no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Environmental Questions

September 15th, 2008

Two environmentalist questions from the aggregator, just begging for a cynical response:

1. Why do people pay extra for bottled water?

There are probably plenty of arguments one could offer up contra bottled water (see below). But the “it’s not useful” argument (c.f. the diamond-water paradox) isn’t one of them. I’m going to, for the sake of brevity, choose “convenience.”

You can’t take your tap water with you, at least not very easily, on a long road trip and expect it to stay cold. Bottled water is simply convenient, and besides, if you put the kibosh on bottled water, people will just go back to unhealthy sodas and juices which use the exact same amount of resources. If you want to ban all of those, too, then you’re demonstrably a fascist.

2. How can we reduce global fuel consumption?

The author argues that we might choose to reduce fuel consumption by mandating ridiculously low speed limits.

The problem is that people see a shorter travel time as an advantage, while it has no ecological value whatsoever.

One oblivious commenter even goes so far as to suggest,

Maybe if cars go only 60km/h people would realise that on many occasions a bike or a train is a better alternative.

I’ve addressed the ideological problems with the straw-man argument in favor of lowering speed limits to save gas before: violence is not the answer. But this is a more technical question, I guess. All other things being equal, the “better alternative” is chosen by the person most closely affected by the decision. For many of us, a shorter commute, an easier or more enjoyable vacation, etc., is the “better” alternative, and that’s why we choose it.

Look, you can certainly try to make the argument that the costs of driving or even that the costs of driving excessively fast are not fully internalized, and to such extent that these costs are forced upon others, they constitute a negative externality which needs to be corrected. Then, I could drop a Coase-bomb on you: where commons problems exist, property rights are often poorly defined (see also: What would Coase do? or The Lighthouse Problem.)

The strongest argument is probably that most of what we’ve grown accustomed to (in terms of transportation) is the product of an economy which is anything but free, and so it’s no wonder the incentives are all warped.

In this case, the true costs are so far divorced from reality that we don’t really know what we’re choosing and can’t be reasonably held accountable for the consequences, about which we aren’t certain because we’ve swallowed hundreds upon hundreds of years of complete and utter bullshit, spoonfed to us by monarchs and tyrants and kings and princes and presidents and prime ministers.

The most severe environmental threat is government.

The solution to whatever ails the planet will certainly not come from the fucking cancer that’s strangling it.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics