Reason Writers Around Town

|

Nick Gillespie takes aim at "Buy Nothing Day" in a commentary for NPR.

Audio here.  Text here.

NEXT: It's "Buy Nothing Day" in North Korea Every Day of the Year...

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I went out and bought something I didn’t really need just because I find the Buy Nothing movement so wrong-headed and down right annoying. To ad a little twist, I bought it at Wal-Mart. The one and only time this year I will set foot in the place.

  2. From what I’ve seen, the real point of the day is to get people to think about the impact of what they buy and where they buy it. Seems like a healthy thing to me.

  3. Nick,

    Any e-mail responses so far?

  4. Just an observation. As a rundown neighborhood get gentrified, i.e. richer, it invariably gets cleaner.
    Who thinks the pathetically impoverished, third world North Korea is environmentally better off than the capitalist, first world, South Korea? One of the side effects off wealth is concern for, and care of, the environment. Are we perfect at it? NO! However, there are too many examples of poverty and pollution existing side by side to ignore.

  5. NPR sure runs some interesting stuff.

  6. To ad a little twist

    Let me ad my 2 cents.

    As a rundown neighborhood get gentrified, i.e. richer, it invariably gets cleaner.

    True. Less fun is watching all the unique, lower-rent businesses turn into drugstores and bank branches… But yeah, the national effect is always positive. I’ve been to East Germany and China – both were hideously polluted.

  7. From the 2006 Press Release about Nuy Nothing Day: Reasons for participating in Buy Nothing Day are as varied as the people who choose to participate…

    As long as they’re not calling for legislation to restrict my shopping – and it’s clear they’re not – they can do what they want.

    Good point about fish depletion, though, Nick. I hadn’t considered it before. How would you use ownership for open-ocean fishing?

    Fish farming has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but it has limits and only works well for certain species.

    Cordoning off portions of the ocean seems silly and you can’t very well put a radio tag on each fish or school of fish. So how would you apply ownership to the problem?

  8. Nick,
    You should probably get off it. Nobody is all that bothered by the stupid buy nothing day. If anything, the comments in the last post showed that people either don’t give a flip, or think it’s a good thing. Perhaps you should be praising Adbusters for it’s very obvious non-governmental, non-regulatory approach to getting its message across. Just because you don’t personally buy into the message doesn’t make it a bad idea. You cherry-picked a few issues to try and nail them on, and really didn’t even succeed at that. I’m laughing at your “sunshine stater homes” comment. Uh, what the F are you talking about? The homes fall apart like the rafters are allergic to each other. Sure, we’re better off than Bangladesh. Yay, somebody give Nick a Pulitzer prize for that observation. I think the problem with your take on Buy Nothing day is that you see everything in terms of black and white. Seriously, relax. It isn’t called Buy Nothing Year or Buy Nothing Life. It’s one goddam day and there’s nothing that says you have to observe it. If libertarians take aim at activists who explicitly reject government intervention, then just who the hell are our allies?

  9. Good point about fish depletion, though, Nick.

    A lot of overfishing can also be attributed to subsidies to national fishing fleets.Either more people were able to enter the field due to low interest loans to buy boats (the American approach) or governments financed the huge factory ships that required catches that seriously stressed fish populations.

  10. A lot of overfishing can also be attributed to…

    Then there are the fishing methods. The most production-oriented methods also kill a lot of sealife not desired by the market so it gets thrown back needlessly killing the food desired fish would eat and creating large amounts of waste.

    Which brings me to one of the points made by AdBusters that goes un-addressed by Nick…waste production. Packaging alone accounts for stunning amouts of waste. In our abundance, we waste large amounts of food.

    Surely activism that seeks to increase awareness of our waste without regulating is not a bad thing.

    As I made the point in the previous thread (and with a tip o’ the hat to Lamar), isn’t that what libertarianism is all about?

  11. Lamar,

    If you are going to defend Adbusters and Buy Nothing Day against Nick you should try to convince him, and us, either that the ‘core message’ of Buy Nothing Day is not ‘we must consume less’, or, that we actually should consume less.

  12. “Nick,
    You should probably get off it. Nobody is all that bothered by the stupid buy nothing day. If anything, the comments in the last post showed that people either don’t give a flip, or think it’s a good thing. Perhaps you should be praising Adbusters for it’s very obvious non-governmental, non-regulatory approach to getting its message across. Just because you don’t personally buy into the message doesn’t make it a bad idea. You cherry-picked a few issues to try and nail them on, and really didn’t even succeed at that. I’m laughing at your “sunshine stater homes” comment. Uh, what the F are you talking about? The homes fall apart like the rafters are allergic to each other. Sure, we’re better off than Bangladesh. Yay, somebody give Nick a Pulitzer prize for that observation.”

