Wednesday, September 26, 2012

BOOK NOTE: Free-market environmentalism, animals, and comics

•I confess – though I am not really a collector anymore – that I checked out some of DC’s relaunched comics over the past year, finishing up (for me) with a few of the Zero Month issues (all numbered #0) they put out this month.  My main conclusion is that they’ve nicely simplified most things (almost like the whole universe is one big pilot episode for an animated series now, probably not by coincidence). 

There are already some bungles in the new continuity, such as both Dick Grayson and Tim Drake being the first person ever to deduce Batman’s secret identity, but on the bright side poor Hawkman, for example, seems to have a single, simple origin for the first time in twenty-seven years.  I wish them well.

(And for those wondering, no, I really will not even try to find out what this Trinity War they’re building up to is – I leave that for the young.  If my favorite comics writer, Grant Morrisonwho is a strange man – actually finishes his miniseries Multiversity and his Wonder Woman graphic novel, though, I’ll probably come back a year from now to check those out.  If those don’t happen, there are literally ten major superhero movies coming out in the next two years, so I should be sated.)

•On a more serious note, the latest issue of Critical Review (Vol. 24, No. 1) contains, among other interesting things, Jonathan Adler’s article “Is the Common Law a Free-Market Solution to Pollution?” which presents some evidence that in the past the market didn’t always arrive at the hypothetical problem-solving means free-market environmentalists envision.  Sorting out who to sue when there are multiple effluent sources, for example, can very complicated.  No doubt true – but usually it’d be just as complicated for regulators as for class-action-suit lawyers, it’s important to note. 

Adler steers clear of the (almost “God of the gaps”-like) leap of assuming that what is complicated for markets is easy for government, though – and even notes, for instance, that the financial pressure from lawsuits can create purely market-based incentives to add things like tracer chemicals in effluent to prove you aren’t one of the polluters in a given area. 

As with countless other institutions such as mutual aid societies for poverty relief, industrial capitalism was only working on these issues for a very short time before government usurped the problem-solving mechanisms involved – and environmental issues weren’t as high a priority or as easily dealt with technologically in the past.  As with so many things, I think we can do even better in the future without resorting to government. 

There is no reason to do anything rash like declaring ourselves “crunchy conservatives” (as Rand Paul does in his new book) or resurrecting nineteenth-century-style agrarian Toryism with its disdain for industrialism (at the same time, after yesterday’s entry, I’ll end the paleo-bashing, I promise – it’s just such an uphill battle to get people to make econ calculations as it is). 

•Love ’em or eat ’em, animals are mighty entertaining, so here are:

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