Dematerialization

Deconsumption Versus Dematerialization

How to protect the environment by doing more with less

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“How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement: We’d all be better off if we consumed less.” That’s a survey item reported in a new study by University of Oregon researcher Ezra Markowitz and Tom Bowerman of the Eugene, Oregon-based environmental polling and policy shop, PolicyInteractive. Their study, "How Much Is Enough? Examining the Public’s Beliefs About Consumption," is in the current issue of the journal Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy.

In five polls of Oregonians and one national survey, they find 74 to 80 percent of respondents “support reducing consumption and believe doing so would improve societal and individual well-being.” Markowitz and Bowerman interpret their poll results as challenging "conventional wisdom about our collective and never-ending need for consumption of material goods.” Armed with these poll results they hope to persuade policy makers that Americans are ready to “deconsume” for the sake of the environment, cutting back purchases of material goods, and especially reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases.

Digging deeper in one poll, Markowitz and Bowerman found that 84 percent agreed that cutting consumption would “be better for the earth,” 67 percent agreed that we would then have more time to spend with family and friends, and 84 percent believed lowering consumption would lead to greater self-reliance. But talk is cheap, especially when answering pollsters’ questions. So the researchers sensibly probed further with a poll [registration required] that asked respondents to choose among several different public policy proposals aimed at cutting consumption. It’s worth going through their results.

The Oregonians polled, it turns out, are not all that eager to tax their own consumption. Majorities were against a luxury tax on houses bigger than 2,500 square feet or costing more than $300,000 (62 percent opposed); a tax on houses bigger than 5,000 square feet and costing $500,000 (50 percent opposed); a 10 cent per gallon gasoline tax (63 percent opposed); a program to tax energy when its price is low and invest the funds in conservation (64 percent opposed); charging a one cent fee for each kilowatt hour consumed once a household consumes $100 of energy in a month (71 percent opposed); a luxury fee on second homes (56 percent opposed); a $1,000 new vehicle tax on cars that get fewer than 25 miles per gallon (62 percent opposed); and a one cent per mile carbon tax on airplane travel (58 percent opposed).

These results mirror similar findings in a June 2010 national poll [PDF] by the Institute for Energy Research which found that 70 percent of respondents opposed any new energy taxes aimed at reducing dependence on foreign oil or reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The same poll found that 61 percent opposed any increase in gasoline taxes. In another politically liberal state, Massachusetts, a January 2010 poll asked about residents’ support for the Cape Wind energy project. The pollsters found that “while 42 percent of respondents are less likely to support the Cape Wind project if their bill increased by $50 per year, this percentage increases to 67 percent at the $100 increase per year threshold and to 78 percent at the $150 increase per year threshold.”

Markowitz and Bowerman found that Oregonians were, however, happy to cut the consumption of the rich, favoring a 5 percent luxury tax on private yachts, airplanes, and motor homes (61 percent for). In addition, 76 percent are for utility rates structured so that the per unit charge goes up with increased energy consumption; 75 percent approve of making energy efficiency standards on new buildings stricter, and 57 percent favor boosting automobile fuel efficiency standards.

Taking into account the fact that their poll respondents don’t seem much interested in policies aimed at encouraging deconsumption, Markowitz and Bowerman mildly observe that other policy avenues besides taxing consumption might be more fruitfully pursued. They suggest publicity campaigns. “If consuming less of nonessential goods and services is beneficial or necessary for long-term survival of our species, then it seems it would be prudent to publicize the widely held ‘consume less’ disposition,” they write. They hope that if people knew that their neighbors favored deconsumption, a cultural shift in attitudes would lead to lower consumption.

Markowitz and Bowerman define deconsumption simply in terms of making do with less. In other words, deconsumption means becoming materially poorer. They view increased material poverty as necessary to protect the natural world from a rapacious humanity. But if using less somehow protects the environment, wouldn’t using less to produce more do so as well?

Jesse Ausubel, director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University and Paul Waggoner at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, show that the world economy is increasingly using less to produce more. They call this process "dematerialization." By dematerialization, they mean declining consumption of energy or goods per unit of GDP. In a 2008 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ausubel and Waggoner, using data from 1980 to 2005, show that the world is on a dematerialization binge, wringing ever more value from less material. It turns out that dematerialization achieves many of the same environmental goals as deconsumption.

Ausubel and Waggoner demonstrate that the global economy dematerialized (got more outputs from fewer inputs) steadily in the production of crops, use of fertilizer and wood, and carbon dioxide emissions. For example, while global per capita income rose by 40 percent between 1980 and 2005, farmers around the world raised crop yields 57 percent. Had farming productivity remained stuck at the 1980 level, farmers would have had to plow down an additional 1 billion hectares (about half the land area of the U.S. and six times current U.S. cropland) to produce the amount of food grown in 2005. Instead cropland expanded by less than 100 million hectares and farmers so boosted their productivity that they could produce the same amount of crops on only 60 percent of the amount of land they used in 1980. 

