5 votes

How do libertarians regulate water supply and food?

My buddy just sent me this article questioning on how Libertarians would handle water supply and food. It's written by none other than Paul Krugman: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/11/opinion/paul-krugman-the-l...

Phosphorus and Freedom
The Libertarian Fantasy

In the latest Times Magazine, Robert Draper profiled youngish libertarians — roughly speaking, people who combine free-market economics with permissive social views — and asked whether we might be heading for a “libertarian moment.” Well, probably not. Polling suggests that young Americans tend, if anything, to be more supportive of the case for a bigger government than their elders. But I’d like to ask a different question: Is libertarian economics at all realistic?

The answer is no. And the reason can be summed up in one word: phosphorus.

Read More

So how would Libertarians handle the issues above? Thanks in advance!

Trending on the Web

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Apparantly he has never heard of a well

Or rain

“Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.” -Malcolm X

Krugman taken down line by line

He is an idiot, and here are most of the mistakes in the article.

As you’ve probably heard, the City of Toledo recently warned its residents not to drink the water. . . . A ban on phosphates in dishwasher detergent. After all, why would government officials want to do such a thing? . . . An aside: The states bordering Lake Erie banned or sharply limited phosphates in detergent long ago, temporarily bringing the lake back from the brink. But farming has so far evaded effective controls, so the lake is dying again, and it will take more government intervention to save it.

Algae blooms require phosphorus AND nitrogen, and it is largely runoffs from farm fertilizers causing this - graywater from washing machines is small potatoes compared to large industrial farm fields, and is typically treated - phosphates are easy to remove by sewage treatment. So why do we have so much farm runoff now ? Crony deals with factory farms, and modern farming methods favored by government regulations.

. . . Often — not always, of course, but far more often than the free-market faithful would have you believe — there is, in fact, a good reason for the government to get involved. Pollution controls are the simplest example, but not unique. -- So he admits sometimes they don't have a reason ? I think they always have a reason, and it is always a good reason . . . for some people - usually a favored few.

. . . Smart libertarians have always realized that there are problems free markets alone can’t solve — but their alternatives to government tend to be implausible.not a very good sentence For example, Milton Friedman not a libertarian famously called for the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration. ending the FDA is a libertarian idea, but why not have competing private companies offering their opinions of foods and drugs at market value. like consumer reports, or Underwriters laboratory. Plus insurance compoanies sure have a stake here.

So, do you believe that would be enough? Really? And, of course, people who denounce big government also tend to call for tort reform and attack trial lawyers. trial lawyers, vs Tort reform, how exactly is this connected - he commited about 5 fallacies with this one ? ? I didn't know libertarians were any more critical of lawyers than any other group

I’m often struck, incidentally, by the way antigovernment clichés can trump everyday experience. Talk about the role of government, and you invariably have people saying things along the lines of, “Do you want everything run like the D.M.V.?” Experience varies — but my encounters with New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission have generally been fairly good (better than dealing with insurance or cable companies), and I’m sure many libertarians would, if they were honest, admit that their own D.M.V. dealings weren’t too bad. But they go for the legend, not the fact. -- Insurance and cable companies are heavily regulated, to the point where these industries usually hold government provided monopolies. How exactly does he consider these the private sector. As for the DMV, I hire a private company ( AAA) to deal with them for me. in the past, my state rep would deal with them for me, as an enticement for voting for him.

Libertarians also tend to engage in projection. They don’t want to believe that there are problems whose solution requires government action, so they tend to assume that others similarly engage in motivated reasoning to serve their political agenda — that anyone who worries about, say, environmental issues is engaged in scare tactics to further a big-government agenda. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, doesn’t just think we’re living out the plot of “Atlas Shrugged”; he asserts that all the fuss over climate change is just “an excuse to grow government.” - - Paul Ryan is not a libertarian, BTW, and no, I don't think that "ANYONE" concerned about the environment is projecting (note how he is trying to make you think of the nice old Earth Mama down the street that just wants clean water to drink) Its just politicians I suspect have alterior motives, and whose records have clearly shown hypocritical behavior, and cronyism with regard to environmental regulation. Where does he think the idea for "House of Cards" comes from ? ? ?- lots of really bad people have been really fond of government control and intervention

As I said at the beginning, you shouldn’t believe talk of a rising libertarian tide; despite America’s growing social liberalism, real power on the right still rests with the traditional alliance between plutocrats and preachers. at least Krugman hopes so

What did we do before the government piped water to us?

Wells and cisterns, no? Maybe the answer isn't getting all our water from a single source and then piping it back to the lake with a single sewer. Maybe we should all have our own water processing equipment and use our wastes to generate natural gas and fertilizer with a gizmo we buy at Sears. Then again, maybe we should pass a millage to have government run laundries like the schools and libraries. It would be easy to ban phosphates this way. This would create jobs for phosphate officers. We would save steel and electricity by having one giant, central washing machine. We could use the spot where the washing machine was in our homes to put in another TV and mini fridge filled with pop and beer made with corn syrup. All the laundry would have RFID tags to make sure it got to where it needed to go. This would create jobs. This would make it easier to share clothes. We could have an app for that. We would have more time to watch TV and the water at the beach would be cleaner. If the government made the Twinkies, we would never run out again and they could put more vitamins and some fluoride and phosphates in them. If we put a Twinkie in the school lunches, the kids will start eating them again.

JJames for laundry commissioner - for jobs, for the lake, for the children!

We are EVERYWHERE and we are GROWING

Anyone who does not intentionally harm and is willing to resolve and remedy unintentional harm is our ally.

Everyone who wants to take or harm any of our property or freedom, whether in the name of stealing or 'law enforcement', is our enemy.

To the Enemy- We are coming for you. We are going to bring remedy from and justice for, your criminal acts one way or another. This is not about libertarianism, it is about justice for criminals who want to control our lives without just cause. We will love and assist our families, neighbors and allies and we will serve harsh justice due to the criminals who attempt to control our lives through color of law and deprivation of rights.

Regulations can come from voluntary agreements of people who learn of harm being inadvertently caused by their actions. Those who continue to cause harm after the harm by their actions is discovered can be accused of civil and/or criminal injury and can be dealt with by any accusers with valid cause for their action against the accused in a real impartial court of law. All of this has already been answered in law but the tiny minded Krugmans of the world think we need to do something that is outside the rule of law which leads directly to crony capitalism of, for and by criminals.

The most powerful Law of Nature is Time. It is finite and we all will run out of it. Use this Law to your advantage, for it offers you infinite possibilities...

Government run water. LOL

In Cincinnati, the government run water service is raising rates ...... because people are using less of it. LOL, you just can't make this stuff up!

Krugman is a tard

Libertarians support property rights. Polluting someone's water violates their water rights, which are generally part of the private property rights of a piece of property. Therefore, in a society that respects property rights, the polluter will get sued and have to pay damages.

BTW, thanks for making me click on a NYT article. Well done :)

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.” — Albert Camus


I would remind the poster that it is not wise to post the article in full without permission from the author, it's best to post the first couple of paragraphs and link to the article.


Oops my bad

Edited :)


Am I correct, that this NYT op ed piece has no option for making comments? So, the NYT manager is interested in opinion, but only that of Krugman?

701 Comments at last count.

Look to the top right of the page.

It's a propaganda piece

comment section is closed. They don't want any criticism after it made it's way into actual libertarian readers arms. Every comment is a Krugmanite un-critically agreeing and reinforcing mis-represented and inaccurate libertarian principles and philosophy around. They would rather pat themselves on their backs and reassure themselves of their shoddy beliefs than to actually allow open debate and criticism to a good topic. Guess that's expected when you side with a political philosophy that emphasizes emotion over reason, yet they try so hard to play the more morally high ground card. What a joke.

City folk need to get out once in awhile

most of my younger years I lived with well water right from the ground under the house. There are alternatives to government water.

A response to Paul Krugman's article.

Tues. 14/08/11 09:40 EDT
.post #2

Krugman seems to say that "libertarian economics is not at all realistic" because The Free Market (TFM) can't solve the problem of lake pollution by farmers.

At least three problems with this argument:

1. Let's assume that this "problem" can't be solved by TFM. But this doesn't mean "libertarian economics is not at all realistic." There are problems (many of them) statist economics can't solve. Shouldn't Krugman then admit that statist economics is also not realistic? But, he doesn't. It's not a valid argument to say that something is "not at all realistic" just because there are a few as-yet unsolved problems.

