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.[1] Based upon a mixture of political third party values, such as the environmental platform from the United States Green Party and the civil liberties platform of the United States Libertarian Party, the green libertarian philosophy attempts to consolidate socially progressive values with economic liberalism.

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."[2]


The libertarian political philosophy, like that of 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",[attribution needed] as a regular town newspaper for Winsted, Connecticut.

Some 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. [clarification needed] 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 corporate influence in government, the Military–industrial complex, and central planning. They both tend to 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, although American Libertarians are usually sympathetic to delegating powers to individual states.

Trash-polluted waterway.

They tend not to accept the idea that people of political influence have the absolute right to enforce their will or decisions on the rest of the population. (See Murray Rothbard and his influential 1960s journal, Left and Right).

The platforms of both 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"[edit]

Sunflower (Green symbol).svg

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. By 2006, Green to Gold was published, which provided ideas on how companies can practice green libertarianism.[2]

The work of 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[edit]

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.

Limited government[edit]

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.[3][not in citation given (See discussion.)] 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 "grassroots democracy" in every way. Although many libertarians oppose 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. 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 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 do not have these negative environmental impacts. Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado advocates this kind of market-based environmental protection strategies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joshua T. Eagan (1996-06-25). "Seeing Green: Presidential Perspective and Environmentalism". Retrieved 2007-05-20. ƒ[dead link]
  2. ^ a b Annalee Newitz (2007-05-29). "Green Libertarianism: The New Reformist Movement?". AlterNet. Archived from the original on 2007-09-13. Retrieved 2007-09-26. 
  3. ^ "Official Website of the Libertarian National Committee". 2007-05-29. Retrieved 2009-05-20.