The world economy emitted more carbon dioxide in 2005 than it did in 1980, but nearly 30 percent less than it would have had emissions grown at the same rate as the world economy grew. Using European Carbon Exchange prices per ton of carbon dioxide, Ausubel and Waggoner calculate that this dematerialized carbon would be worth nearly $400 billion dollars per year.

How far might dematerialization go? In earlier work, Ausubel and Waggoner calculated that if the average productivity of the world’s farmers were raised to the current level of productivity of a corn farmer in Iowa, a world of 10 billion people could be fed an American diet on about half the farmland being used now. This means that an area the size of Amazonia could revert to nature. Similarly, energy production could dematerialize as well. Ausubel and Waggoner show that between 1980 and 2005 a French consumer enjoyed 50 percent more affluence but used only 20 percent more energy. In addition, switching electricity production from coal to nuclear power dematerialized each French consumer’s annual carbon emissions by a ton.

Not all trends are toward dematerialization. For example, between 1980 and 2005, China used a lot more cement per capita as its citizens increasingly could afford and then demanded better housing. But this is a one-time building boom that will subside as Chinese housing stock and infrastructure reaches modern standards.

Oddly, many ideological environmentalists favor highly material-intensive ways to produce food and fuel. For example, organic agriculture uses more crop land than conventional farming, and current versions of solar and wind power production occupy a lot of land and take more material to build than do conventional power plants.

Ausubel and Waggoner conclude, “If consumers dematerialize their intensity of use of goods and technicians produce the goods with a lower intensity of impact, people can grow in numbers and affluence without a proportionally greater environmental impact.” As long as market-driven technological progress is allowed to proceed, taxing and hectoring people into increased material poverty is not necessary to protect the natural world. And as polls show, people won’t put up with it anyway.

Reason's Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey is author of Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution (Prometheus Books).

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  1. “We’d all be better off if we consumed less.”

    is being interpreted by the respondents as

    I’d be better off if other people consumed less.”

    1. That is a stretch. How about:

      “We’d all be better off if we consumed less”

      is being interpreted by the respondents as:

      “We’d all be better off if we consumed less but I don’t believe in using the government power of taxation to accomplish social goals.”

      Except that may sound libertarian.

      1. But how and why would we be better off? Here’s a hint: we wouldn’t.

        Also libertarians don’t give a shit how over people live as long as they’re not aggressing against other people or their property.

        1. Well, I don’t think it is as simple as that. Different people value different things. Wellbeing is subjective. For some people, consuming less may well make them better off. More people consuming less of some things may well make everyone better off by some standard. You just need to know what better off means to different people. Polls about vaguely defined generalities are meaningless.

          1. “For some people, consuming less may well make them better off.”
            Aboslutly…that would be those touchy-feely leftist assholes.

      2. I’d love to believe that. But, when the majority of those polled are more than happy to impose the government on “the rich” to limit their consumption, I’m a little skeptical.

        1. Exactly who is it that is forcing Oregonians to consume more than they want to?

          Sure the PPACA will force consumers to buy health care insurance, but this edict is not yet in effect.

          Obviously, Oregonians think other, presumably more affluent, people consume too much.

          1. The government is forcing them to consume more than they think they want by not imposing economic restrictions on what they buy. They want to consume less, but that Evil Capitalism and Price system makes it too tempting. They NEED the government to save them from themselves.

  2. And as polls show, people won’t put up with it anyway.

    So, the recession is a *good* thing, right?

    1. “So, the recession is a *good* thing, right?”

      And a neolithic existence? Just ducky (hey, it’s Oregon).

      1. There are a few ways of existing that fall between subsistence/hunter-gatherer and the modern American lifestyle.

        1. That’s crazy talk!

        2. “There are a few ways of existing that fall between subsistence/hunter-gatherer and the modern American lifestyle.”

          Yes, there are. And you’re welcome to every one of them.

          1. Hey, I’m all for people trying to make whatever life that they want for themselves. I am not defending any sort of public policy aimed at determining or limiting people’s lifestyles. I just like to maintain a little perspective. There are worse things than having less stuff. Some people actually prefer it.

            1. “There are worse things than having less stuff. Some people actually prefer it.”
              Absolutly….like those Hollywood leftist assholes, who have given up the mansions, fancy cars an lavish lifestyles for the good of mother earth!!!

            2. “There are worse things than having less stuff. Some people actually prefer it.”

              And I’m not about to argue otherwise. For those who have that preference, why, have at it. Hell, I’m more than happy to sell them hair shirts.
              Just don’t bother yammering at me with stupid claims of moral superiority.

    2. Yeah, and poverty isn’t a bug in Marxism; it’s a feature. Marx was way ahead of his times.

  3. But we’re not consuming enough according to the Keynesians.

    1. Actually the Keynesians are generally just as happy if you are taxed to the point where you personally consume less and the government spends the difference.

      1. Actually the Keynesians are generally just as happy if you are taxed to the point where you personally consume less and the government spends the difference plus a shit load more.

        Fixed

        1. Thanks Josh…yours is better.

  4. 67 percent agreed that we would then [after cutting consumption] have more time to spend with family and friends

    Another fucking game night?!

    1. Think about all the free time you’d have if you *didn’t* have family and friends.

      1. Yes!

        (fires up video game)

  5. “In five polls of Oregonians and one national survey, they find 74 to 80 percent of respondents “support reducing consumption and believe doing so would improve societal and individual well-being.””

    Brings a whole, new meaning to “target-rich”.
    Any high school sophomore could do an entire year’s worth of papers pointing out the obvious false presumptions built into *that* ‘poll’.
    How about: “Who favors universal healthcare”?
    Everybody!
    Well, “Who favors universal healthcare if it bankrupts the country”?
    Not so many.
    And then “Who favors universal healthcare if *you* have to pay for a couple of people who’d rather not”?
    Right there at zero…….

    1. “Who favors universal healthcare if *you* have to pay for a couple of people who’d rather not”?

      Well, … if somebody else pays for *me*, … SURE!

  6. How to protect the environment by doing more with less

    And, tomorrow, how to boil water.

  7. Shorter Ronald Bailey: “Enviro-weenies completely (and predictably) oblivious to the difference between stated and revealed preferences.”

  8. Oddly, many ideological environmentalists favor highly material-intensive ways to produce food and fuel.

    What do you mean oddly? That is to be expected, as environmentalists are romantics, not economists.

  9. But talk is cheap, especially when answering pollsters’ questions.

    Hold the presses!!! New headline!

    People – Lie – To – Pollsters!

  10. The world economy emitted more carbon dioxide in 2005 than it did in 1980, but nearly 30 percent less than it would have had emissions grown at the same rate as the world economy grew. Using European Carbon Exchange prices per ton of carbon dioxide, Ausubel and Waggoner calculate that this dematerialized carbon would be worth nearly $400 billion dollars per year.

    And using actual prices that do not come from a pseudo-marketish bullshit outfit, the cost would be….

    … zero.

    1. That you believe something can happen without a cost suggests you should spend more time hitting the econ books.

      1. “That you believe something can happen without a cost suggests you should spend more time hitting the econ books.”
        You probably ought to learn to read the comments, including the qualifiers.

      2. Actually, using actual prices, the VALUE would be …

        … zero. That is, if price is defined by the market clearing transaction amount settled between a willing buyer and a willing seller in the absence of coercion.

        The costs of reducing CO2 intensity are entirely disconnected from its value. E.g., discovery of a natural gas deposit could displace coal as fuel for electricity generation and be locally less expensive. True, there are capital costs associated with extraction and new generating equipment, but the total delivered cost of electricity could be lower with less CO2 emission. On the other hand, the ethanol mandate has an astronomical cost for its contribution to reducing CO2 intensity as well as bogus accounting for its contribution in reducing CO2.

      3. That you believe carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should be regulated economically suggests you must regularly spend time slamming your head at full speed into a wall….of econ books.

  11. 74 to 80 percent of respondents “support reducing consumption and believe doing so would improve societal and individual well-being.”

    Neatly illustrating the difference between expressed and revealed preferences.

    Although I actually agree with the sentiment. My wife and I save something north of 40% of our gross, pre-tax income. We consume plenty, but could consume a hell of a lot more. We don’t, because we both believe that our “well-being” is better served by financial security and, eventually, independence, than more junk.

  12. The only thin this poll shows is that people from Oregon are idiots. Are these guys even scientists?

    They also forgot the most important question: do you give a shit how much other people think you should consume?

    1. do you give a shit how much other government people think you should consume?

  13. Based on no data at all, I think I can pretty easily name 3 of the biggest polluters in America today:

    – The military
    – The industrial complex surrounding the military
    – The post office

    What do all of these things have in common….

    1. Does it start with “J” and end with “s”?

      1. Hey, don’t be dragging Me into this!

        1. Joos?

          1. Jocularities?

            On 2nd thought, Nah.

            1. Jerkoffs

  14. Did we not get “deconsumption” with the Great Recession? Deconsumption which our current regime did everything in their power to turn around?

  15. I’m curious…

    Capital purchases are not the same as consumption.

    How is buying a house “consuming” it? Or a yacht, for that matter?

    It’s not like we are all buying this stuff so we can torch it. This may have been a tradition among native tribes in the Northwest, but no matter how many sweat lodges sessions they might attend, I don’t believe that even the most hippified of Eugene hippies buys a house to burn it. Neither does the pinstripiest yuppie in Portland.

    1. How is buying a house “consuming” it? Or a yacht, for that matter?

      A lot of “housing purchases” are based upon Housing Starts, AKA “Construction”. There’s your consumption.

    2. Or a yacht, for that matter?

      And how is a yacht not consumption? There are companies that build Yachts, no? Just like there are companies who build TVs and Sony Playstations?
      The fact that there’s a large secondary market for houses and yachts just makes the product lifecycle longer. But it’s still consumption.

    3. Re: Barry D,

      Capital purchases are not the same as consumption.

      Of course it is. Once you have it, nobody else can. That’s consumption.

      Don’t think that “consumption” means only turning something into fertilizer. It also means having it for yourself, in economic terms.

      1. “That’s consumption.”
        People use to die from that!

  16. Capital purchases are not the same as consumption.

    Sure they are. Goods are goods. That house is still something that had to be produced, that you will use, and will one day be used up and disposed of. It just takes longer.

    The distinction between “capital” goods and others is an accounting convenience – you have to amortize the cost of the capital goods over time, but can recognize the entire cost of other goods immediately.

  17. These sorts of surveys also apply when people say they want smaller government but don’t actually want anything cut.

    By dematerialization, they mean declining consumption of energy or goods per unit of GDP. In a 2008 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ausubel and Waggoner, using data from 1980 to 2005, show that the world is on a dematerialization binge, wringing ever more value from less material. It turns out that dematerialization achieves many of the same environmental goals as deconsumption.

    It’s good to get more GDP from less raw materials, but the usage of raw materials continues to climb worldwide: arable land, clean water, fertilizer, oil, etc. If we get 50% more GDP from dumping 30% more sewage into rivers and lakes – a hypothetical, folks – we’re still dumping 30% more sewage. I don’t see how that’s an environmental win. The river’s ecosystem doesn’t “care” how much more GDP you get from dumping raw sewage. It’s the sheer amount of raw sewage that counts. Likewise for other pollutants.

    In earlier work, Ausubel and Waggoner calculated that if the average productivity of the world’s farmers were raised to the current level of productivity of a corn farmer in Iowa, a world of 10 billion people could be fed an American diet on about half the farmland being used now.

    Where exactly are they going to get the phosphorus, pesticides, clean water, fossil fuels, etc. to do so? And how will that affect the environment, in turn? And since we’re already at peak oil, how sustainable would that transformation even be?

    1. And since we’re already at peak oil

      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…oh wait, you’re serious.

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    2. Re: Jersey Patriot,

      If we get 50% more GDP from dumping 30% more sewage into rivers and lakes – a hypothetical, folks – we’re still dumping 30% more sewage. I don’t see how that’s an environmental win.

      Depends on the sewage. If it’s good sewage, then who cares? Some farts actually smell better than others.

      By the way, few processes dump shit on rivers and lakes. You’re using an obsolete hypothetical.

      Where exactly are they going to get the phosphorus, pesticides, clean water, fossil fuels, etc. to do so?

      From the same place we do today.

      And how will that affect the environment, in turn?

      What, exactly? Feeding 10 billion, or using phosphorous?

      And since we’re already at peak oil, how sustainable would that transformation even be?

      Sonny, we’ve had “peak oil” since the 60s. Please find another hobgobblin.

      1. And it’s not like we’re actually “bound” to fossil fuels. There are plenty of practical alternatives.

        1. Please name one.

          1. Farts are a great source of natural gas…..but some do come from old fossils.

          2. Nuclear. See how easy that was?

            1. Are you going to fill your tank with uranium?

              1. “Are you going to fill your tank with uranium?”

                So energy is only used for transport? Imagine my surprise (and your ignorance)!

              2. If the price were right, YES!

                Another option would be to replace your tank with a battery and use uranium to fill that. Of course, the price would have to be right.

        2. I don’t know about you, but I often have myself tied to an oil drum or a pile of coal.

          1. Yeah, me too especially the oil drums….tied down good and tight.

  18. “If we get 50% more GDP from dumping 30% more sewage into rivers and lakes – a hypothetical, folks – we’re still dumping 30% more sewage.”

    In case you’ve been sleeping, that increased GDP is often used to *reduce* pollutants.
    So, if your pig had wings, it might be an airplane; just as valid.

    1. It can be, but often it’s “reduced” by shipping the offending industry to the Third World, where the pollution continues unabated. Of course, when the whole world is trying to ramp up industrialization at once, there’s little other to place to put it.

      1. “often it’s “reduced” by shipping the offending industry to the Third World, where the pollution continues unabated.”
        Darn brown and yellow people, trying to not starve! Pretty uppity, aren’t they?

        “Of course, when the whole world is trying to ramp up industrialization at once, there’s little other to place to put it.”
        No, you don’t “put it”. You “treat it” until it’s usable.
        Recycling paper is economically a loss, but there is some recovery in the lack of trash.

        1. “treat it”

          Bingo. With a little ingenuity and enough energy you can turn anything into anything else. It all comes down to cost and value.

  19. I “consume less” so that I can later consume more.

  20. I agree with one aspect of Jersey’s line of thinking: Surely using less area but more fossil fuels and nitrogen per unit of food is not dematerialisation; space compression perhaps, but nothing that affects the ratio of material inputs to material (or economic ) product.
    Otherwise, we are indeed dematerialising, or hyperservicing the economy.

    1. “nothing that affects the ratio of material inputs to material (or economic ) product.”

      Not sure. Using an input more efficiently would affect the ratio, and I’m pretty sure that’s what’s happening.

  21. Consuming less is great until you lose your job because no one is buying the widgets you make.

    1. no, that’s when having consumed less feels great, because now you have your own safety net which you wouldn’t have had if you just blew your wad on pointless shit.

      1. What if you had blow your money on pointed shit like food, housing, clothing, education for your children…?

        1. “Consuming less is great until you lose your job because no one is buying the widgets you make.”

          I assume you meant to say: “Other people consuming less is great until you lose your job because no one is buying the widgets you make.” Otherwise your second comment makes no sense. (Who can consume less when they are living hand-to-mouth?)

          So, given that assumption, I would say: Deal with it. You should find a way to make some widgets that people actually want to buy.

    2. *Goes out to break some windows…*

  22. “Oddly, many ideological environmentalists favor highly material-intensive ways to produce food and fuel. For example, organic agriculture uses more crop land than conventional farming.”

    Labelling someone “ideological” is a subjective and value-laden method of writing, and not what I would expect from a professional science writer.

    A great many people support organic farming because our industrial-agricultural model is not sustainable. We literally use such quantities of fertilizer and pesticide that we are burning the life out of the soil.
    The primary focus of genetic engineering is now to breed crops that can survive even higher levels of pesticide use. Why? We’ve bred the pests to become resistant to pesticides (and yes that includes DDT) due to its indiscriminate use.

    Fertilizer is entirely another problem, as sources of the needed nutrients (fossil fuel, phosphorous and nitrogen) are becoming increasingly strained due to soil erosion which the ASABE estimates is damaging 29% of our cropland.

    Why is the soil eroding? Industrial agricultural methods are highly water intensive, exacerbating serious water shortages in the American West.

    Please don’t be so dismissive in the future, Ronald.

    1. “Labelling someone “ideological” is a subjective and value-laden method of writing, and not what I would expect from a professional science writer.”
      Seems you’ve mistaken a popular magazine for a peer-reviewed paper.

      “A great many people support organic farming because our industrial-agricultural model is not sustainable. We literally use such quantities of fertilizer and pesticide that we are burning the life out of the soil.”
      Cites missing. Especially cites comparing “sustainability” of the various farming methods.

      “The primary focus of genetic engineering is now to breed crops that can survive even higher levels of pesticide use. Why? We’ve bred the pests to become resistant to pesticides (and yes that includes DDT) due to its indiscriminate use.”
      Cites missing.

      “Fertilizer is entirely another problem, as sources of the needed nutrients (fossil fuel, phosphorous and nitrogen) are becoming increasingly strained due to soil erosion which the ASABE estimates is damaging 29% of our cropland.”
      Sources of fertilizer are “strained”?

      “Why is the soil eroding? Industrial agricultural methods are highly water intensive, exacerbating serious water shortages in the American West.”
      Looks like there might be a bit of market distortion here, but I see you don’t address that. Why is that?
      And a quick check doesn’t show ASABE to have any concern.

      1. Sources of fertilizer are “strained”?

        Lack of fiber.

        1. Oh shucks! Why didn’t I get that?

    2. “(and yes that includes DDT)”

      The only increased resistance I could find to DDT was mosquitoes.
      They don’t eat a lot of crops.

      1. “The only increased resistance I could find to DDT was mosquitoes.
        They don’t eat a lot of crops.”

        Unless we live in the Matrix…

    3. “Labelling someone “ideological” is a subjective and value-laden method of writing, and not what I would expect from a professional science writer.”

      This is not the kind of complaint I’d expect from someone who knows how to read a sentence. Who did he “label” as ideological? As far as I can tell, it was ideological environmentalists. Do you accept that there is such a thing as an ideological environmentalist? If so, are they ideological or not?

  23. “Markowitz and Bowerman define deconsumption simply in terms of making do with less. In other words, deconsumption means becoming materially poorer.”

    That doesn’t follow. It could just mean you’d have more money in the bank and less crap cluttering up your home.

    1. “It could just mean you’d have more money in the bank and less crap cluttering up your home.”

      Yes, because money sitting someplace is so valuable, compared to, oh, that computer you’re typing on.

      1. Money sitting someplace (like a bank) is sometimes called capital.

    2. In other words, deconsumption means becoming materially poorer.

      Horseshit. A pretty good chunk of technological advance is doing more with less.

      Your car, for example. Almost certainly uses fewer materials to construct than one built 50 years ago, most definitely uses fewer “consumables” (gas, oil, tires), and will probably last 3 times as long. On all fronts, the automobile universe as “deconsumed”. Yet we are all driving better cars.

      1. R C Dean|2.15.11 @ 10:32PM|#
        In other words, deconsumption means becoming materially poorer.
        Horseshit. A pretty good chunk of technological advance is doing more with less.”

        Nope, that was the point of the article; “decomsumption” is what that claim is. “dematerialization” is what you’re talking about, and your point is valid concerning that.

  24. I still laugh at libertarians’ cognitive dissonance: They celebrate the dematerializion of every natural resource except gold. No, they say, they forbid the human mind to think of ways to get around the discipline of a finite supply of refined gold on the planet.

    1. they forbid the human mind to think of ways to get around the discipline of a finite supply of refined gold on the planet

      Not me! Have at it.

    2. Not at all. You are free to live your life without ever using the discipline of gold, and may devote your efforts to thinking of ways to get around it.

      The tried and true “fiat money” method, however, has shown some flaws.

    3. I laugh at the liberal’s cognitive dissonance: They pine for everyone to show some self restraint and consume less for the sake of the planet and ‘sustainability’, while vociferously advocating inflationary economics which at a minimum puts exponential growth pressure on the society it’s imposed upon.

  25. Mark Plus|2.15.11 @ 8:38PM|#
    “I still laugh at libertarians’ cognitive dissonance: They celebrate the dematerializion of every natural resource except gold. No, they say, they forbid the human mind to think of ways to get around the discipline of a finite supply of refined gold on the planet.”

    Your ignorance would be amusing, except it’s too stupid to be funny.
    Read the a review of “Atlas Shrugged” once, did you? Imbeciles claiming to know what libertarianism means are tiring.

    1. you are a moron

  26. Here’s what the survey respondents really meant:

    I think I’d be better off if you’d consume less, and we would collectively be better off because you consume too much.

  27. Consumption is not always good. Consumptive growth does not equal productive growth.

    For instance $15 trillion of debt exists due to the US government consuming more than it can pay for. Paul Krugman and Ronald Bailey are saying this was a good thing because consumption grows the economy. Some libertarians think that reasoning is horse pukky because the debt accrued is too high. Some libertarians think that several $trillion of that consumption need not have occured.

    These enviromentalists want to dampen consumption. Some libertarians want to dampen some consumption. That there is a potential synergy.

    1. “These enviromentalists want to dampen consumption. Some libertarians want to dampen some consumption. That there is a potential synergy.”

      I doubt it. Libertarians had no gripes about consumption; it was the borrowing that was the problem.
      Eco-wackos are more than willing to borrow more to increase the power of the government and *force* individuals to consume less.
      Some synergy.

      1. “Eco-wackos” say they are prepared to do anything to save the planet. The planet is the important thing, not if more is spent or less – to this end the possibility of synergy exists.

        “As long as market-driven technological progress is allowed to proceed, taxing and hectoring people into increased material poverty is not necessary to protect the natural world.”

        A carbon tax is a consumptive tax, it is charged at point of consumption. A carbon tax is a tax on materials, it channels dematerializing as a way to increase profitability. Enviromentalists get what they want and libertatians can get what they want – synergy that “saves the planet”.

        If the planet is “to be saved” by harnessing the power of the market to dematerialize fossil fuels through a carbon footprint tax, then all consumption that is not subjectable to such taxation must be reduced lest it hinder the “saving of the planet”. The only entity that is outside of the taxation regime of the state is the state, therefore to save the planet the state would have to be reduced.

        The solution to climate change is smaller government.

        PS. I thought libertarians wanted to reduce the power and extent of government irrespective of the state operating at a profit or loss.

        1. “The planet is the important thing, not if more is spent or less”
          Hate to tell you, but the “planet” isn’t what matters; humans matter. Nothing else.

          “Enviromentalists get what they want and libertatians can get what they want – synergy that “saves the planet”.”
          Please show me a libertarian who is in favor of increased taxes.

          “If the planet is “to be saved” by harnessing the power of the market to dematerialize fossil fuels through a carbon footprint tax,”
          I think your confused; tax /= market. And try a few less dependent clauses; lost you on the third swerve.

          “PS. I thought libertarians wanted to reduce the power and extent of government irrespective of the state operating at a profit or loss.”
          Uh, well………..
          Could you try that again?

          1. Hate to tell you, but the “planet” isn’t what matters; humans matter. Nothing else.

            Personally I think humans and the planet could do with the state being a good deal smaller. Synergy.

            “Please show me a libertarian who is in favor of increased taxes.”

            For carbon footprint taxes to be effective they need to be the dominant taxation, all other taxes need to be reduced.

            For carbon footprint taxes to be most effective the amount of non-taxed consumption must be minimised, state spending is non-taxed consumption.

            Taxes need to be reduced and state spending slashed – to save the planet.

            What tax increase?

            I think your confused; tax /= market.

            Taxes impact on the market. No confusion.

            1. “Personally I think humans and the planet could do with the state being a good deal smaller. Synergy.”
              Are you familiar with the term “non-sequitur”?

              “Taxes impact on the market. No confusion.”
              So do wars. Serious confusion.

              1. “Are you familiar with the term “non-sequitur”?

                Yes. I believe so.

                Two co-existing entities benefiting from a merged process. Synergy.

                You think this non-sequiturish?

              2. “So do wars. Serious confusion.”

                But we want “no confusion” not “serious confusion” so taxes it is. Wars are unpredictable, they’re squirrelly. Taxes are as certain as death and (umm well) taxes.

              3. BTW – non-sequitur.

                Trawling through libertarian sites trying to convince the locals that smaller government is the best solution. Bound to fail*.

                * so far, will keep trying.

        2. Your entire argument is presupposed on the premise that “carbon” is a material, other than to such industries (who actually utilize carbon to produce something) as pastics, carbon-fiber tech, charcoal producers, etc.

          Oh yeah…….dumbass.

          1. fucking L key…pastics=plastics.

          2. “Carbon” tax refers in this case as shorthand for a tax on CO2, CH4, CFC and other AGW gas emissions. Emissions which are material to a lot of industries.

            1. Nevertheless, emissions != material. The vast majority of the emissions you were referring to are waste product.

              But, you knew that.

              1. Yeah, I got that.

              2. What I don’t get is the idea that “libertarians” imply about emissions – that emissions should be free.

                Nothing comes for free, the idea that stuff should be free sounds commie to me.

  28. Don’t worry. The federal government will make us all “materially poorer”.

    1. The problem is that government will squander that savings, and then some.

  29. Consume less? Fine, maybe Obama can show us the way, perhaps he could start vacationing in Camp David instead of Hawaii, that would save a lot on gas.

    No Smokers Need Apply: Why you should care even if you don’t smoke.
    http://libertarians4freedom.bl…..hould.html

  30. Oddly, many ideological environmentalists favor highly material-intensive ways to produce food and fuel. For example, organic agriculture uses more crop land than conventional farming, and current versions of solar and wind power production occupy a lot of land and take more material to build than do conventional power plants.

    Ausubel and Waggoner conclude, “If consumers dematerialize their intensity of use of goods and technicians produce the goods with a lower intensity of impact, people can grow in numbers and affluence without a proportionally greater environmental impact.” As long as market-driven technological progress is allowed to proceed, taxing and hectoring people into increased material poverty is not necessary to protect the natural world. And as polls show, people won’t put up with it anyway.

    The environmentalist ethos has no logic. It is all about feel good by making others suffer.

    1. Enviromentalists have great logic, right wingers not so much.

      Right wingers believe climate change isn’t happening, because the solution to climate change requires big government. This is logically impossible as big government has never been the solution to anything ever.

      1. Right wingers believe climate change isn’t happening, because the solution to climate change requires big government.

        NOW we have a bona fide non sequitor.

        1. Yeah, total non-sequitur but true.

          Right wingers believe climate change isn’t happening, because left wingers say climate change requires big government.

          I mean when did being right wing confer an advanced understanding of atmospheric science, greater apparently than many climate scientists with degrees and stuff? The right didn’t learn this stuff, not since i’ve been watching. Nevertheless there is some sort of wide belief that climate change is a myth. And nowadays I’m reading politcal blogs ribbiting on about hockey sticks, tree rings and allebo-isms. I suspect they don’t really know anything except that Al Gore, the UN and CNN say AGW is happening. And that lot are a known bunch of liars.

          So the right start saying that climate change ain’t happening to prove the left to be abunch of liars. Whilst the left start shouting that climate change is occuring, that the solution is global production controls and that the right are deniers for no good reason. So here we are – the left believe in climate change and the right don’t. Weird, huh?

          1. So, it’s your contention that:

            A. All “sciencey” people are left wing, since no one on the right can understand the science

            B. Anyone who is skeptical about those “sciencey” claims is ipso facto ignorant.

            Try again.

            1. Nope. I contend that:

              A – both left and right are equally ignorant.

              B – the truth about climate change and humanity is currently unknown, but will eventually will become known.

              And thus:

              C – the right denying that climate change is occuring is a lose/lose.
              i) if wrong the pre-eminant “solution” in the public domain is production controls enforced by world government = massive lose.
              ii) if correct then the US still has some $15 trillion in debt = meh lose.

      2. environmentalists do not have great logic, at all. I see mistaking correlation for causation all the time. The very phrase “climate change” is itself a classical “moved goalpost”. The strategy being, if an observable isn’t having the policy effect, then change the observable outcome that ‘confirms one’s theory’ to one that is categorically true.

        I consider myself to be a “libertarian conservationist”, myself. Meaning: I try to keep a small footprint, try to use technology to improve that, and encourage others to do so outside of government as a moral obligation.

