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January 10th 2010 print

Justin Jefferson

Ecology and compulsion

Even assuming that ecological viability itself were in issue, it is still entirely unjustified and unjustifiable to jump to a conclusion that government is able to centrally plan the ecology and the economy, by bureaucratic command-and-control.

The Divine Right of Environmentalists

The problem facing the Commonwealth government in Peter Spencer’s case is that on the one hand it’s embarrassing to have him dying of starvation up a pole because they denied him justice after forcibly taking billions of dollars worth of property in violation of the Constitution; and embarrassing to be caught out ignoring him, and lying to the population that it was all the States’ fault. But on the other hand, the Commonwealth has stolen too much property to be able to pay for it; and is too greedy to give it back.

It is no defence of this injustice to say that other environmental and planning laws also restrict people’s private property use-rights. That only begs the question whether they also represent unjust acquisitions.

It does not answer to assert that government acts in the national interest. That is precisely what is in issue. If it’s in the national interest for the government to take people’s property without their consent in breach of the law by threatening them with force, then presumably armed robbery and extortion might be in the national interest too.

It is no answer to say that the laws are to protect native vegetation. Native vegetation is not an ecological category: it is an historical and aesthetic category. It means species that were here before 1788, that is all. The issue is not native vegetation itself: it is whether some people should be able to indulge their fancy of having a ‘pre-1788’ botanical museum imposed on other people’s property, paid for by the subject property-holders, or by the productive portion of the population under compulsion.

No doubt many environmentalists are genuinely well-intentioned, and shocked to be considered abusive and unjust, and will say that was not their intention. However the abusiveness and injustice of these laws does not come from the laws’ intent, but from their effect.

Nor is it any answer to say that the native vegetation acts were done to protect biodiversity. The mere fact that biodiversity is a value does not automatically justify the violation of property rights. It may be said that biodiversity is the necessary basis of life on earth, and therefore the need to conserve it is a precondition to any discussion of subsequent human utility. However it is hyperbole to suggest that we’re all going to die unless the environmentalists can steal other people’s land, which is what the argument amounts to. 

Even assuming that ecological viability itself were in issue, it is still entirely unjustified and unjustifiable to jump to a conclusion that government is able to centrally plan the ecology and the economy, by bureaucratic command-and-control. This destructive belief, or rather delusion, has no basis in reason. Those wishing to run that argument must first refute Ludwig von Mises’ arguments which definitively prove that public ownership of the means of production is not only impossible in practice, but is not even possible in theory.

As to ecological sustainability, this attractive-sounding catch-phrase is meaningless. Ecology is the distribution and abundance of species. Species are made up of their individual members. The distribution and abundance of these are permanently and constantly changing forever, every second of every day, always have been, always will be. The ideal of sustainability is a dream of stasis; a utopian fantasy of paradise in which the economic problems of natural scarcity have been solved forever by the omnipotence, omniscience and benevolence of big government.

And if ecological sustainability is not meaningless, then how could or would a power to achieve it ever be limited, even only conceptually? Since all human action affects the environment, a power to manage the environment must necessarily be able to control any and every human action, and therefore it must be an unlimited power. In other words, the well-intentioned advocates of such a system are incapable of saying how they could prevent, or even identify, abuses of arbitrary power, as Spencer’s case is proving. It is completely incompatible with constitutional government.

It is said that the native vegetation laws were desirable because of the problem of land clearing. But just because something is desirable does not mean we are justified in using force to obtain satisfaction of our desire. The desire for money does not, of itself, justify robbery; the desire for sex does not, of itself, justify rape; and the desire to use land to grow native vegetation does not, of itself, justify confiscating other people’s property.

Either biodiversity is a higher social value than food or other produce, or it’s not. If it’s not, then there is no justification for using force to pay for it.

But if it is, then there is no need for compulsion to pay for it. If society – people in general – really do attach a higher value to biodiversity as the environmentalists assert, then those same people are perfectly capable of representing their own values and protecting biodiversity directly by buying the land on which to grow native vegetation. Many people do it voluntarily. But so far as the rest don’t do it voluntarily, this proves that it is not a higher social value as the environmentalists claim. 

Therefore environmentalists have not got to square one in establishing a justification for the native vegetation laws. If they genuinely believe the issue is ecology, this shows their confusion. For the issue is not ecology – it is power.

In truth, all that the advocates of the native vegetation laws have established is that they should have to buy the land that they would like to use to grow native vegetation; an idea they receive with shock and indignation.

Yet why not? There are many who agree, the cost of contributions would be divided between millions of people, and in the end would amount to a monthly payment by each to finance it.

But they don’t want to do that. Why not? Because they know that in order to do it, they would have to sacrifice other values they consider more important – like consuming internet bandwidth.

Why would they have to sacrifice such other values if they were to buy the land? To pay the price of the land. And what gives rise to the price of land? It comes from the values of all those in the market who buy and sell, or abstain from buying or selling the land and what it can produce.

In other words, the reason the environmentalists don’t want to have to pay for the land is because of the height of the price of land, and the reason the price of farm land is what it is, and the reason farmers were clearing land, is because six billion people, through the price mechanism, are telling farmers that they want that land used to produce food.

How disgraceful, and how disgusting, that rich Australians are forcibly shutting down food production on a massive scale at a time when millions of the poorest people are facing food shortages. The ecologists have morphed into social Darwinians, advocating the stronger using force and threats to arbitrarily violate and steal from the weaker. They think it goes without saying that they should not suffer the shortage they are imposing on others. 

Of course the ordinary peasants must pay if they want land to be used to satisfy their want for food, but the intellectuals shouldn’t have to pay if they want land to be used to satisfy their own less urgent want for ‘biodiversity’, for which they refuse to pay voluntarily. So Peter Spencer, and thousands of Aussie farmers, have been expropriated of their livelihoods, in breach of the Constitution, to stop their land from producing food, causing people in the poorest countries to sacrifice their lives so Australia’s spoilt environmentalists will not have to sacrifice the slightest luxury!

All of a sudden all their protestations about equality and social justice go out the window, and we are back to the age of feudal privilege, and a pampered and self-absorbed elite of parasites feeding on the productive class, with a political philosophy dangerously close to divine right of kings.

Justin Jefferson has also written on Peter Spencer here…