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 and the civil liberties platform of the Libertarian Party, the green libertarian philosophy attempts to consolidate progressive or agrarian values with libertarianism. While green libertarians have tended to associate with the Green Party, the movement has grown to encompass economic liberals who advocate free markets and commonly identify with contemporary American libertarianism.


Like that of the greens, left-libertarian political philosophy 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] Another example of this includes Proudhonian mutualism.

Murray Bookchin and the Institute for Social Ecology also 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[edit]

Sustainability advocates Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins posited in their book Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (2000) that elements of libertarianism and green politics could be coalesced to produce economic as well as environmental benefits.[citation needed] 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".[clarification needed] In his last major work, Law, Legislation and Liberty, Hayek differentiates between endogenous orders or self-organizing systems and exogenous orders imposed from without.[clarification needed]

Hayek argues[citation needed] that free and sustainable societies and economies which support them should follow general guidelines, such as "7th Generation Principle" rather than specific economic laws and regulations.[4]

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 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 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[edit]

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] The government should be thus 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. It is argued that this approach has also 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[edit]


  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.
  2. ^ Bookchin, Murray (11 July 1992). "Deep Ecology, Anarcho-Syndicalism and the Future of Anarchist Thought". Institute for Social Ecology. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  3. ^ Ernest Partridge. "With Liberty for Some". Retrieved 2009-05-20.
  4. ^ "Eli Parker: The Role of Chief". PBS Online. Retrieved 13 December 2016.

Further reading[edit]