Euthanasia back in parliament

From Wikipedia:-

Euthanasia was legalized in Australia‘s Northern Territory, by the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. Soon after, the law was voided by an amendment by the Commonwealth to the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978.[1] The powers of the Northern Territory legislature, unlike those of the State legislatures, are not guaranteed by the Australian constitution.

Yesterday The Age reported as follows:-

Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown plans to introduce a private bill to the Senate next week aiming to restore the Northern Territory’s right-to-die legislation which was overturned by the commonwealth in 1997.

Senator Brown has written to Mr Rudd seeking his support for a conscience vote on the bill.

Lets hope the ALP government proves to be more liberal than the former Liberal government. 

88 thoughts on “Euthanasia back in parliament

  1. Indeed – one of the many reasons I was happy to vote for them at the last election, despite their economic policies.

  2. one of the many reasons I was happy to vote for them at the last election

    mmm…that’s like saying that a side benefit of the tsunami three years ago was that it gave many parched lawns a much needed watering.

  3. Why? Their economics policies are naive, but not that diffent from many governments in power in Europe. Yes, Australia is not Europe resource-wise, but it’s not as different as many like to make out either.

    What havoc could the Greens possibly cause?

  4. When Labour came into power I was very worried that they would not be open to legalizing euthanasia, gay marriage, and other similar laws regarding personal freedoms.
    I’m still not convinced they will back something like this after seeing Labour state government in SA totally opposed to legalizing euthanasia.

    And the statment “Well done to the Australian Greens”. Although in this instance it’s warranted, I still find that sentence repulsive.

    I think you should go take a long cold shower Mark after writing that.

  5. Tim, how is that attitude helpful?

    Some Greens members are obnoxious, sure, many of their policies are naive and worse, counterproductive, but suggesting that congratulating the greens is “repulsive” is never going to help the libertarian cause.

    Personally, I think the Greens’ policy platform is closer to that of the LDP than either of the major parties.

    But that’s because I simply don’t care as much as about the economic policy as I do about social policy. We are already an economically liberal nation by any reasonable standard. We are not an socially liberal nation, when compared to many other developed nations.

  6. You’re just pulling our leg, LS.

    Besides me continuing the property rights discussion (and my feelings are deeply, deeply hurt you haven’t replied) you say that libertarian policies will be “chaotic” but Greens wouldn’t cause any havoc with their economically illiterate policies.


    You’ve gone from a born again virgin to an agnostic martyr.

  7. My claim that the Greens economic policies wouldn’t create “havoc” is based on the fact that they’ve pretty much all been tested elsewhere. At worse, they would unnecessarily slow economic growth and edge up unemployment for a few years until they worked out that their policies weren’t suitable, or the electorate booted them out.

    Which topic are you waiting for a reply on?

  8. Being done elsewhere is not a prescription for success. A small kingdom in 1981 could have said “we have choice bewtween the West’s democracy and capitalism or the East’s authortiarian commnism, they’ve been tried before, they both work, lets try communism for a decade”.

    Obviously you need to see where it has been done and note the effects.

    See the Mc Cain thread.

  9. Where did I say I thought the Greens’ economic policies would be a “success”?

    There’s a huge gap between ‘havoc’ and ‘success’.

  10. Mark, I know you must be busy (blogging takes a lot of time), but would you consider writing a serious point-by-point non-ideological criticism of the Greens’ economic policy, pointing out why it would almost certain not have the desired outcomes?

  11. Maybe I’ve explained it to you the best I could with the longer, numbered point response.

    If it is not a success, why accept it? It is the same tortured thinking that keeps libertarians in the Liberal party.

  12. Because a (very) small step backwards in economic policy is worth it for a big step forwards in social policy, and the Greens will learn soon enough why their economic policy is poor. Further, much of the Greens economic policy would be an improvement on current policy, as I pointed out in a previous thread (ending corporate welfare etc.).

    The Liberal party is a corrupt mass of nationalists and regressives. It is *never* going to come close to libertarian ideals.

  13. I still think the Greens are not that liberal socially. They still wish to tell people about a “right” way to live instead of letting people define it themselves.

