Tuesday, 12 January 2010

highest value

Well, Avatar is throwing up some interesting perspectives: anti-American, Jungian and now free-market.

Antiwar.com is a libertarian website that brings together, it says, libertarians, pacifists, leftists, greens, and independents alike. It's a welcome mix. All too often libertarians take a right-wing anti-environmental stance, when as this blog has argued (see ps below) many libertarian issues are green issues.

On Antiwar.com, the economist and academic David R. Robinson provokes the right-wing critics of the movie by arguing that Avatar is a defense of capitalism and property rights.

... the defense of property rights in Avatar is so clear that, at one point in the movie, when the bad guys are justifying their war on the grounds that they need "Unobtainium," I turned to a libertarian friend and said, "This is the Kelo decision." Recall that the Supreme Court, in Kelo v. City of New London, decided that it was all right to take Suzette Kelo’s property from its low-tech use as a house so that a major corporation could use it for a "grander" project.

... to the extent that it makes any statement about capitalism, Avatar is a defense of capitalism. Capitalism is based on property rights and voluntary exchange. The Na’vi had property rights in the crucial tree and various other properties surrounding it. Did they own it as individuals or as community tribal property? We can’t be sure, but probably the latter. They had refused to sell the property to the outsiders. There was nothing the outsiders could give them that would make it worth their while. What should we, if we are good capitalists, conclude? That, just as in the Kelo case, the people currently sitting on the land value it more than the outsiders. The land is already in its highest-valued use.

h-t: Tokyo_Tom

PS. From just asking 31 March 2008: No libertarian is going to rally under a banner saying 'coerce now!' There are many millions of people in the world for whom 'liberty' is a more powerful idea than 'sustainability'. To be effective, the green movement has to win them over on their terms. As the wiki entry on green libertarianism puts it, pollution can be introduced into the classic libertarian argument: 'your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins'. Or as the philosopher John Locke said, 'Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy.'

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