POLITICAL OPINIONS#60: ENVIRONMENTALISM & SOCIALISM

INTRODUCTION:

 

It is easy to operate under the assumption of knowing a person’s stance on one political issue we have a window to the entirety of their ideological convictions. Much can be said for how certain political beliefs are highly correlated with other supporting political and non-political philosophical tenants.  The congruency of being a social conservative, Pro-life, religiosity, and supporting the political views of  Pat Buchanan seems to be logically sound. However,  not all correlations of political beliefs are that epistemologically linear and are sometimes are more conceptually nuanced. For example, the anti-war demonstrator who is pro-choice when it comes to the controversial topic of abortion.  Anytime you analyze the definition of human life in the abortion debate the topic quickly devolves into a semantical tightrope walk.  One where operational definitions of human life are subjected to veracity tested filtered through philosophical, legal, scientific, and even biblical literature. However, conservatives have their own cognitive dissonance tested when confronted with the prospect of being Pro-life, but defending just war doctrines or state-sanctioned executions.

 

While such distinctions can easily be settled on the grounds of oversimplification of the issue,  sometimes that seems to be too dismissive of an answer.  While philosophical nuance can explain oblique congruency with seemingly incompatible ideas couldn’t there also be other factors at play? In recent years the sense of increased attachment to ideological labels and institutions. There have even been studies conducted where individuals rejected policy proposals fitting into their political view just because they were told it was supported by the opposing party [3].  A 2016  study demonstrated “…Activation of the posterior medial parietal cortex is also consistent with another study of motivated reasoning in politics…” when faced with unfavorable information about a favored political candidate [4]. Given some physiological insight why we attempt to justify supporting politically incompatible views.

 

The social, psychological, and biological factors behind these phenomena are certainly engaging, however, I could write an entire book addressing these issues. However, I have other objectives at hand. What really inspired this blog entry was an observation made after reading up on the ” Green New Deal” being purposed by a certain junior congresswoman who shall go unnamed. I at that moment noticed a strong correlation between support for socialist economic policy and environmentalism.  A correlation so pronounced there is even a splinter form of socialism known as eco-socialism [5].  Now I am not going to resort to the sophomorically inserting anti-socialism MEMES into my blog post and crafting an obtuse polemic devolving into patronizing diatribes.  Rather explore a legitimate inquiry into the philosophical framework of environmentalism.

 

My main inquiry is why environmentalism is so strongly correlated to socialist economic policies? In environmentalist circles, the perils of manipulating certain variables are well noted and cited. However, can’t the same be said for the American Economy?  The burst of the 2008 Housing Bubble engendered by artificially low-interest rates [6] [7]. I would state that an institution such as the Federal Reserve manipulating mortgage interest rates would be analogous to housing development or population killing off a major food source in an ecosystem’s food-chain. As any environmentalist will tell you such a disruption will have truly pernicious ramifications for every life form in that environment. So why it is so outlandish to apply the same concept to our economy?  When we generally attempt to implement pricing control, increase the minimum wage, and subsidize production in select industries all have unforeseen and typically detrimental consequences.  While such thinking is in direct confrontation with the left-wing leaning sentiments of environmentalism it does not have conflict. The idea of not disturbing the natural order can be extrapolated and applied to environmentalism as well as economics.  However, there is ample tribalism and the maneuvering of confirmation bias that will make such a notion far-fetched.

 

COMPLEX SYSTEMS:

Both a natural ecosystem and the American Economy (or any nation’s economy for that matter) operates as a complex system.  A complex system  is defined as:

” …. any system featuring a large number of interacting components (agents, processes, etc.) whose aggregate activity is nonlinear (not derivable from the summations of the activity of individual components) and typically exhibits hierarchical self-organization under selective pressures. ” [8].

Essentially an entity comprised of a multitude of different interacting variable. There is a self-organized hierarchy or natural order created by the components and their interaction.  It should also be noted that the components of a complex system are extremely interdependent [9]. Meaning that if you alter the input on one variable it impacts every other variable within a complex system.  Which explains why in an ecosystem you take away one food source it causes an imbalance. Some species of plants, animals, or microorganisms will overpopulate the environmental. In contrast, some will either face extinction or die off. In any complex system, the line between equilibrium and chaos is razor thin.

