Free Market Environmentalism – Freedom Philosophy


Fifteen years ago when the Kyoto Protocol was in vogue and environmentalism became a normal part of discussions, I was at a book study with some leftists. They were enraged that I didn’t support the measures. They levied every nasty accusation that leftists tend to do (somehow, it also made me a racist). In the end, we were lighthearted, had a beer, and went home. I hoped on my bike, and they got into their SUVs.

I asked, “You see the irony of all this, don’t you?”

Out came a list of excuses as long as your arm as to why they need to be driving SUVs. Herein we find the demarcation of libertarian and conservative attitudes from leftist and communist attitudes – personal responsibility. The left is desirous for everyone else to fix a problem while we would rather take action ourselves. Given the gravity the importance concerning the environment, this is virtue signaling at its worst.

For reasons that escape my grasp, environmentalism isn’t popular within the libertarian movement. My suspicion is that it has to do with so many environmentalists proposing taxes and harsh regulations to deal with environmental ills.

Consider plastic. It has costs to society that neither producers or consumers pay. As such, it’s a violation of the non-aggression principle. There’s room for libertarian activism and perhaps even the judicial involvement.

There’s an issue that goes beyond apathy, and it’s outright denial of a problem. This typically doesn’t happen on the issue of plastic but it does happen on climate change.

In fairness to the deniers, the talk of global cooling shifting to talk of global warming, shifting to climate change invites a measure of skepticism. The constant doomsday predictions are unhelpful as well; the left claimed we would all be dead without action by 1990, then it was 2003, Al Gore popularized 2016 as the point of no return, and now we’re told 2030.

I don’t find this a compelling reason to deny climate change. As an investor, I confidently predict the DOW will be worth much more in 30 years than it is now. As for how one particular stock will do next week, I haven’t a clue. We can measure trends, and in this case, we can measure temperature and pollution in order to extrapolate the data for 150 years from now, without perfect accuracy in predicting the weather next week.

There’s a reason the planet Venus is hotter than the planet Mercury – greenhouse gases. The question arises as to what we ought to be doing about it.

As libertarians, we wish to acclimate to a freer economy. Rather than disincentivizing polluting through carbon taxes, the government ought to be incentivizing greener living. Interest charges on refinances to cover solar panels on a house ought to be a tax write-off, and the same can be said for auto loans on electric cars. A low-end electric car, with such a write-off, has nearly the same monthly expenses as a Civic.

Canada spends $3.3 billion annually on our fossil fuel industry, and only $450 million on green tech. This is a skewed market that favours pollution.

The socialist solution for and leftists are legitimately dumbfounded as to why this hasn’t worked, is to take people’s money through a carbon tax and then reinvest in green tech companies. As a green tech investor, identifying residual cash-flows with these companies is difficult.

These politicians don’t have the resume to suggest they have the capacity to invest in speculative green tech companies. If this is contrasted with an individual who has a tax break to purchase alternative energy solutions for their home, the company the individual goes to is good for the economy because they’re by definition, making a sale. The company the resume-lacking politician invests with may or not be successful. The efficient solution is the free market and not the government.

Moral suasion and personal responsibility aren’t sufficient to assist our environment. We desire a system that abstains from taxation, but as we move in that direction I believe the first step ought to be with the environment, and find tax relief for people there first and foremost.

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Brandon Kirby

Brandon Kirby has a philosophy degree from the University of New Brunswick and is a current MBA candidate finishing his thesis. He is an AML officer specializing in hedge funds in the Cayman Islands, owns a real estate company in Canada, and has been in the financial industry since 2004. He is the director of Being Libertarian - Canada and the president of the Libertarian Party of Canada.

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