed to function as public servants because, as true Randvillians, they believe that “there is no such entity as ‘the public.’” There are only individuals responsible for their own personal welfare. And so, when the storm approached, the sole responsibility of government, they believed, was to tell the citizens to “get out of town, now!” No further thought as to how these individuals were to manage their exit – and so the school buses and the army trucks remained idle as the waters rise. No thought about how those who are trapped in the city were to be fed, sheltered, and protected. That was their misfortune. They were “on their own.” Government? It’s “the problem,” not a solution.

In contrast, Rawlsburgers, who readily recognize the existence of public goods and public interest, know how to work together in the common interest. In the spirit of our founders and their Declaration, they establish and support an institution, government, to act in behalf of this public, “deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.” Then they put government agencies in the hands of qualified and dedicated individuals, like Bill Clinton’s brilliant FEMA Administrator James Lee Witt, who anticipated disasters, prevented them whenever possible, and who planned and then implemented contingency plans when disaster struck. When the disaster was imminent and foreseeable, as was the case with Hurricane Katrina, rapid response facilities were assembled close to the affected area, prepared to take action at the earliest opportunity.

All this requires personnel, equipment and cash appropriations – personnel and equipment that Bush preferred to deploy in Iraq, and cash that Bush chose instead to give as tax “relief” to his super-wealthy sponsors.

Adaptability that is “reality based” – founded upon scientific information and practical experience – is the hallmark of intelligence, and of effective and just governance. But the Busheviks, openly contemptuous of “reality based” policies are immobilized by their Randvillian dogmas and by the dictates of their corporate “stockholders.” Thus they cannot adapt.

For proof, look to New Orleans and the Gulf coast.
 

Privatizing Nature9

The absurdity of uncompromising privatism and market absolutism is on full display when applied to environmental policy.

According to the libertarians, all environmental problems derive from common ownership of such natural resources as pasturage, fisheries, and even air, water and wildlife. The solution? Privatization of all such resources. Does this sound extreme? Consider the following from Robert J. Smith (my emphases):

“The problems of environmental degradation, pollution, overexploitation of natural resources, and depletion of wildlife all derive from their being treated as common property resources. Whenever we find an approach to the extension of private property rights in these areas, we find superior results.”10

The environmental devastation in the former communist countries, the libertarians argue, proves the rule: that which is the property of everyone (i.e., the state) is the responsibility of no one. In contrast, they argue, resources will be best protected when the costs of environmental degradation fall upon the property owner. Accordingly, when the environment and its resources are privately owned, there is no need to urge the owners to practice "good ecological citizenship" for abstract altruistic reasons or through the threat of government sanctions. Instead, the libertarian believes, self interest and economic incentives will suffice to motivate the property owner to maximize the long-term value of his property.


Pollution and Property Rights: But if privatization motivates the owner to protect the environmental quality of his own property, what is to keep him from polluting and degrading the property of others - especially in the absence of government regulation, which the libertarians detest? The answer, in a word, is the courts -- in libertarian theory, one of the few acceptable institutions of government.

Recall that the right to property is one of the three inviolate "natural rights" of the libertarian. It follows that pollution is an invasion of one's property and even of one's person, and thus punishable as an illegal violation of personal property rights. Accordingly, would-be polluters are restrained by the threat of suit by the injured property owner. Furthermore, as Tibor Machan concludes, "any pollution which would most likely lead to harm being done to persons who have not consented to being put at risk of such harm would have to be legally prohibited.”11

That, in brief, is how the libertarians propose to deal with nature and environmental quality. Let’s see now how it stands up to close scrutiny.


First of all, the Libertarian "minimalist state," designed to protect fundamental rights of "life, liberty and property," may not be all that 'minimalist.' To the libertarians, the only legitimate function of government is to protect life, liberty and property -- which is to say, the only legitimate public institutions are the military, the police, and the courts. But the boundaries of even these functions are not clearly defined, nor do the full implications of these "rights" end where the libertarians might expect. Arguably, the maintenance of "civic friendship" and the "well ordered society," promoted by such liberal contractarian theorists as John Rawls, falls under the libertarian criteria. For it may be the case that "life, liberty and property," can be secured only if society is "well-ordered," and "civic friendship" obtains; that is, when the critical mass of citizens recognize their common stake in a "shared fate," when, in a word, they have a well-founded loyalty to their contract-state. But such a society must be a community as described by progressive theory, and not the aggregate of "utility maximizing egoists," envisioned by the free-market libertarians. After all, how secure are "life, liberty and property" in the failed communities of Bosnia and Ulster and the shattered nation of Iraq? Wealth can be acquired and maintained only in a system wherein the most and the least advantaged share a communal loyalty in the social-economic system under which that wealth was acquired. Such a system would presumably contain "social safety nets" to ensure a minimal amount of support and care for the least fortunate. In addition, the system might be expected to support education, art and culture, so that all citizens might acquire a shared loyalty to community values. Otherwise, the least advantaged may no longer feel that they have a stake in the system, whereupon the wealth of the advantaged may become vulnerable to revolution. Thus, "through the back door" of enlightened self interest, returns the "welfare state" that the libertarians believed they had evicted through the front door. In short, it is not at all clear that the "minimal state" required to secure the libertarian rights to life, liberty and property is all that "minimal." In fact, the progressive would insist, his activist government agenda must be adopted if these libertarian rights are to be secure.


Libertarianism is a "Master Morality." One of the books of the late libertarian economist and Nobel Prize winner, Milton Friedman, is titled "Free to Choose."12  That title reflects the libertarian conviction that the ideal state is one that enshrines the principle that the individual is the best judge of his own welfare, and that the welfare of all will be best realize through an exchange of personal and private "preferences" in the free market and through the assured security of one's life, liberty and property.

The system sounds just fine for those with a super-abundance of wealth and power. But what of all the others in society? Not to worry, say the libertarians. Citing Adam Smith, the libertarian assures us that the enterprising entrepreneur who "intends only his own gain" will, in the course of maximizing his satisfactions, be "led by an invisible hand to promote... the public interest."13  "The invisible hand" metaphor has familiar variants, such as "the rising tide that lifts all boats" and "the trickle down effect". (As we noted earlier, those who celebrate the "trickling down" of wealth from the most to the least advantaged, seem disinclined to notice that wealth also "percolates up" from the labor of the less advantaged, and from public adherence to a "well ordered" system of justice). By invoking, through "the invisible hand" and "the rising tide," the advantage to all which accrues from the self-motivated search for private wealth by each, the libertarian conveniently (if temporarily and inconsistently) puts aside his "social atomism" in favor of an ad hoc theory of an integrated system of society.

In response to Milton Friedman's celebration of the "freedom to choose," one is immediately led to ask: "freedom of whom to 'choose' -- and at whose expense?" Given the libertarian's uncompromising fidelity to property rights and his faith in the free market, those with property and with the wealth to enter the market have the "freedom to choose," in direct proportion to their wealth. And at whose expense? Presumably, those without the tickets (i.e., cash) to enter the marketplace or to own property. This would include the very young, the very poor, other species, ecosystems, and future generations.. Thus it would appear that the libertarian morality embraces the cynic's version of "the golden rule:" "Those with the gold, get to rule."14


The Problem of the Irreducible Commons. Recall that in his classical 1968 essay, "The Tragedy of the Commons,"15 Garrett Hardin describes an overstocked pasture used by several herdsmen, but owned by no one in particular (i.e., "in common"). The addition of one sheep to the commons enriches its owner at the expense of all the other herdsmen. So long as there is no collective regulation on the use of the commons, no initiative by an individual will save the commons as each herdsman "rationally" chooses to "get what he can, while he can." The result is inexorable: "ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons."

The strength of Hardin’s essay resides in its enormous scope of application. "The tragedy of the commons" explains the depletion of the Atlantic Grand Banks fisheries east of Canada and the United States. It also explains the pollution of common waterways and airsheds, the loss of biodiversity, uncontrolled population growth, and global warming. In all these cases and many more, a common resource is exploited and diminished as benefit to each individual exacts costs on unconsenting others. Good for each, bad for all.

The converse rule, “bad for each, good for all,” is exemplified by the payment of taxes for the support of social and governmental services. The libertarian, in disregard of this rule, regards taxation as “theft.” On the other hand, while fully aware that taxes can be levied unjustly and that tax revenues can be squandered, the progressive agrees with Justice Holmes: “taxation is the price we pay for civilization.”

The tragedy of the commons strikes at the very heart of libertarianism. It is the polar opposite of the cheerful optimism of "the invisible hand," whereby the self-serving "utility maximization" of each leads to advantages to all. In contrast, the tragedy of the commons is "the back of the invisible hand" -- the falling tide that grounds all boats -- whereby advantages sought by each systematically and inexorably work to the disadvantage of all. And as we argued in the preceding chapters, the tragedy is unquestionably widespread and endemic to modern society. Gone is the Thatcherite social atomism. And gone with it is the impermeable boundary, essential to libertarian theory, between "my business" and "your business."


The Privatization Ploy. Hardin endorses the progressive remedy: "mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon"16 - which means, primarily, regulation and control by a legitimate democratic government. However, as we have seen, government interference is anathema to the libertarians. Instead, they propose privatization and legal compensation for damages. We will consider the latter remedy, "courts and torts," shortly. How plausible, then, is the privatization remedy?

In many cases, privatization is clearly the ideal remedy for the commons problem. When, in the American West, the common "open range" was fenced and privatized, the costs of over-exploitation fell upon the owners. (In the technical language of economics, the previous "externalities" were "internalized"). Accordingly, it then became economically prudent for the owners to protect their "land capital" to assure sustainable income. Recent Russian history confirms this conclusion: as the Soviet era came to a close, the peasants' private lots were consistently far more productive than were the collective farms.