While it is easy to associate a biome in the natural world as a complex system. What constitutes a complex system extends beyond that mere example. Essentially any entity with a self-arranged order, composed of an interacting variable, and the effects of alteration can be easily measured or predicted, constitutes a complex system. For instance, examples of social complex systems range from  ” … ant colonies, families, and nations…” [10]. This also includes economies as well. There is a natural flow or cadence to the hierarchy and functions of transactions in economic behavior. Beyond just how the intervention of taxes, tariffs, price controls, etc causes disturbances and the market tends to work around such barriers, most factors are set by market behavior.

If you are familiar with the Austrian School of economics you may be aware of the theory of subjective value, the Austrian theory of value, the theory of imputation, etc.  This theory of pricing goes by a myriad of different monikers. Essentially it addresses Adam Smith’s Diamond-Water Paradox of marginal utility [13]. Essentially the subjective assessment of the value of a scarce commodity is determined by the market or the buyer [12].  Versus the price being derived from the costs of production which tend to be the assumption of the classical school of economics [11].  One real-life example of Austrian pricing theory that I have some experience with is purchasing goods and services for a wedding.  Standard napkins you would purchase for a dinner party tend to be less expensive than those that have the words “wedding” on the label. For all intensive purposes, the cost of production is the same, however, what accounts for the difference in price. The only rational way to view this difference is that the consumer is willing to pay the higher price for the “wedding” napkins if not there would be no price difference. The difference in price demonstrates the higher perceived value by the consumer.

Now I am not trying to convert anyone to the Austrian School of Economics, however, many of the theories within this school do an excellent job of explaining the natural order of pricing in the market. Demonstrating that natural flow and cadence solidifies the fact that the economy is a complex system. One that is comprised of a myriad of economic transactions and behaviors.  One that one you alter one variable either for good intentions or other motives creates nonlinear counterreactions that cannot be easily controlled. Similar to how in a biome there are natural predators and prey, pricing in the economic market is determined by the market. Darwin theory of  Natural Selection reverts right back to the self-selecting nature of complex systems [14]. Similar to how gene selection is determined by surviving long enough to copulate economies have their own self-selection process. Markets being consumer driven, economic conditions are at the mercy of their subjective attribution of price and perception of the value of goods and services offered. If a producer cannot adapt to market conditions the odds of failure are almost inevitable.

 

Considering the evidence presented, the overlap between economic environments and those in the natural world is quite resounding. The plethora of commonalities validates the theory of Complex Systems at a conceptual level. Both are self-organizing, interconnected variable interaction with one another, and alteration of one variable impacts all others.

 

Seeing how this concept can be extrapolated and applied makes me question the alliance between socialistic economic policy and environmentalism. Beyond the microcosm of the subculture of environmentalism, socialism abroad has garnered more support. The results of a political poll conducted in August of 2018 revealed that sixty percent of Democrats polled viewed socialism favorably [15]. However, such numbers do not exactly speak to the views of the average voter.  But within environmentalism, there has been a longstanding ethos against capitalism. A bias stemming from the perception that damage to the environment being a byproduct of capitalistic greed [16]. Making the natural reciprocal of Socialism appealing. Former Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein’s platform had a plethora of initiatives intensive on economic central planning and redistributive policies [17].

My question becomes if you understand disrupting natural environments is detrimental, why isn’t the same true for the American economy? The counterargument can be made that we need government involvement to correct for the environmental blunders of man. The initial problem was engendered by disruption of a naturally occurring variable. Trying to correct for the blemishes of a capitalistic society through welfare initiatives also disrupts natural order. Could be viewed as being analogous to dumping toxic waste into a stream. Both demonstrate a lack of foresight and have a litany of adverse ramifications.

 

SPONTANEOUS ORDER:

Not to beat a dead horse here, however, I would also like to incorporate the concept of Spontaneous order into this discourse. While it may feel as if I have exhaustively expounded upon the parallels between the American economy and natural environments, the matter still remains unresolved.  The concept of Spontaneous order really bridges any remaining gaps between the social and natural worlds, in regards to external meddling.

 

The idea of spontaneous order was conceptualized by Nobel prize-winning Austrian Economist F.A. Hayek. The idea is derived from the concept of the “Invisible-hand” which was contrived by the Moral Philosopher Adam Smith. Smith argued that “… society developed from a spontaneous order which was the result of human action but not of human design…”. Hayek expanded upon this notion by stating that while reason and logic have facilitated human development, society was too complex to be methodically planned bit by bit. Hayek also speculated that many who dismissed the premise of spontaneous order did so by being hung up on the dichotomy of chaos (unplanned)  and order (planned). When in actuality economies belong to a third category where there are rules, self-organized, and “… increase in complexity in a way that would not be fully understood…” [18].

It is analogous to the development of human language. While there are rules predicating verb conjugation, syntax, etc these rules were not consciously contrived by one person. But rather spontaneously arose in the absence of human design [19]. There is also the skating rink example which parallels the unwritten rules of the driver. Example being the right of way rule at a 4-way stop. In the skating rink example, if you were to be a ruler and were to build a skating rink you would assume you would need to install speed limit signs, traffic lights, etc to ensure safety [20, 21]. It could be said that you ” … can’t expect skaters to navigate the rink on their own…” because you need rules and agents to enforce those rules [20]. However, the skaters seem to manage to do so it is not the result of intentional planning  [20, 21].

 

In social systems such as economies, we cannot adequately plan them what makes us think we are capable of doing so with the complex systems of the natural world.  In sense exploring the idea of spontaneous order illustrates how economies are not conscious design nor are natural biomes. Any attempt to intervene or plan either would merely be more detrimental than beneficial as you are attempting to control entities that have a nonlinear result from such measures. While I do see how transgressive acts such as littering and dumping toxic waste as pernicious and as negative they are more a variable of human meddling than a lack of government oversight. For one, both acts are examples of manipulation of variables by human choice. Second being, even in light of regulations and punitive sanctions people still chose to litter. While such measures have the best intentions it cannot change the fact that people possess free will with limitations. Overall, erroneous choices exist regardless of the existence of regulation. Unless someone can demonstrate that such regulations reduce such actions on a statistically significant level, see them as nothing more than futile. However, if we shouldn’t be hunting a species out of extinction, why is it okay raise the minimum wage to the point that fast-food workers are replaced by machines because it is no longer solvent to keep them employed?  Both demonstrate how intentions do not always match results.

 

DISCUSSION:

 

For the record, I am not attempting to proselytize anyone to the virtues of Libertarianism or of Austrian School of Economics. Rather, I am expressing an interesting conceptual connection between social and environmental systems. I would purport that if we shouldn’t be upsetting the equilibrium in one, we should not be doing the same in the other. Which is why I am expressing my confusion regarding the strong correlation between environmentalism and socialism. If you comprehend the perils of variable manipulation in the natural world, why wouldn’t it apply to the social world? The American economy as with any economy is most certainly a social complex system.  An economy is comprised of economic behavior through the manifestation of exchanges. So if spontaneous order applies to both the natural and social world any attempt to artificially manipulate it would a mere hindrance. The underlying cadence or implicit law being the laws and theories of biology for the natural world and social laws whether written or intuitively understood. For example, the Law of Supply and Demand in economics.

 

However, many would argue that I am fundamentally mistaken by questioning the alliance between socialism and environmentalism. It does seem as if there is a strong preference for government involvement in correcting for the damage that has already been done. Due to the assumption that a lack of regulation led to the current environmental conditions. Which would to some extent nullify my argument.  Especially when you consider the current trajectory of using governmental bodies and alliances to grapple with issues such as global warming, early forerunner being the Kyoto Protocol. One of the first of the global attempts at addressing the issue [22]. The current trajectory of the environmental movement is to remedy issue through the consolidation of governmental power, now even at a global level.

