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Elon Musk makes a libertarian argument for carbon tax (rgj.com)
41 points by Osiris30 on July 29, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 111 comments



This is a good argument.

It is also a basic economic argument about a market externality.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality

I am not sure you even need to characterize it as a libertarian argument.


Agreed. If anything, and if I'm reading it correctly, he's actually trying to explain why libertarians would be opposed to this:

> "For people that have a sort of libertarian bent they get a little confused because they need to appreciate the high level principle of why they are opposed to government intervention."


You're right, back when carbon credits versus taxes were being argued for, economists seemed to all agree taxes were the far superior choice. But credits allowed businesses and politicians to hand out favors, cut deals, and generally wallow in corruption and graft.

Thus credits won out over taxes.


I agree with his points. If I had to prescribe to a political ideology, libertarianism would probably be the closest to how I reason things out. I've always thought, though, that it can only really apply to conscious human adults capable of weighing the pros and cons of their actions and relationships. When consequences or side-effects of their actions are pushed onto external parties incapable of disagreement (eg. the environment, children, animals) it gets murkier as actions become unilaterally beneficial to the party making each proposal. Here I think there is room for public consensus to come in and speak for the parties incapable of doing so.

I think most political arguments happen over how you decide who or what fits into this group of parties incapable of speaking for themselves. Some say 3-year olds should represent themselves in immigration court while others say even adult consumers aren't capable of adequately representing themselves and need protections. I don't believe it's inconsistent libertarianism to say that some groups with no independent legal voice should get public protection. Libertarians draw that line in different places, however.


I would expect him to make any argument he can against fossil fuels. He is heavily invested in solar technology.


Musk has a history of using any available argument to advocate taxing/banning his competition; he has no intellectually consistent ideology. I say this as someone who believes SpaceX is the most important company founded since 1980, that humans must go to Mars, and will probably do it on Musk's MCT/BFR.

On the Tesla side, Musk has advocated subsidies for electric vehicles, taxes, caps, and other limits on gasoline/Diesel vehicles. He has argued that fuel cells are a dead end, and governments should stop supporting them.

On the SpaceX side, Musk has advocated open competitions for NASA, USAF, and NRO launches, but also encouraged the government to ban the use of foreign engines and rockets.


So, you're saying there's no intellectually-consistent reason that anyone would oppose depending on Russian rocket engines for national security-related launches, while being for more competition in the rocket launch market?

Also, you should note that the entire point of a carbon tax is to replace everything in your middle paragraph with something that's more intellectually-consistent.

Telling someone else that they aren't intellectually consistent almost never works. You'll almost always get a reply, "You're misrepresenting my statements, and failing to understand my argument" -- not a good opening to a good discussion.


There are intellectually consistent frameworks which could justify most of Musk's beliefs, but he doesn't appear to abide by any such framework. He has changed his tune on many issues, and his policy positions always seem to be advantageous to his investments; he probably believes in his arguments, but we should be sanguine about their origins.

I happen to agree with him that fuel cells are a bad idea, but I also think that if one is to advocate taxing carbon, they should be advocating the taxation of other emissions and pollution (if they are to be intellectually consistent). I have never heard Musk advocate for something like a battery tax.

I would be flattered if Musk ever replied to anything I'd said, and I am not trying to cause any sort of emotional reaction.


Thanks for doubling-down on your original comments -- still not having a productive discussion.


I didn't 'double-down'; for instance, I agreed with you that "[t]here are intellectually consistent frameworks which could justify most of Musk's beliefs".

I also agree that 'just the carbon tax' would be more intellectually consistent than the myriad of other automotive propulsion policies Musk has advocated, but he happens to have advocated all those policies in addition to the carbon tax.

What are you looking for in a productive discussion? An apology because I might have offended the great Elon?


Agreed. It's an argument for indirect subsidies to his company on top of the direct subsidies he already receives.

Elon Musk is hardly a libertarian. He's just another crony capitalist.


Obviously you can question his motives, however this is not an indirect subsidy if you consider the emission of carbon dioxide an externality - which I presume he does. Instead it would represent the levelling of the playing field.

Oil companies do get direct subsidies through tax breaks, so no mater what you think is going on here, energy is not pure market. In practise, how often do you see a pure market anyway?


To be fair, in the US almost zero companies pay the corporate tax rate of 35%, the highest in the industrialized world. Thus anyone can point at any industry and point a finger at it in disgust at its "tax breaks".


