Libertarians Debate What (If Anything) To Do About Global Warming


My colleague Shikha Dalmia has organized a Reason Foundation Roundtable to launch a a long overdue debate among libertarians and other supporters of free markets about what to do about man-made global warming. As Dalmia points out:

While it is difficult to use property rights to protect the global commons and avert climate change, it does not follow that government regulations are therefore the answer.

If not more government regulation, what possible answers does libertarian economic and political thinking bring to the issue of climate change? To begin this important debate, Dalmia asked the chairman of George Mason University's economics department, Donald Boudreaux, and the director of the International Policy Network, Julian Morris, for their views.

Just a few enticing tidbits from the discussion so far:


But I nevertheless insist that science does not unambiguously endorse action against global warming. Put differently—and contrary to today's elite opinion—ignoring global warming is not necessarily a sign of scientific illiteracy or of ideologically induced stupidity.


[U]niversal adoption of the institutions of the free society would better enable adaptation to climate both now and in the future. It would also ensure that, if at some point in the future, a real catastrophe—whether human -induced or otherwise (including climate change)—does loom on the horizon, humanity would be in a better position to address it.

One of the respondents to the debate is Cato Institute senior fellow Jerry Taylor:

Donald Boudreaux argues that politicians can't possibly know the "right" level of emission controls to impose because that knowledge can only arise through market interactions, and voter preferences are notoriously incapable of mimicking real consumer preferences. Fair enough, but as Don confesses, transaction costs prohibit market interactions that might reveal that information. But his conclusion—that because of the above, the state should do nothing—is unpersuasive.

See other responses and join the discussion yourselves at the Roundtable website or here at Hit & Run.