 

While such patterns give Right-leaning conspiracy theorists new avenues of intrigue to exhaust, I do not believe that this is a massive conspiracy. Rather a misguided attempt through using international governance structures to eliminate a problem that cannot be solved. Especially when a lot of these agreements appear to be a typical ceremonial formality.  China signed the Paris Climate accord back in 2016, however, are they taking this commitment seriously ? [23] The United States has decreased carbon dioxide emissions by 800 million tons annually over the past decade. While China emits more than the United States and EU combined, currently Asia accounts for 50 percent of the world’s emissions [24]. China is the major contributor. Another example of how the good intentions of government involvement do not necessarily yield results. Also, this agreement would only work if all the major contributors took it seriously. In my uneducated opinion, I do not believe China would risk the economic impact of complying with the agreement. I am pretty sure there is more of a profit over principle paradigm at work.

 

As you may remember, I discussed the notion of coping with cognitive dissonance and tribal political behavior. If the premise of preservation is extrapolated from environmentalism it, in theory, can be applied to social systems. Economies included. Preservation in the sense of not manipulating naturally occurring cycles. It can be stated that I am merely transposing my libertarian perspective to a set of ideas that are incompatible with such thinking. Whether or not the prospect of limited government and environmentalism can coexist in the pantheon of ideas is a matter of perspective. Much of that speculation is contingent on examining the tenants of both paradigms. Much can be said for the notion of environmentalism being tied socialized economical policies through the concept of justice. Utilizing government institutions to amend the evils and perceived fallacies of man.

 

The leftism and emphasis on artificially stacking the deck to even the wrongs of the world do not matter of conforming to tribalism, but rather the status quo of liberal environmentalists.  Due to the strong emphasis on social and environmental justice (in a sense both are conceptual kissing cousins) the hard leftist tendencies are right on base for this microcosm of the left. If anything the standard left of center democrat is shifting more towards the hard left in regards to policy and ethos.  So if anything the philosophical pillars of the ecologically conscious left are infiltrating the mainstream democratic party. The Environmentalist/ Progressive sect of the liberalism appears to be the prime mover pushing the pendulum of liberal thought versus accommodating itself to the mainstream democratic party. Making the issue of tribal conformity and ideological veering towards the extremes the victimhood of the democratic party.  In this era of instruction politics, it is common to see both Republicans and Democrats moving towards the extremes of the ideological bell curve.

 

Now I am intrigued by one environmentalist movement that may be a step in the right direction. However, I have not done much in the way of research on this microcosm of environmentalism, that is the Free-market Environmentalism. Example being the Clean Capitalist  Coalition being concerned with being more environmentally conscious without stifling economic growth [25]. While I still need to do some further research on this movement, it does look like a potential compromise to the current socialist-environmentalism paradigm. I need to to do more investigating before I can endorse this perspective. However, it may be a measure and appropriate compromise.

 

 

 

SOURCES:

[1].https://peterclark7979.wixsite.com/website/home/political-opinions-60-environmentalism-socialism

[2].https://youtu.be/rh_Featv0gA

[3]. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/bias-fundamentals/201806/tribalism-in-politics

[4]. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep39589

[5] http://ecosocialisthorizons.com/ecosocialism/

[6] https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardsalsman/2013/09/19/the-financial-crisis-was-a-failure-of-government-not-free-markets/#77ca2bd451c3

[7] https://fee.org/articles/how-the-federal-government-created-the-subprime-mortgage-crisis/

[8] https://www.informatics.indiana.edu/rocha/publications/complex/csm.html

[9].https://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/complexsystems/introduction.html#interdependence

[10]. http://www.thwink.org/sustain/glossary/ComplexSocialSystem.htm

[11]. https://mises.org/library/marginal-utility-not-rocket-science

[12] https://mises.org/library/subjective-value-theory

[13] https://www.britannica.com/topic/diamond-water-paradox

[14] https://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Natural_selection

[15] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2018/08/14/democrats-prefer-socialism-capitalism-gallup-poll/988558002/

