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Home > Libertarian Objections
Libertarian Denial of The Commons, Global Warming & Path Dependence
by Bob Powell, 10/28/09
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Letters, I get letters ... well, e-mails really. For example, letters commenting on these two articles:

Response to 'The Commons: What Tragedy? by Wilton D. Alston' 8/12/09. A libertarian praises the right of the "free market" to destroy a common resource: "Why do these specific fish need to be preserved? Who gets to decide? How do they know? Who should pay because of it? Why?" It's this kind of "thinking" that made Easter Island uninhabitable and will do the same to the planet, if not successfully opposed.

From Growth to Overshoot & Collapse 8/13/09. This reviews structures associated with exponential growth, limits to growth, & overshoot & collapse. In this last case, we have experienced ocean fish depletion and making Easter Island uninhabitable. We're doing the same to Earth itself.

Example e-mails on them:

And then there are the expected libertarian objections denying reality. I love 'em. I keep hoping -- in vain -- that libertarians will come up with valid points or logical arguments. Convince them? No. This is for those who wish to judge for themselves the validity of their point of view vs mine.

Here are links to them just below:

Jeff Wright on how the Easter Island collapse was not a "Tragedy of the Commons", but because it had a tribal culture without private property rights

M. Michaels quotes Gandhi (wow!) who "warned us of the likes of YOU" ... meaning liberals like me ... and he denies the reality of path dependence & climate change, calling me a "useful idiot"


Jeff Wright on how the Easter Island collapse was not a "Tragedy of the Commons", but because it had a tribal culture without private property rights

My responses to Jeff's comments, as received, on Response to 'The Commons: What Tragedy? by Wilton D. Alston' 8/12/09 are indented.

From: "Jeff L. Wright" <....................>
To: "Bob Powell"
Subject: RE: This ignoramus responds to a libertarian fool
Date: Sat, 22 Aug 2009 12:31:40 -0700

Nothing has changed in your end of the world has it Bob?

Nothing changed in 'my world'? Actually it's that nothing has changed in Wright's world. It cannot as long as he wears libertarian blinders that preclude change. He's stuck in 16th century, Machiavellian thinking that maintains government cannot work. See Government Dysfunction.

Or perhaps it's even more serious. It may be that the thinking harks back to 3 million years! Here's a brief interview from Earth & Sky: Carol Ward finds being social helped humans evolve 8/23/09

Carol Ward: Social interactions are the defining feature of humans, and have shaped all of modern human biology and have set us apart as a species.

That’s anthropologist Carol Ward, of the University of Missouri at Columbia. According to her research, our ‘social intelligence’ – how we learn to interact with each other – has played a large role in our evolution.

Carol Ward: What we realized in looking at the data, and thinking about how the brain works, and how we’re similar and different from other animals, is that it’s really the social interactions that have shaped human evolution. None of the other theories explain all of the aspects of human uniqueness and how it fits together.

Ward said fossil records as well as archeological evidence of behavior, show that the hominid brain increased 250 percent in less than 3 million years. Ward said that throughout human evolution, social interaction became increasingly important to evolutionary success. Humans needed large brains, she said, to negotiate different social settings and social groups.

Carol Ward: It’s the interaction with members of our own species – in terms of competition, cooperation, and help that has shaped the evolution of the human brain and human abilities.

Our thanks to:
Carol Ward
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO

We are social beings as well as individual persons. Rejecting this ignores our evolution as a species.

You never answered any of his economic understanding questions, where you failed to address the price and cost-of-production mechanisms, among others.

Actually, I do "address the price and cost-of-production mechanisms". The "Tragedy of the Commons" insert shows the structure and notes that "the increased 'effort required per fish caught' reduces profits."

However, thinking that this increase in costs will cause fishermen to stop fishing because it reduces profits depends on several assumptions:

1. That the price does not rise, because of scarcity, faster than costs. That's not necessarily the case; thanks to technology, fishermen can find darn near every last fish.

2. That fishermen will stop fishing as profits fall. The fact is that fishermen fish. That's what they know. That's what they do. It's their life. The feel helpless to do anything but keep fishing. They persevere. And they fight to maintain their territories and to keep fishing. They'll keep fishing even as prices go down!

Here are excerpts from an example about lobstermen illustrating that: In Maine, Tensions Over Ailing Lobster Industry

... “The idea is to make sure that people who are taking lobsters off this piece of bottom are living here on the island,” said Clayton Philbrook, a lobsterman whose ancestors settled here in the 1820s. “If we lose control, we fold up and die — that’s it.”

The fishing industry is suffering nationally, a victim of depleted stocks, tightening regulations and competition from other countries. But Maine, which produces 80 percent of the nation’s lobster catch and depends more on fishing than most states, is especially hard hit.

Lobstering is as vital as oxygen on Matinicus, which is smaller than Central Park. But the global recession has made an already fragile livelihood all the more so, forcing Maine’s lobster fleet to grapple with the steepest price decline in decades. ...