  14. Because a (very) small step backwards in economic policy is worth it for a big step forwards in social policy

    I’d usually say the exact opposite. I’d be willing to choose the party opposed to Euthanasia if it helped to get the hospitals privatised or taxes cut. Obviously I’d prefer not to have to make such a choise but it pretty much sums up why I won’t be voting for the Greens any time soon.

  15. Terje has a point.

    A Government with only a 10% tax/GDP ratio will have a bugger of a time interfering with your sex life. They need the contents of your wallet you pry behind closed doors.

  16. Sure Terje, we all have different priorties.

    I’m pretty happy with the healthcare system we have, and don’t have an issue about how much tax I personally pay – though I agree that many people on lower incomes are paying absurdly high EMTRs. Indeed, almost all Greens members would agree with this too (if you explained the concept).

    Mark, sure the Greens aren’t *that* liberal, but vastly more so than any other serious party. And further, most that I know are more liberal than their policies, many of which had to be scaled back due to backlash from the (il)Liberal party.

  17. Mark, that’s nonsense. All you need is a police force.
    And “marriage” is still a government-recognised institution, and will be for some time.

  18. Actually, Terje, if you wanted to write a paper for the Greens explaining how the most important tax reform is one that reduces high EMTRs for lower income earners, it would highly useful. Just don’t forget your audience.

  19. Right. So in your hypothetical scenarios they would get the boot but not in mine? I am sure the voting public would be very pissed off if the Govenrment wasn’t building gaols for murderers etc and buying military hardware but setting up sting operations for gay man seeking partners. Especially when most people at worst have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” view themselves.

    Given policy lags behind people’s views, I have trouble believing a Government with a decreased budget would bother about patrolling gay bars and marriage celebrants.

    It is also strange in your hypothetical situations real world budget and economic constraints keep stupid policy in check, but when this is beefed up in mine, it doesn’t work.

  20. LS, Labour are already giving us the step backwards economically. In the paper today it says they will not continue with income tax cuts, ie: this year’s will be the last. Also, they may abolish individual AWAs.
    However it was good to see that ACCI have today stated tax cuts will not cause inflation.

    Terje, I think it’s culture dependant what should come first, eg/ US needs Democrats over Republicans in my opinion because they confuse capitalism with Christianity. In fact the National Review types such as Michael Novak claim Christianity is responsible for capitalism.
    Also, the Republicans are getting more left by the minute, it was interesting to see Ann Coulter recently attack McCain.

  21. Tim R, our communal party is called ‘Labor’, by their own choice, and I think this is a good way to distinguish the party from honest labour, spelt the traditional way. Perhaps we should call the business party ‘Libral’, for the same reasons?
    Q. How many honest politicians does it take to change a light bulb?
    A. Don’t bother, there aren’t any!

  22. The Greens are the furthest from the LDP ideologically.

    First the obvious – they absolutely oppose economic liberty and property rights.

    Second, the not so obvious – they might seem like they are generally big supporters of more social liberty – such as drugs, euthanasia, gay marriage, but only as far as their leftist cultural agenda allows them.

    Many parts of their agenda lead them to very authoritarian social policies… tax payer funded abortions, drug injecting rooms, a national education curriculum, anti-vilification and anti-free-speech laws, media censorship etc etc.

    And do the Greens even oppose the current smoking laws ? I haven’t heard a peep out of them. They don’t oppose smoking restrictions nor the massive taxes levied on cigarettes.

    The Greens are not possibly more liberal than the major parties.

  23. Ooops.. did I forget to mention firearms..

    I really have to think hard to guess what LDP members think about the Greens firearms policy??

    I couldn’t find much on their website, except for this load of crap under their “peace and security” policy:
    The Australian Greens will:

    # sign and ratify the Protocol Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.

    # make diplomatic efforts to curb the global arms trade.

    # ensure that Australia does not sell weaponry or components overseas.

    # end arms trade fairs in Australia and coordinate with neighbouring states on similar measures.

  24. Ahh here it is.. the Greens policy on “justice”:
    The Australian Greens will:
    # prohibit the use of electroshock weapons and TASERS.

    # progress gun law reform, including prohibition of the possession and use of automatic hand guns in the community.

    And then Bob Brown opened his trap after the Virginia Tech massacre to score some political points:


    Senator Brown said the early reports of the use of handguns by the killer underscores the continuing need for review of gun laws in Australia. There are an estimated 250,000 handguns in Australia.

    “Most people don’t know that handguns, with magazines holding up to ten bullets, are not prohibited on the Australian market. They should be banned. In Australia, handguns are generally only available to members of approved pistol clubs and to gun collectors. The need for very restricted, tightly controlled use of handguns for sports shooting must not excuse these guns being more widely available within the community,” Senator Brown said.

  25. Gun laws are just not a big deal to most Greens supporters.

    Most Greens supporters with which I have discussed many LDP policies have been very open to them.

    If they got into power they would inevitably move towards economic liberalisation anyway, for the same reasons that countries all over the world are doing: it works.

    That would make them a socially and economically liberal party – which would leave no realistic room for the LDP to compete.

    I can’t see for the life of me how anyone can claim they are “ideological opposites”.

  26. Sure. But other Greens parties are not seriously proposing re-nationalisation of already privatised schemes.

    Anyway, economic liberalism is a broad goal. I don’t subscribe to the idea that it necessitates getting government out of *everything*, just the areas where they clearly haven’t been doing a good job.

    Terje, you didn’t reply re my suggestion that you write a paper aimed at the Greens (or those of a similar persuasion) about the need to restructure the tax system to get rid of high EMTRs.

  27. The Greens will never have an absolute majority, the best they can ever expect is to be a member of a coalition, perhaps with the ALP. Even then they could have disasterous influence, such as banning nuclear power like happened in Germany. But I think on popular environmental policy, the ALP have already stole their thunder, ao the Greens are likely to have to appeal to the more kookier elements of the environmental movement to get enough votes to stay in the Senate. I’d suggest many people who value the environment proboably vote ALP in the House and Green in the Senate, to keep the bastards honest.

    I’m not sure though that I want a state or federal law on euthanasia, I think I prefer a policy whereby the medical profession, the police and the courts favour protecting life over legally sanctioned ending of life. Let the courts decide on a discretionary basis each case. A euthanasia bureaucracy would probably perversely make it harder for the terminally ill to be treated humanely. The courts have shown mercy on grieving spouses and adult children who have mercifully carried out their loved one’s wishes.

  28. Brendan,

    I’ve heard this argument and it seems like bollocks to me. Doctors are going to decide overnight that they’d rather top someone than cure them? Palliative care is going to go out the window in favour of cheap and cheerful suicide?

    As for the courts deciding, what about my body, my life, my decision?

  29. Ben,

    That is not my argument at all. I am saying that it will be a bureaucratic and legal nightmare for relatives to get medical and legal permission to end their loved one’s life. Greater state intrusion into the traumatic last days of someone’s life is what I fear. I do not believe that it would result in any change in the medical treatment people would receive.

    What happen’s when a patient’s desire to end their life is refused? Are they put on suicide watch? Are their relative’s visits supervised by the police lest they break a court order? Are the terminally ill subjected to endless court ordered interviews with psychologists to council them? Do we really want to invite the state into our final hours with terminally ill loved ones?

  30. Gun laws are just not a big deal to most Greens supporters.

    Most Greens supporters with which I have discussed many LDP policies have been very open to them.

    What crap LS. Your half-arsed agreement with libertarian views is really annoying. I don’t believe you are really a libertarian, you just happen to agree with libertarians on a few issues. That makes you exactly like the Greens.

    Greens don’t have principles – they simply have a particular moral viewpoint that they seek to impose on everyone else. They are no better than the Christian Democrats and other authoritarians except for the issues they care about.

    A few issues on which they are anti-libertarian:

    Guns – Lee Rhiannon, Greens MLC in NSW, is former Convener of the Coalition for Gun Control. Bob Brown constantly wanks on about them. They would ban them, which is what happened in the UK and led to the worst outbreak of violence the country has ever seen.

    Nuclear power – libertarians say uranium mining should be deregulated and nuclear power should take its place in the race against other fuel sources, without government subsidy or intervention. The Greens oppose them both.

