(I have updated the item with comments below after the Post-Libertarianism blog responded).
I suppose it is inevitable that people who are unconvinced by a supposedly strong “consensus” in favour of CAGW are going to be branded as conspiracy theorists, putting them into the same category as 9/11 Truthers, Holocaust revisionists, and sundry other people of varying levels of delusion, looniness or nastiness. (There is even a person – anonymous and writing for the “Post-Libertarianism” blog, claiming to be a bit of a supporter of libertarianism who says he is appalled at how so many libertarians are skeptics. This blogger seems to write in a permanent state of rage.)
At the Adam Smith Institute blog, Chris Snowdon makes this point about the value, or otherwise, of surveys of opinions about such matters:
“That being said, it would come as no great surprise if free marketeers were more likely to be sceptical of climate change than left-wingers since many of the most prominent global warming advocates are on the left and many of the proposed solutions involve encroachments on economic or social liberties. There is, therefore, a greater motivation for them to seek out alternative hypotheses. Conversely, one might conclude that socialists are more likely to embrace the issue than right-wingers, and for the same reason, but since the study did not use a control group, we have no way of knowing if free marketeers are over-represented in the sceptic camp or if the numbers are what you would expect from a random sample of the population.”
“The (considerably weaker) relationship between climate change scepticism and conspiratorial thinking is more interesting and it made me wonder whether the study also found a link between free market beliefs and conspiracy theories. The researchers do not say—although they must have the data—and I would be surprised if such a link exists. One striking aspect of David Aaronovich’s excellent book Voodoo Histories is how many conspiracy theories are of the left. The two biggest conspiracy theories of the last century—the JFK assassination and the 9/11 ‘inside job’—surely do not correlate with free market beliefs. More likely, they correlate with the politics of Oliver Stone and Michael Moore, both of whom have managed to keep their careers on track despite publicly promoting some quite outrageous drivel.”
“I dare say that free market views would also not correlate with the belief that the invasion of Iraq was a ‘war for oil’ with Halliburton pulling the strings, or that Hilda Murrell, John Lennon, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and David Kelly were murdered by the government, or that the 2000 US presidential election was rigged, or that the government blew up New Orleans’ levees during Hurricane Katrina, or, for that matter, that anyone who is sceptical about climate change is funded by the fossil fuel industry.”
On the subject of why people believe in conspiracies, Michael Shermer is usually very good on the subject. His demolition of Holocaust deniers is brilliant as an example of historiography and painstaking analysis.
Update: The blogger at Post-Libertarianism responded. He/she seems rather bemused by Samizdata and where we are coming from. I should have thought that the “who are we” segment on the top right hand corner of the homepage should provide a decent outline. Samizdata isn’t a sort of “hardcore” libertarian blog, by the way – there have, for example, been distinct differences of view by commentators about matters such as the 2003 Coalition overthrow of Saddam. Anyway, the blogger has elaborated on where he/she stands on the approach to CAGW. He/she argues that the word “skeptic” is inappropriate to describe people who, allegedly, are in total denial about whether any Man-made global warming of a potentially damaging nature is occurring. Fair enough. Personally, I think people who don’t sign up to the full CAGW point of view come in different flavours: some – like me, are skeptics because of how issues such as the “hockey stick” prediction have not only failed to materialise, but because some of the most prominent scientists involved seem to have a cavalier approach to evidence and criticism, as evidence by the University of East Anglia leaked emails issue, and other behaviours as recently chronicled by James Delingpole.
There is also no doubt, as Post-Libertarianism can see, that while it is perfect possible for a person to be concerned about CAGW and be a libertarian, favouring non-state measures to adapt to CAGW or prevent it, there is no doubt that in general, most people who are pressing the CAGW case are statists of various types, and are arguing for taxes, regulations and other coercive state measures to deal with it. There is, in other words, a natural inclination on the part of libertarians to treat CAGW as a version of a moral panic of the sort that have been used in the past to justify intrusive government actions down the centuries. The same applies to views about race, for example. While it is possible that some people who are interested in race and IQ might have benign intentions and wish to push the boundaries of knowledge and protect freedom, in my experience – and that of many others – most people who discuss such matters are often racial collectivists who are happy to use the power of the state to bring about outcomes they consider desirable.
One final point. Post-Libertarianism objects to my description of him as “a bit of a supporter of libertarianism”. Well, the writer says in this post: “My idea of post-libertarianism is that of a sane, philosophical, scholarly anarcho-capitalist libertarianism that has disengaged itself from the maniacs, sociopaths, and garden-variety crackpots of LRC, LvMI, ARI, LP, FEE, and other errorist organizations (except for ARI, which is a full-fledged terrorist organization).”
Well, leave aside whether all of the organisations mentioned deserve to be so described. The fact is that this person does, by his/her own words, appear to be a libertarian of sorts. I’d be interested to know who the author of that blog actually is. If you are going to throw rocks from the position of anonymity, it looks a bit slimy unless there are good, work-based or other professional reasons for doing so.
Another Update: Post-Libertarianism – I am now convinced the author is a he (you can just tell somehow) – is a regular charmer:
“As for your whining about my anonymity: if there is a need for you to know who I am, then please describe and explain that need. I don’t give a damn who you are; why should you give a damn who I am?”
Let me spell it out for him: unless there is a clear need for work reasons (some firms make it almost impossible for people to blog under their real names) it is surely best to say who you are, or, if you have a pen-name, develop it over a period of time so that one has a sort of track record (this is what I have done.) For a start, it encourages a basic level of civility. Also, if you are in the business of making harsh attacks on people about their academic qualifications (as PL does about some of the people involved at, say, George Mason University), or otherwise attacking the intelligence, objectivity or bias of people such as the late Thomas Szasz - as PL does – then it perhaps aids the credibility of such attacks if the attacker can explain who he or she is, what their own academic and professional qualifications are, and so on. This is not “whining”; rather, it is a call for a basic amount of civility and accountability. Of course, this person is free to continue blogging away anonymously. But I happen to think that this will hamper his efforts to clean up libertarianism effectively.
Anyway, enough of this. I actually like – mostly – what this person is trying to do.