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Green Libertarianism (also known as eco-libertarianism) is a hybrid political philosophy that has developed in the United States.[1] Based upon a mixture of political third party values, such as the environmental platform from the Green Party and the civil liberties platform of the Libertarian Party, the green libertarian philosophy attempts to consolidate socially progressive values with economic liberalism.[2] Both parties concern economic maintenance in the long term rather in the short term.[3]

A green libertarian would be an individual who adheres to libertarian political philosophy as well as to green ideology. While these are not traditionally seen going hand-in-hand, the two are not necessarily incompatible. For example, free market economics and environmentalism are combined in the concept of free market environmentalism. And there has recently been an interest in "how to bring green sensibilities into line with the free-market agenda of libertarians."[4]



The libertarian political philosophy, like the Greens, derives from Individualist and Communitarian Anarchism. Peter Kropotkin, a Russian Prince and leading opponent of the laissez-faire Social Darwinists, provided a scientific explanation of how "mutual aid" is the real basis for social organization in his Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution. See also Mutualism (economic theory)

Murray Bookchin and The Institute for Social Ecology which he founded elaborated these ideas much further. Bookchin was one of the main influences behind the formation of the German Green Party - the first to win seats in state and national parliaments. Free Market Individualism Individualist Anarchism as exemplified by Benjamin Tucker and other Boston Anarchists is the most direct source of contemporary Green Libertarianism. Tucker published Liberty from 1881 to 1908, "widely considered to be the finest individualist-anarchist periodical ever issued in the English language," as a regular town newspaper for Winsted, CT, which is also Ralph Nader's home town.

Green Libertarians are both egalitarian and democratic. New England Transcendentalism (especially Thoreau and Bronson Alcott) and German Romanticism, the Pre-Raphaelites, and other "back to nature" movements combined with anti-war, anti-industrialism, and decentralization movements are all part of this tradition.

The modern American Libertarian Party, like the Green Party of the United States, is an attempt to apply these ideas to the contemporary technocratic National Security State. In neither case have they been very successful, but there are many instances of Greens and Libertarians working together against perceived corruption by the two major parties, the Democratic Party and Republican Party .

Both Greens and Libertarians have traditionally opposed corporatism (fascism), the Military-Industrial Complex, and centralized planning or state socialism. They have opposed the idea of corporate personhood and the idea of state sovereignty in which governments claim the right to maintain a monopoly on force and dictate laws and policies against the will and interests of the people. They do not accept the idea that those "in authority" have any right to enforce their will or decisions on the rest of us. (See Murray Rothbard and his influential 1960s journal, Left and Right). Ralph Nader, who was ran for President in 1996 and 2000 with the Green Party, is probably the leading contemporary example of an activist-theoretician who is both libertarian and Green.

The Green Party of the United States and the United States Libertarian Party oppose all but defensive wars, and an interventionist foreign policy. Both support a maximum of individual liberty, and would reduce most government functions to the local level, with local control.

The "eco" in economics and ecology is the same. It is the earth, oikos, or some local part of it which we identify as an economy or an ecosystem. While Economics is concerned with the human part of this - how people use and conserve scarce resources in the most efficient and productive ways, Ecology is concerned with understanding whole natural systems and how they evolve and respond to outside forces or inputs. Since people are an animal species and thus part of nature, Ecology also includes the effects of human actions and human populations on the rest of the environment.

"Natural Capitalism"

Originally, the ideals of libertarianism failed to "deal appropriately with environmental problems"[4] In 2000, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution mentioned that libertarianism and green politics could mix. By 2006, Green to Gold was published, which provided ideas on how companies can practice green libertarianism.[4]

The work of Friedrich Hayek is especially important to understanding the organic view of society and how most human institutions, including law and the economy, are "the result of human action but not of human design." In his last major work, Law, Legislation and Liberty, Hayek differentiates between endogenous orders, or self-organizing systems, and exogenous orders imposed from without. A similar distinction exists in law - at least within the English-speaking world. The Common Law is judge and jury-made, and evolves spontaneously from precedents and "right reason." Statute Law is created by authority - legislatures and bureaucracies which may be more or less democratic, but which always reflect political and economic pressures.

Hayek argues that free and sustainable societies and economies which support them should follow general rules rather than particular economic regulations. One such rule might be "sustainability", or "you can't do anything to the environment which can't continue in perpetuity". This is also known as the "7th Generation Principle" for Native Americans. Don't do anything to the environment which will diminish resources and opportunities even so far as 7 generations in the future. If strictly applied, this principle would end nearly all mining, oil and gas extraction, deforestation, and other major alterations of the natural environment for economic reasons.

The Green Party calls this "future focus," and it is obviously what is most lacking in contemporary American laws affecting the economy and the environment.

Balance of ecology and economics

The biggest debate among green libertarians is how to balance ecology with economics. The green libertarian philosophy confronts conflict between the principles of environmental protection and economic free trade by stressing that the two can go hand-in-hand, only with corporate responsibility and accountability. According to some green libertarians, government intervention is required if big business is apathetic to environmental stability.

Limited government

As part of the Libertarian Anarchist tradition, Greens maintain that the government itself is responsible for most environmental degradation, either directly, or by encouraging and protecting politically powerful corporations and other organized interests which degrade, pollute and deplete the natural environment. [5] Therefore, the government should be held accountable to all the same environmental regulations they place on businesses. One problem is that while private corporations or individuals can be sued under the Common Law for damaging the environment, the government protects itself from the same suits. Therefore, green libertarians call for the abolition of sovereign immunity. Increasingly, federal and state law is being amended by lobbyists for those who pollute or extract resources from public lands or waterways so that such actions can no longer be challenged in the courts.

The green libertarian philosophy supports constitutional limited government, or "grass-roots democracy" in every way. At the extreme, they would abolish the nation-state entirely, leaving all governmental functions to local communities, with a federal or global system of universal laws and principles which would reflect these 10 Key Values, and some mechanisms to protect the several mini-states or communities from environmental degradation originating elsewhere.

Although many libertarians are against government regulation of business in regard to the economy, they believe that different rules and economic principles such as full-cost pricing or "internalizing externalities" — rather than bureaucratic, authoritarian regulations — would be more effective at preventing pollution. Greenhouse gases should be taxed directly, according to a formula which calculates the negative costs to the global environment of burning more non-renewable fossil fuels. This also has the advantage of providing the correct "price signals" to utilities and other energy consumers so that they can rapidly convert to technologies which don't have these negative environmental impacts. Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado is a pioneer in this kind of market-based environmental protection strategies.

Environmental regulation

Pollution creates health hazards. Individuals have to pay themselves to maintain their health. Therefore, pollution is stealing. Since destabilization of the biosphere is initiation of force and the minimal state is justified, that minimal state must prevent and punish violations of the nonaggression principle. Therefore, environmental regulation in a minimal state is justified.

See also


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