Blogs > Liberty and Power > Libertarian/Green Alliance on Nuclear Power?

Nov 28, 2006 7:16 pm

Libertarian/Green Alliance on Nuclear Power?

I've arrived sort of late for the discussion of the 10 "Green Goals" and how much common ground they afford between Greens and libertarians.

What's more, the generic—even boilerplate—nature of most of these goals impedes discussion. According to Roderick Long, the interpretations that most libertarians place on the Green Goals are incorrect, because they presuppose coercive means of achieving them. Well, yes, but it appears that the interpretations that (many? most?) Greens make of the Goals are likewise incorrect—because they, too, presuppose achievement through coercive means.

So the extent to which the Green Goals are worth achieving or require further action to achieve can’t be determined, without a major exercise in specification and clarification.

In the meantime, maybe we could try something more concrete.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, many environmentalist organizations in the United States put a lot of effort and invested a lot of political capital in stopping the construction of nuclear power plants. This was accomplished mainly through political pressure on the Federal regulatory process. The same activists who wanted to stop new plants from being built also very much wanted the existing ones shut down, though they failed to achieve the latter.

What’s more, some libertarians made an overt appeal to the anti-nuclear-power movement. Two now-defunct libertarian magazines—Libertarian Review and Inquiry—regularly ran articles favoring the anti-nuclear cause. A fairly prominent anti-nuclear activist, John Gofman, even made a public proclamation that he was a libertarian.

A quarter of a century later, we find that global warming is a far bigger environmental concern than it was in 1981. We find, too, that dependence on oil controlled by illiberal regimes in such countries as Sa‘udi Arabia is a somewhat bigger concern than it was then. Nuclear power plants burn no hydrocarbons and give off no carbon dioxide.

So, is a Green/Libertarian alliance on nuclear power possible? Could it have any shared basis besides, “Turn off the nukes—turn on the sun”?

Robert Campbell

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Robert L. Campbell - 11/29/2006

Of course, that word in the second sentence should be "still."

Robert L. Campbell - 11/29/2006

I would characterize Inquiry's position as less stridently anti-nuclear than Libertarian Review's.

But stll anti-nuclear.

I opposed the Price-Anderson Act in the early 1980s, as I assume other libertarians generally did.

But Inquiry's leaning didn't really seem to be toward getting rid of government subsidies or special protections for nuclear power plants. It was toward getting rid of nuclear power plants, period.

As far as I could determine, most libertarians in the 1980s were willing to accept that nuclear power plants might not be getting built in a Price-Anderson-less legal environment.

How many on the environmentalist Left were willing to accept that nuclear plants might still be getting built in a Price-Anderson-less environment?

Robert Campbell

Jesse Walker - 11/29/2006

Well, Libertarian Review ran articles favoring the anti-nuclear cause. I believe Inquiry opposed Price-Anderson but not nuclear energy per se.