    Privatisation: The Greens are opposed to all privatisation, always. That includes electricity generators in NSW even after Victoria has proved their fuckwit objections are ridiculous.

    Global warming: The Greens policy is to close the coal mining industry in Australia. In fact the only industry they support is eco-tourism. Former coal miners are presumably expected to pay to watch whales. As for zero carbon emissions from nuclear power, forget it.

    There is plenty more. In fact, about the only thing the Greens and LDP agree on are recreational drugs and euthanasia.

  31. Most Greens supporters with which I have discussed many LDP policies have been very open to them.

    Greens supporters aren’t Greens party members. We need to show Greens supporters that the LDP is a better party to support if you value social progressivism, helping the poor out of poverty and constructive environmental outcomes.

    We need people to abandon the Greens in favour of the LDP, the Greens leadership would be too resistant to change from within. Voters and supporters are more fickle.

  32. I’ve heard this argument and it seems like bollocks to me. Doctors are going to decide overnight that they’d rather top someone than cure them? Palliative care is going to go out the window in favour of cheap and cheerful suicide?

    As for the courts deciding, what about my body, my life, my decision?

    Ben, if you believe in the right to take your own life then you can’t disagree with the right to assisted suicide. That’s what the “euthanasia” issue is about – having someone help you to die when you want to.

    The only role of the courts is to protect the infirm and feeble from grasping family members who want to accelerate your demise. But that simply means ensuring precautions are observed.

    The key principle is, if you want to die, it’s your choice. If you need and want help to do it, you should get it.

  33. Actually David, many Greens support less government ownership of electricity generation, and more decentralisation and individual ownership (e.g. solar panels).

    Further, I don’t believe you’re really a libertarian either – I’ve no question your commitment to whatever you personally think libertarianism should mean, but I don’t see any real evidence you’re interested in working towards Australia becoming more libertarian, which means above all else a willingness to compromise.

    Shem, accepted that party members are a different bunch than supporters in general. But I was including the representative who ran for my own seat – a successful business owner with similar concerns to my own re economic policy.

  34. Brendan and David,

    I do support assisted suicide. I jumped into the discussion having only seen Brendan’s last post and not the context. Whoops.

    LS where is it written that above all Libertarians should compromise? Why not win people over with reason? Present the right policy and debate it on it’s merits rather than selling out so you end up with a watered down mess that noone really wants?

    I admit I have reservations about how well a political party will do in Australia (or anywhere really) on the Freedom ticket and personally think educating the public one pub patron at a time is the way to go.

    I do however think it’s certainly worth a shot and admire the LDP for giving it a go. If a jobs worth doing it’s worth doing right. Besides which you certainly shouldn’t be selling out your principles until theres a bidder!

  35. Ben, not all libertarian principles come down to reason.
    Some come ultimately down to personal and subjective value judgements.

    Many libertarians take it as a self-evident truth that “liberty” is a more worthy goal than any other.
    Many others do not.

    Anyway, it’s not a question of what libertarians “should” do (“should” being a word that seems to be excessively favoured by Libertarians – especially those that wrote up much of the LDP website contents), rather a question of Libertarians demonstrating that they are genuinely committed to gaining public support for their ideas.

  36. Fairly meaningless but nonetheless interesting stat:

    87% (20 out of 23) of the policy pages on the website contain the word “should”.

    56% (27 out of 48) of the policy pages on the website contain the word “should”.

  37. LS – and the letter ‘e’ is the most common letter to appear in written English

    What is your point?

  38. Does it really need explaining?

    If it were up to me I would make a point of avoiding all use of the word “should” in a policy document. I’d put out my broad goals, and list possible policy alternatives to achieve them, along with whatever evidence existed that suggested some were better than others.

  39. I googled the site using the word should and came up with some samples:-

    “All traffic laws should be reviewed to ensure the priority is on safety …”

    “Some people may prefer that a particular venue is non-smoking, others may prefer that it is smoking, but the rule for a particular venue should be made by …”

    “Likewise, the freedom to vote should not imply the requirement to vote. … ”

    “We should be able to escape pain and the tragic indignities of a failing body …”

    “FIAs should be negotiated with countries that share our basic values (rule of law, … ”

  40. Well yes, many examples are perfectly reasonable.

    But you can’t deny it’s a big difference between the sites.

