Eco License

TheBottleneck has been created by HumanNature, which is to say by the nature of a top predator. We don't care what we eat, so long as there's food. We don't care what happens to our prey, so long as there's food. We don't care about the rest of the ecosystem, so long as there's food. And if there's no food, heck, let's move some place where there's food. No such place? Ahhh! We're doomed!!!''

We need to evolve past our HumanNature as predators. Capitalism needs to transform to a system that rewards recyclers more than producers. Seriously, if you buy a product that contributes to the planet-trashing that's going on, that product is worth a lot less to you than one that won't contribute to your death and your children's deaths. Which is weird ... because if it's worth less you pay less for it, which encourages it. So it's more likely to happen.


Any industrial process whose results cannot be consumed by natural creatures must be taxed prohibitively. Now, of course, governments are too damn foolish to enact any such tax. Therefore we technologists will have to do it. What we need is to add EcoLicenses to all our source code. Contagious environmentalism. The effect of these licenses is:

Lawyers? Stallman? Front and center! -- Pete

Speaking to taxation: taxation is an impediment to trade. Moreover, trade channels goods to those who value them [the goods] most. If you accept the first two statements, you arrive at the conclusion that taxation is *bad*. Put more eloquently:

"We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle" -- WinstonChurchill

Trade only reflects our values as predators - which are the same values as yeast in a vat. The husbanders and recyclers don't trade competitively because our predator nature doesn't think that far ahead - we don't value the consequences of our actions to our prey. How can a recycler compete with a despoiler unless the despoiler pays towards the environmental costs?

Speaking to 'we don't value the consequences of our actions to our prey': we do not value the consequences of our actions to our prey because there is no incentive to do so.

There is certainly an incentive, just not one that has been expressed in economic terms. The appalling effects of denuding the Atlantic of fish, for example, never factored into the price of the fillet on your plate. And DollarAuctions, TragedyOfTheCommons, MediaMonopoly, and lots of other unpleasant StrangeLoops affect the values that dictate trade. In other words, markets don't magically stop people from being stupid en masse.

The TragedyOfTheCommons exists because there is no private ownership of the commons. Private ownership (coupled with transferability) provides direct incentive to care for the property in question; care and upkeep directly correlates with resale value. The reason we trash the commons is because there is no incentive to care for them in the first place.

So your solution to the tragedy is to eliminate the commons? Do we stop breathing then or pay for the air? By the breath? And is there a surcharge for farting?

Don't eliminate the commons, but charge admission.

How often? Upon birth? Would there be a rebate upon death? I guess what I'm driving at is the idea that a commons should be neither a freeforall nor a chargeforall but some kind of LatticeOwnership? thing. I'm not trying to pick at you normatively here, but to get a clear idea of what you're suggesting - which is very interesting to me.

Speaking to 'the government, in its benevolence, granted you the rights': Government governs through consent to be governed; it has rights because we grant those rights and not the other way around. When I disagree with government dictates, I ignore or violate those dictates. This statement indicates that our perspectives are grossly misaligned -- without axiomatic parity, how can we meaningfully discuss anything?

I dig that. Let me try reformulating. Let's say you own a factory that produces the pollutants mentioned. How do you deal with them - or how are you economically induced to deal with them - in such a way that they're recycled? Or - asking about your ideas not normpicking - that they're not produced in the first place?

Speaking to 'In other words, markets don't magically stop people from being stupid en masse': you are correct, but markets may and do provide incentive(s) that modify the choices people make. Properly constructed incentives (e.g., property rights) often coerce people into doing the 'RightThing' - whatever that happens to be.

This is mysterious to me. For example, read JamesHowardKunstler at about how the market has persuaded people to live in unmaintainable homes linked through a soon-to-be prohibitively expensive travel network for the purpose of selling them TVs and cheese doodles. Exactly how, ignoring the delusion of PreviousInvestment?, is American suburbia the "Right Thing"? Moreover, markets are notoriously prone to boom and bust behaviors - are these too the "Right Thing"? Was the GreatDepression the "Right Thing"? I hope you'll forgive me for doubting the invisible hand of god in mass markets - but at best GodLovesTheSpeciesNotTheIndividual. If we insist on trashing our prey, I doubt even the species ...

Speaking to 'the appalling effects of denuding the Atlantic of fish': you are correct, they never factored into the price of the filet on our plate. Define property rights and an incentive is created to care for the fish. How?

For example: Imagine you are a fisherman, but instead of taking whatever you can grab, you must buy territory in which to fish.

This is indeed the way fisherman have fished. Their territory is defined by their purchase of access to boats and docks.

Redefine territory because your definition is incomplete. If I were to reason by analogy, I would say this is equivalent to building a Makefile that incorrectly identifies dependencies in a source tree by omitting relationships between source files. This happens often and destroys the value of make as a tool.

