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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5935/penn-and-teller-send-recycling-to-the-dump/

Penn and Teller Send Recycling to the Dump

November 25, 2006 by

I’ve never had much use for Penn and Teller, a pair of comedians that I’ve seen from time to time on television and then have quickly turned off. But the other day, a reader of my blog, Mr. Robert Groot, a Canadian Ph.D. student, was kind enough to send me a link to their internet show on recycling.

I have to say that this show has made me a fan of theirs. It was a scathing critique of the illogic of recycling, done in a way that at times was hilarious.

I should add that at least in this show, the pair come across as serious libertarians, in addition to being powerful critics of recycling.

The first few minutes of the show are a little slow, but within 5 minutes, things pick up. Whatever you do, be sure to watch at least the first 8 or 9 minutes. (The full length is about half an hour.) There’s a sequence in there that you may find so funny you’ll have trouble catching your breath.

Here’s the link: http://geeksaresexy.blogspot.com/2006/11/recycling-is-grigri-just-plain.html.

{ 48 comments }

Robin Ekman November 25, 2006 at 10:34 am

Dr Reisman, given that you liked this episode, you will absolutely find their episode on environmentalism in general to be at least as good, if not better.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4480559399263937213&hl=en-CA

Jerry Mitchell November 25, 2006 at 10:34 am

This must mean you have missed the entire “Bullshit” series then. They tackle all sorts of illogical nonsense from bottled water to ESP Anonymous. Also, they been pretty public with their libertarianism so its amazing everyone doesn’t immediately associate that with them at this point in time. If you like the recycling stuff…heres a link to start you out on some of their other shows.
http://youtube.com/results?search_query=bullshit+penn&search=Search

gunner November 25, 2006 at 11:52 am

The radio show does not have Teller. It is Penn Jillette and a friend. The BS show is Penn and Teller.

I’ve listened to all of their radio shows and they have wandered a bit from the political and more to the entertainment. Their earlier shows were delightful.

Robin Ekman November 25, 2006 at 12:02 pm

How would you know if Teller is in the studio or not? He doesn’t speak, you know.

billwald November 25, 2006 at 12:16 pm

Every century since writing was developed and about which we have historical information could be subject to the same sort of analysis and commentary. In other words there has been no advance in the humanity of the specie, no improvement in our socialization or morals. The only change is that we kill more efficiently and with more sanitary side effects.

This is one observable truth of the Christian doctrine of our sin nature and a reason to reject Social Darwinism.

Kenneth R. Gregg November 25, 2006 at 7:00 pm

Glad to see that you’ve discovered Penn & Teller. Here in Las Vegas, Hoppe is a virtual unknown as a prominent local libertarian, but Penn & Teller are the best-known libertarians in town.

They are incredible showmen and master communicators.

Best to you,
Just Ken

Ben November 25, 2006 at 8:03 pm

P&T are hella cool. Loudmouthed (metaphorically speaking for Teller, obviously), obnoxious, successful atheist libertarian magicians. What’s not to like?

Johnathon November 25, 2006 at 9:02 pm

I watched this entire episode and found it rather interesting. I won’t assume that this is the last word on the subject or that all of their “research” is accurate, but I do think the piece raises the excellent point that too many people participate in things simply because it makes them feel good or “everyone is doing it.” I have on occasion asked the question at my work why we have a recycling company that operates a fleet of trucks fueled by non-renewable resources come pick up renewable resources (paper/trees) to recycle them.

noddy November 25, 2006 at 10:51 pm

Love that show. A few months ago I was able to catch sevaral previous season episodes on google but I see that there are only a few available now. Too bad.

Besides recycling they have taken on the environmental movement and what I found particularly interesting in this episode was the co founder of greenpeace stating that the whole environmental movement has been taken over by those who have a political agenda unrelated to environmentlism, which is why he left. I can’t remember his name but I recall hearing him being interviewed on the CBC a year or 2 ago and he was saying the same thing, how the environmentalitists today are wildly exagerating the effects of, among other things, global warming and the decline of plant and animal species.

Some other great shows dealt with gun control, peta and antismoking crusaders. I only wish showtime was available here, I’d start watching television again.

A.J. November 25, 2006 at 10:53 pm

Pieces against recycling are hard to find… It seems that even most conservatives and libertarians aren’t aware of this alternative viewpoint, with the prevailing one so saturated into our contemporary dialogue and educational system.

Just last week however, when I was at a popular campus townhouse for Bible Study, where they now have a separate discard bin for cans and bottles. I asked the guy if they recycle paper as well… I don’t think they do, but the university does, in the “Recycling Program” that conservatives have been encouraged to rally behind.

I mentioned to that Bible Study leader that I thought that recycling cans was beneficial, but I didn’t think that recycling paper was. He wanted to know more, and I shared the often-neglected argument from this article, which I found at Mises.org some years ago. The point that that piece makes is so clear and sensible, once you think about it, but for some reason, it’s not something that most people realize… Since most trees are planted for the purposes of cutting them down, for creating paper, “wasting paper” doesn’t “kill trees” – if people used less paper, less trees would be planted!!

I also shared another argument from that article, about how recycling newspaper uses energy, by requiring a chemical process to remove the ink from the paper. That was the second time that I had mentioned that argument to someone in a campus townhouse… When I said it to another campus resident back in 2003, he said that the process really wasn’t that intensive, for the actual recycling of the paper.

This has become a major issue on campus, partly because a new student fee was proposed, to pay for a recycling collection program. I don’t know whether they actually added that fee, or whether they found a way to do it without one. But during that debate, I don’t think anyone ever used these types of arguments… That recycling itself may not be worthwhile.

While there are good arguments that can be made against recycling paper, are there any strong arguments against recylcing aluminum cans and soda bottles?

M E Hoffer November 26, 2006 at 4:18 am

Paper–Derived from pulp from dedicated “Tree Farms”? Of course it’s absurd. But to think that “not recycling” is the proper answer, to the absurdity, is hardly sane.

If we are looking for cellulose, from which, to build paper, we are looking at a highly inefficient source, when we look at Trees.

Hemp is the ‘killer app.’ in this field.

The local chocolate merchant may properly encourage you to ‘think inside the box’, the local bureaucrat? Not so much.

As always, suggested lines of thought are mere guides, not constraints. Do you own Homework.

jeffrey November 26, 2006 at 5:57 am

I’m no prude but I could do without their childish potty mouth ways. Why is that suppose to be funny or charming? It’s just a disgrace.

David White November 26, 2006 at 9:56 am

P&T are great, but the fact is, it’s not an either-or issue, as there are now high-tech materials recycling facilities (MRFs) that preclude the need both for uneconomical curbside recycling and unsightly landfills (either entirely or nearly so) that no one likes to live near (no matter how “clean”). The organics are then processed into renewable energy, while the remainder is sold to industry (however cheaply, as this is still more cost-effective than landfilling).

Bottom line: While curbside recyling is a losing proposition, we don’t need no stinking landfills, either. For as renowned architect William McDonald says, “Waste equals food,” and a society that throws its food away is ultimately throwing its future away.

We wouldn’t be doing this, of course, if government intervention hadn’t so distorted the markets that market pricing is often all but impossible. And as this is nowhere more true than in the price of oil, we are soon to receive a wake-up call that we wouldn’t otherwise have needed — i.e., Peak Oil is about to exact its revenge on our wasteful ways, what with 95% of our goods shipped by truck transport and our otherwise oil-addicted society assuming that “the government” has a solution to a problem its own actions created. (Hey, isn’t Shotgun Dick over in Saudia Arabia at this very moment, getting everything worked out with the Crown Prince?)

Ohhh Henry November 26, 2006 at 10:31 am

The “save the trees” scam is handy for all occasions. My kid was trying to do math problems which were printed on photocopies of a cheap, throwaway math workbook. But the kids weren’t allowed to write out the answers on the photocopied sheets – they had to be saved and given to another student later. “To save trees”, the teacher told them. Where were the kids supposed to write their answers? On a fresh sheet of paper, provided from home!

Obviously the less paper and books that you provide in schools, the more money will be available for the salaries and benefits of teachers and education bureaucrats. And for lining the pockets of the contractors who provide computer systems to the schools.

I loved the P&T show and the bad language will certainly help shock a lot of adults out of their slavish devotion to the Church of Government. But we need a bleeped version to show to our kids. If I could show this program to my kids I’d tell them this: recycling is just a typical government scam. Everything else the government does is the same old expensive hooey, wrapped up in moral posturing.

J.H. Huebert November 26, 2006 at 11:57 am

The “potty mouth” on Penn & Teller’s show is deliberate, to serve a specific purpose: to demonstrate that they reject superstitious ignorance and the idea that some words — which mean the exact same thing as other words that people don’t find offensive — are “curse words” we mustn’t say for some reason (e.g., God doesn’t like it).

One might counter this by saying that one need not be superstitious or ignorant to behave in a civilized manner. Still, I see their point.

jeffrey November 26, 2006 at 2:19 pm

Oh I get it. But to conflate manners with superstitions is as stupid as the stuff they ridicule. You don’t have to believe in God to believe that some things are just gross and that some language is just offensive.

Vanmind November 26, 2006 at 3:47 pm

On the other sleight-of-hand we have this from a Wired News environmental goon:

“Repeat after me: We humans have screwed up our planet. Feels better, doesn’t it? Now that we’ve accepted this reality, at least we don’t have to argue about it anymore.”

Here’s the article from which I stripped that opening lie:

http://wired.com/wired/archive/14.12/start.html?pg=3

Ben November 26, 2006 at 4:24 pm

Oh I get it. But to conflate manners with superstitions is as stupid as the stuff they ridicule. You don’t have to believe in God to believe that some things are just gross and that some language is just offensive.

Actually, it’s for legal reasons. Calling their subjects “liars” or “frauds” is technically slander, leaving them open for legal action, whereas calling them “assholes” or “fuckers” is apparently perfectly permissible. It’s a way of exploiting a legal loophole for maximum effect.

Angelo November 26, 2006 at 5:23 pm

I think they somehow manage to cuss tastefully. I think it’s obvious Penn realizes he doesn’t need to cuss to get his point across (especially as evidenced by the very episode about cussing, in which Penn never uses a single cuss word-he even names the show’s episode Humbug instead of its regular title).

The environmental episode is particularly funny, especially when Penn and Teller panic about the earth ending.

Vanmind November 26, 2006 at 5:52 pm

Their credibility drops, however, once they start defending the 9-11 conspirators.

Angelo November 26, 2006 at 8:58 pm

They devoted a show to debunking conspiracy theories about 9/11 and the moon landing.

Johnny Kramer November 27, 2006 at 2:57 am

That show probably does the best number on recycling that I’ve ever seen.

Notice that they claim that the only commonly-recycled good that is cheaper to recycle than make from scratch is aluminum, which is why that fact is asserted through the price system and people voluntarily pick cans from trash bins.

If there were really such a demand for recycled items, then recycled good would be valued by people more than non-recycled ones and people would be paid by their trash companies to recycle. Funny how no one ever has to be browbeaten into recycling or conserving things like gold; they only have to be browbeaten into recycling garbage.

When someone tries to guilt you into doing something like recycling for purely altruistic reasons, it means they think they are so much smarter than almost everyone else in the world that they can see a need or problem that almost everyone else can’t see — because if everyone else could see it, again, it would be asserted through the price system, so it would be in most people’s self-interest to do what needs to be done on their own. In probably over 99% of such cases, the person doing the browbeating doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Another thing the reformers usually ignore are the economic facts of limited resources and trade-offs. They get so bogged down by chasing one benefit that they don’t consider that they may be foregoing a more attractive benefit, or that they may be incurring so many drawbacks that it makes for a net loss. For example, they focus on the benefits of recycling without considering the time, money, effort, possible added pollution, etc. required for sorting, cleaning, transporting, processing, etc. the materials. Benefits are only part of the equation; almost anything looks attractive if you just look at the benefits.

If anyone chooses to recycle, more power to them. I have no problem with any voluntary activity, even if it’s something I don’t personally like — because as long as no one is being coerced, it’s none of my business. But I am bothered by the self-righteous attitude of some of the environmental people who believe anyone who doesn’t live like they do to be beneath them. They may believe they’re doing something useful, but again, the pricing system indicates otherwise — and the pricing system that comes from the voluntary decisions of people is the only reliable indicator of things like scarcity and need that exists in life.

For anyone who watches the show, be sure not to miss the sorry spectacle of seeing people willing to expand their sorting bins from three to NINE when Penn & Teller sent the fake government bureaucrat out to see how far people were willing to take recycling. Not to mention the incredibly disgusting things they were willing to sort; when the fake bureaucrat informs the one guy that one of the bins is for “lightly soiled toilet paper,” the guy agrees that sorting such a thing “makes sense.” They were even willing to be timed by the bureaucrat to see how quickly the could correctly sort garbage that was poured out at their feet into the proper bins.

Compulsory government schooling was not created because poor people weren’t getting educations; it was created to condition people to unquestioned obedience to authority to make them docile citizens and employees. Researchers have found that people are willing to do inane and even immoral things, like inflicting pain on innocent people, if someone they perceive to be in “authority” over them instructs them to do so. This video is powerful evidence.

Of course, this show isn’t the final word on the subject, but that’s not the point; the point is that the pro-recycling propaganda isn’t the final (or only) word on the subject either. The other point is to illustrate how easily many people will blindly follow something without examining it critically just because everyone else seems to believe it and is doing it.

If anyone is curious, I have never recycled anything and I’m not about to start. But I would if I were paid enough to, which again, I would be if the need were really as great as is commonly perceived.

However, even if I were convinced that recycling is good for the planet, I still wouldn’t do it unless I were paid, because there are over six billion people on this earth, so my contribution is irrelevant. Even my contribution in my own town is statistically zero. I could knock myself out recycling everything I possibly could, and it would make no measurable difference; I could deliberately produce 10 times more trash than I do now, and that would make no measurable difference either.

I realize that the common response to such statements is, “What if everyone thought that way?” In theory that’s absolutely true, but it has nothing to do with reality, because I’m not everybody; I’m only me.

TokyoTom November 27, 2006 at 4:32 am

I’m with Penn & Teller. We don’t need the government in the waste recycling business, and the subsidies are a wasteful use of taxpayers dollars.

Thanks, Dr. Reisman!

P&T are a bit off on the environmental sketch, though. They’re absolutely right that alot of enviros are idiotic joiners. But actually that lets them off lightly. Lets not forget, as Dr. Reisman has shown, that enviros are fundamentally misanthropic.

P&T are absolutely right as to private forest lands, but Miseans would also say that the government should get out of the public lands business altogether – government bureaucrats sell the trees too cheaply and pay the costs of roads, allow grazing at below-market rates, don’t collect royalties due and don’t worry enforce environmental restricts. Private owners would do a much better job of avoiding wasteful exploitation and protecting and developing valuable resources.

Keeping the government in the lands business means that resource use decisions are fundamentally political, and since enviros can’t act responsibly and buy the land/resources they want to protect, they end up trotting up to the federal trough just like the timber and O&G firms. (But don’t get me wrong; their predictible behavior is still evil.)

On other matters, Austrians and other economists recognize that the get wasteful over-exploitation of resources that are not owned – as no one has a right to exclude others and thus no incentive to conserve the resource. So maybe those evil enviros may have a point on certain things, even if they really don’t understand why they have a right to be concerned.

M E Hoffer November 27, 2006 at 7:17 am

“Keeping the government in the lands business means that resource use decisions are fundamentally political, and since enviros can’t act responsibly and buy the land/resources they want to protect, they end up trotting up to the federal trough just like the timber and O&G firms.”

Then the enviros, like those that the petition the local zoning board to restrict the plotting of another WMT outpost, are called Statists!

The whole: “Recycling doesn’t pay” argument is a curious one. Which/whose prices are being used in the calculation?

Anyone care to proffer the Free Market price for Trees? Just a hint: How many subsidies are available to, and taxes to be paid on that type of transaction? see categories: Land, Land Use, Water, Fertilizers, Insecticides, Labor, Trucking, Roads, Fuels< how many did I miss?

gene berman November 27, 2006 at 1:41 pm

Paper recycling IS a good thing and IS profitable, as demonstated by the fact that it’s been around for longer than the environmental movement. What’s inefficient and wasteful of input human resources is the forced and subsidized type now practiced. I recall seeing a statistic indicating that the increase in paper recycling due to the environmental movement and to behavioral legislation amounted to a “hill of beans”–that something like 95% of the paper recycled would have been so treated anytime in the past 50 years.

Some aesthetic benefit accrues, it is true, from a reduction in unsightly litter, especially of
undegradable metal and plastic cans, cups, etc.–but, essentially, that’s a separate matter and no excuse for the current regime. (Also relatively easily combatted by including the externalized cleanup cost–in the form of a deposit–in the original price paid.

In the jungle and savanna of Venezuela’s Guyana
Highlands, the native “Indios” are often amused by the outsiders’ sensitivity to the appearances of the natural surrounding. It’s just as natural to throw beer cans along a trail or dump garbage in the river as to piss in the same places. Ditto for conservation of local fish and wildlife. “Unsightliness,” as well as beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Along this line, I was also quite surprised by a TV (news) episode some 20 years ago, showing the attitude and behavior of shopping crowds in a prominent mall in Japan. Centrally located was a beautiful, artistically designed “temple garden” exhibit with exquisite structures, landscaping, and plants; a viewing bridge arched over the affair. The moderator explained that the exhibit was so popular that about a TON of trash had to be removed from it TWICE A DAY just so that its main features would continue to be visible. Those looking at the scene seemed appreciative of its idyllic beauty–but not sufficiently to resist throwing uneaten food, food wrappers, and product packaging.

Black Bloke November 27, 2006 at 2:28 pm

TokyoTom, the term should be “Misesian” not “Misean”. “Misean” just looks ridciluous.

Black Bloke November 27, 2006 at 2:32 pm

Speaking of “ridciluous” the word should have been “ridiculous”.

Angelo November 27, 2006 at 6:19 pm

Wait, who’s TokyoTom?

TokyoTom November 27, 2006 at 11:02 pm

BB: I “si”. Muchos gracias.

TokyoTom November 27, 2006 at 11:12 pm

Mark:

Yes, domestically, many so-called enviro positions are statist positions. But remember, as Dr. Reisman has shown, just because we can understand enviro behavior, it doesn’t make them any less evil or misanthropic.

And once we rid the world of enviros, we will still have domestic problems with corporate statists that rile up the enviros so much: the underlying grant of limited liability to corporates, sweet deals on use of federal lands, and subsidies and reguations that protect the big boys and stifle competition. And internationally, there will remain cross-border, regional and global resources for which there are no effective owners – just users competing to maximize their own gain, long-term be damned.

But beating down enviros is a great start to solving these problems.

Jason Quintana November 28, 2006 at 7:25 am

Tokyo Tom –

“And internationally, there will remain cross-border, regional and global resources for which there are no effective owners – just users competing to maximize their own gain, long-term be damned.”

What exactly are you aiming at with this incoherent statement?

– Jason

M E Hoffer November 28, 2006 at 7:54 am

“the underlying grant of limited liability to corporates, sweet deals on use of federal lands, and subsidies and reguations that protect the big boys and stifle competition.”

Yes, this is the fact set that made Dr. Reasman’s “Ode to Globalization”, so very suspicious.

Free Trade is a great wealth enhancer. Managed Trade, as we have with NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO, et al., ad infi, is more Fiat that fouls markets’ price signals, confusing many and enriching, thereby, far too few.

Remember, boys and girls, “it’s the ‘enviros’ that will impoverish you”. agitprop like that would even make Bernays blush.

TokyoTom November 29, 2006 at 12:39 am

Jason, I guess you misplaced your thinking cap.

I bet if you put yourself to it, you could come up with some examples of cross-border, regional or global resources for which there are no effective owners. These are resources that people use, but since no one owns them they face no price for their use and thus no incentives to protect the resource or to minimize harm to others.

Still having difficulty? Ron Bailey at Reason discusses one example here:
http://www.reasonmag.com/news/show/36839.html

If you take a look at some of Dr. Reisman’s other threads you might see another promiment example.

And Bruce Yandle has a useful discussion of the problem of open-access resources here: http://www.libertyhaven.com/politicsandcurrentevents/environmentalismorconservation/commons.shtml.

If I can provide any more assistance, please don’t hesitate. But always remember that enviros are evil misanthropes that are traitors to mankind and/or want to shackle us in the bonds of collectivism.

Regards,

TT

Vince Daliessio November 29, 2006 at 7:52 am

Gene Berman said;

“Paper recycling IS a good thing and IS profitable, as demonstated by the fact that it’s been around for longer than the environmental movement. What’s inefficient and wasteful of input human resources is the forced and subsidized type now practiced.”

Understand your point, Gene, P&T were maybe overbroad, however, NO ONE is arguing against ECONOMIC recycling, only the government-forced uneconomic kind. When a material is economically recyclable, demand for the material will tend to drive the activity, as we have seen with aluminum cans, as P&T point out. And they allow that someday other recyclables will have sufficient value to drive the same process.

What’s more, government recycling programs for materials with ready substitutes (newsprint, plastic bottles) very often increase supply just enough to depress the prices for the material to destroy any economy in recycling.

M E Hoffer November 29, 2006 at 8:40 am

Vince,

You’re a game chap, I’ll ask you, in re: “very often increase supply just enough to depress the prices for the material to destroy any economy in recycling.”, how are those ‘prices’ derived?

note: it’s ok to interpret the above Q: as one of a rhetorical nature.

Point being? All of this talk about ‘paper recycling: +/-’ flitters amongst the branches, while the real question, “Why are we using trees as a source of cellulose?’, lies at the root.

watch out, the ‘right’ answer, to the ‘wrong’ question, is wrong.
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/wrong

Mike Sproul November 29, 2006 at 9:39 am

One more reason not to recycle:

Paper, plastic, yard clippings, etc., are at least 50% carbon. When you send it to the dump, you are burying carbon, rather than letting it return to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. It seems silly that scientists are looking at expensive projects to sequester carbon underground, when we do it automatically every time we take out the trash.

dennis shoup November 29, 2006 at 5:00 pm

I really like this series. I think that their episodes on campus speech codes and reparations are terrific. In the reparations episode they actually interview an African American fellow in North Carolina (I think) who believes that reparations are a bad idea, and that if anyone should get them it should be the entire south for the carnage wrought by the “Civil War”. Their episode on the death penalty is also great. Someone above mentioned the episodes on environmental hysteria and secondhand smoke, to these I would add the one on genetically engineered food, where they expose the irresponsibility of its opponents.

Francisco Torres November 29, 2006 at 8:33 pm

TokyoTom wrote:

“And once we rid the world of enviros, we will still have domestic problems with corporate statists that rile up the enviros so much”

This is a classic example that shows why such terms like “non sequitur” are invented. There is no reason to think that corporate statist will be able to exist unbridled if somebody even dares to point out that environmentalists are cranks.

Francisco Torres November 29, 2006 at 8:44 pm

TokyoTom wrote:
“I bet if you put yourself to it, you could come up with some examples of cross-border, regional or global resources for which there are no effective owners.”

Gee, don’t tell me: you mean the atmosphere, a resource that is actually NOT a resource?

Nice way to get “Global Warming” B.S. into a recycling -as-BS thread…

By the way, your contention that the biggest users of the atmosphere, as a not-owned resource, would be rent-seeking big corporations is, quite simply, B.S. It is individual humans that use the atmosphere more and spew more CO2 into the atmosphere than companies, since it is individuals that generate heat and mechanical energy through combustion – is is part of LIVING. Again, Dr. Reisman’s contention about the misanthropic undertones of environmental policies is quite on the mark.

M E Hoffer November 29, 2006 at 10:24 pm

Mike Sproul,

In view of your above post, I took the liberty of dialing 877-RENT-A-CLU for your benefit.

They were quite helpful, here’s a sampling of what they suggested to counteract the obvious deficiencies:

http://clusty.com/search?input-form=clusty-simple&v%3Asources=webplus&query=anaerobic+decomposition+of+municipal+solid+waste
+
http://clusty.com/search?input-form=clusty-simple&v%3Asources=webplus&query=aerobic+decomposition+of+municipal+solid+waste

as you can see, in short order, your idea that [trash-to-landfills=carbon sequestration] is about as useful as RBD.

TokyoTom November 30, 2006 at 12:48 am

Mike, the carbon in trash is not sequestered, but biodegrades relatively quickly. In fact, the major landfills improve their revenue streams by collecting and selling off the methane that results. But since the carbon in trash is largely biomass, in any event it has no affect on atmospheric levels.

But in any case, your attempt to drag in the “Global Warming” B.S. is a threadjack, as Francisco notes. Trying to engage enviros on the level of reason is a mistake, anyway. Always remember that they’re simply misanthropes.

TokyoTom November 30, 2006 at 2:23 am

Francisco:

I simply don’t know what this is supposed to mean:

“There is no reason to think that corporate statist will be able to exist unbridled if somebody even dares to point out that environmentalists are cranks.”

However, since I know what a non-sequitur is, I am guessing that you don’t see a connection between enviro statism and corporate statism, and that you think that it’s perfectly appropriate to bash enviros but ignore corporate statism. Maybe it’s just simple-minded thinking on my part, but I see both types of statism as interwined and mutually reinforcing. The government grows and controls more resources, those with interests in all sides see reasons to try to advance those interests through government, rather than through private transactions based on clear and enforceable property rights.

Of course we should bash enviros – they’re misanthropes after all – but we should carry no illusions that after chasing those bad people away that the problems of which they complain will also disappear.

If you really disagree, I am happy to discuss further, but perhaps this article by Walter Block might be a good start: Environmentalism and Economic Freedom: The Case for Private Property Rights. To help you off, I offer a few quotes:

“Contrary to Pigou and Samuelson, manufacturers, foundries, railroads, etc., could not act in a vacuum, as if the costs they imposed on others were of no moment. There was a “way to force private polluters to bear the social cost of their operations”: sue them, make them pay for their past transgressions, and get a court order prohibiting them from such invasions in future.

“Toward this end it was decided that the jurisprudence of the 1820s and 1830s was a needless indulgence. Accordingly, when an environmental plaintiff came to court under this new system, he was given short shrift. He was told, in effect, that of course his private property rights were being violated; but that this was entirely proper, since there is something even more important that selfish, individualistic property rights. And this was the “public good” of encouraging manufacturing. …

“And what of the “green” manufacturer, who didn’t want to foul the planet’s atmosphere, or the libertarian, who refused to do this on the grounds that is was an unjustified invasion of other people’s property? There is a name for such people, and it is called “bankrupt.” For to engage in environmentally sound business practices under a legal regime which no longer requires this is to impose on oneself a competitive disadvantage. Other things equal, this will guarantee bankruptcy.

“From roughly 1850 to 1970, firms were able to pollute without penalty. This is why “there is no way to force private polluters to bear the social cost of their operations” a la Pigou; this is why there was a Samuelsonian “divergence of social and private costs.” This was no failure of the market. It was a failure of the government to uphold free enterprise with a legal system protective of private property rights. …”

Regards

TokyoTom November 30, 2006 at 3:17 am

Francisco:

I am here to bash misanthropes. Why are you trying to turn this into a climate change thread? We could have talked about fisheries and the like. But instead of discussing the big picture, you wanna talk about your personal bugbear. Well, okay, I might as well play along.

1. Is “the atmosphere, a resource that is actually NOT a resource”?

Let’s see. We depend on it to live, use it as a factor in production, and change it in doing so. It is tangible and limited. So it sure SEEMS like a resource to me. What am I missing?

2. Is my “contention that the biggest users of the atmosphere, as a not-owned resource, would be rent-seeking big corporations, quite simply, B.S.”? Is it “individual humans that use the atmosphere more and spew more CO2 into the atmosphere than companies, since it is individuals that generate heat and mechanical energy through combustion”?

First, as an aside, where did I contend this? It seems new to the discussion.

Second, surely you are not contending that increasing GHG emissions and concentrations has nothing to do with the the combustion of fossil fuels?

Or are you seriously trying to suggest that the ramping up of GHG emissions and atmospheric concentrations is due to humans simply living and breathing, and not from our large-scale economic activity, which is now largely conducted through business entities? I concede that I may use gas when I drive a car, but I certainly don’t burn coal or generate my own electricity.

But if you agree that fossil fuels is the principal source of emissions, I’m not sure that there is any relevance to the question of whether it is our direct or indirect activities that produce the emissions. Perhaps it would help if you’d clarify what you’re driving at.

3. I agree that “Dr. Reisman’s contention about the misanthropic undertones of environmental policies is quite on the mark” – havent’t I said so quite clearly? I simply hate misanthropes!

But what is misanthropic about pointing out the negative aspects of human economic activities, or that for certain classes of problems there are no market feedback mechanisms, since no one owns the resource being exploited?

I certain agree that there are alot of evil misanthropic enviros out there, that history has shown that classic regulation of environmental problems to be counterproductive, and that enviros often don’t have the slightest clue about how to solve environmental problems, but I balk at concluding that if there are no enviros, then there will be no environmental problems.

You, on the other hand, seem to prefer to define the problems away and to fall back on ad hominems rather than investigating the alleged problems.

I’m with you, but only in part – hate the misanthrope, but love the problem, has always been my motto!

Best,

Tom

Mike Sproul November 30, 2006 at 12:04 pm

TokyoTom:
Carbon-bearing trash in landfills actually decomposes very slowly. You have perhaps heard stories of trash researchers drilling into old landfills and finding 100-year-old newspapers that were still readable. In any case, I don’t think there’s any doubt that we humans can put carbon into landfills much faster than it bubbles back out as methane.
Also, Biomass certainly does affect atmospheric carbon levels. As plants grow, they suck carbon dioxide out of the air. If they die and rot above ground, the carbon they soaked up in life returns to the air in 10-20 years as carbon dioxide or methane. But if they are buried in a landfill, decomposition is delayed and it will take something like 1000 years for that carbon to return to the air. A good deal of that carbon will in fact never return to the air, as proven by the fact that ancient plants that were buried naturally eventually became underground oil, gas, and coal.

M E Hoffer November 30, 2006 at 12:31 pm

Mike Sproul,

For a proponent of: “Trash is an asset.”, aka RBD, you certainly don’t seem to grasp the Asset that is Trash.

Far from being “coal mines in the making”, the inefficient ‘landfills’, that you are talking about, are huge costs that, at the minimum, delay the utilization of the productive components therein.

The rapid breakdown of the current “trash stream” is, in reality, yet another blessing, forestalled from fruition, impressed by precedent.

“We are being made truck by our trucking of our truck in trucks.”

Better, we should understand that current technology can obviate ‘landfills’, in their entirety, before we, literally, have to stand under our ‘trash’.

You might proof positive that 877-RENT-A-CLU should be a 976 #.

tavla February 24, 2007 at 6:22 am

Far from being “coal mines in the making”, the inefficient ‘landfills’, that you are talking about, are huge costs that, at the minimum, delay the utilization of the productive components therein

scott August 24, 2007 at 8:15 pm

“But what is misanthropic about pointing out the negative aspects of human economic activities…”

yeah..where i live a ‘recycling bill’ is ‘included’ in the water bill???

say if one could find an economic use for ones glass bottles…some type of craft or windchimes or whatever.
one cant not pay for recycling here.
the city water bill doesnt allow you to.

self or private waste removal/conversion would be a less negative economic activity.

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