[16]. https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Why-Do-Environmentalists-Hate-Capitalism.html

[17]. https://www.jill2016.com/plan

[18] https://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications/the-region/hayeks-legacy-of-the-spontaneous-order

[19]. https://www.forbes.com/sites/billconerly/2017/10/30/business-planning-with-austrian-economics-spontaneous-order/#4d335d9380d0

[20]. https://fee.org/articles/spontaneous-order/

[21]. https://reason.com/archives/2011/02/10/spontaneous-order

[22] https://www.iep.utm.edu/envi-eth/#H3

[23]https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-37265541

[24] https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2018/07/01/china-emits-more-carbon-dioxide-than-the-u-s-and-eu-combined/#5d136096628c

[25] https://www.forbes.com/sites/waynewinegarden/2018/09/28/free-market-environmentalism/#65c74a991f1a

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Author: invertedlogicblog

In pursuit of liberty, philosophical thought, and Austrian Economics.

4 thoughts on “POLITICAL OPINIONS#60: ENVIRONMENTALISM & SOCIALISM”

  1. It’s amusing to me to try to elevate a modern economic system to somehow be equivalent to a natural or environmental one. The modern system isn’t even the only possible economic system (ancient Egypt? ancient Greece? Rome?) and the modern system doesn’t even know what it itself is, given the recent contributions of behavioral economics. It certainly is a far cry from physical or even biological law. Sure, the idealizations of economics are described as coupled differential equations, but the idealizations operate at a layer of abstraction above predator-prey-grazing systems.

    From a biological perspective, and looking at what’s needed to maintain the biomass of the totality of humanity, it’s clear on the face of it that peoplekind has far exceeded the carrying capacity of Earth, almost on any measure (e.g., potable water) one cares to examine. How is this possible? It’s possible because highly intense energy sources are put into the service of going farther and deeper to harvest the food and needs of peoplekind, and thus artificially offset the shortfalls in natural carrying capacity. Alas, such going farther and deeper has repercussions for the remainder of the biological sphere, and, while it is going nowhere soon (peoplekind cannot extinguish it), it is true that some unexchangeable biological services most essential to peoplekind are being affected, and there is no economic or planning mechanism at present to factor these into prices. Should some of these services lapse, because they are not observed in prices, these will be structural changes, and the changes will manifest as sudden shifts in the boundary conditions of the economies served.

    Then there’s climate change. The displacement of energies into oceans and weather systems are far larger than the entire energy budget for peoplekind (2500x), all because present civilization-supporting climate is and has been cruising along a pretty stable equilibrium for several thousands of years. The mechanisms keeping it there are, by physical and paleoclimatic evidence, delicate, and well understood. It may not be possible to forecast to everyone’s liking how fast and furious departure from equilibrium will occur, but it is certain we are. That departure and its ramifications is also something which hasn’t been priced, even though there are efforts to account for it. In their absence, what the economic system faces is a climate-induced disruption in the sense of Schumpeter and as has been seen on much smaller scales with technological switches in products, services, and energy sources.

    So, while I grant an economic system could, in principle, adjust to these realities, a number of important ones are not observed, therefore aren’t prices, and cannot be priced, even if a so-called Carbon Tax were introduced.

    What to expect from a libertarian perspective is that the economic system will run itself off the rails due to biological and climate impacts, to be replaced by something completely different. Depending upon how obstinate people are in their ways, the same may happen to our present civilization, depending upon how severe, how fast. You would think that substantial resources would be devoted to finding out better answers to these questions if the uncertainty made public or policymakers uncomfortable, but they aren’t. Oh well.

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    1. Ecoquant, thank you for the commentary.

      After reading the comment you posted, I realized that in retrospect there are certain points that I should have pronounced with more acuity.

      1. This blog entry was mainly intended to operate as an abstract intellectual exercise. I am very loosely playing with ideas here.

      2. Being more of a casual exploration of a nonlinear observation, I didn’t feel it was necessary to get into how complex system theory applies to ancient economic systems. However, it would be interesting to do a blog post that would be a historical comparison.