Fair point.

Still, means a carbon tax is just more of the same, not some evil infringement of liberties.


Something can be an indirect subsidy and a Pigouvian tax at the same time; they are non-exclusive options. I see the carbon tax as both, and am opposed to both.

There are no 'pure market[s]', and there never have been. The 'pure market' was a straw-man invented by anti-market people.


It seems to me that subsidies and Pigouvian tax are exclusive if they are to mean anything. Perhaps I'm wrong?Can you point me at a discussion of this?

I think you are right that few people explicitly say that pure markets exist. But implicitly many people make arguments based on some kind of some unregulated state of nature, for example on this thread.


In this case it is not about indirect subsidies to his company, but about removing indirect subsidies from the combustion engine industry. Their "freely available externalities" are polluting the place.


Uh huh. Funny how a billionaire has so easily convinced you that adding costs to his competitors (and consumers) is really "removing a subsidy".


When we tell coal plants "Hey, you can't dump unlimited amounts of particulate pollution into the air," would you characterize that as an "indirect subsidy for solar power"?

Or would you call it "not letting coal plants externalize their costs on everyone else"?

Why are carbon emissions any different?


Do you believe in global warming/climate change?


How about the Earth is warming, we don't know by how much, but likely not nearly as much as we previously thought, and we are missing crap tons of data and understanding about how different systems work.

https://home.cern/about/updates/2016/05/cloud-shows-pre-indu...


> How about the Earth is warming, we don't know by how much, but likely not nearly as much as we previously thought

This is a bold claim completely unsupported by your link.


"If ancient cloud cover was closer to today’s levels, the increase in the cloud-cooling effect due to human pollution could also be smaller—which means that Earth was not warming up so much in response to increased greenhouse gases alone. In other words, Earth is less sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously thought, and it may warm up less in response to future carbon emissions, says Urs Baltensperger of the Paul Scherrer Institute, who was an author on all three papers."

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/05/earth-s-climate-may-n...


Still not supporting your claim.

> we don't know by how much

This is a measurable (and measured) thing. We know exactly how much the Earth has already warmed. We do not know exactly how much it will warm in the future, but we know how much it has warmed. And the articles are also not nearly as pessimistic about how good our estimates are. You're acting as if we're flying blind just because our models are imperfect.

> but likely not nearly as much as we previously thought

FTA: "He says that the current best estimates of future temperature rises are still feasible, but "the highest values become improbable.""

So no. The current best estimates are still the best estimates. This does not jive at all with your assertion that it's "likely not nearly as much".


I don't think that word "exactly" means what you think it means.

And you're misrepresentating what I said. I didn't say our estimates were getting worse. I made it clear they would simply would be lower than before. And both articles I linked made it clear that the new estimates would be improved.

You're splitting hairs about nothing when you aren't representing what I said. Have a good day.


No, you're downplaying the magnitude of global warming an implying that the future impact has been drastically overstated. It's not splitting hairs. You're presenting a small revision to our understanding of global warming as if it undermines our predictions, and your own sources do not support what you're saying. This is dishonest.

I hope you have a great day, too.


I think you're mistaken. My reading was that he thinks that rather then receiving the subsidies his companies receive, people who emit a lot of greenhouse gases should be taxed. He's not calling for both subsidies and a carbon tax, he's saying a carbon tax makes more sense and is more fair, because the average person already has to pay money for global warming. Fossil fuel companies have an unfair advantage, because they damage other people's property and the people foot the bill.


If Musk only cared about money he wouldn't be spending so much money on aerospace, automotive, and solar industries. None of them are great money makers.


I feel the argument was muddled by the libertarian clauses. It would have been more concise and poignant to make the same argument while leaving that out. He is completely right, that carbon not being taxed like other regulated substances, the fossil fuel businesses have the best subsidy possible, and the economics are completely misaligned.


It's fairly easy to spot ideologically consistent libertarians if you ask them about climate change, carbon tax etc.

Unfortunately, it turns out that they don't really exist in any great numbers.


One can only hope that the only ideology someone calling themselves a libertarian has is a bias in favor of freedom.


Can you expound on this ideologically consistent view?


If you are going to destroy the oceans that we all rely on for fishing, you should pay for them. You break it you buy it. The idea that someone can just come onto your property and destroy your land, as long as they do it with toxic gasses, is not very libertarian.


