Baraka

September 16th, 2011   Submitted by Seth King

I first watched this movie in the early part of the 2000’s. Not only did I find it thoroughly enjoyable, but it also changed my outlook on life for the better. Before then I was a libertarian to be sure, but I was also a product of the John Birch Society. Filtering all of human action through the lenses of a conspiracy theorist, I believed that environmentalists were all a bunch of unwitting toadies for the New World Order.

The problem with this view is that it stunted my growth as a libertarian. Instead of better understanding, or even acknowledging, environmental degradations I was apt to defend pollution and unsustainable resource consumption as a last resort to defending the free-market. To me, I simply had too little awareness to be able to equate environmentalism with anything other than socialism.

After having watched Baraka I was inspired to delve deeper into the environmental movement. I studied topics like Peak Oil and read books from authors like Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute and Kalle Lasn of Adbusters. I had become an environmentalist.

The discrepancy between environmental socialism and free-market capitalism, however, plagued me for many years. There was simply a dearth of any literature that combined the best of both worlds. Shortly before Ron Paul’s 2008 Presidential bid I had even coined the term libertarian environmentalism. Only after a quick Google search did I realize that I had merely re-invented the wheel. The term, and others like it, had already been around for some time. But even the results of those searches turned up much less than they do today. Furthermore, there was nothing concrete bridging the two ideas. Green-libertarianism was more conjecture than coherent philosophy.

It wasn’t until I had stumbled across an ancient interview of Dr. Walter Block that I had finally discovered the missing link between environmentalism and free-market capitalism. No longer did I feel compelled to justify a behemoth government that crushed free-enterprise in order to save the environment.

The moral of the story is that if you find yourself either having to defend socialism for nature, or defend pollution for progress, you’re doing your own cause a grave injustice. And you owe it to yourself to thoroughly investigate the position of your opponent.

No matter what end of the spectrum you come from if you have never seen Baraka you are in for a treat.

19 Responses to “Baraka”

  1. AdamNo Gravatar says:

    Rothbard covered free-market environmentalism in “For a New Liberty” very eloquently.

    Thew extreme green movement is a byproduct of the New World Order, Seth. Research the crap that came forth in the legislation proposed at the Hopenhagen event in 2009.

  2. AllenNo Gravatar says:

    Hello-

    I’ve been checking your blog out over the past couple of months. This post inspired me to write a comment.

    I actually came to libertarian anarchism by way of my concerns regarding our world (I *hate* the phrase “the environment” for philosophical reasons). Admittedly, my way was convoluted, but there had always been within me a profound distaste for the human vs. “nature” dichotomy seemingly always underlying the arguments of environmentalism. As very much one who affirms life in a un-dualist fashion (per Nietzsche) I was never able to quite swallow the ideology.

    As of yet, I’ve not seen the video of Block on free-market environmentalism, though I have read some of his work on the Mises site along with Rothbard. I think there is a great deal of work to be done in this area. Thanks, btw, for the link.

    I’m glad to see others who share, or are coming to share, a similar perspective journey as myself.

  3. GrantNo Gravatar says:

    Another great work that bridges environmentalism and libertarianism is Joel Salatin’s “Everything I Want to Do is Illegal.” It did a lot to ameliorate my ignorance concerning the relationship between environment and market.

  4. AllenNo Gravatar says:

    One of the cool things about libertarianism that I see is its constant revaluation. To be honest, some of the proponents turned me off a bit given their language, particularly those who speak of “first principles” and “natural law.” I’ve soften my assessment somewhat knowing full well that language is always rhetorical.

    Given the topic at hand, perhaps some of you will enjoy this little article in _Libertarian Papers_ which is an instance of revaluation in terms of the Rothbardian version of “homesteading.” I think its inquiry mixes nicely with the present thread.

    http://libertarianpapers.org/2011/22-duncan-labor-theory-of-prope rty/

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      That is a very good article that you linked to. Thank you for sharing it!

      I’ve always had a funny feeling about defending the Rothbardian view of homesteading. It never sat well with me the idea that one had to change the landscape in order to homestead something.

      Sadly, this article leaves me wanting. It does appear to show a weakness in the libertarian view of property rights. Do you know of any article by the Austrian School that properly addresses this issue?

      • AllenNo Gravatar says:

        I’m glad you liked the article.

        No. I don’t know of any articles, though, if you haven’t read it, you might enjoy Butler Shaffers _Boundaries of Order_. It’s a bit more expansive on property and ownership and leaves quite a bit open, though starts from a basic sense of self-ownership. One might say a more phenomenological starting place of “natural law” than that of many of the Austrians who seem fixated upon “first principles.”

    • JustSayNoToStatismNo Gravatar says:

      Anyone who tries to establish the absolute, end all be all theory of property rights will fail. There are always new disputes that can arise over property, that will bring up previously unheard of questions. Property rights are human created constructs, and we expect them to serve a purpose. Our needs will change over time.

      This discussion forces us to be honest. We have to admit that the goals we want property rights to achieve are somewhat arbitrary. I want people to have the greatest opportunities to improve their lives as they see fit, by cooperating in peaceful ways.

      To say that this goal of mine is universally and objectively “ethical”, doesn’t have much meaning. I wish to help people to agree with my views, but they will always, in a sense, be arbitrary.

      As for the meadow question, should that one person really be able to claim the entire meadow if there are hundreds of people who could live there and make some other use of it? I suspect the “efficient” outcome, by any reasonable economic benchmark, is that if a reasonable system of property had been established, he would end up losing the view anyways, because he wouldn’t be able to turn down the offers he’d get to use the land. Now, it’s possible he could be a diehard greenie, and turn down all offers, but then his claim to be able to keep people off that land is that he saw it first, which doesn’t sound ideal. But the other outcome isn’t ideal either, because it becomes difficult to preserve natural views like this.

      There will always be tradeoffs back and forth. I know, this relativist stuff isn’t nearly as psychologically satisfying as other theories put forth, but it’s a better description of reality.

      • AllenNo Gravatar says:

        I concur with your summation of property rights in many respects. Some of my initial hesitation in regard to libertarianism in general had to do with the predominant “first principles” approach to “natural law.” Sometimes I still find myself wading through what I see as antiquated language for an antiquated view of the world, a view that denies us the very reality life demonstrates daily. As one of my favorite philosophers put it:

        “The savor of existence is that of time passing and changing, of the nonfixed, of what is never certain or complete.” In this fluctuation, moreover, is found the best and surest “permanence” of life.”

        Seth’s post, this conversation, books like Shaffer’s (above), and the article I linked to, are all signs of life in what we term “libertarianism.” What some fellow travelers, and whom I admire (like Hoppe, Rothbard, Mises, etc) seem fixated on, well, the fixed-ness of libertarianism, to the denial of its very life. This doesn’t mean that it never takes form, but as life itself, it changes and *becomes*. In fixedness and “being” there is no life as there is no life in stagnation. Life itself would be inconceivable as a stagnant, fixed, “thing.” In a very real way to demand fixed-ness is to demand libertarianism to be a *state,* not in a political sense, but in a sense of rigidity befitting the origin of the word in “stand.” It must stand still…

        I enjoy seeing libertarianism evolve and thus live. It doesn’t mean we cannot find relatively stable patterns emerging for us. If we hadn’t this capacity as humans we wouldn’t have evolved to where we are much less have survived. But to demand the world conform to a singular perspective, a single language, is to demand lifelessness. These patterns can only emerge amongst men if men “weigh their ‘pros’ and their ‘cons,'” only thus can any real knowledge and be counted as such and better ways to live be found. By ‘better’ I mean conducive to life and its inherent demand to expand its presence.

        At any rate, I’m tired, so I may have gone off on a slight tangent…

        • JustSayNoToStatismNo Gravatar says:

          It’s too bad that things like Human Action are written off as being driven by political philosophy. I admit there is a lot of mixing between Austrian economics and minarchist/anarchist philosophy, in the sense that many people subscribe to both.