The libertarian's error resides in their proposal that privatization, which is clearly the correct solution for some commons problems, is to be prescribed for all commons problems. Like Maslow's carpenter who believes that all problems can be solved with a hammer, libertarians insist that all commons problems can be fixed with the "hammer" of privatization. Accordingly, they propose the abolition of all national parks, and the privatization of all public lands and utilities, including roads and airports -- everything, that is, except the military, the police and the courts. And in the Iraq war, many traditional functions of the military have been privatized. Presumably, this means that such universal "commonses" as the atmosphere and the oceans are to be carved up and sold to the highest bidder. Not even wildlife is to be allowed to remain free and unowned. Is this an unfair caricature of the libertarian position? Consider the argument of Robert J. Smith who suggests that the absence of privatization explains "why the buffalo nearly vanished, but not the Hereford; ... why the common salmon fisheries of the United States are overfished, but not the private salmon streams of Europe."17  His solution? "We should explore the possibilities of extending ownership of native game animals and wildlife to property owners."18

Critics of libertarianism find no end of amusement pointing out the inadequacies of the libertarians' "hammer." How, for example, are we to "privatize" the whaling industry? Are we to "brand" the whales, to validate the ownership of each? And what if "my whale" feeds on "your” krill, which you purchased (from whom?) to feed "your” whales? What courts must we set up to assess damages? What agency will be set up to collect the facts germane to the case, and how is it to be financed? Furthermore, the privatization of oceanic resources suggests that "territories" of ocean will have to be established, which means the end of the centuries-old convention of non-sovereignty of the seas. What country will be the first to claim the North Atlantic, along with the Gulf Stream? If the United States, will Great Britain and Scandinavia then have to pay the US for the use of the Gulf Stream's climatic services? If, as many climate scientist fear, the Gulf Stream fails,19 leading to an ice age in Northern Europe, will the Europeans have standing to sue the “owners” of the Gulf Stream Will the nations of the world accede to this "sea grab" without protest? The military implications are awesome.

If we privatize wildlife, then will the owner of the wild insects that pollinate my orchard be entitled to charge me for this service? If someone's flock of migrating birds soils my clothing or pollutes my swimming pool, how am I to locate the responsible owner? The mind boggles.

There is worse to come: can we conceivably "privatize" the atmosphere, and with it the hydrological cycle? If so, then who is liable for El Nino or Hurricane Katrina? If I own a "piece" of the atmosphere, is this a defined space, or is it the migrating clouds and molecules within. How is the "owner" to make his claim?

Total privatization of the earth is a fantasy -- a reductio ad absurdum, charitably supplied to the critics by the libertarians themselves. The atmosphere, the seas, wildlife, and innumerable ecological services both known and undiscovered, are now and will forever be the "common property" of mankind, not to mention the other species of the earth. And since "privatization" of land and resources can never be the total and final solution to the commons problem, there remains the libertarians' alternative proposal: legal compensation for invasion of property. If that is found to fail, then governmental regulation, endorsed by the progressives and detested by the libertarians, may be the only remaining solution to "the tragedy of the commons."


The Torts and Courts Solution.

Martin Anderson, a former Reagan administration official writes that "just as one does not have the right to drop a bag of garbage on his neighbor's lawn, so does one not have the right to place any garbage in the air or the water or the earth, if it in any way violates the property rights of others." (Anderson) Accordingly, the libertarians contend, "all" problems of environmental pollution can be interpreted as assaults upon another private individual’s person or property, and thus can be controlled through the injured citizens' recourse to the courts. Unfortunately, there is overwhelming evidence that this remedy, however appealing in theory, will not succeed in practice. Experience has shown, time and again, that the unfortunate victims of the negligence of other persons or of corporations are simply unable to make their case, however just, for the following reasons:


Contributory Assault: My home and primary work place is in the San Bernardino mountains, east of Los Angeles. While the air quality here is much better than most other places in Southern California, the westerly winds regularly bring Los Angeles air through my property and into my lungs. (Until the state and federal governments enforced regulations, the air quality in Los Angeles was the worst in the United States). Another autobiographical fact is relevant to this discussion: thirty years ago I threw out my pipes and tobacco, and never smoked again.

Suppose, in another five years, I am diagnosed with lung cancer. The doctors then tell me that after thirty-five years without a draw on my pipe or a drag on a cigarette, my former smoking habit is an unlikely cause. More likely, I have been victimized by southern California air - in particular, the exhaust fumes from some twenty-million automobiles.

According to the libertarians, my property and person have been illegally assaulted, and I am entitled to compensation for my injury. Moreover, they assure us, comparable rights of compensation of all citizens, combined with a system of civil courts, will suffice to put an end to all environmental pollution.

If the courts are to be my remedy, then which one of the twenty million automobile owners am I to sue for the damage to my health from air pollution? Which molecule from which car was "the last straw" that mutated the fatal cell? Finally, how can we be sure "beyond a reasonable doubt" that my pipe smoking was not the cause? Because these questions are unanswerable, it appears that there is no hope that I will be compensated.

Perhaps I should sue all the drivers – after all, my compensation award divided by twenty million will not amount to a hardship to any of these drivers. But I am not the only victim, so that assessment will have to be multiplied by the number of authenticated "plaintiffs."

So here's a suggestion: require each driver to pay an "insurance premium" with his driver's license, the proceeds of which will be used to treat and compensate victims of air pollution, just as mandatory auto insurance is used to compensate vehicle accident victims. Unfortunately, unlike accident victims, those who are injured by air pollution can not assign cause to any particular defendants. Accordingly, the "premiums" will have to be collected and the payments disbursed by an independent and impartial agency - the government, of course. Finally, a small semantic correction: call those "premiums" by their right name - "taxes." Voila! The liberal/progressive solution, disparaged by libertarians and “conservatives” as "socialized medicine!"

It gets worse. In 2003 I lost eight of the ponderosa pine trees on my property, due to an infestation of bark beetles that killed up to a million ponderosas in the San Bernardino mountains. The probable cause, according to most (government supported) scientific research, was a prolonged drought in the region.20   The cause of the drought is less certain, though many climatologists attribute it to anthropogenic climate change ("global warming"). Who am I to sue for compensation for the loss of those trees? The fossil fuel companies that extracted the coal, oil and natural gas that was consumed to produce the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide? The municipalities that purchased the fuel to feed the power plants? The individual automobile and truck owners? While there is a scientific consensus that the climate is changing, due to a significant degree to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, the cause of this particular drought in this particular region, and its responsibility for the loss of the ponderosa pines in the San Bernardino mountains does not meet the legal probability threshold sufficient to justify compensation. So once again, the libertarian solution of "courts and torts" fails.


The Statistical Casualty: In the 1950s and early 1960s, the US Atomic Energy Commission conducted atmospheric atomic tests in the western state of Nevada, resulting in significant radioactive fallout in the southern part of the adjacent state of Utah. Two decades later, there was an alarming increase in lung and thyroid cancers among the residents of southern Utah - primarily ranchers and farmers, whose Mormon religion forbids the use of tobacco.21

Repeated suits against the United States government failed, due to the following problem of "the statistical casualty." While epidemiological studies determined beyond reasonable doubt that there was a known percentage rise in the incidence of cancer, and thus a known number of excess cases, no particular cancer patient could be known to be a victim of the fallout. Even non-smokers contract lung cancer, albeit rarely, from natural background radiation and other sources. Thus, while it was virtually certain that there were hundreds of victims of the fallout, no particular individual victim could be identified. And that degree of doubt sufficed to free the government of liability. As we shall see, the same legal strategy has prevented all citizen-plaintiffs from winning a single compensation suit against the tobacco industry, though the US government has estimated that up to a half million individuals die each year from smoking related diseases.


The Burden of Proof:  Because of these considerations and others (e.g., synergisms, threshold effects, time-lag effects, etc.),  painfully real injuries, diseases, and premature deaths are routinely generated by causes, the evidence for which falls far short of the legal burden of proof. Nor can this problem be remedied simply by lowering the threshold of the burden of proof, for this would open the floodgates of frivolous and meritless suits, undermining, among other rights, the libertarians' cherished right of property.

The history of the tobacco industry in the United States offers an instructive lesson as to the efficacy of libertarians' private lawsuit ("torts") response to a public health menace.

In 1962, the US Surgeon General, Dr. Luther Terry, released the first report from his office on smoking and health. In the intervening decades, as an enormous body of evidence has accumulated, there has been little doubt among the scientific community about the validity of warnings of Dr. Terry and of all his successors. Millions of American citizens have had their lives cut short by tobacco-induced diseases, while the industry, exercising its free market privileges, has invested millions more in advertising and promotion to successfully lure still more victims.

During these decades, hundreds of victims of the tobacco industry have sued for compensation. And as we have noted, not a single individual plaintiff has won a case against the industry. Finally, after more than three decades of complete failure, the libertarian individual tort remedy was discarded and the problem of the statistical casualty sidestepped, as a consortium of state Attorneys General, led by Mississippi’s Michael Moore, achieved a multi-billion dollar settlement from the tobacco companies. The plaintiffs in these cases were not individual smokers, but rather the states which had to pay increased medical costs to the “class” of smokers.

Similarly, the air that I breathe at my southern California mountain home is significantly cleaner now than it was a generation ago, and not because of successful law suits by citizens and property owners against the polluters. Instead, the progressive’s remedy has been applied as air quality has been improved through the laws and regulations issuing from the state of California's Air Quality Management District, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency: in short, through Garrett Hardin's "mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon." Aside from a few uncompromising libertarians of my acquaintance, I know of no fellow Californians who would have it any other way.


An unequal and hence unfair apportionment of risks. A risk that might be acceptable to an entrepreneur can put an innocent and unconsenting public at unacceptable and unjust risk.

Suppose, for example, that a developer correctly calculated that by building a dam, he had a 95% chance of becoming enormously wealthy - so long as the dam did not fail. However, there was a 5% chance that the dam would fail, which would provoke law suits that would surely bankrupt him, and possibly earn him a prison sentence. Many venturesome capitalists would find this to be a quite acceptable risk. However, that same venture would put the lives and property of thousands of downstream citizens in peril, with no appreciable advantage accruing to them if the dam were built. Clearly, it would be unjust for the developer to proceed with his project. But what is to prevent him from doing so? The threat of suit? As we have seen, he has already considered this and found it to be an insufficient deterrent. In the libertarian state, with government regulation abolished, there remains no further deterrent to this threat against the innocent and unconsenting citizens.

