Hidden Gems

A final note about the surge of interest in free market environmentalism

I have previously highlighted articles that show an increasing interest in cleaner energy/environment within pro-market circles that used to be fairly dismissive of such things. I’ll be moving on to other topics, but I wanted to close by bringing attention to the following article:

Clean Energy‘, by David Battersby on the Adam Smith Institute’s blog.

As usual, I won’t summarise it because it’s best if you give it a thorough read, but the following extract is totally epic.

Environmentalism has a bad rap. It’s associated with hippies in hemp shirts, with pungently medicinal smelling beard wax and salt in place of deodorant. The reality is that a shift to clean energy helps everyone. It will improve living conditions, drive down prices and free up human capital for choice-creating innovation. And the shift does not need to be subsidised or blackmailed into existence, it is coming.

I fully agree! Improving our relation with our environment is both in our interest and inevitable. I’ll focus on the latter because the former is somewhat more evident.

There are at least 3 reasons why energy will change toward the greener side of things regardless of whether you like it or not:

Renewables will get better and cheaper.

  • Corollary. Climate denier or not, it would be senseless to ignore the financial opportunities represented by renewables.
  • Caveat. Innovation and dissemination could be the result of organic/market mechanisms or of artificial/subsidised ones. That’s still being discussed.

Even if some countries refuse to participate, global environmental governance agreements will continue to be brokered.

  • Corollary. Climate denier or not, you will need to meet more and more standards to keep your business partners.
  • Caveat. These standards may or may not end up being voluntary and/or market-driven. That’s still being discussed.

With or without subsidies, some of these efforts will succeed.

  • Corollary. There is an extent to which positive environmental action can be pursued without even entering the question of whether subsidies and/or intervention is necessary.
  • Caveat. The content of the final solutions being implemented is likely to be influenced by those who actively engage in the process of generating solutions.

Having said all this, it is also true that the impact that the interest in environmentalism in pro-market forums can have cannot be overstated. Traditional right-wing party elites continue to deny the need for action on climate change.

That’s a problem! For one, because it means that a full half of the world’s elites are actively trying to oppose or boycott solutions. With challenges this complex, the more people willing to help, the better. Ultimately, however, those that refuse to participate will have no voice. And those that participate in order to be at the table with the objective of boycotting progress will find that they can, at most, slow the change down. But since change itself is inevitable, the content of that change will be set by those who actively engage and propose actual solutions, solutions that work, solutions that make energy cleaner.

In the process, at least if elites continue to reject taking part in generating solutions, the policies of tomorrow will be devoided of input of some of the world’s best market advocates.


Pro-market scholars and policy experts are not the only ones that understand social, political and economic realities. I would be equally adamant about having experts from the left involved in the process if these were not already taking the issue seriously. There is much to be learned from people on both sides of the ideological divides so I generally pursue cross-ideological solutions. By the self-same idea though, the participation of pro-market minds is utterly desirable and necessary.

It is the interest in having that participation that I celebrate – lately more often than not.

And yet, wanting to be part of the solution is not enough. Energy will change toward the greener side of things regardless. Some in the world’s ‘right’ want to aid the process, others want to stop and/or boycott it (inside, outside, same thing). Problem is, if the change is inevitable, the latter group is only going to get in the way of the former ones having any influence on final policies.