          But economic a priori reasoning is very different from Rothbard’s stab at ethics. It’s possible to reason from first principles, as many austrians do to analyze economic questions, but to come up with what stefan likes to call a “rational proof of secular ethics,” is impossible in my estimation. First principles aren’t ALL bad though!!! Don’t write it all off. If used in an economic context instead of an ethical one, they can really be valuable.

          I disagree with austrians who claim that a priori reasoning is the only way to approach economic questions. There are a few valid ways of applying math to economics, assuming the formulations in question can be UNDERSTOOD from other economic principles. That being said, a priori reasoining is perfectly legitimate in my eyes. The principles presented are the most rigorous, and the closest to achieving mathematical/logical certainty of any verbal axioms I could imagine.

  5. AllenNo Gravatar says:

    I concur with your reasoning in differentiating economic and ethics in terms of a priori reasoning. I realize, too, my post may have been unclear, but nowhere did I say that a priori reasoning was to be either embraced or rejected, only that the language turned me off initially. My thoughts again, unclearly stated as they may have been, were primarily about “natural law” in what is taken as ethics, rather than economics. I’ve not abandoned a priori reasoning altogether, but instead, abandon using it like the proverbial hammer for every problem commonly adjudged to be a nail. It is a tool for some jobs, not for all jobs.

    I’ll have to catch up with Molyneux’s ethical work. Quite honestly, I’m not too familiar with him outside his disparagement of Ron Paul and the sausage-wrastlin’ which has arisen in its wake. I’ll look into it though.

    As an aside, some years ago, I was reading the French New Right thinker Alain de Benoist, and while most of his statist paradigm I’ve left in the dust, one topic, or question, he addressed in a cogent manner, and has stuck with me, was “ethics.” What do we mean by the term? Benoist laid out a possible three-tiered interpretation (as befitting one who interprets through a Dumezilean, Indo-European, lens) of ethics in that there is 1) a biological/evolutionary strata embedded in every human being which has allowed us to survive, 2) a cultural strata of norms and customs, of places and their condition, and 3) the individual endeavor for excellence or its opposite. Whether or not you or I agree with Benoist particular formula, I think the notion that “ethics” aren’t comprised of a singular aspect of man (ex: “reason”) is an intriguing one. Had I understood it at an earlier age, I would have seen Nietzsche had already alluded to this idea.

    At any rate, this might offer valuable insight into many of the arguments within academic ethics. Subsequently, these notions have led me, elsewhere, to argue that “morals” and “ethics” inhabit very different perspective conceptual worlds, even while they are most often used interchangably.

  6. AgorcultureNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Seth,
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful movie. Welcome to New Hampshire! I, too was in the John Birch Society. I also once worked for a free-market public policy group in their environmental department.

    Have you heard of permaculture? Here is an Austrian perspective on permaculture:
    Sepp Holzer Farming With Nature http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=727825431796194016

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      I just got around to watching this film. Thank you for sharing! It was quite good! Another example of how the government is destroying the environment.

  7. Property is EverythingNo Gravatar says:

    I do not believe that ‘the environment’ needs protecting. If I want to build a nuclear power plant, kill puppies, or drill for oil on MY property, that is MY right. So long as my actions do not directly violate the life, liberty, or property of another individual, they have no legitimate reason to interfere in my choices as to how I use my property. The market will decide if my actions are sustainable.

    • AllenNo Gravatar says:

      Some of us came to anarcho-capitalism through a more or less ‘environmental’ stance at one time or another. Some of us still care about about the world we live in through the mechanisms of the market, NAP, and private property rights.

      I, for one still *value* the world in which we live, but see that the best option for attaining those general values is through the completely free-market, property ownership. As such, my values allow me to act in the market rather than through the State. In addition, I think persuasion and mutual benefit have far longer, and better, results than hypocritical State coercion.