Wanting What We Do
Billions of people follow religions with strong statements on right and wrong, addressing what we should do as well as what we can do. Billions more people have moral codes developed in other ways. Maximizing the utility of consumption is probably not the only motivation, and arguably not the main motivation, for many people. We want to stay alive and have some fun, raise our children, help other people, and do the right things for the right reasons.
How do we do deal with problems as big as energy and environment, when there is so much good on many sides? Let’s look at a few more issues. This is not a complete list, and we cannot tell you what to do, but some of the “obvious” arguments may not be quite as clear as they first seem, and other arguments provide useful guidance.
Perhaps the greatest challenge in energy and environment is to help people now and in the future, and no single action can be best at doing both. Business-as-usual is highly likely to bring an inefficient economy and natural disasters that motivate government intervention, so many libertarians may wish to support some intervention now to avoid that greater future intervention. Even many ardent environmentalists deeply dedicated to helping future generations recognize our dependence on fossil fuels and the dangers of changing too rapidly. But wise policy action will help people now and in the future, while helping preserve endangered species, and taking out insurance against possible if unlikely extreme disasters.
Friendlier but longer version:
As an Earth scientist, Dr. Alley suspects that he took the easy way out, leaving the hard problems for economists, political scientists, and ethicists. Consider the two short discussions below, only slightly tongue-in-cheek, “Libertarians for Government Intervention?” and “Environmentalists for Economic Growth?”