Jul 14, 2011

Governmental Overreach

I am a self-professed libertarian. Why? Because I largely agree with the party's positions on the issues. The Libertarian Party tends to be socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and emphasizes limited government. I am not quite certain what that limited government really means, because I cannot find a clear, all-encompassing theme that defines it precisely. Quite simply it should mean less interference in lives of individuals, but the concept is increasingly getting polluted to mean less interference in regulating businesses. I tend to draw the line somewhere close to the individual liberty side. As an example, I don't think that regulating carbon dioxide emissions is governmental overreach, but regulating marriage is.

I voted for Bob Barr in 2008. Yes, I know that he was a douche-bag all those years when he was a prominent Republican, and then some. But he had come around on some really nasty issues like gay marriage, and denial of scientifically established studies. A former global warming denier, he has now accepted that anthropogenic global warming is real, and a concern. I have fair respect for people who reconsider their positions, especially in light of facts and evidence. Here is his stance, and an outtake on his stance from The Colbert Report can summarize it for those who don't like to read long statements from politicians.

Essentially what he says is that AGW is real, but government has no business regulating carbon emissions.  Rather, it should be left to the private sector to find solutions. He wants the private sector to regulate itself, assess the risks to all of us, and provide solutions. To him it is government overreach to enact any legislation to curb or control greenhouse emissions.

I disagree with him vehemently.

When a catastrophe is imminent, not only is it not governmental overreach to act, it is gross dereliction not to. We can disagree about how government should respond, but calling on refrain is plainly idiotic. Allow me to demonstrate.

Let's say that there is an imminent danger of a deadly, airborne viral outbreak in Los Angeles. Should we leave the measures to counter that to the private sector, say, the medical industry?  Would it be governmental overreach to forcibly quarantine the infected and contagious population so that the disease does not spread and wipe out the metropolis and the rest of us completely?  It is trivial to see that only one of the options is even plausible. Medical corporations do not have a responsibility to solve the world's problems. They lack the wherewithal to convince or force people to be sequestered. A problem or an issue that affects all of us, but is not profitable to any of us to solve requires governmental involvement.

Such is exactly the case with global warming. Private corporations have no incentive today to solve the issue at all. There is no profit to be made by using costlier green energy. So what if the world goes to hell. Surely they'll go to hell sooner if they tried to solve that problem by themselves. Showing people that you are green and caring is going to cost you significant money and resources, and most businesses will fold in the free market by unilaterally taking on A Good Cause.

Am I saying that global warming is as urgent as a viral outbreak? No, but it soon will be.

I offer that governmental involvement for our protection against an imminent threat is rarely an overreach when it does not overly intrude on individual liberty. It is simply necessary. In such cases it is the difference between Live free or die and Die freely.


Bretta said...

It's too late.

The head of the federal Minerals Management Service, as a keynote speaker of an Oil & Gas conference about three years ago, showed the graphic trend for CO2 loading in the atmosphere against the predicted trend.

I was excited at the beginning of his talk because I thought it would be so good for Alaska because the Northwest Passage would open up, shortening shipping lanes thereby increasing commerce in this region.

The first part of the problem is, that much warming will make the now-temperate zones impossible to live in, to support any life as we know it; the second part is the loading is increasing much faster than the predicted model.

This means the AGW will suffocate life by 2030, not 2050.

Shripathi Kamath said...

That is only if we do nothing, or only work to stop emitting greenhouse gases.

The one person who is working on the problem, indirectly till now, is J. Craig Venter. He is creating synthetic life.

What that means is that if he or others like him are successful, they can actually break down the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Have faith in science, Bretta.