        1. The scientific approach is to change the theory to meet the data. The “goalposts” are unkown and probably not where we expect them to be, but they don’t move.

          Enviromentalists want to minimise damage to the planet, you and me and probably a good few others want this. However somewhere along the way it has been made official that Al Gore the only enviromentalist and his desired “policy effect” on climate change is actually desirable*.

          Normally when an Al Gorish figure emerges from the left wing swill on any issue (economy, debt, defence, healthcare, education, food production…) there is a quick response offering better solutions. Unfortunately on climate change we have denial by faith which says climate change doesn’t exist and so the solution offered by Al Gore remains pre-eminant.

          * it isn’t. The real policy effect of climate change should be to reduce the size of government.

      3. I fail to see how “big government” is necessary to stop climate change. It might be sufficient but I doubt it’s necessary.

        1. Actually I don’t even think it’s sufficient on its own. What is it about “big government” that automatically makes it able to solve climate change? That’s a pretty flimsy axiom.

          1. Its not really an axiom if you claim its illogical in the next sentence.

            The theory behind big government being needed to stop climate change is that the way forward is to prohibit excess emissions – have caps. Prohibition requires much enforcement, only states can do enforcement and so stopping climate change requires extensive powers be taken by the state. It won’t work though, because once you have lots of people invloved in enforcing the rules enough of those enforcers will flout the rules to make the whole point of enforcement null & void.

            An alternative is to price all emissions – have no caps. This means no additional powers (beyond sales tax powers they have now) are to be taken by the state and if followed through logically implies that the chances of “saving the world” would benefit from a reduction in the size of the state.

      4. Climate change is a lie, the tree huggers are simply lying to get money from the government and to avoid being blacklisted by the liberal academia.

        It’s the right-wingers who believe in small government, low taxes, are pro-business, pro-corporation, and pro-individual.

        Stop being in love with the left, yes, I realize they have good pot but once the party is over they will raise your taxes, stop you from smoking outside, ban trans fats, censor your politically incorrect speech, and destroy your life.

        The left is the enemy, not the right. I can negotiate with the right.

        Smokers need not apply: Why you should care even if you don’t smoke.
        http://libertarians4freedom.bl…..6721020171

  31. We can start by cutting the defense budget seeing as how the military is the country’s biggest polluter.

  32. How about instead of crazy tax schemes we just return the economy to its naturally, slightly deflationary state. Then people would not consume so much, in favor of saving for a rainy day.

  33. Now that I got mine, it’s time that the world learns how to consume less. Those people over in China and India better never get out of poverty because the world can’t sustain a population that’s entirely middle class.

    1. So drunk you couldn’t get your 3-letter name right?

  34. Strong markets and reasonable environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive. There can be market incentive to “go green.” Green is often cheaper. There’s a built-in financial incentive for using less gas, for instance. Oil is expensive. So mass transportation and fuel-efficient cars make a lot of financial sense. Everyone wants to lower their utility bills, and that’s by definition green.

    So I’d argue there is sometimes more convergence than divergence between the environment and the market.

  35. Politicians on both sides pitting the market against the environment are like those stirring up the “clash of civilizations” concept between Christians and Muslims. It’s a cynical ploy for more fundraising dollars and scapegoating — creating issues that don’t need to exist.

  36. Markowitz and Bowerman found that Oregonians were, however, happy to cut the consumption of the rich, favoring a 5 percent luxury tax on private yachts, airplanes, and motor homes (61 percent for). Seems statists are always willing to vote on how other people’s money is spent, but never their own. Ridiculous! Either increase everyones or increase no ones!

  37. The Oregon offensive line needs to consume more beef, because they got their ass kicked by Nick Fairley.

  38. The author unfortunately never substantiates the key claim this article rests on “As long as market-driven technological progress is allowed to proceed, taxing and hectoring people into increased material poverty is not necessary to protect the natural world.”

    He successfully, I think, makes the case that innovation and progress have allowed us to make great strides in efficiency, BUT he does not demonstrate that these are or will be enough to protect the natural world. If the latter proposition isn’t true, then we’re back to needing to reduce our material consumption.

  39. There is a problem with an across-the-board reduction in consumption. Namely, that consumption drives the economy. It creates jobs, which enables greater consumption, etc. If Americans were to significantly cut consumption, the resources of production would either remain idle, or they would be put to use in other fields. Orwell states that permanent war would be the only way to consume excess production capacity. While some would state that we are already in a state of permanent war, we are still, gratefully, far from Orwell’s vision of global superpowers in constant conflict. I, for one, would like to keep it that way

  40. “The Oregon offensive line needs to consume more beef, because they got their ass kicked by Nick Fairley.”

    – To be fair, I think Nick Fairley picked every O-line’s ass…

  41. Sorry; I meant KICKED, not picked.

    Fairley is just a beast.

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