This is on violence over the use of the commons ... as there was on Easter Island. Libertarians say the solution is to just sell the area to someone who would presumably not overuse it. I suspect lobsterman whose ancestors settled here in the 1820s would object.

This is similar to the effect that farmland in production is relatively inelastic to demand for farm products. Farmers farm; that's what they do. See Farm Policy Failure.

3. That it's OK to deny reality. Species are actually fished to the point that there aren't any more to catch. Examples like that of the overshoot & collapse of the haddock catch can't get around libertarian blinders.

You use the Easter Island example as  your usual strawman apparently without understanding how that was completely the Failure of the Commons and collectivist model of a tribal culture where there were no private property rights establishment.

To deal with the commons problem, the libertarian ideal is to define the commons away: "If only there were no 'commons', there wouldn't be a problem." The idea that a society with "private property rights" would solve the problem fails totally. One cannot privatize the oceans without warfare and, even if sold off, it would require an impossible degree of policing to enforce those "property rights." And those darn fish don't stay in just one area ... they migrate ... and don't recognize property rights. Even more impossible, the earth's atmosphere is a commons that can't privatize.

Even "private property rights" wouldn't stop what happened on Easter Island. Everyone could still cut down all the trees on their own property in their own short-term self-interest ... a growing population would still lead to this result. Jeff Wright has said directly to me that "it's not in everyone's interest to cut down all the trees" on their own property. That might be the case, if people didn't, in reality, pursue their own self interest, even when doing so negatively affects the interests of all others, and even themselves.

Most humans do not understand that acting "in their own self interest" is often neither "in their best interest" nor in the interest of the whole system. To think they do understand ignores the Fallacy of Composition. Even when they do understand, they often don't because they feel powerless to do other than look out for themselves. When the system fails, individuals fail, too.

But never mind ... the libertarian, theoretical ideal trumps reality. Libertarians cling to their theoretical, Never Never Land, refusing to grow up. Juveniles and libertarians alike neglect responsibilities to the long-term and to the whole, adopting a childish, teenage, foot-stomping, "I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it" attitude. But maturity requires balancing between the extremes. Just as in a family we must balance between individual and family needs, in a society we must also balance between individual and collective needs.

"It's a strawman," is what they always say to ignore examples they don't like. Easter Island is no strawman. They actually did cut down all the trees Easter Island, and it wasn't simply because of a tribal culture (it's because humans are prone to the Fallacy of Composition). The haddock catch was actually fished to overshoot & collapse ... never mind. The lobstermen keep lobstering even in the face of declining stocks AND falling prices ... never mind.

How very annoying that such actual behaviors don't fit libertarian ideology. When reality intrudes, reality must be ignored.

You myopia, as always, and failure to make any attempt to answer Alston's critique other than flippant and back-handed insult is typical of your style and why your theories never go anywhere.

Alston's commentary is filled with "flippant and back-handed insult." I responded somewhat in kind, but actually held back.

Maybe you need a real job in the real economy.

Lots of people need jobs in "the real economy." But it's collapsing thanks to a libertarian bent that applauds "free trade" offshoring, "free market" externalizing of costs onto the public, deregulation, and the policies of a privatized Federal Reserve that keeps unemployment high & prints money to cater to corporate, import-company interests in keeping the "free trade", hollowing out of America going until the U.S. economy is entirely destroyed.

The irony is that libertarians complain about the Fed, even though it's privatized and not run by government. The result is the inevitable end of libertarian ideology: a feudal society ... with government of, for, and by the corporations.

Jeff Wright


M. Michaels quotes Gandhi (wow!) who "warned us of the likes of YOU" ... meaning me ... and he denys the reality of path dependence & global warming, calling me a "useful idiot".

Here, as I received it with my comments indented, is another example of libertarian denial of reality from an "M. Michaels" on From Growth to Overshoot & Collapse 8/13/09. In this case its denying the reality of the very real path dependence dynamic. He also throws in some profanity and racism. Excellent. He's upset that I sent him spam, though he's the one who first sent e-mail to me.

Date: Sun, 23 Aug 2009 10:54:01 -0700 (PDT)
From: "M. M!" <...>
Subject: Oh, you're so smart...
To: Bob Powell

Why are YOU--the most perfect example of a "useful idiot"--all of a sudden sending me spam?

Gee, that hurts. :-)
You don't remember? It was you who e-mailed me first.

Date: Sun, 22 Mar 2009 17:31:44 -0700 (PDT)
From: "M. Michaels"  <...>
Subject: Huh?

Your comments are posted at
Freedom? Liberal vs. Conservative
I Can Disprove 'Progressive' Anti-think

Remember, Gandhi warned us of the likes of YOU:

Wow! A morality-deprived, "free market" libertarian quoting Gandhi? Now I've seen everything. Nice quote, but your examples are pure nonsense. Has there been anyone more liberal than Gandhi?

"The things that will destroy us are:

politics without principle (the Democrat party);

1. Learn English to know adjectives vs nouns ... it's "Democratic Party". Democrat is a noun.
2. Granted, libertarians have principles, which are ignorant as well as evil in their application. See the Libertarian Menace.
3. There are some Democrats who also serve corporate masters. They're called Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) Democrats; they are as misguided on economics as "conservatives" and libertarians.

pleasure without conscience (Hollywood);

Seriously now. Hollywood is a perfect example of the "free market" giving people what they want. Don't complain. And libertarians have a "conscience"? No. They only have their "free market" and whatever the market will bear.

wealth without work (economic redistribution);

The problem is manipulated distribution in the first place, see Data on Income & Tax Distributions. What's worse, corporations redistribute costs onto the population at large; that's the libertarian ideal.

Economic "conservatives" and libertarians even deny that corporations should pay taxes at all, even though internalizing the cost of corporate use of the commons (e.g., infrastructure and courts) is the only way market forces can properly guide choices.

Both capitalism and socialism engage in redistribution. It's just that capitalism inherently redistributes costs from rich to the poor, as opposed to socialism that redistributes income.

knowledge without character (the global warming hoax);

Libertarians without knowledge in the first place and unable to learn thanks to libertarian blinders. See the charts showing a clear trend of warming from 1910 past 2000 at Global Warming: An Inconvenient-to-Understand Truth. Yes, there was a period from the 40s through the 60s where there was no warming, but to deny as overall warming trend is to deny reality.

There was a session on the urgency with which we must address global warming at the System Dynamics Conference I attended in July in Albuquerque. See Using C-ROADS to Support Analysis of International Climate Change Proposals Abstract Link.

And yes, I am aware of the hacked e-mails (Hacked E-Mail Is New Fodder for Climate Dispute By ANDREW C. REVKIN 11/20/09) and why the deniers have it wrong: Phil Jones and Ben Santer respond to CEI and Pat Michaels attack on temperature data record.

business without morality (any corporation controlled by government policy, like Obama's GE);

A prime example of getting it backwards: it's corporations that control government ... e.g., bank bailouts with virtually no strings attached and we can't even find out which got what thanks to a privatized Federal Reserve (... that's the libertarian ideal: privatization).

science without humanity (embryonic stem cell research),

Another perfect example of the "free market" in action ... it has no morals, much less humanity ...  Don't complain.

and worship without sacrifice (liberalism)"

No sacrifice? Liberals don't mind being taxed to help those less fortunate. They understand: "there for the grace of God go I."

Because so-called "progressives," like YOU--more like "oppressives," right?--need but three things to survive:

Something to hate...
Something to steal...
Something to blame.

That about nails it down, YOU and Obama, right?  Or are YOU still going to run from YOUR litany of past failures, hmm?  Talk about radical individualism--that we should all suffer to feed YOUR demonic, self-deluded ego?  That's just sick.

As if liberals have been in charge since Reagan. :-D No, it's been economic "conservatives" all the way (including Clinton; documented at Hannity Insanity). Somehow, though in charge for decades, economic "conservatives" somehow manage to blame liberals when things fall apart thanks to their "free trade", "free market", deregulation insanity. See who's responsible for economic failure so far. That said, Obama's economic policies will fail because he's still too far to the economic "right" in not addressing trade policy: On stimulus, "trade" anti-stimulus, and the GDP equation.

And for the last time, path dependence is a THEORY NOT A FACT!  But, now that emotion is the "new" intellect--thanks to the likes of YOU--I doubt very much that YOU would know the difference.

Never played the game, Monopoly? Given you cannot recognize the reality of a dynamic that hits you in the face, it's obvious that "insane" is an appropriate appellation. See examples in The Archetypes, Generic Structures & Examples and at Wealth Happens.

Remove from YOUR mailing list (or not, it's goes to my "junk" folder now where it belongs).

Watch where the "Sans Vérité" shit you,
M. Scott Michaels

P.S. In YOUR wonderful garden analogy, who pray-tell are the "weeds," hmm?  Lemme guess, it's the blacks...no, the Jews!

No, it's neither "blacks" nor "Jews". Save the racism.

The "weeds" are the "free market" weeds like Hollywood violence, pornography, and addictive drugs that run rampant and overrun a productive economy. That's the "free market", give-them-what-they-want philosophy of libertarianism.

Libertarian ignorance is legion and cannot possibly recognize Vérité ... and it's evil.

Thanks for writing,


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© 2003 Continuous Improvement Associates
Libertarian Denial of The Commons, Global Warming & Path Dependence
I Can Disprove 'Progressive' Anti-think
Government Dysfunction
"Fallacy of the Commons"
The Commons: What Tragedy? by Wilton D. Alston
Problems: A Society's or An Individual's?
Command and Control
Libertarian Quotes
There's No Collective or Social Reality
Objection to 'Explaining Liberal Principles'