Thursday, April 04, 2013

Fox's Stossel: a Sensible Libertarian and Some of His Extremist Critics

John Stossel writes:
Experts from across the political spectrum say that when the "free market" does not account for the external costs that fossil fuel production imposes on society, the government must step in to put a price on pollution.”
You can love nature and still hate the tyranny of environmental regulations.
I love trees and animals.
But you can love nature and still hate the tyranny that environmental regulations bring.
“So in the ’70s, government passed rules that demanded we stop polluting the air and water. Industry put scrubbers in smokestacks. Towns installed sewage treatment. Now the air is quite clean, and I can swim in the rivers around Manhattan.”
“But government didn’t stop there. Government never stops. Now that the air is cleaner, government spends even more than it spent to clean the air to subsidize feeble methods of energy production, like windmills and solar panels. Activists want even more spending. A few years back, the Center for American Progress announced they were upset that “Germany, Spain and China Are Seizing the Energy Opportunity ... the United States Risks Getting Left Behind.”
In this case, we’re better off “left behind.” After spending billions, those European governments made no breakthroughs, and now they’re cutting back.”  
Read more.  HERE 
John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of  "No, They Can't: Why Government Fails-But Individuals Succeed," "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his website HERE  .
John Stossel is a talented populist advocate of free markets and to that extent I am an admirer of his punchy writing style.   He attracts hostile reactions to his name and his writing from leftist types who cannot stand his talented style of expressing his convictions.
Stossel’s critics take no prisoners in their opposition to him and his ideas.   They reject him outright, even when, as above, he makes his case, while conceding a role to Government intervention on a case by case basis, and observed that legislations of regulations to tackle the worst manifestations of those who cause specific pollutions are worthwhile – “Now the air is quite clean, and I can swim in the rivers around Manhattan”. 
Quite clearly, Stossel, historically is quite right; Government never stops expanding its roles.  Why? Because each regulation is seldom a one-off event and politicians, and the lobbyists have vested interests in their expansion.
Extremists on both sides of this argument start from different premises. Those who identify a good reason for why the government must pass a law or a regulation to deal with a specific problem are often hyper-suspicious of markets and believe – some passionately – that only the government is the solution.  Those who are hyper-suspicious of government’s ambitious proclivity for expanding its roles at public expense believe – some passionately – that only markets are the solution.  The former are socialists of various leftish hues or those located in the antechambers of dictatorships of former-communists, while the latter are libertarians of various shades from moderates (such as myself) through to rightist conservative politicians. (Interestingly, these categories tend to merge.  We have socialists/social democrats who see the value of some markets, and libertarians who see the value of laws and some regulatory legislation).
I find Adam Smith’s pragmatism a useful guide in considering these issues.  I remind readers that Adam Smith saw the need for regulation in cases, even where the regulations may be “a manifest violation” of “natural liberty”. The class of cases where such “manifest violations” of “natural liberty” were necessary was where “those exertions of the natural liberty of a few individuals, are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments: of the most free, as well as of the most despotical” (WN II.ii.94: 324).  
Smith also gave two examples: “The obligation of building party walls, in order to prevent the communication of fire” and “regulations of the banking trade”.
Smith bridges the gap between far-left Statists and far-right libertarians (in modern terminology) by conceding to the sensible pragmatic view as to what works.
The criteria ought to be markets are insufficient as solutions, evidenced by outcomes, not ideology, and when State regulations become an overly expensive burden beyond their effectiveness, because of their awesome expense from continual proliferation of regulations and their supervisory Regulatory Bodies.
Now it seems to me that Stossel makes his point well.  He comes a bit of the way towards the concerns of his critics.  Do they, can they, come a bit of the way from the opposite direction?  Reading the comments to his post, sad to say, they don’t.
The response from some activists to Stossel? Sample them HERE 


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