Saturday, August 04, 2012

Freedom and Responsibility: Earth, Air, Water, Noise

After reading through Libertarian literature, I'm seeing paradoxes and contradictions. Libertarian ideology seems to place primacy in the individual and in individual liberty. Libertarians seem to hate government on principle. Here are some problems with these notions. What about shared resources and shared spaces?

1. Air. According to libertarian ideology, a person is free to form a company that spews pollution into the air, even if said pollution travels over nearby areas and into the lungs of other free people. Now these other people are no longer free to breathe clean air. This is a philosophically untenable position.

Libertarians (see Rand Paul) and even Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney are opposed to government environmental regulations.

A better word for regulations is "protections."

Paul and Romey want to strip away whatever protections are in place, all down the line. 

It's clear that to them and their supporters (those who think about the matter in detail), the rights of a person and a corporation to spew bad air into the atmosphere outweigh the rights of people to mind their own business and to enjoy the freedom to breathe clean air.

2. Water. According to libertarian ideology, a person is free to dump whatever they want in their water. However, if this water pollutes nearby people's water, too, oh well. The government has no right to restrict the freedom of the individual or corporation. And, indeed, this is pretty much the way things stand in many places already. Libertarians and Republican leaders seem to want to make this true everywhere.

3. Noise. There are local noise ordinances, but according to libertarian ideology, each person is at liberty to make as much noise as he or she feels like. This takes precedence over social responsibility. Why?

Dear reader, what do you think about the importance of breathable air, drinkable water, and reasonable provisions for quiet? Where is the point where individual freedom and social responsibility can work hand in hand?

Today's Rune: Fertility.


WAS said...

Good questions, Erik. The libertarians with their infinitely scheming minds solve all these problems with a wave of their hand on the idea that property rights ensure everyone has a vested interest in common protection. Thus, anyone who "owns" the water, air and auditory dimension can sue for recompense from the trespasser, who then finds it in his interest not to pollute, etc. This valuing of the rational hand of property law, however absurd, is basic to libertarian theology. But anyone who has, say, identified the vanished tribes of Texas can immediately see what is wrong with this problem: the Earth and everything on it becomes something to be bought and sold, about as far away from the property of the commons the British legal system concept of equity is based upon as can be imagined. But libertarians are never sticklers for much of anything, that's why they're libertarians. I have to say, though, I appreciate their quixotic existence, their brave assertion in the face of all common sense and human history that social life revolves around the individual, that if only the messy compromises that stain human nature can just be done away with we would live in a paradise of hedonistic selfishness. But then I have a weakness for utopias.

Charles Gramlich said...

I like many aspects of the Libertarian mindset, but there are certainly some issues. unfortunately, idealized political concepts too often require people to be 'better' than they really are. The big deregulation of business under Reagan is an example. He expected them to police themselves for the good of the human race. Ha.

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks for the comments, gentlemen~ much appreciated. WAS: property law, indeed. Equity, commons, shared communcal spaces and resources -- they sure do clash with each other.

Redress for violation is damn near impossible when an individual faces off against a large corporate body, when unrich people face off against oligarchical power. p.s. But at least not all the tribes of Texas are vanished . . . remnants do remain here and there, mostly outside of Lone Star or as individuals "hidden" within the larger population.

Erik Donald France said...

Another perfect example of company profit vs. natural rights:

"UT study finds earthquakes occur more frequently near injection wells"
Posted Monday, Aug. 06, 2012

Read more here:

jodi said...

Erik, me and politics go together like fish and whipped cream!