As organizer of a few Atheists groups in the DC area, I frequently get Libertarians into the group. After finding most of them unrealistic, I did some research to try and understand why. What I found was not very pretty. How can a group, on one hand, support the Separation of Church and State and on the other have a problem with the Feds (IRS) keeping religious organizations in line with their nonprofit status? I also discovered that many don't believe in Global Warming. Like Evolution, Global Warming is based on facts....not something that you believe or don't believe. Am I missing something here....or are they having trouble with reality?

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Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that we carpet-bombed cities (and I can see how it might look like that's what I meant), but we definitely pasted Taliban positions from B-52s with patterns of hundreds of unguided bombs reminiscent of the finest 1970s deep-pile shag. We caused more civilian casualties than we needed to and appear to still be doing that. Even the military thinks we're killing too many civilians in Afghanistan, according to a couple headlines I've seen in the last few days. I just think we should have taken more risks with ground troops in Afghanistan, and none in Iraq.
Does it bother you that none of those wars was declared? The US constitution makes congress responsible for choosing when the president can exercise war powers, it is part of the checks and balances which are the reason we have the 3 branches. Yet congress is abdicating its role, and we have moved very far toward the president as autocrat.

Further, the first Iraq war could have been avoided if the state department had simply not given Saddam permission to invade Kuwait when he asked.
Further, the first Iraq war could have been avoided if the state department had simply not given Saddam permission to invade Kuwait when he asked

This is one possible interpretation of historical evidence at least:

On the other hand, the idea that Saddam would go against the wishes of the US is not very plausible. Most of his military was given or sold to him by us. The ingredients for the gas he used on the Kurds included. And the reason was because he was our ally in the region against Iran.
You might search out "Alan Curtis" or "The Power of Nightmares" on youtube. Curtis is a British documentary reporter and the named documentary is about the kind of fear mongering illusions of dangers from the middle east that we are so familiar with today.
Oh, sure. I think Congress has totally copped out by turning the warmaking function completely over to the executive branch. They're not doing their jobs in that area. Checks and balances only have a chance of working if you actually try to make them work. Bad enough that we had the Cheney/Bush junta actively grabbing power under the odious concept of the unitary executive. To have Congress just grab their ankles and go along was ridiculous.

I'm sure there are a number of things we should have done differently in our handling of Saddam prior to the invasion of Kuwait, including not propping the asshole up in the first place. The US habit of backing any dictator as long as he's our dictator is disgusting. For that matter, we pretty much created bin Laden by arming the mujahadeen against the Soviets. Napoleon said it best, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."
Whew! I ask for it and got it. Did anyone answer the question about Global Warming? The Libertarians that I know are not just a few, but I started this discussion so that I could get a broader viewpoint. Of course, I thought that was obvious, but one's perception of reality is often confused by one's beliefs (political, religious, philosophical). I think that this has happened here to some degree. I was aware of much of what has been posted about the Libertarians, but I only remember one post about the Separation of Church and State and nothing about global warming. Of course, I may have missed it, particularly, if it was embedded in the Libertarian rhetoric. So far my views on Libertarianism hasn't changed, but most forms of "ignoring the need to adapt to a changing world" is counterproductive and this sums up the problem with most conservative viewpoints.
It did turn into a bit of a mess. My guess was they think that admitting global warming is real would just give good reason for the government to step in. If we keep the argument of whether global warming is real open, we don't have to discuss how to solve it. Another part is probably that many environmental groups tend to be pretty liberal. The ethanol bit doesn't help much, either.
First, I want to address your claim that "ignoring the need to adapt to a changing world" is a true characterization of libertarianism. Recall that the idea that because our society has advanced so quickly and is ahead of other civilizations we now need to adopt fascism, was actually used to defend a lawful change of government in a country that was renowned for philosophy, art and all things civilized, and yet, (I hope!) we are not willing to agree that the way this nation changed was an example of progress.

Second, I don't think it is correct to conclude that if freedom existed in a past bereft of advanced technology that this proves it is somehow incompatible with it.

I would assert that to the contrary, today's technology makes it vastly more important that the people wield more power compared to the government than is the case today. It is almost impossible to find an oppressive government in history or fiction that has any technical advantage over what the US government has today.

On the other hand, the internet has given a transfusion of new life blood into civil society. We have clubs for any minority, no matter how small. As Clay Shirky said in a speech "we can now do big things for love."

So the idea that without government help people would be unable to seek the guidance and support of similar, or like-minded or just sympathetic individuals to help them stand up for their rights, alert them to possible dangers in products or contracts or help them to detect pollutants that might be causing them harm should fall flatter than ever.

It is room to innovate and create a dynamic future that today's libertarians are trying to make, not a path back in time. You really should read Virginia Postrel's book.

I started a post about global warming last night, I was afraid it would tend to side-track the discussion. But I guess that was what you wanted. I mean, if it makes libertarians look goofy by forcing people to choose between something they believe in because it has the stamp of science and because they are hearing it everywhere and on the other hand, anachronistic ideas like freedom...

I'll try to present a few things to think about that get to the heart of the matter.

First, I understand that a warming trend since the 1970's to today of perhaps .2 to 1 degree in average global temperature is an observed and documented fact. However, that still leaves a great deal open to debate.

The question is, is any dissent on these subsidiary issues credible? Can a person who asserts that there may be a natural cause not yet identified or who recommends a different response to this issue be taken seriously as a reasonably intelligent and moderately informed person?

I am not claiming to be such a person, I am simply asking if it is possible to even talk about these sub-issues without being crazy?

A few years ago I heard a debate on NPR which featured the famous author Michael Crichton as a panelist against the notion that "global warming is a crisis." As a medical doctor and a talented writer I submit that he was reasonably bright, and at least moderately well-informed. So, if we can dispense with accusations of being in the pay of oil companies, discoridanism or temporary insanity, I think it is shown that dissent on questions related to global warming can be credible.

I will use the term Anthropogenic Global Warming and its abbreviation, AGW, to collectively refer to some of these finer points, that the warming trend has been caused by human activity in adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and the catastrophic effects it is predicted to have.

Evolution is an interesting choice as a theory for comparison. It is a comparison I've thought to make myself, and I see some profound differences between the two theories. First of all, evolution is a hundred years old, it is a basic framework that makes sense of a lot that was previously inexplicable in biology. It gives biology a history, a family tree, organization, and has predictive potential for medicine and other things. It has been confirmed by disparate branches of science that could not have even been imagined at the time that it was proposed, including physics, cosmology, plate tectonics and genetics, not to mention fantastic refinements of the fossil record. Is Anthropogenic Global Warming even close to that? Is ANYTHING in the field of meteorology even close to that?

Is AGW a powerful theory that lays a foundation that makes sense of may previously inexplicable things? No.
Has AGW been confirmed by fundamentally new branches of science, or new ways of interpreting data? I doubt it but I'll leave it for people who know.
Does AGW have any predictive value? Is there anything other than fantastic sea-level rises, warmer temperatures, and the possibility of a runaway greenhouse effect? I'll leave this to people who feel better qualified than I.

I don't think Anthropogenic Global Warming looks anything like as solid as evolution as a theory. So, it seems to me that one could quite easily have a commitment to science and facts, even subscribe to evolution, yet still doubt the catastrophic predictions of Anthropogenic Global Warming.

As Darwin wrote that if it could be shown that an organ could not have been produced by small incremental steps that his theory would utterly break down, which inspired Michael Behe to propose a theory recently that gave it a chance to pass the falsifiability test, what might a similar falsifying test of AGW be? Or to ask something more direct and less specialized, how long would the warming trend have to remain net neutral, or go into a cooling trend before you took it as more than a wiggle in the data?

The political dimension also has to be considered. With today's technology, as with the technology of any yesterday, moving fast, building big things and getting work done at night depends on being able to expel carbon dioxide. If you don't have the right to expel carbon dioxide then you effectively don't have the right to travel very far or very fast, you don't have the right to build big things and you don't have the right to work at night, and certainly don't have the right to have a machine do work for you.

But the government will always have the right to do these things which they may prohibit you from doing. The government is now and will continue to send many people very far very fast, and for no good reason, in the process of producing nothing, and often in the process of destroying, as in the current wars, where we are not even being made safer, but instead are being made more hated. The government will continue to build big things, as it is doing now, to impress people, to reward the well connected and to protect itself and its resources. And the government will continue to work all night, spying on your cell phone conversations, opening your envelopes, and keeping you in line.

Beyond carbon dioxide emissions, the government has a very bad track record of pollution and destruction. More than any private company it engages in wasteful, extremely large scale engineering projects, it accumulates, poorly handles and releases many poisonous substances. It really does not have a good record as stewarding the environment. There is even logging in the national forests. Yet this is the entity that you want to differentially transfer the power to, to choose who moves fast, builds big things and works at all hours?

I hope you realize that in giving government power to regulate something as ubiquitous as carbon emissions that you are differentially transferring a lot of power to an entity that has not shown a good record of caring for your stated goals, rhetoric aside.

Worse, we are flirting with geoengineering. If the worst predictions of AGW are true, we have already tipped over some point that is going to cause catastrophic warming, sea-level rises and possibly a runaway greenhouse effect that will leave our planet uninhabitable no matter how much we tighten our belts.

At its most benign, geoengineering means a precise control, by governments, over all greenhouse emissions, that precisely controls the ambient temperature of the planet. That may not sound so bad, but when was the last time a new technology of control got the perfect setting on its first try? Does the term "beta test" mean anything to you? How about "natural selection?" This is one technology we cannot permit to be refined by trial and error.

What could go wrong? Well, if the Earth is kept cool artificially then it might not be quite warm enough to enable us to survive through an unexpected event that caused sudden cooling, such as a major volcanic eruption, which would cool the Earth by blocking sun with ash in the upper atmosphere, or a meteror impact for similar reasons, or whatever caused previous ice ages, perhaps a solar minimum. Frankly, I would rather take my chances with nature.

At its most drastic geoengineering might mean seeding the atmosphere on purpose by setting off nuclear bombs to blast dust into the atmosphere mimicking the effect of a volcanic eruption. I think we had better hope the recent warming is natural, and do more research.

There are some writers, like Bjorn Lomberg and Vaclav Klaus, who argue that even if we accept the worst predictions of AGW that it might make sense to tackle those problems in other ways besides trying to control carbon dioxide emissions in a way that severely limits people's possibilities today.
OK. I consider myself a libertarian, pretty much, although there are some major areas in which I am opposed to the teachings of many libertarians. Unfortunately, I cannot immediately list those areas of disagreement, since I have not been specifically keeping track of them. If I had to summarize them, though, I have a communitarian streak, though I do not share *their* borderline pathological distaste for classical liberalism or their conservatism on social issues.

However, I *can* point you toward a rather comprehensive essay in which I briefly touched upon many topics of popular political discourse. I seem to be *much* more concerned than are all of the other libertarians, of whom I am aware, with the manifestly unfair distribution of wealth, especially in the United States. It may surprise many to know that there are Libertarian Socialists, such as perhaps Noam Chomski. I sympathize with much of that philosophy.

Having moved around quite a bit, geographically, I'm a fan of the idea that we should have a variety of forms of government from which to choose. Thus, there can be petri dishes in which to explore the effects of various political philosophies, and hopefully gradually improve the human condition. There is much to be said in favor of many social arrangements. To which, Roseanne Rosanadana shouts from her grave, I sound like a real mess.

That said, I do have certain non-negotiables. For example, I think everyone should be equal before the law, to the extent possible. So, I wouldn't be comfortable being a woman *or* a man in Saudi Arabia.

Sorry, I cannot respond to your two specific questions. As for the first one "How can [libertarians] ... have a problem with the Feds (IRS) keeping religious organizations in line with their nonprofit status?" ... I'm afraid I just can't parse your question. I did, however, once write an extremely thorough analysis of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, to which I link from the "Dictator" essay, linked below. But, since the religion link is a bit hard to find in the "Dictator" essay, I'll link directly to it, here: Religion in the Next Constitution. The part relating to your question is toward the end, there. I don't know, though, how representative my own disestablishmentarian attitude reflects upon any part of the libertarian community.

As for the looming global heating catastrophe (a much more accurate word than warming), I have not been in touch enough with the libertarian movement to confirm or deny your observation about them on that score. I could certainly see, though, where they might tend to be in denial about it, just as practically the entirety of congress seems to be asleep at the wheel in that regard. They might even be especially prone to dismiss it, since a big part of the probable solution (if indeed it is not already too late) appears to be to build a figurative super highway directly through their philosophical living room.

I guess I might be classified a minarchist, as explained above by Joey. I gave some expression to those tendencies in my self-introduction when I created my website fifteen years ago.

Here's my essay, keyboarded in early 2002, which I mentioned above: Dictator, à la Carte©: If I Were in Full Charge Around Here...
... the chief error of contemporary 'sociobiology' is to suppose that language, morals, law, and such like, are transmitted by the 'genetic' processes that molecular biology is now illuminating, rather than being the products of selective evolution transmitted by imitative learning. This idea is as wrong - although at the other end of the spectrum - as the notion that man consciously invented or designed institutions like morals, law, language or money, and thus can improve them at will, a notion that is a remnant of the superstition that evolutionary theory in biology had to combat: namely, that wherever we find order there must have been a personal orderer. Here again we find that an accurate account lies between instinct and reason.
- F. A. Hayek, economist, from "The Fatal Conceit" 1988
Greg, what kind of a libertarian are you? I've been on a libertarian streak as of late and I would say that I am beginning to define myself as a classical liberal. Also, do you suspect yourself of engaging in cognitive dissonance to keep from confronting the reality of AGW? Suppose you were given irrefutable evidence that AGW does exist, what would you propose be done?
Reality Activist: You might find Mike Huben's Critiques Of Libertarianism website interesting.

Also, updated on a more frequent basis: The "what's new" online journal for the Critiques of Libertarianism website.



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