Ecoterrorism, Ecotyranny

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Even in conservative Texas -- the "even" makes sense only if you remain under the delusion that the conservative movement is fundamentally opposed to environmentalism -- environmentalism has made significant progress in its drive towards ending industrial civilization.

First off, we have this story, from the Houston Chronicle, about a possible ecoterrorist in Lubbock.

A 62-year-old man is suspected of stringing wires at neck level across a popular bike path, as well as scattering nails, broken glass and rocks across the trail in a series of traps set because he wanted to protect the environment, police said.

"This could kill someone," said Dewayne Wallace, an avid cyclist who said his friend was cut across the neck by one of the wires and was thrown from his bike.

A grand jury was scheduled to review the case next week, to see if the man will face two third-degree felony charges of attempted aggravated assault with a weapon. Each count carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Detective Rene Martinez said he questioned the man about the traps set over at least a yearlong period, and the man told him he just wanted to protect wildlife.

"He just loves nature," Martinez said. [bold added]
You will note that I had to identify these attacks as "terrorism" since neither the paper nor Detective Rene "He just loves nature." Martinez would or could do this.

It is one thing for the government to be flat-footed in its response to an ecoterrorist, but quite another for it to be complicit in implementing this anti-man ideology. Unfortunately, complicity is closer to home for me, as indicated by this story about the City of Houston's new proposal to sue "emitters" (a Newspeak synonym for "polluters": both mean "producers"):
Houston is trying to become the first place in Texas to set a standard for hazardous air pollutants, a move that would make the city stricter than the state and federal government in policing the amount of cancer-causing substances in its air.

An amendment proposed to the city's nuisance ordinance would allow Houston to sue industrial facilities emitting toxic pollutants that, over time, could cause one additional person in 1 million to contract cancer. [bold added]
This "clear, transparent, nondiscriminatory standard" -- for the persecution of industrialists -- is in fact so "clear" and so "transparent" that the Chronicle felt the need to explain it in a sidebar:
A risk level of one in a million implies a likelihood that up to one person, out of 1 million equally exposed people, would develop cancer if exposed 24 hours per day to the specific concentration of a pollutant over 70 years (an assumed lifetime). This would be in addition to those cases that would normally occur in an unexposed population of 1 million.
Given that Houston's metro population is perhaps six million, this law would not save even six lives in seventy years for an ordinance violation for any given pollutant! This level of risk is nowhere near the level at which one could say that the activities of these "emitters" pose an objective danger to those nearby and so might warrant government intervention of some form. Clearly, the purpose of this law is to loot industrialists in the area during the process of further discouraging their valuable activities.

I am not happy to see the huge surge in green momentum since the Democrats won in November, but the very fact that even in Texas, environmentalism has this much of a cultural foothold -- along with its acceptance among so many within the mainstream conservative movement -- tells me that this intellectual tsunami was going to strike sooner or later.

At least with the Democrats in charge, capitalism won't get blamed for the inevitable consequences of any green policies that do get passed at the federal level.

-- CAV


Today: Added a clarification.


Galileo Blogs said...

The Houston plan will kill more people than it saves. It will divert significant amounts of money out of wealth-creating industry, making everyone poorer. By doing so, everyone will have less money for all of their life-sustaining activities, such as buying a better and safer car, eating more nutritious food, paying for more visits to the gym, living in more expensive, but safer neighborhoods, etc.

Wealth saves lives. Wealthier individuals live longer and healthier. Wealthier societies are characterized by its citizens living longer and better. By destroying wealth through this arbitrary and onerous pollution restriction, Houston officials will make Houston residents poorer, so more people will die or have their health impaired, not to mention simply enjoying life less.


But would the Houston regulations kill more people than it saves? Interestingly, economics gives a method for establishing that that is true. Economists have documented the quantitative relationship between wealth levels and longevity and health (it's not hard to do; simple statistics can establish the correlation between several variables).

Markets put implicit dollar values on human lives. That may shock some people, but markets do this every day. For example, a coal miner gets a wage premium for the danger of his work. Economists have quantified that premium in terms of dollars per life. Miners are willing to accept a greater risk of death for a certain amount of money.

I don't recall the latest measures of the implied market value of a life, but it is less than $1,000,000 per life. What this means is that people can be observed in the market accepting a slightly higher risk of death in exchange for a certain amount of money. Say the risk of death increases by 1 in 10,000. If the market value of a life were $1,000,000, you would be willing to accept this risk for $100.

The Houston regulations involuntarily force people to pay for a greater level of protection from pollution than they would pay for voluntarily. If the value of a human life as defined above were $1,000,000, then people would be willing to pay no more than $1 to reduce the risk of dying by 1 in 1,000,000. Undoubtedly, the stringent pollution rules the Houston city council is proposing will cost industry far more than that, thereby making people worse off.


My analysis has one major flaw. It can lead to the implication that costs and benefits are social factors that can simply be assigned from one person to another. However, all costs and benefits pertain to individuals. No government can take something from one person and give it to another involuntarily without violating his rights. Nevertheless, the concept of a “market for a human life” or, more properly, a market for risk-taking, illustrates how risks to health and safety are priced everyday in the market, and how pollution regulators often ignore or evade this knowledge.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you for elaborating on the cost-benefits side of this story, which occurred to me, but which I knew I could not discuss in such detail.

You make several very good points which serve to illustrate the practical consequences of that immoral proposal in Houston, as well as the larger point: That whether ecoterrorists or ecotyrants attempt to impose their will, deaths or lower quality of life will result.