  41. LS – are you really two people posting under the same pseudonym, one libertarian, one socialist? You’ve variously berated people for not being libertarian enough, and then suggested that because libertopia isn’t possibl in our lifetime, we should compromise to at least move society towards a more libertarian ideal.

  42. I’ve never meant to imply anyone wasn’t libertarian enough – just that David wasn’t a libertarian in the sense of having a genuine commitment to seeing libertarian ideals pursued in this country. Perhaps this was unjustified, and I’m more than willing to apologise if he feels that is the case.

    Compromise is an essential feature of almost all human interaction, where it’s a marriage, running a business, or running a country. Democracy being one of the greatest (and most successful) forms of compromise. But I’m gradually beginning to wonder why the LDP even includes the word “democracy” in its name.

  43. I think it’s possible to sound a little less prescriptive and paternalistic:

    “The LDP believes traffic laws need reviewing to ensure the priority is on safety..”

    “…it is not the job of the government to decide the rules for individual privately-owned venues…”

    “..the freedom to vote is critical, but the requirement to vote unnecesary…”

    “FIAs would best be negotiated with countries…”

    Just my 2c.

  44. Semantically “should” is quite an authoritarian word that implies some kind of moral judgement. Telling people what they “should” or “should not” do or even what a democratically elected government “should” or “should not” do is kind of bossy.

    Our policies do need work. They will get worked on.

    LS- if you think people from the Greens, including former candidates, would like LDP policy why not encourage them to join? Join yourself in the meantime and you can help with the policy groups.

    You have some interesting insights. Even if you aren’t “libertarian” the LDP isn’t only for libertarians. The constitution states that the LDP stands for the following principles:

    If you agree with them, or most of them, you’re probably a fit.

  45. @ 37 – LS, you are full of shit. David has been very practical in comprimising to make the LDP moderate and saleable, and worked his guts out and contributed plenty of his own time, money and resources.

  46. Back to the issue of legalised euthanasia…

    In principle, I support it, but given the current state of our hospitals, is it really a good idea?

    I’d like to see the hospital system cleaned up a bit first… if there was a profit motive for hospitals to “keep people alive as long as possible” (as opposed to the present minimise-costs motive of “get them out of here as soon as possible”), then I would feel a bit more relaxed.

    Make no mistake, under the present socialised medical system, if euthanasia were legalised, it wouldn’t take long before it’s not only allowed, but encouraged.

  47. LS:
    Gun laws are just not a big deal to most Greens supporters.

    Most Greens supporters with which I have discussed many LDP policies have been very open to them.

    If they got into power they would inevitably move towards economic liberalisation anyway, for the same reasons that countries all over the world are doing: it works.

    That would make them a socially and economically liberal party – which would leave no realistic room for the LDP to compete.

    I can’t argue about the first point, perhaps quite a few Greens supporters don’t have problems with gun ownership. I don’t see any calls for the Greens to drop their fierce anti-gun stance.

    But I will certainly disagree with your belief that the Greens will move one inch towards economic liberty once they gain power.

    The Liberal Party and the ALP both have manifestos that are more favorable to free trade than the Greens. And when you see them gain power, they shift towards central planning, heavy regulations, big taxing and big spending governments.

    The Greens would be the worst of all 3, they would totally abandon property rights to implement their environmental legislation. They don’t even claim that markets have a role in coordinating economic activity.

    The Greens are also foreign policy interventionists.. they would not hesitate to use our military for a whole range of feel-good measures. Just because they oppose the Iraq war, it doesn’t make them peaceniks. They were the first to call for the intervention in East Timor, they support peacekeeping missions and now they support using our military to oppose Japanese whaling.

    It is a core principle of theirs that government has the right to tell you how to live your life and use your property so that “the environment” can be protected. So their core values are the most ideologically opposed to the LDPs core values – freedom, liberty, property rights.

  48. I like the Greens because they are “progressive” rather than “conservative”. The Greens seek an educated, equal society.

    But I start reading their policies and I’m glad they’ll never be in power.

    I don’t think the economic policies of the major parties are in line with LDP values, either. The Liberals see the economy as their playtoy and something for them to “manage”. They let it run itself but they intervene to make sure nothing bad happens.

    I’ll continue supporting the Greens above the major parties while their support stays at 10-15%. They raise important issues and speak out on behalf of minority groups.

    But read their education policy:

    It’s a disaster in the making.

    Free University? Surely HECS is good enough! Anyone getting a full-time job out of their degree SHOULD have a responsibility to repay it. Unless the Greens think tax-paying plumbers and garbos should be funding the educational elite…

    Repeal VSU? As a low-income student I save approximately $150/ year by not being a part of the student union. I can still pay for the clubs and services I want to be a part of, but the rest? Why should I fund people that choose to be more involved? I have a life outside of Uni.

    “Enrolment for high-demand courses with limited places to be based on merit and not on ability to pay”?

    Sounds fair enough, yet if Unis are underfunded maybe HECS should increase… and

    “Support affirmative action entrance?” If merit is so important above, why are places to given on the basis of skin-colour..

    “Increase the number of publicly funded places so that every qualified Australian can have access to a university education.”

    Define qualified? University should be for academics. It’s bad enough that teacher accreditation comes through Uni rather than practical learning. I think it is fine to go to Uni to pursue research and “higher learning” but most people at Uni only care about the job at the end of it. And Uni sucks for job-training, higher-level TAFE courses would be better for that…

    Some other points:
    “Extend to private schools the anti-discrimination measures that apply in public schools.”
    “Reject the use of education funding vouchers.”
    “All public education infrastructure must be publicly owned.”
    “It is neither desirable nor practical to pay differential amounts to teachers”

    The Greens might want better education, but we’ll end up with better indoctrination if their policy is implemented. They want to solve a problem, but they are going about it in exactly the wrong way…

  49. The Greens’ basic problem is that despite them having an inherit distrust of existing governments’ ability to manage the environment, they think that once they get in power, they’ll suddenly succeed where others have failed.

    But ultimately what they care about are results, not means. If you can put forward a convincing case that the best way to protect the natural environment is to have less of it under the government’s supervision, and put it back in the hands of those who have the most to gain from its care and preservation, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be well received.

    Shem, with some minor rewording, those principles sounds OK to me – my biggest problem is listing the “Economic Principles” first, as for me they are at the bottom of the priority list.

    Mark, then my apologies to David. I was reacting to his accusation more than anything. By his understanding of the term I accept that I don’t really qualify as a “libertarian”, which is fair enough.

  50. Shem, I might not agree with the Greens’ educational agenda, but how can it be a disaster when it’s more or less exactly what exists in many European countries right now, many of which have the highest literacy/numeracy/other educational standards in the world?

  51. The Greens’ basic problem is that despite them having an inherit distrust of existing governments’ ability to manage the environment, they think that once they get in power, they’ll suddenly succeed where others have failed.


    “We like government, just not any government that has existed yet.”

    but how can it be a disaster when it’s more or less exactly what exists in many European countries right now, many of which have the highest literacy/numeracy/other educational standards in the world?

    I think you’ll find South Korea, Singapore and Australia beat out most European countries for High School education. And America has the top schools in the world for Tertiary Education by far.

    Now socialist education may not make things much worse, but I can’t imagine it’d make things much better, either. A free market education industry with more choice may not even improve standards either. But it would definitely give students more choice which will hopefully lead to a narrowing in results. If more students who currently do badly start enjoying education it can be hoped that they will start doing better.,3343,en_32252351_32236191_39718850_1_1_1_1,00.html

    Australia already has a good system, but we can improve. Differential (and increased) teacher salaries would be a good start. Heck, even just allow schools to pay more than the current union mandated rates but not less. That’d be a good start. And allow parents to donate into a “teacher fund” for their schools. There should be no ceiling on education- we should NOT be stopping people from getting a better education, even if they have to pay more to get it.

  52. But ultimately what they care about are results, not means. If you can put forward a convincing case that the best way to protect the natural environment is to have less of it under the government’s supervision, and put it back in the hands of those who have the most to gain from its care and preservation, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be well received.

    Thats not at all a free market position. There should be no criteria for private ownership and an individual exercising his property rights. There should be no bureacracy to establish usage of land, and zoning laws.

    Doing this diminishes the owner’s liberty and property rights.

    How about this then?

    Say I wanted to buy Tasmanian rainforest, chop it down, open up a casino, a brothel, or another pulp mill. Would the Greens let it happen ? The LDP is the only party that would.

  53. Jono, depends who it belonged to in the first place.

    If you wanted to build a nuclear bomb, would the LDP let that happen?

  54. I will say, every time you chop down large amounts of rainforest, you

    a) Reduce the biosphere’s capacity to recycle CO2 into O2
    b) Affect the local climate, esp. rainfall patterns
    c) Destroy the homes of millions of animals, who all then need to find new homes and sources of food elsewhere

    All these things put not just others of the current generation at risk, but others of generations to come too.

    I’m interested to hear how you would address this with property rights.

  55. LS, Australia has a positive NET reforestation rate. It isn’t really a problem for us. Again, the buggest deforestation was done by Government edict and the current one-size-fits-all edicts against land clearing are environmentally destructive and destroy the productivity and habitat of native grasslands.

    Property rights would simply force people to a) value their own property and b) reduce spillovers.

    Renewability and more precise methods would be engaged. That ends the problems with clearfelling (weater pollution etc) and nips CO2 emissions in the bud, so to speak.

  56. Mark, I’m aware of that. We’re talking about a hypothetical situation where the LDP gets in power, allocates all privately-owned land (including rainforests) to private owners, and private owners start assuming they can chop down trees without negatively affecting others.

    So again, how would you address this with property rights?

  57. In your hypothetical situation, people hypothetically ignore the incentives a) and b) I outlined above.

    Clearly a shortage of trees leads to a greater incentive to plant and keep more trees and renew forests.

  58. That’s not answering my question Mark.

    What specifically acts to discourage owners of land with old-growth rainforest from chopping down trees in such a way that it causes negative externalities as per my examples above?

    Or, more important, how do we make use of our ability to scientifically assess the costs of chopping down large amounts of rainforest to do a full cost/benefit analysis, from the point of view of everyone affected?

  59. There aren’t negative externalities because Australia already has a net reforestation rate and this would encourage more renewability in the forestry industry. Localised behaviour improves and the net reforestation rate would increase.

    Since resources have a market value, the price system coordinates all marginal analyses like CBAs. Each piece of land has a real option value.

    The costs of getting perfect information whether or not to act in any way are too much insofar as they are infeasible. We don’t want perfect information because it is wasteful and costly.

  60. You’re still avoiding the question.

    Let’s say a combination of mining and timber companies buy up, say, 20% of all Tasmanian rainforests.

    Some independent scientific body does an assessment and works out that chopping that much all down would cut Tasmania’s rainfall by 20%, cause a mass invasion of residents’ existing properties by now homeless animals etc., would drive at least 20 species to extinction, and reduce the planet’s CO2-O2 recycling rate by 1% (or whatever).

    What property rights mechanisms allow you to factor that in?

  61. There are not going to clear fell the amount of forest they buy. Owning the land discourages clear felling. Furthermore, regeneration is encouraged. There isn’t any need to worry.

    I’m probably “avoiding” the question because it is evolving to an impossible, nightmarish situation with no possible solutions or positive outcomes where people do not have the mental capacity to respond to incentives (i.e they aren’t even human, hypothetically speaking).

  62. “Owning the land discourages clear felling” – on what basis can you say this? You appear to be ignoring several hundred years of history to the contrary (and yes, much of the land that has been clearfelled has been publicly owned – but certainly not all of it).

  63. You are making an argument with a contradiction. Not a good start!

    There might be some clearfelling. Like on farms there are some overuse issues with cattle. But the owners have an incentive to localise the damage and fix up the problem and maintain productivity of the land.