The case is more than hypothetical, for it precisely describes innumerable historic cases. Lifeboats for the full ship's complement of the Titanic were regarded by the White Star line as an unwarranted expense, given the unlikelihood that ship would sink. The result of this disproportion of risk to investors and to passengers is known to all. Prior to the crash of 1929, the risk of bank failure to the stockholders was not proportional to the risk of the depositors. So too the risks to sellers and to buyers, of selling tainted food and untested drugs. Once again, the progressive brings forth a proven remedy for these disproportionate risks – a remedy detested by the regressives: inspection and regulation by a disinterested third party, namely the government, backed up by the force of law and the prospect of fine and imprisonment.


A Reactive rather than a Proactive strategy. The disproportionate burdens of risk, just discussed, have led to the establishment of pure food and drug laws, of traffic safety regulations, of inspection and regulation by bank and insurance commissions, of building and constructions codes. All these and innumerable additional examples of "big government interference" exemplify yet another essential advantage of the progressive program of government regulation over the libertarian alternative of private suits for damages: the private libertarian solution is reactive, while the progressive public approach is proactive. Private interests lack both the resources and the inclination to anticipate disasters and hazards before they occur. Again, the case of the tobacco industry is instructive. Federal investigations of company documents leaked by “whistleblowers” have confirmed what critics have long suspected: tobacco industry "research" has acted more to hide and obscure than to reveal the health consequences of smoking.

As children, we have all been taught that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Even so, it is difficult to assess the value of proactive policies, since it is difficult to acquire statistics on accidents that do not happen, and persons not killed or injured, due to effective preventive policies. Difficult, but not impossible. The contrast in public health and safety, and in environmental quality, before and after the introduction of government regulation further validates the progressive agenda, while it offers strong refutation to the libertarian's assurance that "the free market" and enforcement of property rights are the best means of protecting the public and the natural environment.


The enforcement of the "torts approach" would require the "big government" endorsed by the progressives and detested by the Libertarians. In place of "government" (which libertarian philosopher John Hospers describes as "the most dangerous institution known to man"), the libertarians would delegate the task of protecting property rights to the courts. But is this a distinction with a difference? Aren't "the courts" an arm of the government? And what assurance do we have that courts of law won't be a tyrannical as "the government" that is so distrusted by libertarians?

Whether more or less tyrannical, these courts are not likely to be significantly less extensive, intrusive and bureaucratic than the government agencies that they will presumably replace. To illustrate this point, consider again my home in the California mountains.

Suppose a noxious cloud passes through my property, killing the trees in my back yard/  How am I to find the culprit responsible, so that I may be compensated for these damages? Presumably, I must hire a forest botanist and a chemist and numerous additional experts to validate my claim. And if some upwind industry becomes the prime suspect, it will, no doubt, collect a committee of its own "experts." (My financial resources and those of the firm will be hopelessly mismatched - but let that pass). How is this clash of experts to be adjudicated, unless some agency has previously set up independent standards that can be applied to this court case, and others like it?

Similarly, suppose that I have decided to heat my house with a wood stove. How am I to know beforehand that I will be safe from a pollution suit by my neighbors - since, by hypothesis, our libertarian government has abolished all those "dictatorial" clean air standards? Clearly "the courts" will have to define, in detail, acceptable and non-acceptable effluent standards, based on extensive scientific research. And all this will all have to be done in advance of any suit against me. Otherwise, the suit would be ex post facto, and thus legally invalid. Similar questions arise with claims of damages due to food poisoning, unsafe drugs, vehicle malfunction, etc.

The implication is clear: the libertarian reformers, having disbanded the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and other "big government" regulatory and research agencies, will have to re-establish them if the courts are to function under the enormously expanded burden of responsibility handed to them by the libertarians. In point of fact, the libertarian scheme of "pollution control through the tort laws" does not eliminate government, since it requires a reliable government to codify and defend personal and property rights.


To sum up: No one can doubt that many governments have proven to be "dangerous" and tyrannical. But libertarians would have us believe that all governments, per se, are not to be trusted - that "the best government is no government." That claim requires an argument. American history teaches us that because the founders of our government were very suspicious of the powers and abuses of the state, they first attempted, under the Articles of Confederation, the sort of minimalist government that the libertarians might endorse – a government that failed. Following that they tried again, this time with a system of "checks and balances" that separated the powers of government, and then they completed their task with a "Bill of Rights" that explicitly stated limits on the powers of the government over its citizens. Ultimately, the sovereignty over that government resides in the voting public (or at least did so until Bush v. Gore on December 12, 2000). If we don't like the way we are being governed, we can replace our leaders at the ballot box. Unfortunately, if we don't like the way the telephone company or the public utilities treat us, we can not vote their management out of office - unless, of course, we are wealthy enough to own significant amounts of stock in these companies. Yet these private interests control our lives, without restraint - unless, of course, in accord with progressive policy and contrary to the advice of the libertarians, we have been wise and fortunate enough to enable our collective surrogate, the government, to regulate these private interests in our behalf.

