October 22, 2005

Environmentalist coercion

Dave Roberts writes with style. That's why I pick one of his posts to illustrate the coercive side of environmentalism:

The structure of our built environment largely determines our day-to-day habits. It's hard to eliminate "unnecessary driving" if the store, school, and work are miles away through pedestrian-unfriendly highways. It's hard to eat healthy when you're surrounded by fast-food restaurants, the nearest supermarket is a long bus ride away, and local/organic food is nowhere to be found. Most people, particularly poor people, live in environments that make unhealthy and eco-unfriendly choices the path of least resistance.

Environmentalists ought to be devoted to reshaping public policy, in order to reshape our built environments, in order to make eco-friendly choices easy, so the health of the earth does not require most people on it to be virtuous, cause that's never going to happen.

For Roberts virtuosity means "making eco-friendly choices." "There's nothing wrong with pushing people to display personal virtue," he adds. But people don't become virtuous enough. It is not enough to push people. We must force them.

For the Pope virtuosity means "making God-friendly choices." For the Chinese leaders virtuosity means "making socialist-friendly choices." For racists virtuosity means "making my-race-friendly choices." They all want to shape public policy.

I would rather eliminate public policy and let people make their own choices.


  1. It seems like that would go against the entire human history of moving towards cooperation (via government institutions) on larger and larger scales. What, if not the past 4000 years, is the free market of society?

  2. People cooperate with or without government intervention. I think cooperation is more efficient and more gratifying if done on a voluntary basis. Cooperation via government is ultimately done through coercion. You and I are exchanging ideas (thus cooperating) in a voluntary fashion and via a largely private enterprise (the Internet). That's what I like.

  3. It is true that too much governmental intervention leads to authoritarian nightmares; but it is also true that too little government intervention leads to hobbesian nightmares.

    Libertarians unconfortable with Governments can exercise their freedom and emmigrate to countries where the State has been abolished and individual freedom reigns. Such is Somalia.

    It so curious to notice that most extreme libertarians like to own rifles for self-defence. In Somalia, the libertarian's paradise, they usually go further and own machine-guns.