Thursday, 21 February 2008

Johann Hari vs Libertarians

UPDATE 04/03: Did you come across Question That while trying to find Brendan O'Neill's response to Hari's reference to Spiked Online as "people who take money from the fossil fuels industry itself"? If so, click here!

I'm slightly surprised Johann Hari's latest column (in Thursday's Independent (Link)) hasn't been picked up on by the libertarian blogosphere. Perhaps because it's not up on his website yet?

After all, the article is a straight up call for Government intervention. And it's about what I know is a hot button topic for several of you.

"Just as no libertarian would argue you should have the right to buy and fire a nuclear weapon, no libertarian should argue you have the right to burn unlimited greenhouse gases." - Johann Hari
That specific aspect of the argument, based as it is on the central libertarian principle that one man's* liberty ends where another's begins (alternatively, 'Do what you like as long as you harm no one'), is not something I can find fault with.

I consider two other aspects of the argument, however, to be flawed - or at least not as indupitably valid as Hari appears to believe. They are 1) That carbon emissions are "undeniably harming tens of millions of people", and 2) That Government legislation is any way to go about mitigating the problem.

On 1), I personally believe that climate change is a genuine concern, but am also inclined to think that the threat is being exaggerated, either for effect (I posted about this in more detail here) or because it is easier to obtain funding with big, newsworthy results than small, not-so-newsworthy ones. Predictive computer models are very manipulable when compared to observation-based analyses.
I'm aware of several bloggers who are thoroughly in what I guess Hari would call the 'deniers' (what a hideous term) camp on this issue, and I am pretty confident in saying that they are not taking money from the fossil fuels industry**! They may be wrong, but this kind of 'the people who oppose me are stooges' rhetoric does an argument no favours.

As for 2), that is the subject of tomorrow's main post...

* That's man as in human being, not man as in human male!
** (Added 22/02): "On a related note, if any big business would like to pay me huge sums of cash to report on the massive flaws in the AGW evidence, I am more than happy to take it..." - Devil's Kitchen (Link)


Mark Wadsworth said...

Thanks for that - Pete's comment was the most tragically inadvertently funny comment I've ever had, I'm glad it's not just me who thought that way.

Dorothea said...

I'm one treehugger who's agnostic on the subject, and fed up with the way that climate change has taken over the environmental agenda. This seems no accident, on the establishment's part, as it lends itself all too readily to the horrors of State intervention and control, not to mention bags of overpaid CONsultants and a mania for damaging, dubious and lucrative technofixes at the general expense.

Buckets of greenwash for industrialising the countryside with giant wind turbines, agrofuel plantations and processing factories and so on and on.

This was me in angry mood on the subject;