      3. Both natural environments and the “modern” economy are comprised of a multitude of comprising and interacting variables. When one variable has been altered the result of the output is nonlinear. Nonlinear to the extent that the whole system is altered and the resulting ramifications cannot be easily predicted. That is all. I am really at a loss for why this is such an absurd notion.

      4. If alteration of a component of the natural world is detrimental (e.g. eliminating a source of prey from the food supply) then why isn’t the same true for the “modern” economy? The imperative of preservation can be applied to both. Overconsumption of natural resources is an analogous premise to excessive government spending. Both are imprudent utilization of resources.

      Ecoquant please do not see my clarification points above as a bitter rebutal. I really appreciate the fact that someone who has opposing views took the time to thoughtfully challenge the premise presented in this blog post. It certainly keeps me on my toes and facilitates some good discourse on the topic. Feel free to comment anytime. I know we most likely will not see eye-to-eye on this topic. However, the lack of congruency only makes the dialogue more dynamic.

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      1. @ILB,

        No, no “bitter rebuttal” at all. Thanks for your reply.

        I think I understand. I do think that the socialist aspect of environmental regulation may be putting the wrong label on what’s needed. People have put together a lot of, in my opinion, wishy-washy thinking linking principles of social justice and liberal/progressive causes with interpretations of environmental good.

        On the other hand, given there appears to be a dearth of monetarily motivated means of regulating society in alignment with biological and ecological needs, however and whatever here is meant by “money”, it seems necessary to regulate it somehow, and it’s understandable to me what some people might lean in a socialist direction. However, there is another option: Technocracy. I’m not saying that’s better.

        It is true, due to the size of the human population and our collective impact upon the planet, that ultimately only some kind of global governance will get us to where we need to be. I think that notion is very unpopular among the people who oppose action on climate change, and push back on many of these measures. I don’t know how one gets around it, though, so maybe that’s why it appears there’s a link between good environmental governance and socialism.

        But, as I said, Limits to Growth and all that, and to the degree these are structural violations of the economic and other system, another way of governing compliance with the biological and ecological is to cause economic and social failure. I’m not fond of the idea, so would prefer the technocratic over it. But in two of the leading democracies of the world, people, through ordinary processes, have chosen paths which a betting person would say that, if not corrected, will leave everyone worse off. Maybe it’s inevitable.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ecoquant, I certainly understand where you are coming from. I certainly understand the imperative nature of getting all of the dangers of environmental calamity are solved. Bottom line everyone is screwed if we cannot come to a resolution.

        In an Ayn Randian sense, if everyone thought of how the negative ramifications would impact them we would see more corporations and individuals would be more conscious of environmental issues. However, most people tend to see things in terms of short term benefits rather than the true outcome that is downstream. Living in an age that is consumed by instant gratification, unfortunately, longitudinal thinking is faced with an uphill battle. Individuals that have more foresight (like yourself) must find this constant battle to be profoundly frustrating. The imminent danger is all too, but so is the short attention span and apathy of the general public.

        Both environmental and fiscal issues suffer from this very same adversary, the malaise that impacts the general public. Slogans like “deficits don’t matter” are almost like the reciprocal mimicry of climate change denial. Both are faulty assumptions but are commonly utilized to marginalize the severity of the situation. Such rhetoric has made both issues appear to be much more marginal to the general public, which further feeds into the apathetic response to correcting such issues. The all-consuming “bread-and-circus ” culture we have now with a profound and co-dependent fixation with social media and celebrity culture has stifled the convictions of the voting public. Marx may have seen religion as being the “opiate of the people”, but I would argue that it is more so entertainment culture is the vehicle that fulfills this role. So much so even the Roman Empire was privy to this fact.

        I do apologize for that long aside there, it was a little bit of a tangent, however, I personally found it to be an interesting insight. Maybe it was more superficial than I would like to think. However, I felt like interjecting it into the conversation. Ecoquant I look forward to having more text-based discussions with you in the future. Thank you for your feedback.

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