A Free-Market Energy Blog

The Philosophical Argument for Market Energy: Conversation with Alex Epstein

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- June 25, 2016


JL: What are the primary obstacles to industrial progress?

AE: There are two key obstacles to industrial progress: one is a lack of a positive and the other is a negative, in large part made possible by the lack of the positive.

The lack of a positive is the lack of a clearly fleshed-out pro-industrial philosophy that embraces the progressive transformation of nature through energy and technology. Such a philosophy, among other things, would define the proper political policies under which that transformation should take place—namely policies based on individual rights—and it would morally embrace industrialization.

Without the right industrial philosophy, people don’t value industrial progress sufficiently, and don’t know what policies will nourish that value.

Being clear on the positive is indispensable. For instance in oil, you can see throughout history that it is really important that property rights should be based on the principle that the creator of the value in the resource should own it. In a course I gave in 2008, the Triumph and Tragedy of the Oil Industry, I explained how the wrong philosophy of rights has undercut the oil industry from the beginning.

In electricity, you need the right view of competition, otherwise you end up with today’s government monopolized grid.

Unless we have a clear idea of what policy should be, positively, and why, the positive isn’t going to happen, and when the wrong view has a lot of advocates with very clear policy ideas, they’re going to take over. And that’s what happened to the anti-industrial movement, which at various stages has been called the conservation movement and the environmentalist movement. There’s a lot of good literature from Ayn Rand, ARI, and TOS about this movement so I won’t elaborate too much here, but basically making policy based on the idea that untouched nature is intrinsically valuable and that nature should be protected from man leads to the very common phenomenon, which I wrote about in the Industrial Manifesto: Every company who wants to do anything industrial—anything involving any transformation of nature—is met with an endless labyrinth of obstacles.

Again, a huge part of the solution is offering a positive alternative, including in policy, which is why a big focus of ours at CIP will be to roll out energy policy prescriptions.

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