Clearly, all governments, being institutions designed by imperfect human beings, are imperfect to some degree. But no one has effectively demonstrated that anarchy is to be preferred. All organized activity (for example, team games), require rules and referees to enforce them. This includes so-called “free markets.” Every civilized human being lives under some system of government, for better or worse. Perhaps there is some compelling reason for this.

The libertarian remedy for environmental pollution, however attractive in the abstract, would accomplish too much if put into practice. Consider, for example, Tibor Machan's statement of this remedy: "if operations of [private] firms would be impossible without pollution [beyond their boundaries] - that is, without causing emissions that are harmful to others who have not consented to suffer such harm - the operations would have to be shut down."22  Can anyone doubt that the clear implication of this rule must be the abolition of the internal combustion engine? Thus these champions of individual liberty, in order to spare our property and our selves from the assault of pollution, would deprive us all of the freedom of movement afforded by our automobiles. And there is worse ahead: "non-point" water pollution comes from agricultural run-off. Must we abolish the use of chemical fertilizers and fossil fuels in agriculture? Radical environmentalists have urged as much. But now that horse pastures have long-since been converted into shopping malls and subdivisions, the clear consequence of the de-mechanization of agriculture must be mass starvation.23  And finally, air pollution also comes from electric power plants. Do we shut off the electricity? What then of the loss of freedom to communicate? In fact, the air that I exhale contains carbon dioxide, an air pollutant. And try as I might, I can't seem to keep it all contained on my property. The implication, as Jeffrey Friedman spells it out, is as clear as it is absurd:

Libertarianism seeks to make every human being the ruler of his or her own domain, as delimited by his or her property rights... Since the atmosphere cannot be divided into parcels of private property as land can, strict libertarianism would require that each person possess his or her own atmosphere, unpolluted by the activities of anyone else. The libertarian ideal is in short, so sensitive to environmental externalities that it is incompatible with human coexistence. Short of the ultimate in atomistic individualism - a planet for every person - any pollution, and hence any human activity, is, in the libertarian view, a crime.24

Undoubtedly, government regulation or environmental management by public agencies is imperfect, and at times downright aggravating. However, these shortcomings do not necessarily entail that the free market and torts approach is better. Libertarians routinely trot out horror stories about government waste, fraud, and abuse, and compare these sorry anecdotes with an unrealizable ideal of a "perfectly functioning market." However, as Mark Sagoff correctly points out, this argument "commits the fallacy of disparate comparison. It compares what the perfect market would do in theory with what imperfect governmental agencies, at their worst, have done in fact."25  No thoughtful defender of public regulation of the environment in liberal democracies will pretend that this approach is perfect. In fact, as everyone knows, regulatory agencies are under constant assault and their public service is constantly compromised, usually by the very free market forces and private interests that are celebrated by the libertarians. But if the libertarians have a better alternative, then it must be shown to be preferable in practice, rather than in ideal theory. However, as we have suggested above, the unconstrained free market, privatization and the absence of "government interference" gave us opium in cough medicine, spoiled meat, child labor, mine disasters and black lung, and insufficient lifeboat seats for 1,500 passengers on the Titanic. More recently, the Enron Corporation, having successfully lobbied the government to ease the company’s regulatory burden, then proceeded to direct funds to a few fortunate executives, at the cost of destroying the retirement savings of thousands of its employees and stockholders.

The rise and persistence of government regulation of the environment is no accident; it is an invention born of necessity. No industrial society is without government, and constraints upon legitimate governmental powers can open opportunities for private exploitation. The threat of suits after the fact did not prevent the contamination of food or the abundance of unsafe and ineffective drugs prior to the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration. Moreover, even private interests recognize the necessity of impartial "referees." Thus, for example, United States history discloses that many of the regulatory agencies of the Federal Government were established by petition from private industry; notably, the Federal Communications Commission, which was created in 1934 to oversee "traffic control" of the electro-magnetic spectrum, without which the industry could not function. And no one who has attempted to drive across Manhattan during a power outage is inclined to believe that traffic signals are an unwarranted governmental intrusion upon their personal freedom.

Even "the free market," that cornerstone of libertarian theory, cannot survive without a governmental referee, for the unconstrained and unregulated "free market" contains the seeds of its own destruction. Though free market theorists are reluctant to admit it, capitalists are not fond of free markets, since open and fair competition forces them to invest in product development while they cut their prices. Monopoly and the destruction of competition is the ideal condition for the entrepreneur, and he will strive to achieve it unless restrained not by conscience but by an outside agency enforcing "anti-trust" laws. That agency, necessary for the maintenance of the free market is, of course, the "government," so despised by the libertarians. Evidence? Look to history. Then it was John D. Rockefeller, now it is Bill Gates.26

Of course there is a sad history of governmental exploitation (usually on behalf of the powerful); but the remedy is better government, not no government. Law enforcement and fire protection are inherently imperfect. The rational response to these imperfections is no the abolition of the police and fire departments, rather it is a continuing effort to improve these public services. How many of us who travel abroad would prefer that international air traffic be operated by private for-profit firms, rather than national and international government agencies? Who would we rather have safeguarding our environmental health; state agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency, or private industry? Once again, look to history for the answer.