    Flicking me in the ear might be an action done without goverment intervention, but I’m not going to praise it because is still an annoying and counter-productive thing to do. I’m sure that Nick feels like adbusters has a right to protest what they want, but at the same time Nick has a right to point out the fallacy of their ideas. (It’s called the market place of ideas)

    Also, I live in Flordia and been through two hurricanes in which I was able to walk through the house without fear and at one point sneak outside to smoke. Our houses (for the most part) stand up just find.

    “I think the problem with your take on Buy Nothing day is that you see everything in terms of black and white. Seriously, relax. It isn’t called Buy Nothing Year or Buy Nothing Life. ”
    But the purpose of the day is to curb consumerism and for adbusters to make us pay attention to what a consumerists culture we are. Nick is standing up and saying “hey, wait a minute, being a consumerist culture isn’t that bad of a thing. It’s brought on many advancements like hurricane proof-houses.”

  13. Mitch: I’m not sure why I would have to convince anybody that the core message of Buy Nothing day is that we should consume less. Of course buying nothing leads to consuming less. I’m not sure that’s the “core” of the message. I think that’s just Nick’s dumbing down of the message to attack it more easily, though he’s not entirely off. I think the message has more to do with thinking about why we buy the things we buy, and to cut out the waste. But this isn’t my magazine, and my characterization of the message doesn’t count. Adbusters itself doesn’t say we should consume less. It only says that we should question our “unbridled consumption.” There’s a difference there unless you only see black and white.

    Jonathan Hohensee: I had a good laugh at your “flicking my ear” comment. Doesn’t mean anything, but it made me laugh (get back to me when anybody advocates government ear flicking!). Nick doesn’t even appear to know what Adbusters represents, except that he’s against it. I’m from Florida as well, just ate at Guppy’s last night. My house has been standing for 30 years. Of course, Allstate is pulling out of the homeowner’s business because it can’t make a buck. If the construction is so awesome, why can’t the houses get insurance? I don’t know the answer, really. It might have something to do with newer homes being crap. Have you seen the swamp in Sarasota that they call “the suburbs”?

    And I disagree with your characterization of Nick’s argument. He isn’t just saying that consumerist culture is a good thing. He’s saying that we need more consumerism, and any message about waste or the powers of marketing get in the way of that. It’s like he’s against thinking about what you buy. Less thought, folks!

    I’ve been critical of Adbusters in the other thread. I bought their $100 shoes and the shits fell apart 3 months later. They never did send me the DVD I bought. The only reason I’ve taken up against Nick is because his view of the Adbuster’s message is absurdly simplistic. In my view, Adbusters are a bunch of smug pricks who think snobbery will win the day. But the Buy Nothing day is, apart from the fact that Adbusters came up with it, a good idea. In the end, it is all a question of taste. I come down on the side of “buying more shit doesn’t make life better.” Also, I don’t see how opposition to Buy Nothing Day furthers a free mind or a free market, though I can see how buying nothing could have the effect of freeing the mind from Nick’s beloved consumer culture.

  14. My point with the ear-flicking thing is that Nick has a right to rail against it even though the idea Nick is talking about doesn’t use government intervention. (again, its the marketplace of ideas; if you say something stupid, I should stand up and refute that)

    “I’m from Florida as well, just ate at Guppy’s last night. My house has been standing for 30 years. Of course, Allstate is pulling out of the homeowner’s business because it can’t make a buck. If the construction is so awesome, why can’t the houses get insurance? I don’t know the answer, really. It might have something to do with newer homes being crap. Have you seen the swamp in Sarasota that they call “the suburbs”? ”
    The damage doesn’t destroy many houses, but it does bring much structural and ornamental damages it houses, so it has become costly for Allstate to insure us for our homes, but we are still much better off than Bangladesh where 150,000 people die in hurricanes versus the one or two people who die down here after a tree falls on them post-hurricane. (I’d only start worrying if Allstate begins pulling out of supplying Life insurance, at which point I’d do the logical thing and move out of the region, assuming the zombie vampires don’t get to me first)

    “And I disagree with your characterization of Nick’s argument. He isn’t just saying that consumerist culture is a good thing. He’s saying that we need more consumerism, and any message about waste or the powers of marketing get in the way of that. It’s like he’s against thinking about what you buy. Less thought, folks!”
    You’re putting words into his mouth, Nick is responding to Adbuster’s argument that consumerism is causing fishing to be depleted and global warming to be warmer by stating that privatizing the oceans would influence people to be more responsible fishermen and that, if global warming happens, consumers will adapt to it, like by building stronger houses.

    “I’ve been critical of Adbusters in the other thread. I bought their $100 shoes and the shits fell apart 3 months later. They never did send me the DVD I bought. The only reason I’ve taken up against Nick is because his view of the Adbuster’s message is absurdly simplistic. In my view, Adbusters are a bunch of smug pricks who think snobbery will win the day. But the Buy Nothing day is, apart from the fact that Adbusters came up with it, a good idea. In the end, it is all a question of taste. I come down on the side of “buying more shit doesn’t make life better.””
    To me, not buying more shit doesn’t make life better, and in some cases buying stuff helps me be happy. (example; in my pre-iPod days I had to clean the grills in silence, now I have something to keep me entertained while I work) I personally resent Adbuster’s insinuation that I’m a zombie/inflected with “Affluenza”/a “shop-o-holic” just because I purchase consumer products.

  15. Lamar,

    You must be kidding if you don’t think that the argument that ‘we should question our unbridled consumption’ is not a gussied-up argument that ‘we should consume less.’ Do you really believe that the AdBusters people think there is a chance that the answer to the question is ‘we should consume more’?

    I am willing to say that I believe that ‘buying more shit can make life better.’ The books you enjoy reading, the music you enjoy listening to, the films you enjoy watching and the games you enjoy playing, those things make your life better, and unless they were stolen, you or someone else bought them.

  16. These things also improve society as a whole; comsumerist prouducts such as TV, computers, and cell phones now help ideas and information move with the speed of light now-a-days.
    Global Warming could be bad news, but cars help save millions of lives (while, granted, killing thousands of people too) while improving thousands on top of that saving money which people could use to buy even faster computers which help ideas go even faster which helps cars being developed more efficently which saves people more money to buy on faster computers which-THE CIIIIIIRRRRRRCCCCCCLE OF LIFE!
    its the wheel of fortune
    It’s the leap of faith
    It’s the band of hope
    Till we find our place
    On the path unwinding
    In the circle, the circle of life

  17. Mitch: I’m not here to gussy up any arguments, or project my view onto them. I only take them at face value. There is a difference between “Is buying that going to make you happier?” and “Don’t buy stuff!” There is a difference between saying, “That advertising campaign is bullshit” and “Don’t buy stuff!” Don’t forget, Adbusters is advocating that you buy their cheap crap (their arguments are internally inconsistent a number of times). In the end, I’m not against all these one-day think-a-thons, whether its national smokeout day (which I’ve never observed), Turn the TV off day, or even Earth Day. To me, awareness of how capitalism works is not an explicit command to stop buying things.

    Also, you shouldn’t equate Buy Nothing Day with a hippie commune or, as Reason is attempting to do, Communism (maybe Adbusters itself, but not their child). It’s more like, “think before you waste your money.” Your insistence that the issue comes down to a binary choice, consume more or consume less, is the very black and white view of the world that isn’t analytically helpful. Why not say, aside from being grammatically incorrect, “consume smarter”? When our markets depend on signals from the consumer, couldn’t it at least be argued that more reasoned consumption would lead to more effective markets?

    I’m hijacking Adbusters’ message and altering it to what I think it should be, but as I said, I don’t care for 9 out of 10 of their ideas anyway. Looking through their press releases, they seem to be internally inconsistent (the 2006 press release does say consume less, at the same time they peddle their goods). My point is, why waste a good idea on a bunch of arrogant bastards who think they’ll save the world with shitty trance music? I support Nick in attacking some of the crappy, overstretched arguments of Adbusters, while I still think Buy Nothing Day is a great idea.

  18. Lamar, do people really need an extra incentive to stop and think about what they want? Wouldn’t the incentive of actually getting superior good and services be enough for people to stop and think? Wouldn’t having a special stop and think day actually distract from the business of actually figuring out what products are “superior”?

    I guess your message could be construed as “do what you’re already doing (i.e. consuming) only do it better” in which case I think nobody would disagree except on whether having a day where people buy nothing actually furthers that end. On that fact, I tend put these “Do X days” in the same category as wearing colored ribbons. It’s more for the participant’s benefit than anything else. (“look at how much I hate cancer!”)

  19. “It’s Buy Nothing Day in North Korea every day of the year and look where it’s gotten them.”

    Brilliant.
    Stun us with more of your inapt analogies please.

    “Cordoning off portions of the ocean seems silly and you can’t very well put a radio tag on each fish or school of fish. So how would you apply ownership to the problem?”