Buying territory is your idea - how would it be defined so as to make dependent sense for us as predators? As for me I want to look at us as collaborators with the fish - we encourage them to thrive and they feed us. I don't see how to define territory in a way that does this - do you?

You fish this territory, but as you do, you realize the need to replenish the crop.

Even if one fisherman had realized this, fish do not stay confined to any one fisherman's territory. Evolution will generally give more agile fish the advantage. And the fishermen who ignore the need to replenish fish stocks find their operations much less costly, so can purchase more boats and docks - more territory - until natural market rewards for monopolization lead to vast ocean going fish extinction factories. Which they did.

That is why landowners build walls. Similar reasoning suggests the need for fences in the ocean once property rights are defined.

I regret that fish are naturally mobile creatures, and often their ranges are very large. A great white shark, for example, was recently tracked ( ranging all the way from Africa to South Australia and back again. So the ocean walls would disrupt the fishes' ecosystems, destroying the fish.

While attempting to parcel the ocean, we ran into the problem of spillover: the fish move from one parcel to the next without barriers to contain them. We posited the existence of such barriers; it is suggested that with them ecosystems will die. We omit the obvious argument that the resources used to fence the ocean could likely be used to feed many more people than parceled section could create. [Yes]

Since we cannot define useful property rights for the ocean, I seek alternative solutions. The obvious one is to outlaw fishing.

But this problem isn't constrained to fishing; its systemic. If illegalization is your alternative then, by increments, you'll be forced to outlaw human industry altogether. Isn't the obvious alternative instead to adjust our economic system to incentivize good husbandry?

What's more, you realize that if you ever want to sell your territory when you get out of the game, you'll need to make sure that it will be fish-able for the next Joe.

That would be true if the one-time fish territory purchase cost was greater than the value of the fish sold. Which it wasn't. Sure, the little fishermen are suffering for their poor financial choices. But the old fish extinction factory owners simply sold out when their spreadsheets said to sell, invested their profits in something else and wrote off the capital loss. In real and economic terms it was a loss to the consumers, not the despoiler.

Speaking to 'the little fishermen are suffering for their poor financial choice': if you assume that, you might as well assume all agents are idiots. I think a better working postulate is that people make choices based on the things they value. As fiscally unsound such choices may seem to us are irrelevant; saying so is normative and carries no meaning.

A man does not need to fish. A man can invest in many things, some of which would create a better return than fishing. Consequently a man whose capital investment yields a poor return has made a poor financial choice. I don't assume that man is an idiot; his choice most likely was made in the absence of adequate data. But a larger agent has more and better information about the availability of fish, and can afford to spend resource projecting same, so is enabled to make a better choice. I don't see how norms enter into this.

Speaking to 'a man whose capital investment yields a poor return has made a poor financial choice': this is at best a cultural assumption, at worse dead wrong. People choose often to make capital investments which yield 'poor returns'. Fortunately, one man's poor return is another man's gain. Choice, like trade, channels value; when people choose, they create value for themselves - though it ain't always money.

An example would help to resolve my confusion.

By defining property rights we turn fishers into farmers, and protect a resource by creating an incentive.

I'm afraid you'll need to try harder to make this case.

This is how markets work and this happens everywhere. Ever wonder why Government housing is crap? It's because *no one* has an incentive to care for the place. Rentals are only slightly better. Private homes are the best maintained, because there is a direct correlation between care/upkeep and resale value.

I'm not arguing against private property. I like private property and I agree it leads people to maintain their belongings. But the values traded in markets have nothing to do with private property - see SwapDollars for arguments on this.

An, admittedly rather unpopular, housing alternative is offered by the formation of IntentionalCommunities.

I've seen a couple of these in my area. They appear to work fine. Unpopularity has to do with marketing.

I'm afraid you'll need to try harder to make this case.

Well, start with the FeedbackEffect ...

The above statements are positive ones; whether or not we choose to implement them, as a society, is a normative one. At the risk of sounding um, un-good, I believe the best way we can care for the world we live in is to define and protect property rights for all things. It creates a great framework that encourages care, development, and upkeep for which we and our children can benefit.

I rather agree with you, in principle if not in execution. If you're amenable I suggest we refactor these arguments over to SwapDollar, where they'd be on point. -- Pete

Put em' where you want; this is the power of wiki. Personally, I'll keep the dollars while you swap the services. -- JoshuaEmele


Nope, it's part of a GrandOpenSourceProject. PeopleProjectsAndPatterns is what's supposed to be on C2.


CategoryGosp CategoryWikiSavesTheWorld

EditText of this page (last edited July 1, 2013) or FindPage with title or text search