Green libertarianism

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Green libertarianism (also known as eco-libertarianism) is a hybrid political philosophy that has developed in the United States. Based upon a mixture of political third party values, such as the environmental and economic platform from the Green Party of the United States and the civil liberties platform of the U.S. Libertarian Party, the green libertarian philosophy attempts to consolidate progressive or agrarian values with libertarianism. While green libertarians have tended to associate with the U.S. Green Party, the movement has grown to encompass economic liberals who advocate free markets and commonly identify with contemporary American libertarianism.


Left-libertarian political philosophy, like that of the greens, is historically rooted in the individualist and social schools of anarchism. Anarcho-communist theorist Peter Kropotkin, a Russian prince and leading opponent of laissez-faire Social Darwinism, developed a theory of how "mutual aid" is the real basis for social organization in his Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution.[1] (See also Proudhonian mutualism) Murray Bookchin and the Institute for Social Ecology sought to further elaborate these ideas.[2] Bookchin was one of the main influences behind the formation of the German Green Party, the first green party to win seats in state and national parliaments.

Some more moderate, green libertarians are both egalitarian and democratic. New England Transcendentalism (especially Henry David Thoreau and Bronson Alcott) and German Romanticism, the Pre-Raphaelites, and other "back to nature" movements combined with anti-war, anti-industrialism, civil liberties, and decentralization movements are all part of this tradition. The modern Green Party of the United States seeks to apply these ideas to a more pragmatic system of democratic governance, as opposed to contemporary right or left anarchism.

"Natural Capitalism"

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Sustainability advocates Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins posited in their book Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, published in 2000, that elements of libertarianism and green politics could be coalesced to produce economic as well as environmental benefits. The 2006 book, Green to Gold, written by environmental scholars Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston provided ideas on how companies can apply the principles of green libertarianism.[3]

The work of Austrian school economist Friedrich Hayek is especially important to understanding the organic view[clarification needed] 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.[citation needed] Don't do anything to the environment which will diminish resources and opportunities even so far as seven generations in the future. The Green Party calls this "future focus." 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.

Balance of ecology and economics

A fundamental concern among green libertarians is the health of global ecology and carrying capacity in view of climate adaptation. The green libertarian philosophy recognizes that ecology and economics are inseparable. It seeks a system of effective environmental law that is compatible with civil liberties and market economy.

Green libertarians believe there should be a clear distinction between science and political ideology. For example, a green libertarian might be concerned by the phrases such as "wealth redistribution" and "reducing poverty" in the Stern Review and in some IPCC documents and statements.[citation needed] Among green libertarians, the preservation of civil and economic individual freedom may take precedence over long-term climate concerns because, ultimately, humans are part of nature. They believe that natural ecologies, like the free markets, are dynamic and self-adjusting systems.[citation needed]

Limited government

As part of the libertarian tradition, green libertarians 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.[citation needed] 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 constitutionally limited government, grassroots democracy, and decentralized minarchism. Although many in the movement oppose government regulation of business, believing it to be generally counterproductive, they contend that different legal and economic principles such as full-cost accounting or "internalizing externalities" – rather than government regulations – would be more effective at remedying problems such as pollution. A central tenet of a libertarian environmentalist stance is that corporate externalities are not priced into the market correctly, creating market distortions in the valuation and price of goods, healthy living and the value of the environment. 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 approach, it is argued, also has the advantage of providing the correct price signals to utilities and other energy consumers so that they can rapidly convert to more environmentally friendly technologies. The Rocky Mountain Institute advocates this kind of market-based environmental protection strategy.

See also


  1. Dugatkin, Lee Alan (13 September 2011). "The Prince of Evolution: Peter Kropotkin's Adventures in Science and Politics". Scientific American. Retrieved 5 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Bookchin, Murray (11 July 1992). "Deep Ecology, Anarcho-Syndicalism and the Future of Anarchist Thought". Institute for Social Ecology. Retrieved 5 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Ernest Partridge. "With Liberty for Some". Retrieved 2009-05-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading