Saving Nature from Politics

The following paper by Alex Kaiser* was presented at the IV. ECAEF/CEPROM Conference on ‘Towards a Viable Alternative: Markets and Entrepreneurship to Protect the Environment’, 10 December 2019. Initiated by the European Center for Austrian Economics Foundation based in the Principality of Liechtenstein, this academic conference series is dedicated to the eminent late French scholar Jacques Rueff. The co-operation with CEPROM (Le Centre d’Etudes Prospectives pour Monaco) was highly appreciated.

Saving Nature from Politics: Toward a Classical Liberal Approach to Effective Environmental Protection

by Alex Kaiser

One of the central premises of classical liberalism maintains that social evolution is principally driven by ideas. Especially in a democracy, substantial reforms in any sphere of economic and social activity can only be made by changing the public’s widely held ideas. Environmental policies are no exception to this rule. Private solutions to environmental problems will simply not have a fair chance of becoming institutionalized (on a large scale) if the mainstream narrative on environmentalism is based on an ideology that is hostile to the free market, and if a collective memory is preserved that is oblivious to the progress that market-based solutions have forged in preserving nature. Indeed, nature now needs to be saved from politics by utilizing a classical liberal approach that goes far beyond technical and scientific solutions. The core of this approach must rest on ethical arguments capable of gaining sufficient public acceptance such that any proposals offered by free market environmentalism may reign supreme over public opinion.

The politics of ideas

It is hardly an exaggeration to state that politicians follow the ideas that have become fashionable within large sectors of the population. Those ideas, in turn, are created and spread by a small minority of intellectuals and thinkers who are largely unknown by the people who adopt their views. As Friedrich Hayek put it, the practical man “merely chooses from among the possible orders that are offered him and finally accepts a political doctrine or set of principles elaborated and presented by others.” This condition implies that a democracy cannot work if a great majority of its voters do not share common principles that enable them to reach agreements in order to resolve conflicts and to find solutions to problems that affect society at large. If politics, as the saying goes, is the art of the possible, then it is necessarily an activity that is limited by the ideas that form public opinion. Therefore, it is only by changing those ideas that reforms in any sphere of economic and social activity can be made. According to Wayne Leighton and Edward Lopez’s model of institutional change, prevailing ideas are largely but not solely defined by intellectuals. Their work has an impact on artists, historians, journalists, and other professionals who, in turn, have influence on the climate of public opinion. In the end, the climate of opinion creates common beliefs about the roles of government and the market …

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Saving Nature from Politics (.docx)


* Alex Kaiser | Lawyer, Doctor in Philosophy from Heidelberg University (Germany), executive director of the ‘Foundation for Progress’ in Chile.


List of all Papers of the Conference

Kurt Leube:
Towards a Viable Alternative (.docx)

Terry L. Anderson:
Nature and Markets (.docx)

Johan Norberg:
Apocalypes Not (.docx)

Alex Kaiser:
Saving Nature from Politics (.docx)

Hardy Bouillon:
On the Misuse of Reason and Science (.docx)

Henrique Schneider:
Climate Change and Global Governance (.docx)

Pedro Schwartz:
The Tragedy of the Commons and Emerging Property Rights