Exactly! I hope this is what the op meant. If you are a True Libertarian you should be in favor of the Government regulating air polluters because there is no way to pollute the air (or ocean) without depriving others of their rights.


> there is no way to pollute the air (or ocean) without depriving others of their rights

I mostly agree with this part,

> If you are a True Libertarian you should be in favor of the Government regulating air polluters

but take issue with this part.

As others have pointed out the libertarian position on air pollution, and similarly on other kinds of pollution, is it is a tortious trespass on property and is dealt with through the judicial system. Meaning no regulation or action is needed by government other than the recognition of property rights. This was the position of common law and was abandoned by American courts in the early 20th century.

Now, when you refer to the oceans, which due to government action remain un-ownable, it's more complicated and the libertarian position is that they should be privatized.


Ok, good point. I should have probably said protected by the government not regulated.

But with that said, regulation is more efficient than going after every polluter on a case by case basis. Legislation can at least be used to set the guidelines so everyone knows what rules they are playing by. Either that or you're just replacing law with case-law which would have relatively the same effect. A rose by any other name...


Coase, Pigou, all these ideas are fairly libertarian, just like other forms of property rights are, and externalities like pollution can be thought of as a form of trespass.


Pigouvianism is inherently intolerant and totalitarian, not libertarian, as it relies on imposing one's value judgements on others. Using a tax to force compliance rather than more draconian restrictions may be 'nicer', but is not Liberty.


> Using a tax to force compliance rather than more draconian restrictions may be 'nicer', but is not Liberty.

So if I reduce the value of your land by rendering it a desert over a period of years, I am simply exercising my liberty?


You may be committing a tort or trespass, depending on how you do it.

There are a great many works on this type of issue, and if you are looking for a complete answer, I suggest you read them. If you are trying to 'catch me out', your rhetoric won't convince me, nor is it likely to convince anyone else.


> You may be committing a tort or trespass, depending on how you do it.

And if you know its a common tort or trespass, it is simpler to tax that tort/trespass rather than require every individual to sue every other individual.

> If you are trying to 'catch me out', your rhetoric won't convince me, nor is it likely to convince anyone els

I don't really care. I just find your doublethink curious and wanted to confirm it was what I thought it was.

I find Doublethink in general a very interesting subject.


What doublethink are you talking about? There is no internal inconsistency in my position, I just disagree with you.


I assumed:

A) You believe climate change and science by majority consensus on scientific facts exist.

B) You believe pollution is grounds for a lawsuit (which is a form of tax in that you are charged a fee for violating the social contract) which is enforced by society due to the damage it represents.

C) You believe carbon is pollution but is not grounds for a lawsuit (which is a form of tax in that you are charged a fee for violating the social contract) which is enforced by society due to the damage it represents.


Voluntary agreements, legal settlements, and damages awards are not equivalent to taxes. For example, if I were to set your car on fire, and you sued me for that tort, any payment I made to you would be compensation, not a tax.

In addition, social contract theory is wrong, and I don't believe in it.[1]

Pollution may be grounds for a lawsuit, or it may not, it depends on the circumstances, just like any other tort or trespass.

[1] http://rintintin.colorado.edu/~vancecd/phil215/Huemer1.pdf


Okay, so you just don't believe climate change exists.


You've changed this post at least two times since I first tried to respond to it; I can't write a coherent response if you keep on deleting your post and re-writing it.

And I never said that I 'don't believe climate change exists'; as a matter of fact, I avoid the issue of consensus/reality entirely, as it has become a morass of tribal politics, where each side rejects the arguments of the other out of hand.


> And I never said that I 'don't believe climate change exists'

The only way you'd be consistent was if you had imo. YMMV.

Now, all you've established is my original belief was correct.

> You've changed this post at least two times since I first tried to respond to it; I can't write a coherent response if you keep on deleting your post and re-writing it.

You rewrote your post after I posted the first one.

Pot meet kettle.


It is perfectly consistent to believe that damage is being caused, and that a tax is a bad reaction. It would also be consistent to believe that there is no damage being caused, and that a tax would be bad.


> It is perfectly consistent to believe that damage is being caused, and that a tax is a bad reaction. It would also be consistent to believe that there is no damage being caused, and that a tax would be bad.

You advocate for lawsuits by everyone against everyone else which could be simplified and applied consistently by a tax.

The fact you don't understand that is, effectively, a very inefficient tax is confusing.


I didn't "advocate for lawsuits by everyone against everyone else". I said that one might be subject to a tort or trespass lawsuit "if [one] reduce[s] the value of your land by rendering it a desert over a period of years..."


• Scenario 1

I build my factory next to your land. A byproduct of my factory is a bunch of polluted water, which drains strait onto your land, causing much damage.

The tort system could deal with this fine [1]. You can easily prove that it was the pollution from my factory that damaged your land.

This may not be a good way to deal with it, because (1) it takes effort to take someone to court, which many small landowners may not have the time for and so will discourage them from defending their property rights, and (2) it assumes that only the monetary value of your land is important and thus it is OK for someone to damage your land as long as they pay.

• Scenario 2

I build my factory 1000 miles from your land. My polluted water runs into a nearby river, eventually makes it to the ocean, and some of it eventually ends up on your land.

The tort system is useless to address your injury. There are too many chaotic physical processes between the emission of the pollution at my end and the arrival of pollution at your end for you to prove that any of that pollution came from me. If you sue me, my defense is that there are hundreds or thousands of other factories polluting, and for all we know all of my pollution either stayed in the ocean or when it got back to land ended up on land other than yours.

If we modify the tort system so that in the case of pollution we turn the burden of proof around and require the defendant to prove that they did not pollute the plaintiff's property, then you can sort of make it work.

But if we do that, now we've just turned the problem around. It will be almost impossible for me to prove that my pollution did not reach any given plaintiff. Anyone who finds pollution of the type that my factory produces can easily and successfully sue me.

If that's the case, then as soon as you sue me, I'll be filing third party complaints against all the other factories that emit the same kind of pollution, alleging that they are equally responsible for the pollution that damaged you.

Of course, you won't be the only plaintiff suing me, since pollution spreads far and wide from the source. And all of the defendants will be filing third party complaints against all the other defendants. So we'll end up with a bazillion lawsuits, each consisting of one plaintiff with damaged land, and thousands of factory owner defendants. Someone will try and succeed in turning this into a class action.

The class plaintiffs will win, damages will be accessed will be accessed with each factory's share probably proportional to the amount of their pollution, and split among the plaintiffs proportionally to the damage to their land. This only settles things among those defendants and the plaintiffs that are in the class, so this thing will have to be repeated when new plaintiffs arise or new factories are built.

The net result will be that instead of a simple, straightforward, approach of the legislature creating a pollution fee or tax with the proceeds going to pollution cleanup, with the executive handling enforcement, we end up with an ad hoc sort of equivalent cobbled together from the tort system that is costlier, more time consuming, and has a lot more uncertainty (and still needs legislative action to create because it depends on changing the burden of proof in pollution cases).

[1] By "deal with it fine", I mean identify the party responsible for the pollution and make them pay monetary damages. One can make a good case that this is not actually fine, for at least two reasons. First, it assumes that only the monetary value of land is important. Land often has esthetic or sentimental value to people, which they would not give up even for much much more money than anyone else would pay for the land. Second, it takes time and effort to sue someone. Many small landowners would not have the resources for that, and so would have to just suck it up and accept the pollution.


I agree that your "Scenario 2" is a good case against using torts to correct large, widespread pollution problems, but there are other ways of dealing with those issues in a manner consistent with libertarianism.[1][2]

My original point was not that Pigouvianism was ineffective, but that: "Pigouvianism is inherently intolerant and totalitarian, not libertarian, as it relies on imposing one's value judgements on others. Using a tax to force compliance rather than more draconian restrictions may be 'nicer', but is not Liberty."

[1] http://www.libertarianprepper.com/air-pollution-and-its-unex...

[2] https://mises.org/library/libertarian-manifesto-pollution


Strict libertarianism recognizes central authorities as a role to prevent you from taking from me, which is what distinguishes it from anarchism. Libertarians should like pigou because it's the theoretical most efficient. Of course, auctioned cap and trade turns out to be the most efficient in the real world, because it turns out we're not good at estimating true prices.


There is no such thing as 'strict libertarianism'; libertarianism is a spectrum (with one or more dimensions), with many internal divides including issues such as intellectual property. Depending on the libertarian you speak with, they may argue for a robust system of police, or a 'minarchist' government which only deals with external threats and trade issues.

Auctioned cap and trade is good at achieving two objectives: 1) a strict limit, and 2) political cronyism. Most people who suggest a carbon tax are in favor of instituting it, then adjusting based on the resulting emissions. We are no better at estimating the results of any given level of pollution or emissions than we are at forecasting supply and demand response to price changes.


Maybe I should have said theoretical or stereotypical. Apologies.


> externalities like pollution can be thought of as a form of trespass

Perhaps in theory, but American Libertarianism will never see anyone recovering any losses due to rising CO2 / climate change. You would have to sue someone in court and win. And do you really think you can successfully sue Exxon Mobil when your shellfish farm is ruined because of ocean acidification?

This is basically why US Libertarianism is broken. If we truly had a Libertarian government, the environment would be quickly ruined.


A cap and trade system where the initial credits were auctioned would be the closest I could imagine to recovering losses, yes.


"Libertarian" and "tax" in the same sentence. How does that even work?


I assume by arguing the personal liberty cost of emissions outweighs the personal liberty gained by tax reduction.


I just went and read the Libertarian Party's platform. [1]

Under the issue of Environment:

"Competitive free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Governments are unaccountable for damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection. Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights and responsibilities regarding resources like land, water, air, and wildlife. Where damages can be proven and quantified in a court of law, restitution to the injured parties must be required."

And under Government Finance and Spending:

"All persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor. We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution. We oppose any legal requirements forcing employers to serve as tax collectors. Government should not incur debt, which burdens future generations without their consent. We support the passage of a 'Balanced Budget Amendment' to the U.S. Constitution, provided that the budget is balanced exclusively by cutting expenditures, and not by raising taxes."

So, unless it is shown to be constitutionally mandated a carvon tax is not endorsed by their platform.

If I read correctly, it would not be endorsed under their Crime and Justice section either.

Interesting aside, the Libertarian Party doesn't seem to be aware that all (100%) of U.S. currency is based on debt. The Treasury issues a bond, the Fed lrints money to buy it, and then all that goes into circulation. It's not magic, it's explicitly fiat, but I guess they missed that, or want to go back to something like the gold standard, which totally makes sense if you believe in the intrinsic value of gold rather than simply inderstanding it as a convenient means to mark a currency against if you want to limit inflation as only so much gold production per year is possible.

[1] https://www.lp.org/platform


Most people who identify as libertarian (little 'l') do not identify as Libertarian (big 'L'). When someone makes a libertarian argument, it's generally not intended to be a Libertarian argument, in the same way that someone making an argument based on democratic principles is generally not making an argument based on the platform of the Democratic party.


Cool. Well put. Thank you for putting that out there. It makes sense to me, given the conversations I've been a part of. And, likewise, this thread makes more sense in that context.


What you describe related to government debt is a really big problem. The eco/land use thing is less so, although constructing an administrative apparatus to implement that seems horrendously expensive. So enter Pigovian taxation.

My very informal and unreliable impression is that most libertarian writers ( who are worth reading ) embrace a Pigou regime as a pallative for managing CO2 in the atmosphere.

Some libertarians espouse land taxation. This exploits the symmetry between the role of government as protector of land ownership and how this is to be paid for. Tax land rents.

And I think there's an argument to be made that income taxation is both a poor proxy for rents and very invasive.


wouldnt the libertarian reaction to emissions be to sue the emitter for the lowered quality of air?


In a perfect court system where the overhead of a lawsuit is 0, sure, that would be an acceptable outcome.

In reality that's not the case, and there is no overarching principle any sect of libertarians hold (as far as I know) that harm can only be addressed via lawsuits. Since the overhead of lawsuits grows ridiculously large when the number of plaintiffs is equal to the population of the country (or even world), the far more practical solution is to just directly apply a Carbon Tax. This is pretty much equivalent to a lawsuit without the overhead of the courts. The biggest difference is while after a lawsuit the wealth is distributed directly, here the wealth is distributed by lowering taxes.


I believe the Libertarian party stance is that such damages should be addressed via lawsuits.


So, the party platform apparently opposes any government action on the issue. The reasoning seems to be more "it's not effective" than "the proper way to address it is lawsuits" though.

On the other hand I've seen Gary Johnson quotes like this one

> In 2016, as a candidate, Johnson talks about balancing the budget but lacks the zeal of libertarians who think the state could be cut in half without consequence. He’d keep Social Security for current retirees. He wouldn’t abolish the EPA, after learning in New Mexico how the government policed bad actors.

> “In the libertarian view, without the EPA, you as an individual could sue under the law,” said Johnson. “But not really. You don’t have deep pockets to go up against Chevron.”

From: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/is-libertarian-gary-...

Either way, good point.


That's already happening. Ie. ExxonMobile: http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2016/03/exxonmobil-sued-po... or Volkswagen: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/04/us-civil-sui... But as another commentator pointed out that's a very inefficient process because courts generate a huge overhead. And the US already spends way too much on lawyers imho.


I'm not at all familiar with the law in this area, but what stands in the way of doing that right now?


Frictional costs of reclaiming those costs: lawsuits are expensive, and when a large number of people are impacted a small to moderate amount, it's very difficult for diffused harm (those breathing polluted air) to reclaim damages against concentrated gain (polluting industry).

This would be the argument for creating more of a structured market approach to assigning the costs of these externalities: courts are inefficient and plagued with problems when there's a power difference between the parties, so creating a market structure allows those externalities to be compensated in a more efficient way, while still allowing market pricing to incentivize industry to resolve the externality in the most efficient way available.

The libertarian's argument against this (I imagine) is that any government market scheme will screw it up more, though I don't know why so much faith is placed in the court system as a magically efficient system that resolves property disputes fairly and cost effectively in cases like diffused externalities.


One big problem is proof. In a civil suit plaintiff has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant was responsible for the harm. Our water systems and our atmosphere are large, very effective mixers, and pollution injected at one point can travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometers before ending up on someone's land and causing damages. An emission of pollution from one polluter and another of the same kind and amount emitted at the same time from a second polluter a few kilometers away could end up taking very different paths and end up causing harm to people thousands of kilometers apart.


Most of the Libertarian's I know are moving away from this for the case of the environment for the various reasons listed and add one more, that in this country the court cannot make new laws.

But with that said too: the government itself can sue, it doesn't have to be people.


Why is anybody entitled to free unpolluted oxygen in libertopia?


I'm going to answer your flamebait with a real answer:

Because no one can own the air and you do not have a right to pollute something you do not own... further more if you pollute on land you do own you cannot guarantee the pollution will go to land owned by other people. And if you can guarantee that it will stay on your property, win win, we solved global warming!


I disagree that no one can own the air. To clarify, airspace can be homesteaded like any other piece of property. Obviously this is not necessarily the ownership of every air molecule in a given airspace as that would be quite impractical. But just the same, no one can pollute someone else's airspace.


Airspace is not air. Air flows freely across airspace. How can you guarantee that your air will not flow into my property?


From a libertarian perspective, at least when discussing air pollution, it is unimportant that air molecules flow from one property to another. What is important is that I do not pollute your airspace.


Yes, why would humanity be interested in keeping the only environment we currently have in a livable state? It is truly a mystery.


Agreed. That's how I read their platform.


Yes


Libertarians are not anti-tax. This is a common falisy.

Libertarians are anti-income and sometimes property tax but not anti-consumption tax. Basically the government cannot take "by force" the money that an individual earned or forcefully levy a tax on property they own. But taxing someone for polluting the atmosphere? Sure.

Carbon tax is actually very Libertarian. Greenhouse gasses pollute the commons which deprives other's of their right to quality air. I think many Libertarians would be for the government stepping in to end pollution of the commons and making companies pay for their own pollution is a fair way to do it.


Because it's a Billionaire shilling for more subsidies, that's how.


Damage to the commons via pollution should be paid for by the polluter.


If he/we really cared about CO2 production and Global warming externalities, we'd put a massive tax on service/product from China or India, whose CO2 production continues to grow:

http://blogs.nelson.wisc.edu/es112-304-4/wp-content/uploads/...


And on services/products from the USA, right? Per capita we're using more energy and producing more CO2 than China and India and almost everywhere else. (Australia looks about the same. The UAE appears to be at the top.)

Also, per the chart you've linked, India's CO2 production looks quite low. Not sure why you're lumping them in with China.


In the larger picture, we hope that as standards of living rise in China and India, carbon use will improve ( decline ).


"[Libertarians] are actually opposed to government intervention because it causes false pricing. "

No, Libertarians are opposed to government intervention because it forces individuals to give up liberties. It's right there in the name of the party. You have a right to keep what you earn and choose where you want to spend it.

Now if you were to argue that polluting the environment deprives others of their right to breath clean air and that the government should tax carbon in order to protect the rights of the people who want clean air then THAT is a Libertarian argument for carbon tax.


Given the medieval wealth disparities between the billionaire class and the average person, I find it difficult to trust their pontifications on financial and political matters. They are still people, but people operating on a very different moral compass than my own. Living in wealth and comfort is one thing, but the morality needed to acquire and retain billions in the face of all that could be done with it means we operate under very different rules.


Three are many others that argue that a price on carbon is the best way. For example: William Nordhaus of Yale University and Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30760-carbon-tax-or-carbo...


Random thought: Why are we communicating almost only on the release of CO2 and not of the burning of O2?

It's easier to communicate that's O2 being reduced is problematic for human beings as our bodies perform worst even with slight reductions in O2 levels. O2 levels have a more direct impact on humans. Plus, O2 concentration levels are actually being reduced faster than CO2 levels are rising. CO2 is not a toxic gas by itself and climate sciences that show CO2 is bad for the planet are hard. It would seem easier to convince people burning O2 is harmful. It's true and easy to demonstrate.

> Evidence from prehistoric times indicates that the oxygen content of pristine nature was above the 21% of total volume that it is today. It has decreased in recent times due mainly to the burning of coal in the middle of the last century. Currently the oxygen content of the Earth’s atmosphere dips to 19% over impacted areas, and it is down to 12 to 17% over the major cities. At these levels it is difficult for people to get sufficient oxygen to maintain bodily health: it takes a proper intake of oxygen to keep body cells and organs, and the entire immune system, functioning at full efficiency. At the levels we have reached today cancers and other degenerative diseases are likely to develop. And at 6 to 7% life can no longer be sustained.

Ref: http://www.ebooks.com/113897/macroshift/laszlo-ervin-clarke-...


> Random thought: Why are we communicating almost only on the release of CO2 and not of the burning of O2?

Because global warming will probably kill us before oxygen deprivation or the health impact of reduced oxygen.

Also, this is perhaps nitpicky, but O2 does not burn.


What are the by-products of manufacturing and maintaining batteries and solar panels? I'd like to learn more about the inputs and outputs, then maybe I can learn a better comparison between fossil fuels and solar.

What are we transforming in order to create, store, and consume solar energy and fossil fuel energy?


You would want to look at lifecycle analysis studies (here's a few [1][2]). The big problem with fossil fuel is that it takes fuel to extract new fuels (high cost sources like tar sands have a ratio of like 1 fuel unit used to extract 2) AND they have a cost for each unit of power generated. Most renewables (excluding biofuels for example), have a manufacturing cost, but little to no energy generation cost (solar and wind have none, hydropower basins have something like 1/1000th the emissions of coal).

[1] http://phys.org/news/2014-10-first-ever-global-life-renewabl...

[2] http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/sustain_lca_results.html


Whats worse is the waste left over after a battery is past it life span.



Next week, a communist argument for private ownership of the means of production.


Musk leaves out - or maybe he didn't but the reporter did - a couple of things. 1) Most of the subsidy for fossil fuels is actually a subsidy for transportation, which relies mostly on fossil fuels. 2) The production and re-fueling of EVs is primarily a fossil-fuel enabled activity ("EVs just have a longer tailpipe".)

Someone really interested in reducing fossil fuel consumption might want instead to subsidize ways of reducing transportation use.


The longer tail pipe thing is, whater. Annoying. An E.V. can be charged from any source. Electrons don't discriminate as to what excites them. With the purchase of SolarCity by Tesla, the pipe is now super short. From your room to your garage. Blaiming E.V. power source emisions is like blaming people with second hand smoke cause cancer for their ailment. It's gonna take awhile to regulate the smokers out of our shared space.


More like Elon Musk points out by example why libertarianism is an oxymoron. As soon as all restrictions are lifted on businesses and a totally "free" market is created, business interests move to enact new regulations that entrench their positions.


It's hardly an oxymoron. It just competes with established ideology. Ideally, there is no Conservative ideology either ( it advertises itself as pragmatic and empirical ) but this arguably requires too much work in political spheres to hold up.

"Free" markets vary by degree - nobody says there must be no rules, no rule of law. Taking it back to Adam Smith, he's simply arguing against Mercantilism. So any rules that entrench an incumbent could ( possibly ) be considered a degree of Mercantilism. But the context matters because of specialization and inertia/momentum.


And those new regulations in favor of business would be vetoed under a Libertarian government. It works both ways.

Also, Libertarians are in favor of regulating business if the business is depriving others of their rights. For example, their right to breath clean air.

Well, many are. I believe enough are that pro-environmental policies would still get voted up in a Libertarian system.


> And those new regulations in favor of business would be vetoed under a Libertarian government. It works both ways.

Wait, what? Vetoed by whom?

> Also, Libertarians are in favor of regulating business if the business is depriving others of their rights.

Who would be doing the regulating exactly? Wouldn't the regulations be seen as oppression by other businesses? Wouldn't they be challenged in a court of law, which is a part of the government?

I'm honestly amazed at the required amount of self-delusion required to believe that some form of libertopia is possible by simply removing some regulations and cutting down government agencies left and right. It then turns out that to arbitrate selfish interests of business and handle other edge cases in conflicts of interest you need certain agencies to act as arbitrators and in order to have a functioning society you start adding those agencies back 1 by 1 until you end up at the current form of government with all of its "overhead"


I think you are confusing Libertarian with Anarchist.

Libertarian does not preclude a president (who has a veto pen) and courts. In fact, courts are insanely critical to a Libertarian government in order to rule on cases where rights are violated and an executive branch is critical to make sure the court decisions are carried out.

Furthermore, contract law is also hugely important to Libertarians and the Government needs to be able to enforce those contracts when the individual cannot.

What a Libertarian would do is strike down all laws and government agencies that infringe on individual liberties. Especially laws that legislate morality and laws that legislate how individuals can spend their money and use their property. That means you can marry who you want, smoke what you want, and buy, sell, and contract with who you want as long as it does not infringe on other rights.

Other misconceptions:

- Libertarians as a whole do not want to eliminate tax. They want to replace income tax with flat tax and/or consumption tax and leave property tax up to the states. They only want to abolish the IRS because it is an inefficient organization, uses threat of force to collect taxes, and taxes do not need to be that complicated.

- Libertarians are not anti union. People should have a right to assemble. They are generally against people being forced to join a union against their will.

- Libertarians are not anti-government. They just feel the only valid role of government is to protect individual rights and defend our country from foreign invaders.

- Libertarians are not anti-environment. In fact Libertarians often see polluting the environment as infringing on other people rights and therefor something the government can intervene in.

A true Libertarian president would ask the following of every law:

- Does this protect people from having their rights infringed on by either other people, government, or companies: YES, pass this law

- If it does not meet the first test, does this infringe on other's right including their rights to do what they want with their own property/body: VETO


How was this an example of how restrictions were lifted and a free market created?


You're missing the point. If we magically enacted perfectly libertarian business policies overnight, business would immediately get to work creating new regulations because they're still self-interested like they were before. This is what they do now, this is what they would do then, and this is also why anarcho capitalism is a contradiction.


Anarcho capitalism, which is not necessarily the view of every libertarian (some being "minarchists"), would be the absence of any government authority. Without a government the regulation you speak of is non-existent. There is no contradiction.


David Friedman style Anarcho-Cap has never denied the necessity of a government; it's more interested in constructing analyses of various costs associated with policies.

More foam-at-the-mouth anarchists tend to be empty vessels - louder, so they attract the disenchanted.


...until the interested business parties band together to form a government of sorts for their own benefit.


Precisely. Cartels don't require a government to exist, and the absence of government letting them beat you and kill you and take your stuff makes them easier to entrench. Some of these cartels may even claim land as theirs and exact payments from those under their "protection". We might call them "barons", say, and their henchmen "knights". And these strongmen might, due to relative imbalance of force, have to swear fealty to "counts" and "dukes" and "kings", and whoa I think I just had the weirdest dream, that ancap is an undisguised pathway to corporatist feudalism. Weird.


Any ruling order, whether it be a government or something else, requires at least the tacit consent of the majority. I believe it would be much more difficult to take over an area lacking a strong centralized government as opposed to an area with one. Militaristic efforts in Afghanistan being a prime modern example.


Quite the mental gymnastics. "If we magically enacted perfectly libertarian business policies overnight" <- this assumes we have SOME way to get there. "business would immediately get to work creating new regulations because they're still self-interested like they were before." We would then use that same MAGICAL way to get back to ancapistan. No contradiction at all.




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