  64. But I’m not talking about productivity. You can get huge productivity out of land by building casinos on it.

    But where is the cost to everybody else counted?

  65. You’re arguing at cross purposes. Agricultural productivity and consevation go hand in hand. The site value (as a real option) is maximised when environmental outcomes are generally better.

  66. Leave agriculture out of it. The land has been purchased by developers who just want to chop the trees down.

  67. Old growth does not lock up CO2 at as fast a rate as new growth. Although logging old growth potentially releases CO2 depending on how you use the timber.

    The what if game is a little like asking what would we in the city do if the farmers all decided to stop shipping food to the cities. Obviously it isn’t a grand scenerio but it also isn’t very realistic and as such it isn’t a good case for opposing private property. Empiracle evidence is more important than dire narratives about what may happen.

    (Britian has been dependent on food imports for a century).

  68. How did we get onto this topic from euthanasia? Has a Green member decided to introduce compulsory euthanasia at 65 to reduce our carbon footprint?

  69. I didn’t even mention “locking” up CO2 – I’m talking about simple CO2 to O2 conversion. And why would a mining company (or a casino company) be replanting new growth trees?

    Terje governments do step in when food supply shortages arise – e.g. WWII. At any rate, there is empirical evidence about the consequences of native forest destruction. When allowed to continue unabated, it does put us all (and future generations) at risk.

  70. How can you seriously use the phrase “empirical evidence” when you are posing the most nightmarish hypothetical situations where land has no alternative uses other than: i) remnant old growth forest, or ii) clearfell?

    It is just not realistic or practical to exclude agriculture from forestry and wildlife issues in Australia.

    @ 77 – they replant new trees for reasons of renewability. The land prices reflect the highest value use. If they don’t start using renewable prices, they lose money because they would have paid too much for their land as they are competing with other people who will.

    The rate of landclearing for urbanisation is actually very low and not worth worrying about. The best way to deal with this is to remove arbitrary height restrictions on buildings.

  71. Mark, I would agree that the risks are small enough in modern Australia that excessive regulation over land usage is unnecessary. However I’d like to think that libertarian principles have near univeral applicability. What would the policies of a Brazilian, or Indonesian Libertarian party, as far as determining the externalities of clearfelling rainforest goes?

  72. I’d say that they are the same. The real problem in South America, not just with envrionmental issues, but with poverty in general is a lack of private property rights. Similarly, land is clearfelled in Indonesia simply because the forests have no realiseable value but common land for graing does. This leads to overgrazing, and more demand to clearfell.

    In South America, the lack of clear rights make the process of building a new home take years for approval. This creates massive trasnactions costs for people wishing to open up a new business with adequete facilities.

  73. Ok, but how do you factor in the value that the Amazon rainforest has to the entire planet, not just those who might earn small portions of it?

  74. Open and free capital markets that don’t discriminate against foriegners.

    Alternatively, if you have carbon trading schemes, these too need a high degree of market liberalisation, otherwise they simply won’t work.

  75. In Brazil the Amazon is being cleared by government sponsored squatters that are offered secure property rights as a reward for land clearing. If they clear the land they are then given title. As such it is government policy that is driving the clearing of rainforests in the name of development. The government would gain superior environmental and development outcomes if it simply privatised the forests or granted title.

    In Australia in earlier years land owners were paid a government bounty for land clearing. In Sydney they have gone from banning water tanks to now making them mandatory on new homes and subsidising installation on old homes. Governments are quite stupid.

  76. Well I’m certainly open to the idea that the probably the best way to protect the Amazon is to allow the rest of the world to buy it up. However I can’t imagine any Brazilian government is likely to be keen on that idea.

    Further, much of its value is to future generations. It’s not clear to me how they can have any say over its value.

  77. Terje, I’ve never questioned that a very large percentage of the worst environmental destruction that has ever occurred has done so with the direct encouragement of governments. I’m all for getting governments out of the picture, but just want to understand how we can incorporate externalities from the point of view of private owners.

  78. LS,

    Private estates frequently span generations. Given the right legal and economic environment private parties do show an interest in providing for future generations. Given that many voters feel so inclined we should not be surprised that many private owners also feel so inclined.

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