    You might try putting a radio tag on fish that are released by fish farmers, then provide an infrastructure to pay them when the fish is harvested…

    Or a more practical approach: inform consumers about the externalities of their purchases and provide information for wiser choices.

    http://www.mbayaq.org/cr/seafoodwatch.asp
    http://www.mbayaq.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_resources.asp

    In the US government policy is already being reviewed with some suggestions creeping towards ownership

    http://www.oceancommission.gov/documents/full_color_rpt/19_chapter19.pdf

  20. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

    CODE OF CONDUCT FOR RESPONSIBLE FISHERIES

    http://www.oceanlaw.net/texts/faocode.htm

  21. “Wouldn’t the incentive of actually getting superior good and services be enough for people to stop and think?”

    Yeah. That is what McDonald’s was founded on. Superior food and service.

  22. Good stuff, Nick. Kudos.

  23. Superior food and service.

    Kroc was more interested in a consistent high quality product which was superior to other fast-food options at the time.

  24. I can’t say that I’m all that against Adbusters, other than the smug factor everyone’s already commented on. It just pisses me off that people think everyone is so stupid that they can’t make decisions for themselves in the face of advertising. When I upgrade my computer every year or so, it’s because I like playing video games and the newer systems having better graphics, sound, gameplay, etc. I’ve never bought a computer because I saw an ad for it on TV.

    But I do think Adbusters has every right to promote their buy nothing day, as long as they’re not calling for or suggesting and gov’t involvment. Then I’d tell them to stick it. 🙂

  25. “It just pisses me off that people think everyone is so stupid that they can’t make decisions for themselves in the face of advertising.”

    Well, somebody’s buying Head On.

  26. “Buy Nothing Day” is a black and white, absolutist sort of argument in itself. Nick is not making a black and white argument, he is responding to one by pointing out ways in which the marketplace is helpful as a problem solver and how problem solving outside the marketplace sometimes fails. The statement “Buy Nothing” strongly implies consumerism in itself is negative.

    Having said that, simply because one supports capitalism at the system level there’s no contradiction in rejecting specific directions capitalist enterprises might take or in spending a day meditating on a tree (or a good looking tree hugger). So, if they decided to have a “Buy Smarter or Chill out a Second Day” it would still be a little condescending but at least I don’t think you’d find as many objections around here. It’s the absolutism in “Buy Nothing” that is objectionable.

    The Ad Busters folks could at least be a little more consistent if they said, “Buy Nothing, including crap from us, Day.”

  27. If you buy nothing today, what are you going to do with the money you saved? Buy more tomorrow! Saving is just deferred consumptions as basic economics will tell you. This BND is just smug annoying posturing.
    Now “work less” day I could maybe get behind.

  28. “It’s Buy Nothing Day in North Korea every day of the year and look where it’s gotten them.”

    MainstreamMan at 5:30pm responded:

    Brilliant.
    Stun us with more of your inapt analogies please.

    It’s not inept at all. It’s right on target. AdBusters advocated a mindless boycott of exercising economic liberty, which has dramatically enriched our lives. And in contrasting the tragic situation in North Korea, which does not enjoy economic liberty, the point is well made.

    (I think that sometimes MainstreamMan just issues a naysay until he actually thinks of something to say)

  29. I went to Best Buy and CompUSA today. I was in the shop and think mode, and I expect many others were also. Both parking lots and stores were crowded, but the checkout lines were short.

    There are three competing large-screen television technologies: plasma, lcd, and dlp. And the NFL playoffs are just a month away, oh and Christmas too.

    PC’s are less expensive than ever, but MicroSquash won’t release Vista until spring.

    Problems in paradise.

  30. Rick,

    “It’s not inept at all.”

    I didn’t say it was inept = without skill or aptitude

    I said it was inapt = not apt or fitting

    Adbusters is not advocating central planning of the economy. Comparisons to NK are orthogonal to the issue.

    “I think that sometimes MainstreamMan just issues a naysay until he actually thinks of something to say”

    Maybe I should try the Barton method and say shit before I think about it… ;~)

  31. “economic liberty”

    Adbusters is advocating full exercise of economic liberty… including the freedom to refrain from spending the day shopping during the Thanksgiving holiday break.

  32. “Kroc was more interested in a consistent high quality product which was superior to other fast-food options at the time.”

    Consistent, yes.
    High quality, not so much…more like consistently good enough.

  33. FWIW,
    I find the issue of what to do about the decline in fisheries a far more interesting topic than Adbusters exercise.

  34. MainstreamMan,

    It’s certainly an apt remark cuz of the dearth of shopping in NK everyday, and it does not rely on Adbusters advocacies. Which makes your response to my response inapt indeed.

  35. MainstreamMan, Lamar, etc.: I realize that the authors of this site are a bit biased, and sometimes a bit hysterical (Further Googling led to commentary on the founder from our very own Reason magazine; that’s probably the most thorough article). But even taking their bias into account, the quotes and such they’ve rounded up make Adbusters seems decidedly creepy. Stuff like, “What makes you think you have the right to drive around with a ton of metal wrapped around you…the right to twist a tap and get hot water, the right to flick a switch and get your house warmed up?”

    Or how about founder Kalle Lasn’s advocacy of “Not just a carbon tax, but a global across-the-board pricing system that tells the ecological truth. Not just new measures of economic progress more accurate than the GDP, but a radical rethinking of the neoclassical paradigm we’ve been teaching in Economics 101 for the past few generations.” Or his claim that “chronic TV watching is North America’s number one mental health problem”?

    I agree with you all that there are valid objections to modern consumerist culture. Hell, I tried to buy something to violate Buy-Nothing Day, but couldn’t find anything I wanted to spend my money on; I’m not a shopaholic compulsively-consumerist dupe. There is a valid anti-hyperconsumerist position, but it’s not the position of the people at Adbusters.

  36. But Jadagul, MainstreamMan says that: Adbusters is advocating full exercise of economic liberty. I guess he must not count a carbon tax, and “a global across-the-board pricing system that tells the ecological truth” as being contra economic liberty.

    Hell, I tried to buy something to violate Buy-Nothing Day, but couldn’t find anything I wanted to spend my money on

    Jadagul, you commie!..Ok I didn’t shop Friday either-crowds. Oh wait, I did buy some books and CDs online for myself. Does that count?

  37. So it would seem that the subtext in the Adbusters “Please don’t shop” message is “We’re gonna make it harder for you to shop”

  38. I don’t need to buy nothing in order to think about the things I buy. It seems as though if your goal were to increase consumer awareness about consumption, you’d promote a “Read the Label Day” or something.

    The way I hear “Buy Nothing Day” advertised by many of its enthusiasts is as a sort of protest, or perhaps as a warning shot: everybody refuses to buy things -> corporate retailers realize that consumers can refuse to consume -> corporations become responsible citizens and stop using their subliminal ads to coerce helpless humanity into buying things it doesn’t really want.

    What irritates me is how ineffectual it is. Sure, it isn’t “Buy Nothing Year” or “Buy Nothing Life,” but maybe it should be. I mean, if you’re going to be craaaazy anti-consumerist, at least commit to the philosophy. As it is, I can be a good progressive citizen and buy nothing for a day, and then go buy everything I needed the next day instead. No real message is sent, I haven’t had any epiphanies about not really needing soap or socks: I’m annoyed and absolutely nothing has been accomplished.

  39. “I mean, if you’re going to be craaaazy anti-consumerist, at least commit to the philosophy.”

    You cite the evidence showing that these people are NOT crazy anti-consumerists, then you go ahead and assume they are anyway and question their commitment?

  40. Which “these people” are we talking about? ‘Cause it just so happens that the person I had this discussion with a few days ago did emphasize the anti-consumerist angle; he spun the whole thing as akin to a walk-out. I think a lot of people are getting into that angle.

    I already addressed your rationale in the first paragraph. If you want to encourage people to consider what they buy, having a one-day abstinence seems like a kludgy and thoroughly klueless way to go about doing so.

  41. Which brings me to one of the points made by AdBusters that goes un-addressed by Nick…waste production. Packaging alone accounts for stunning amouts of waste. In our abundance, we waste large amounts of food.

    Ever see what a Farmer’s Market tosses at the end of the day? One of the greatest advances in human history was learning how to store food produced today so it can be used later. Right up there with taming fire.

    Of course, Allstate is pulling out of the (Florida) homeowner’s business because it can’t make a buck.

    Insurance, particularly home, auto, and health, is one of the most regulated (on the state level) products available. Nine times out of ten when an insurer pulls out of a state market it’s because either state regulations or a confluence of state regulations and court decisions have screwed them out of any hope of a profit.

  42. I’m fairly certain that the clerks, stockboys, etc. would support less shoppers on Black Friday. It doesn’t affect the bottom line, and anything that ameliorates the work load on Black Friday would probably be much appreciated. Hell, reduced overtime costs might even be appreciated by managers. But in reality, Adbusters is just pissing into the wind.

  43. “Or how about founder Kalle Lasn’s advocacy of “Not just a carbon tax, but a global across-the-board pricing system that tells the ecological truth. Not just new measures of economic progress more accurate than the GDP, but a radical rethinking of the neoclassical paradigm we’ve been teaching in Economics 101 for the past few generations.””

    There is more information on this “creepy” stuff can be found here. E.F. Schumacher is probably the central figure in Adbusters thinking on economics

    http://www.fguide.org/Bulletin/Schumacher.htm

    Herman Daly also has some interesting analysis of the flaws in current economic thinking.

    http://dieoff.org/page88.htm

    The most complete description of how this would all be implemented is in this book.

    http://www.natcap.org/

    There is nothing about True Cost economics that would indicate it is designed to limit your economic freedom. Do some reading before having a hissy fit.

  44. “I guess he must not count a carbon tax, and “a global across-the-board pricing system that tells the ecological truth” as being contra economic liberty.”

    That would be a correct assessment.

    Explain please how implementation of these ideas limits economic freedom. Please use specific proposals as your basis for discussion.

  45. “There is more information on this “creepy” stuff can be found here.”

    This sentence would be an example of anacolutha.

    It should sasy “There is more info on this “creepy” stuff here.

  46. “It’s certainly an apt remark cuz of the dearth of shopping in NK everyday, and it does not rely on Adbusters advocacies. Which makes your response to my response inapt indeed.”

    As a response to your response to my response to your response…

    Oh never mind. You aren’t showing evidence of actually thinking about the topic anyway.

  47. MainstreamMan:

    Explain please how implementation of these ideas limits economic freedom

    It’s obvious. Any taxation limits economic freedom cuz it coercively deprives individual’s capital with which to acquire and produce. It takes away the fruits of economic activity sans regard of individual choice.

    Oh never mind. You aren’t showing evidence of actually thinking about the topic anyway.

    I broke down and defended Nick’s statement that you simply naysayeed, and I’m the one who’s not thinking about the topic? Only in MainstreamMan’s bizzaro world.

    Also, your screen-name is misleading. You aren’t mainstream. I suggest that you use “NotunderstandinglibertyMan”. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue…

  48. MainstreamMan, I actually support a carbon tax. As I understand it, when he says “global across-the-board pricing system” he means “an external agent setting prices across the board”; there’s no way to square that with a market-based system. Combine that with the claim that running hot water is an unacceptable luxury, tv-watching is a mental disease, and Lasn’s belief that “the world is already `full’ and further expansion will lead us into an ecological nightmare, a prolonged and possibly permanent `age of despair.'” Mix in his belief that we should effectively return to subsistence farming. Top it off with his claim that the only solution is “a cultural revolution.” Kalle Lasn is scary.

    And, actually, he pisses me off partly for the same reason that “libertarians” who are actually big-corporation-tarians do; he makes solid, respectable, good ideas look amazingly stupid by mixing them in next to claims that are, in fact, amazingly stupid. The desire for a global price-fixer is nested in between a carbon tax and advocacy of more pedestrian-friendly cities, both of which I like. And as I said already, I find the anti-hyperconsumerism to be pretty reasonable. But Kalle Lasn and the Adbusters are the people that anti-environmentalists and corporate lobbies can point to and say, “Look at those completely insane lefty eco-freaks! They think cars and running hot water are bad things! They say they want more responsible growth, but they’re not going to stop with just a carbon tax. They want to end western civilization as we know it!” (I mean, “We Will Wreck Your World”? What are you, a 1970’s X-men villain?) People like the Adbusters are the reason it took me so long to move over to the pro-environment side of the ledger; I figured that if people like them supported it, it must be wrong.

    The Adbusters discredit good policies by supporting them, while encouraging morons who expect an immanent environmental apocalypse, who think cynical corporate manipulators have total control over society, who believe petty vandalism a useful form of political protest. I won’t support them, even tacitly. I won’t be complicit in their nuttery, and they get nothing but my scorn.

    Okay, maybe that last bit was hysterical, just a tiny bit. They’re the kind of idiots who get that response out of me. As I said, there are valid ideas in there. They list those first, which is pretty smart. But if you do some digging on them you find that at least a significant chunk of them, including the founder and publisher, are complete nutjobs who make those of us who agree with them on the reasonable stuff look bad.

  49. But if you do some digging on them you find that at least a significant chunk of them, including the founder and publisher, are complete nutjobs who make those of us who agree with them on the reasonable stuff look bad.
    Sadly this is true in probably all social movements. Libertarians who don’t believe in intellectual property rights, christians who see the DEVIL in everything that doesn’t fit their view of the way the world should be, MADD members who advocate prohibition, amost any member of PETA as it relates to animal cruelty issues, and on and on and on. Other than saying there will never be a shortage of whackos, there isn’t much you can do about it.

  50. Jad,

    “As I understand it, when he says “global across-the-board pricing system” he means “an external agent setting prices across the board”;”

    If that is what he says he doesn’t understand the movement his is advocating. Decentralization is an important element in all of the serious work done by the True Cost Economics folks.

    “complete nutjobs who make those of us who agree with them on the reasonable stuff look bad.”

    Indeed a big problem. One libertarians should be keening aware of. I think if we spent any time talking about this stuff face to face, we would agree on most of the big points. That is just my sense… could be wrong.

    Rick,

    “Any taxation limits economic freedom cuz it coercively deprives individual’s capital with which to acquire and produce. It takes away the fruits of economic activity sans regard of individual choice.”

    True. The reason I asked you to respond to a particular proposal was that many (if not most) of these plans result in lower overall taxation. Overall, they can (if properly iimplemented) work to increase economic activity and individual choice compared to the current regime.

    “NotunderstandinglibertyMan”

    I know I posted these yesterday, but Proudhon’s words seem particularly apt to our discussion over the last couple days… particularly the second quote…

    “Since the two principles, Authority and Liberty, which underlie all forms organized society, are on the one hand contrary to each other, in a perpetual state of conflict, and on the other can neither eliminate each other nor be resolved, some kind of compromise between the two is necessary. Whatever the system favored, whether it be monarchical, democratic, communist or anarchist, its length of life will depend to the extent to which it has taken the contrary principle into account.[5]

    …that monarchy and democracy, communism and anarchy, all of them unable to realize themselves in the purity of their concepts, are obliged to complement one another by mutual borrowings. There is surely something here to dampen the intolerance of fanatics who cannot listen to a contrary opinion… They should learn, then, poor wretches, that they are themselves necessarily disloyal to their principles, that their political creeds are tissues of inconsistencies… contradiction lies at the root of all programs.[6] “

  51. Jadagul,

    Thanks for pointing out how the “global across-the-board pricing system” is incompatible with a market. I spaced that one.

    But how is it that a carbon tax could possibly be warranted given the uncertainty of evidence for anthropogenic warming? Assuming that the planet is indeed experiencing a net warming and a carbon tax is put in place, won’t it be a next to impossible task to remove it if the evidence starts to show that the warming is solar-cycle based? Ya know how governments are. And who would impose such a tax? I hope that you’re not thinking of an international entity.

    Instead, I favor a free market response that relies on Hayekian wisdom of myriod consumers and producers interacting by proposing, implementing and then choosing and patronizing attempts at solutions. People will spend their dollars on product that they think result in effects that they think are beneficial. An example is that I buy more expensive cage-free eggs cuz I feel sorry for the chickens:

    “Liberty, Markets, and Environmental Values: A Hayekian Defense of Free-Market Environmentalism”

    http://www.independent.org/pdf/tir/tir_10_1_2_pennington.pdf

    You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, go with the state to go green.

  52. MainstreamMan,

    many (if not most) of these plans result in lower overall taxation.

    I’d be quite surprised.

    I’m a firm believer that folks oughta be called what they wanna be called. I shan’t do that with your screen-name again. It was justa one time point.

    Proudhon’s statements seem to fall back on a faith in yin-yang balance too much for my sensibilities. But it seems like we libertarians oughta look good to him cuz we’re like anarchists blended with a little authority.

    Also “…their political creeds are tissues of inconsistencies… contradiction lies at the root of all programs” seems at direct odds with other parts of the quotes.

  53. “seems at direct odds with other parts of the quotes.”

    Ahhh…but it is at the heart of the quotes.

    “You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, go with the state to go green.”

    If you add the word “only” to this sentence in the proper place, we agree. There can be no market solution that does not involve change in government policy. The government is too big a player.

  54. I wish we could always make the point, whenever the “commercialism” and “materialism” of Christmas and related holidays is raised, that the very act of buying a ham was first an extravagance, then a bourgeois comfort, then a prerequisite of decent life. We can get a head start on the future derision of people who loathe iPods (which have improved my life at least as much as a college degree) by remembering this fact.

  55. Rick,

    Your point that one does not need to force others to be green to be green oneself is well taken. At the same time, however, the equivalent argument would seem to be that respecting others’ rights in general does not require laws that punish those who do not. In other words, that one can choose to be green does not in itself negate the necessity nor wisdom of involving the government in such decisions per se. And if indeed the use of certain types of energy sources adversely impacts the rights of others, some form of censure or punishment, if only on a graduated basis, would seem in order. I understand and appreciate your fear that if the anthropomorphic nature of global warming turns out to be a myth, we will have setup a government program that will be very difficult to end even with new evidence that it’s not needed. But to invoke that possibility in light of the preponderance of scientific evidence and expert opinion on the matter, or in other words to claim that we must be 100% sure of the science before we act in such a way, would be to merely invoke the precautionary principle only in the opposite direction from the usual. An equally valid, and likely more realistic, fear would be that those of us who understand economics will be left out of the decision making process while the top-down central planners have a field day gunking up the works with beaucratic mandates and, worse yet, get to extend their new powers way beyond issues of environmental externalities. That would sure suck!