Progressivism vs. “The Ownership Society”

“The ownership society” – the privatization regime proposed and imposed by the Bush administration -- is inherently unstable, unequal, and eventually oppressive. Wealth and power act to enhance wealth and power, ever loosening the constraint of checks and balances, as they proceed to absorb government and make it an instrument in behalf of wealth and power. The statistics tell it all: today, the average CEO of a Fortune 500 company earns in half a day, what his median worker earns in a year (a ratio of 500 to 1). Twenty years ago, the ratio was 40 to 1. Today, one percent of the US households own almost 40% of the nation’s wealth – twice that of the 1970s.27  With the coming abolition of taxes on estates, dividends and capital gains, that inequality can only accelerate, as Leona Helmsley’s maxim -- “taxes are for the little people” – achieves full realization.

Furthermore, the privatizers’ celebration of “competitive enterprise” is essentially hypocritical. As noted, capitalists hate competition, as they relentless strive to build monopolies and crush their competitors. All that stands in their way are anti-trust laws and the courts – which is to say, government.

But let us stop well short of the deep end. Privatization and free enterprise, constrained by popular government, are fine ideals, the applications of which have undoubtedly yielded great benefits to mankind. Moreover, government regulation can often be excessive and a damned nuisance to the private entrepreneur. Private enterprise should surely count for something. But not for everything. Adam Smith was right: “the invisible hand” of the market place can, without plan or intention, “promote ... the public interest.” But we put ourselves in great peril if we fail to acknowledge “the back of the invisible hand” – the tragedy of the commons – whereby the unregulated pursuit of self interest by the wealthy and powerful becomes parasitic upon, and eventually destroys, the well-ordered society of just laws, common consent, and an abundance of skilled and educated workers who produce and secure that wealth.

Both the radical anarchism of the Busheviks and the communism of Lenin and Stalin share the attribute of uncompromising dogmatism: in both cases, these are doctrines which are assumed, apart from experience and common sense, to apply to the real world, fully formed and fully ready to be imposed upon that reality. These are dogmas for which the progressive’s pragmatism and corrective feedback have no part. Both libertarianism and communism err in proposing extreme, simplistic and doctrinaire prescriptions for conditions that are necessarily complex: communism by condemning all property, and libertarians by condemning all public governmental functions, other than that of the “watchmen” (police and military) and the courts.28

The complex arena of human economic and social behavior has no place for such simplistic dogmas. Instead of dogma, the progressive is pragmatic, utilizing the wisdom acquired through experience and experimentation. By this method, the United States, throughout most of its prosperous history, has developed a society and an economy that is a splendid mix of private enterprise, civic association and public service. We Americans have learned how to progress through the trials, errors and successes of countless policy experiments, all leading to refinements and compromises amongst competing parties and interests, with the excesses of both government and private interests constrained by the rule of law and finely honed checks and balances.

All that came to an abrupt halt in 2001, as the Bush administration put aside these complexities, caveats and constraints. Comfortable in their assurance that they already had all the answers, all that remained for them was to serve their corporate sponsors, and, as GOP activist Grover Norquist crudely put it, drown the beast (namely our constitutional republic) in the bathtub.

With that demise we would see the end of Social Security, Medicare, Head Start, the Environmental Protection Agency, public education, and publicly supported scientific research, to just begin a recitation of a very long list. Vouchers would drain support and funding from the public schools, and the impoverished social services would be forced to attach themselves to religious organizations in order to qualify for “faith-based” funding. The privatized replacements for the current government social services – the insurance companies, the HMOs, the private schools, etc. – would, of course, have as their prime objectives, the enrichment of their stockholders and corporate officers, rather than service to the public. And oversight and reform of these private institutions would be out of reach of political institutions: elections, legislatures, and the courts.

This would be a very different country, virtually unimaginable to most American citizens today, but familiar to those who are acquainted with third world kleptocracies in Central America, Africa and Asia.

This would be a country that the public at large would not want. But when, to their great regret and sorrow they discover this, it might be too late to turn back.

The founders of our republic, let us never forget, recognized the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (rather than simple “property”). Furthermore, they acknowledged that “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” And among the six functions of government enumerated in the Preamble to our Constitution are, “to insure domestic tranquility” and “to promote the general welfare.”

This government – our government – is what the regressives wish to “drown in a bathtub!” They desire this, firm in the conviction that a disconnected aggregate of self-serving private individuals, in absolute control of their private property, will serve us better.

They believe this unproved dogma despite an abundance of practical historical evidence to the contrary. And the Bush administration has endeavored to impose this dogma in place of regulations and social programs that have been tested, implemented and proven through several twentieth century administrations, both Democratic and Republic. That century closed with unprecedented prosperity and a federal budget surplus that promised, at long last, escape from the burden of national debt. All that has been reversed by a regressive regime that, in a well-crafted perversion of language, chooses to describe itself as “conservative.”


11/17/07
 


NOTES and REFERENCES
 

  1. Simply put, those who call themselves “conservatives” aren’t. They are in fact radical anarchists. Authentic conservatives, revere our founding documents (e.g., the Bill of Rights) and respect the rule of law. (See my “Conscience of a Conservative,"  The Crisis Papers).
     

  2. To repeat a familiar yet essential point, the (self-described) “conservatives” thus exemplify the core libertarian doctrine that the only legitimate function of government is to protect the fundamental human rights to life, liberty, and property. Hence, the only legitimate institutions of government are the military, the police, and the courts. (Bayes, Hospers) The Religious Right thus agrees with libertarian economic dogma. They disagree on matters of personal conduct such as drug use, gay rights and abortion. The right wing would “take government off our backs and put it in our bedrooms,” while the libertarians would keep government both off our backs and out of our bedrooms.
     

  3. William Greider: "Rolling Back the 20th Century, The Nation, May 12, 2003.
     

  4. Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years, Harper Collins, London. P. 626. Similarly, Ayn Rand writes: “There is no such entity as “society,’ since society is only a number of individual men.” ("The Objectivist Ethics," The Virtue of Selfishness).
     

  5. "Since there is no such entity as 'the public' -- since the public is merely a number of individuals -- any claimed or implied conflict of the 'public interest' with private interests means that the interests of some men must be sacrificed to the interests of and wishes of others."  Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, Mentor, p. 88.
     

  6. "A society is a cooperative venture for mutual advantage...  Social cooperation makes possible a better life for all than any would have if each were to live solely by his own efforts."   John Rawls,  A Theory of Justice, Harvard, 1971,  p. 4.
     

  7. Gregg Jones and Dan Morain, "U.S. Rejected Davis on Aid to Clear Trees," Los Angeles Times, October 31, 2003.
     

  8. See my "If It Burns, It Earns," The Crisis Papers, November 11, 2003. 
     

  9. This section “imports” major portions of my essay, “With Liberty for Some,” published in Environmental Philosophy, edited by Zimmerman, Callicott, Warren, Klaver, and Clark, (Prentice Hall, 2004).  Also in "The Online Gadfly."
     

  10. Robert J. Smith, "Privatizing the Environment," Policy Review, Spring, 1982, p. 11.
     

  11. Tibor Machan, "Pollution in Political Theory," Regan (ed.), Earthbound: New Introductory Essays in Environmental Ethics, (New York: Random House), P. 98.
     

  12. Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose, (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1980).
     

  13. Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, (Modern Library, New York, 1937), 423.
     

  14. To the philosophically educated, libertarianism is reminiscent of Friedrich Nietzsche's "master morality," which he thus characterizes in Beyond Good and Evil: “the noble type of man regards himself as a determiner of values; he does not require to be approved of; he passes the judgment: ‘What is injurious to me is injurious in itself;’ he knows that it is he himself only who confers honor on things; he is a creator of values. He honors whatever he recognizes in himself: such morality is self-glorification. “ Clearly, according to this formulation libertarianism is a "master morality."
     

  15. Garret Hardin, (1968). “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science, 162: 1243 (13 De. 1968).
     

  16. Hardin, op. cit., p. 1247.
     

  17. Robert J. Smith,  "Privatizing the Environment," Policy Review, Spring, 1982, p. 32.
     

  18. Ibid., 47.
     

  19. The Gulf Stream might be shut down by a disruption of the “thermohaline conveyor.” The Gulf Stream is a warm northerly surface portion of a world-wide oceanic system of currents, which also includes a cold southerly bottom current. As the warm (therefore lighter) Gulf Stream flows north, surface evaporation causes cooling and an increasing concentration of salt, so that eventually the sea water becomes sufficiently heavy to sink to the ocean depth, where it then moves south. This system of currents extends through the Indian Ocean and into the Pacific Ocean, like a global conveyer belt. A massive infusion of fresh water from the melting Greenland ice cap and from Siberian rivers might prevent the northern Gulf Stream waters from descending, thus shutting down the conveyer, causing a drastic cooling of the European climate in a matter of a few years. Studies of Greenland ice cores indicate that this has happened several times in the past. See Carl Wunsch, “What is Thermohaline Circulation,” Science Vol. 298, 8 November 2002, pp. 1179-80. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/298/5596/1179.pdf  ).
     

  20. See my "Elegy for a Ponderosa Pine Tree," The Online Gadfly, August 19, 2003.
     

  21. Stewart L. Udall, The Myths of August, New York: Pantheon, 1994, Chapter 11.
     

  22. Tibor Machan, "Pollution an Political Theory," Regan (ed.), Earthbound: New Introductory Essays in Environmental Ethics, (New York: Random House), p. 97.
     

  23. See my “The Oil Trap,”  The Online Gadfly.
     

  24. Jeffrey Friedman, "Politics or Scholarship?", Critical Review, Vol. 6, No. 2-3, 1993. Pp 431-2.
     

  25. Mark Sagoff, (1993) "Free Market Versus Libertarian Environmentalism," Critical Review, Vol. 6, No. 2-3, p. 224.
     

  26. See my "The New Alchemy,"  The Online Gadfly.
     

  27. Chuck Collins, Chris Hartman and Holly Sklar: "Divided Decade: Economic Disparity at the Century's Turn,"  United for a Fair Economy, December 15, 1999.
     

  28. See my “Two Lessons from Russia,” The Online Gadfly.


Copyright 2005 by Ernest Partridge


Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .