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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6618/environmentalist-zen/

Environmentalist Zen

May 12, 2007 by

If you’d prefer to be cool rather than suffer in the heat, what you need to do, according to the environmental movement, is smash your air conditioner, refrigerator, and freezer. That will help to cool the planet—someday. If you want to be secure from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and other natural (according to it, manmade) disasters, what you need to do is destroy the energy base required to produce and operate modern construction equipment and means of transportation. In that case you may end up living in a thatched hut and have only a donkey to go from one place to another, but the absence of man-made power and its carbon emissions will make the world such a tame and happy place that you won’t need anything more. After all, natural disasters are not caused by nature, which is wonderful, pure, and benign, but by us! Remember that as you listen to the sound of one hand clapping.

Copyright © 2007, by George Reisman.


James May 12, 2007 at 12:39 pm

You are the kind of nut that paves your yard, and paints it green, aren’t you?

Some dinosaurs in the Austrian School do not understand the concept of Zen, and should not be commenting on it. You should be in harmony with your surroundings, whether those are manmade or natural. That is the way nature works, and has worked for billions of years. Furthermore, it is how anarcho-capitalism works. One must be in harmony with all parts of the market, from the producers of the raw goods to the consumers. This harmony, or Zen, benefits everyone. Does this not exist in nature, too?

The Earth’s recources are all finite. We should be frugal and respectful for future generations. I do not see how this is a radical view. I do not get how this viewpoint can be demonized. We must live in equilibrium, or Zen, with our surroundings.

How can the Austrian School market itself as a valid school of thought when we teach that markets naturally exist in equilibrium, but deny the existence of equilibrium in nature?

Francois Tremblay May 12, 2007 at 12:57 pm

James, why are you accusing other people of being nuts while everything you say makes no sense?

TDJ May 12, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Copyright © 2007, by George Reisman.

Thank you. You’ve inspired me to place a “copyright” notice after every Instant Message and grocery list I compose as well. I hope I’ve not crossed a line by quoting the notice part. Also, I’ll trust I’ve not accidentally used any word combinations protected by the notice. That aural indication of a single appendage striking an absent other — always a pleasure. A momentous and pithy saying.

Um… what does it mean?

© 2007 TDJ

Brent May 12, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Environmentalists, every single one of them, are whacked-out to some degree or another.

Apparently, just as there is no shortage of hypocrisy amongs celebrities, there is no shortage of cocaine, shrooms, etc. in ‘nature’.

Show me someone who cares about his/her “environment”, but isn’t a whack-job and I’ll show you someone who will never be President of his local chapter of the Sierra Club.

James May 12, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Yeah, those wacky http://www.wcbs880.com/pages/49096.php?contentType=4&contentId=161572


We would be so much better

off without those CRAZY

environmentalists. It is all fun and games making fun of the environmentalists until 1/3 of your neighborhood has cancer because an industry was dumping napthalene into the air like in the case of the Fiamma Abrasivi Factory in Milan.

Dennis May 12, 2007 at 1:47 pm

I will concentrate on one aspect of James’ comment that in particular involves economics: “How can the Austrian School market itself as a valid school of thought when we teach that markets naturally exist in equilibrium, but deny the existence of equilibrium in nature?”

Of all the schools of economic thought, the Austrian School most emphatically rejects the concept of economic equilibrium as a description of the real world. As Mises emphasized time and time again, the praxeologic/economic world is one of constant change and uncertainty. Equilibrium, or what he termed the “evenly rotating economy”, is only a mental tool that enables the economist to analyze economic phenomena by hypothetically assuming that there is no further change. Without this admittedly unrealistic assumption, the economist would not be able to logically establish cause and effect relationships, since a multitude of factors would at any given point in time be changing.

Economic equilibrium is entirely a hypothetical and unrealistic construct. A world characterized by economic equilibrium would be logically absurd and self contradictory.

The misuse of the equilibrium concept by the large majority of economists is a grave error resulting from the professions’ uncritical adoption of the method and concepts of the physical sciences.

Even the natural world, assuming that man did not exist, is chacterized by change and at times violent upheaval.

R. W. Wright May 12, 2007 at 2:07 pm

Indeed, current ecological research is showing more and more that transient dynamics matter the most in the real world. In other words, equilibriums exist in theory but they are rarely reached in nature. (Sound familiar?)

You’ve inspired me to place a “copyright” notice after every Instant Message and grocery list I compose as well.

Yeah I find the constant copyright notices from Reisman a little bothersome. But don’t be too hard on him; it’s the Randism talking.

James May 12, 2007 at 2:08 pm


Your comment was on the mark. I should have changed words. What I really meant to convey is that there exists a complex organization in markets that arises “naturally,” so to speak. Maybe cooperation would be a better term. Equilibrium is an elusive concept, and can not be achieved, though many introductory economics professors would have you believe otherwise. The cooperation makes everone better off. I simply want to say that living in cooperation with the world leads to betterment for all. Cooperate with nature as you do your fellow man. One should help his fellow man as a farmer should rotate crops to preserve soil viability. It is not up to the state to force this, but up to us to strive for it. I believe it is ethically wrong, though it may be one’s right, to attack generalized “environmentalists” as nutty. To me this exibits a dangerous flaw in the way one percieves reality.

R. W. Wright May 12, 2007 at 2:13 pm

The Earth’s resources are all finite. We should be frugal and respectful for future generations.

This is illogical. If the resources are finite in the sense you seem to mean, then they will eventually run out no matter what we do. What, then, is the supposed benefit of being frugal?

James May 12, 2007 at 2:26 pm


To answer that question, one would have to define the purpose of life. Is it to be as happy as possible? Is it to ensure the survival and well being of your children and species?

You should be frugal for the sake of your descendants, in my opinion. That is, unless you are like these guys.


Angelo Mike May 12, 2007 at 2:29 pm

James, here’s the answer to your objections.


R. W. Wright May 12, 2007 at 5:58 pm

“To be as happy as possible” is a lot closer to my purpose.

Ryan May 12, 2007 at 10:50 pm

When you realize that the modern environmental movement is a front for the Communist party, you understand where all this claptrap is coming from.

Nick Bradley May 13, 2007 at 10:19 am


I think Ryan is referring to so-called “watermelons”, green on the outside, red on the inside.

They’re more socialist than communist:


jonathan May 13, 2007 at 11:13 am

I am confused about Reisman’s position.
An Austrian/Libertarian would expect poorly defined property rights (air/water) to lead to poor outcomes. In the absence of air and water being privatised (unlikely) some people who believe global warming is mostly attributable to man (I don’t, funny how Mars’ ‘ice-caps’ are melting, could it be, wait for it, the sun?!) suggest a second best solution, namely voluntary reduction of their ‘footprint’ etc. Is Reisman arguing that that the market mechanism should be relied upon because if he is, then he needs to address how that will work in the absence of all relevant property rights. This would surely be new ground for an Austrian!
Or is he arguing that climate change, if any, is not due to man?

Geoffrey Allan Plauche May 13, 2007 at 12:15 pm

Oddly enough, Dr. Reisman, I think you’re posts on environmentalism may only serve to have the opposite effect you intend for them to have.

They don’t address the science of climate change at all. They don’t address actual policies that are being proposed by statist environmentalists. They either address personal aesthetic judgments (and yes it is perfectly in keeping with Objectivism that tastes differ) or attack a caricature of the environmental movement. Perhaps the picture you paint is the destination we will eventually arrive at if we follow the statist-environmentalist movement consistently, but even the statist-evironmentalists are not fully consistent. Your goal would be much better served addressing actual policies proposed by environmentalists on both moral and economic grounds.

I’m afraid that if you continue in your current vein you will be ineffective at best and alienate fellow libertarians and potential converts at worst. You’ll drive away libertarian or potentially libertarian environmentalists, right into the open arms of the moderate and extreme statists who are providing practical policy proposals (however misguided and counterproductive they will in fact prove to be). Instead of ridiculing and attacking a caricature of the environmentalist movement, critique their actual policy proposals and offer libertarian alternatives.

Hyrum Berg May 13, 2007 at 2:04 pm

This is a little funny and strange, but the point does make sense. We should not be extreme when we try to live in harmony with nature or we will be more unhappy then if we do nothing to live in harmony.

Brent May 13, 2007 at 8:01 pm

Oh good God. If you support property rights, you are not an environmentalist.

Try running that argument by your local newspaper editorial board. You will be laughed and scoffed at, especially in a university city. You will be considered, no matter your true care for the environment, as a mere capitalist apologist (which is bad, in case you don’t understand).

Jonathan Bostwick May 13, 2007 at 9:21 pm


Environmentalist are more communist in nature. Communism is a world wide movement, in contrast to National Socialism(Fascism).

Hyrum Berg May 14, 2007 at 8:43 am

Is there a significant difference between environmentalism, communism, and socialism(fascism)?
They always strike me as being different verses in the same song.

ktibuk May 14, 2007 at 8:56 am


Cooperation among humans are interspecie cooperation and humans are smart enough that if they cooperate, it would be better for them. Meaning they will have a longer happier life.

But humans cooperate against nature, to tame it to control it, to make it serve them better. They dont cooperate in order to senselessly destroy everything that is not human, but to further their beings.

In nature everything eats everthing else. And in the end bugs and maggots eat humans. That is the law of nature. You can not keep living without ending some type of life and conmsume its energy.

Being smart and economizing resources is one thing. Putting non human life forms above humans is antoher.

ktibuk May 14, 2007 at 9:04 am

Reisman knows private property is the answer to everything including todays enviromental problems.

But he is trying to do something else here. To show the underlying links to the hypocritical propaganda, motives deep down.

Because sadly you cant create strong movements by rational discussions.

You appeal to peoples fears and emotions, you tell some lie so many times that it seems as a self evident truth, then you use the masses to coerce the rest.

This how states and statist politics works.

And it is not fair to keep criticising Reisman for not making a cool steril raitonal Austiran property rights argument.

Rolf Norfolk May 15, 2007 at 10:31 am

What is happiness? And could we stand another person’s version of it for long, if we had it?

RogerM May 15, 2007 at 12:23 pm

James: “The Earth’s recources are all finite.” That’s an established fact, but only because we know the planet has a limit.

“We should be frugal and respectful for future generations.” That may sound logical, but it doesn’t necessarily follow from the above premise. We don’t know how much of natural resources we have on the planet. We know only what we have discovered, which may be a tiny fraction of what exists. Take oil, for example. We’ve heard for a century from peer-reviewed scientists that we would use it all up shortly. Yet we keep finding more. We have been told for decades that all the oil in the continental US has been found, then last year a company strikes oil in Nevada and it’s the biggest strike on land ever. Scientists should be a whole lot more humble about what they don’t know. We may have discovered less than one percent of the natural resources available.

As for conserving natural resources, I have no problem with that. But I would emphasize that the fairest and most reasonable method is let the market do the rationing, not the government. As resources become more scarce, the price will rise and the market will force its own rationing. At the same time, the potential profits in alternative fuels will encourage their development. Just keep the government out of it. 991646

Dave May 15, 2007 at 1:14 pm

This is a great discussion, but each side loses my admiration when they re-phrase their opponent’s argument incorrectly.

If someone believes that CERTAIN polluters should bear SOME of the future costs of pollution, that is not the same as arguing that all air conditioners should be destroyed.

If someone responds that the government is poorly suited to determine future costs of pollution, that is not the same as arguing that private property rights are more important than the public good.

Every resource consumed by humans is removed from the pool of resources available for future consumption. The only way to completely eliminate my impact on future generations is by refusing to eat or breathe. On the other hand, I might leave a smaller “footprint” on the environment simply by eating less meat and more veggies.

Should I abondon the second option simply because the first is impractical?

Any potential solution, carried to the ultimate extreme, is unrealistic. Serious economists should not use that type of argument to discuss the real world.

Ubiquity January 6, 2009 at 6:04 am

Wow that was a great blog.

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