  56. I would buy “Head On” but just can’t figure out where to put it… I’m thinking the head, but they just need to be more clear! I almost bought some on Buy Nothing Day but thank jesus for Adbusters telling us to be careful and think before we spend our money. It’s too hard to think on one’s own. Yey paternalistic organizations! Sarcasm aside, groups like that see everyone but themselves as stupid and in need of care. Dangerous minds. Hope they never get real power.

  57. “groups like that see everyone but themselves as stupid and in need of care.”

    The only real difference is that I think everyone but me is stupid and in need of dying off.

  58. I don’t understand…. lol

  59. MainstreamMan :

    There can be no market solution that does not involve change in government policy

    That’s not true. Even if we’re just talking about reducing government intervention. People can change their consumption behavior and their production behavior sans a change in government policy.

    The government is too big a player.

    That’s the problem. A reduction in government intervention would allow information and capital to flow toward long-term solutions to anthropogenic warming if it is indeed a long- term problem. Government intervention shows a strong tendency to distort responses in unsustainable directions and punishes both liberty and prosperity.

  60. Rick,

    Look at your response.
    You say

    1) People can change their behavior without a change in government…agreed. True statement and the most important source of change.

    2) Government is the problem and a change in policy would facilitate (1).

    That was the point I was making. You only get part of the way there without a change in government policy. You and I may not agree on what that change in policy looks like… but we agree that it should happen.

    “Government intervention shows a strong tendency to distort responses in unsustainable directions and punishes both liberty and prosperity.”

    Except when it doesn’t (c.f., Hayek “Whenever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself or make provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken?.”)

  61. fyodor,

    I think that an appropriate government response is enforcement of property rights in cases where the production of pollution harms individual’s property, including their persons. Of course it should also be observed that more private property would yield less pollution since areas held in common by the state are notoriously both more frequently and more severely polluted than private property.

    But property rights enforcement doesn’t seem to lend itself to global warming scenarios, if it is indeed occurring and if it is anthropogenic, cuz there is no current damage to property and even if there was, no one property rights violator could be said to be responsible

    I think that global warming might be occurring but it is not clear at all that it’s anthropogenic. I also think that we need to keep in mind that researchers have much more to gain if they find that it is anthropogenic so there is a “problem” that that needs to be explored further and fixed. The lure of grant dollars is powerful! The solar cycle hypothesis is has lotsa evidence for it but doesn’t get a proportional amount of publicity.

    I think that a good way to address the possibility of anthropogenic warming right now is to voluntarily aim to consume less greenhouse gas intensive products. If there’s a market demand, the market will answer. It’ll work. Look at hybrid car buyers. Surveys say they comprise one very green-motivated demographic.

  62. MainstreamMan,

    When you give a quote, please be so kind as ro provide a link or citation.

    Individuals can protect themselves in voluntary, market action, and it may be of such magnitude as to be “communal” but without the coercion of government.

  63. “The solar cycle hypothesis is has lotsa evidence for it but doesn’t get a proportional amount of publicity.”

    For a nice run down of the pros and cons of this part of the issue

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/category/climate-science/sun-earth-connections/

    I do believe solar forcing gets a fair shake in the science.

  64. Rick,

    When you give a quote, please be so kind as ro provide a link or citation.

    Sorry. Thought you would recognize it…

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0415253896/reasonmagazinea-20/

  65. Rick,
    I agree that a lot can be done voluntarily without government intervention to deal with pollution problems. Yet, isn’t the global warming debate over? At least on the big issue – the earth is warming and man is contributing greatly to that. Also, I have some doubts about the efficacy of just property rights for dealing with all issues of pollution – how do we assign property rights to non-solid entities – air or water? Can you fill me in here? I dislike reaching for the regulatory wand as a first option but in some cases it seems to me it may be the only option.

    Having said that, I think the Ad Buster’s clique is composed of just wrongheaded/footed reactionaries.

  66. moctopouse,

    I think that the earth is warming has far more evidence than there is that humans are contributing to the warming in any significant way.

    how do we assign property rights to non-solid entities – air or water?

    Property rights can and are afforded vis a vis bodies of water. Putting some rivers, lakes, and streams in private hands wound up alleviating severe pollution that existed when they were owned by the states or feds. Also, someone’s person is his/her property so this makes a polluter responsible if the emissions make folks sick.

  67. MainstreamMan,

    Thanks.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.