Editor note: This responds to Professor Dolan’s post yesterday, “Hayek and a Carbon Tax: Response to Bradley, which answered Bradley’s post two days ago, “Hayek was not a Malthusian or Global Tariff Advocate (link to a carbon tax peculiar, errant).” The debate began with Dolan’s original piece, “Friedrich Hayek on Carbon Taxes.”
“… let’s add the ‘fat tail’ of the global CO2 blanket protecting against a little ice age or an ice age in the next several hundred years. Why not think of global lukewarming as a short-term positive, and the CO2 blanket as a long-term positive?”
“Classical liberals should be focused on adaptation to climate change, natural or anthropogenic, which is wealth-as-health and free movements of goods and services and people. CO2 fertilization is part of this too.”
Overall, I believe it is silly (sorry, not a very scholarly term) to bring F. A. Hayek into the climate debate on any level, physical science, economics, policy. It is grasping at straws, and Hayek, as Robert Murphy will show (IER: forthcoming), actually was little interested in Pigovian taxation.
The real argument is not about Hayek. It is about whether an open-minded, scholarly, no-longer-living classical liberal would have been swayed by climate activist agenda. Hayek, in any case, would have probably smelled a Malthusian rat.
I utterly fail to see how the physical science of the human influence on global climate change is ‘settled’ to justify new government vistas. It is not settled but changing. Sometimes the more we know the more we realize we don’t know. In such cases, I trust free people and civil society and not open-ended government activism writ very large (Al Gore’s ‘central organizing principle’).
Climate sensitivity estimates have been coming down. Climate models do not know the physics of microclimate to be reliable. Models are running too hot, and the gap is widening (check out year-end 2017 in eight months to see where things stand versus satellite/balloon data).
The enhanced greenhouse effect is a global phenomenon and requires global strategies, not unilateral policies where noncompliers can free ride. Think tariffs or other assaults on free trade.
Only a romantic, perfect-knowledge view of government can make a case for a theoretical (versus real world) pricing of CO2. But there is government failure, not only market failure, that technical economists ignore because they do not know how to model it.
Classical liberals should be focused on adaptation to climate change, natural or anthropogenic, which is wealth-as-health and free movements of goods and services and people. CO2 fertilization is part of this too.
As one final point, let’s add the ‘fat tail’ of the global CO2 blanket protecting against a little ice age or an ice age in the next several hundred years. Why not think of global lukewarming as a short-term positive, and the CO2 blanket as a long-term positive?
Beware of experts, consensus, and new vistas for global government. Overpopulation … resource famines … ‘peak oil’ … catastrophic climate-change: same consensus, false, false, false, (trending) false.
Hayek saw this pattern in his lifetime (he was a big Julian Simon fan–see Appendix) and little doubt would have added climate to the exaggerated-scare list.
Hayek to Julian Simon: Two Letters
March 22, 1981
Dear Professor Simon,
I have never before written a fan letter to a professional colleague, but to discover that you have in your Economics of Population Growth provided the empirical evidence for what with me is the result of a life-time of theoretical speculation, is too exciting an experience not to share it with you.
The upshot of my theoretical work has been the conclusion that those traditional rules of conduct (esp. of several property) which led to the greatest increases of the numbers of the groups practicing them leads to their displacing the others — not on “Darwinian” principles but because based on the transmission of learned rules — a concept of evolution which is much older than Darwin. I doubt whether welfare economics has really much helped you to the right conclusions.
I claim as little as you do that population growth as such is good — only that it is the cause of the selection of the morals which guide our individual action. It follows, of course, that our fear of a population explosion is unjustified so long as the local increases are the result of groups being able to feed larger numbers, but may become a severe embarrassment if we start subsidizing the growth of groups unable to feed themselves.
SHIMODA TOKYU HOTEL
Shimoda, Nov. 6, 1981
Dear Professor Simon,
… I have now at last had time to read [The Ultimate Resource] with enthusiastic agreement. So far as practical effect is concerned it ought to be even more important than your theoretical work which I found so exciting because it so strongly supports all the conclusions of the work I have been doing for the last few years.
I do not remember whether I explained in my earlier letter that one, perhaps the chief thesis of the book on The Fatal Conceit, the first draft of which I got on paper during the past summer, is that the basic morals of property and honesty, which created our civilization and the modern numbers of mankind, was the outcome of a process of selective evolution, in the course of which always those practices prevailed, which allowed the groups which adopted them to multiply more rapidly (mostly at their periphery among people who already profited from them without yet having fully adopted them.) That was the reason for my enthusiasm for your theoretical work.
Your new book I welcome chiefly for the practical effects I am hoping from it. Though you will be at first much abused, I believe the more intelligent will soon recognize the soundness of your case. And the malicious pleasure of being able to tell most of their fellows what fools they are, should get you the support of the more lively minds about the media. If your publishers want to quote me they are welcome to say that I described it as a first class book of great importance which ought to have great influence on policy….
With best wishes,
F. A. Hayek