2. Krugman does not know that this "problem" can't be solved by TFM. He simply makes the assertion. Krugman does not and cannot know, for example, that TFM might discover ways of providing water consumers want and will pay for despite the presence of farm phosphate runoff. What Krugman does know is that government has failed to make such a discovery. And why does it fail? Because government need not be innovative: Instead, it can legally point its guns and take our money whether or not we are satisfied with its "service," whether or not we even use its "service." It can't be put out of "business" because it operates outside of market discipline and regulation.

3. We do not have anything even approaching TFM. What we have is statism, and the very phenomenon Krugman calls a problem has occurred under his beloved statism, not TFM he reviles.

Krugman makes the common mistake of portraying our system as two antagonistic systems operating simultaneously: "The Free Market" and government. In Krugman's view, "TFM" produces problems like pollution, and the government is there to solve or at least minimize those problems through regulation. He fails to acknowledge that, when you mix legal coercion and gun-pointing with TFM, you no longer have TFM, just like when you mix poison and clean water, you no longer have clean water.

As you've probably heard, the City of Toledo recently warned its residents not to drink the water. Why? Contamination from toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie, largely caused by the runoff of phosphorus from farms.

Can you imagine a bottled water company warning its customers that its product was contaminated, then forcing those same customers to pay for the water anyway, then bestowing a Nobel Prize on a New York Times communistcolumnist who tells the customers what a great job the bottled water company is doing? Yet when government does the same thing, Krugman sees no problem. The fact is that government has failed to provide clean water, yet continues to collect money, at the point of a gun, for the ostensible provision of clean water...and Krugman gets paid and rewarded to tell us how "libertarian economics is not at all realistic."

But libertarian visions of an unregulated economy do play a significant role in political debate, so it’s important to understand that these visions are mirages.

This vision is Krugman's mirage only, and Krugman is tilting at scarecrows (i.e. Straw Men). Libertarians don't envision "an unregulated economy." Libertarians envision and endorse market regulation, not governmental regulation. Libertarians envision and endorse competition, where both profit and loss are private, not a legal gun-pointing monopoly, where profit is private and loss is socialized. Libertarians envision the elimination, through loss of voluntary patronage, of companies that fail to serve their customers, not the preservation, through gain by involuntary taxation and inflation, of a blundering, inept, corrupt, coercive, and irresponsible monopolistic parasite that proclaims to be serving its host while providing inferior products and service.

I agree

Krugman misrepresents what TFM is and how it would self regulate. Krugman is adament that TFM approach would be to eliminate all regulation where in this case phosphate use would go unprecedented; this is an excellent example of a straw man fallacy. If there were a FM approach it would incorporate the principles of private and public ownership into the matter, where if I can clearly show that A.'s actions lead to B.'s water being polluted, than you have a case against A. for harming your property (both person and land). In Krugman's case, TFM solution would have consequences for someone producing pollutants which are affecting others, and they would actually come about far more effectively than by granting the state monopoly power in deciding how to regulate; where to often those with the resources ($) to influence government policies end up writing the laws to their favor and everyone loses.

Krugman fails to see how entrusting a monopolistic entity with the sole power of determining and enforcing what is regulatable makes everyone far worse off; Individuals lose out in making there case for what is simply a violation to their property(however it may have affected them). Ironically, what Krugman is offering actually empowers big business and those with the resources to get away with polluting and violating others property.

Another poster below (ebob) makes a good point which I think depicts the more accurate reality regarding phosphates; where government makes arbitrary regulations which actually lead to the opposite intentions of the consequence desired by trying to minimize phosphates through short sitedness and compulsory measure (which happens all much more than it does not with government regulation).

third point

Your third point is right on target.

At least the attribution of the phenomenon of algae blooms to free market forces is highly subjective and debatable. One could also attribute the phenomenon to the failure of a regulatory and confiscatory regime which produced the offending petroleum based fertilizers and herbicides through government funded, centrally planned, university research directed for the supposed benefits of corporations like Monsanto. And that would be correct. What he's saying is pure propaganda for the other side.

How Do You Do It With Government?

You hear rumors of people getting sick, someone says the water's the problem. You meet with neighbors, you go meet with a university professor. You raise money, raise awareness, hire a researcher. Take the proof, sue, the company pays fines and fixes the problem.

Now, imagine all that process, but without government coercion. Are you saying people can't organize to choose their water supplier, and figure out a way to ensure water quality as part of the price they're paying? That the initiation of force by the company putting poison into ground being used as water supply wouldn't be subject to an arbitration process to preserve that company's reputation (and perhaps protection from a perfectly legal riot and ransacking)?

It's the exact same arc of justice as in a society with government, except at no point are the people subject to compulsory taxation, forced to accept the outcomes of a political process as the final word on justice, and forced to pay the cost of regulations and fees when no provable harm is occurring?


Now, in Krugman's world, when he says 'government' he does not mean democracy (which I described above). He means a dictatorship of a supposed scientific elite (not possible). This is where the experts work in the background to make sure the water's safe and you don't ever worry or even know about the process. And, in this world, most of the important decisions about your life are made in the same way: where you don't every worry or even know about them.

Sure, thanks bro.

I wince every time they defend the DMV

"I’m sure many libertarians would admit that their own D.M.V. dealings weren’t too bad." --Paul Krugman

Sure, Krugman. You never know if an "honest" libertarian might be lurking somewhere waiting to acknowledge the DMV just isn't "too bad." Whatever you say

How about you tell us why liberals will never admit the DMV is a great big steaming pile of sh**!

Without a hint of irony, he compares the service to corporations who enjoy government-sanctioned monopolies.


"Of course some government interventions are unnecessary and unwise. But the idea that we have a vastly bigger and more intrusive government than we need is a foolish fantasy."

When the Govt shut down didn't 150,000 Federal Employees get laid off b/c they we considered "NON ESSENTIAL"?


To my Liberal Trolls:
"Really Don't mind if you sit this one out. Your words but a whisper, your deafness a shout. I may make you feel, but I can't make you think."
Ian Anderson 1972

Some People Advocate Private Ownership

Some people argue that if people could own water that it would lead to a decrease in pollution. The theory suggest that if someone owns the water they will make sure others are not polluting in the water they own. If all the water is privately owned each person will take care of the water they own. Walter Block has been out in front for years suggesting a free market with the environment. I'm still skeptical, but we should explore this idea.

Libertarians would sue the farmers that are polluting...

the water source and stop their phosphorus run-off immediately. However, if government regulates the run-off levels and the farmers comply with it, then suing won't stop it.

In regards to Krugman's FDA example, is he talking of the same wonderful FDA that attempted to shut-down a cure for cancer and later stole the patents? Go check out "Burzynski" documentary on youtube.
Europe doesn't have an FDA, they use universities to test and trial drugs. Also, the FDA is nothing more than Big Pharma corporate executives and lobbyist in a government position that have a conflict of interest in regulating drugs and protecting profit.

Krugman is the mayor of big government liberal la la land.

Granted, in a libertarian society, people that aren't willing to apply themselves in a positive role and be a part of a free-market, don't tend to do well. However, that's their choice versus big government that forces those that do to care for those that don't.

Cyril's picture

Which begs that other, legitimate question in response

Which begs that other, legitimate question in response :

but, is there ANYTHING that Mr. Paul Genius FRAUD Krugman does NOT want to "regulate", anyway?


Footnote for the unfamiliar with Newspeak:

"Regulate" (Newspeak; verb, tr. or intr.)


"Plunder" (literal English; verb, tr. or intr.)

"Cyril" pronounced "see real". I code stuff.


"To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." -- Confucius

I think he raises an interest

I think he raises an interest point about the nonsense certain "libertarian" "politicians" make where they completely exaggerate government's failings, use hyperbole, and make everything a conspiracy. When examined closely, statements made by people like Tom Woods, Rand Paul, Rothbard, Paul Ryan, etc. are laughable.

But in general, I like the overall message. Certainly better than Krugman's message.

Personally, I think that the government needs to regulate and tax a whole lot less, and prosecute and go after fraud a whole lot more. When corporations lie and cheat their customers and create fraud, I want the government holding them accountable. When financial companies engage in fraud, when agro companies sell contaminated food, when oil companies pollute our environment, I'd want the government to use all its force to make these companies fix what they've done.

Plan for eliminating the national debt in 10-20 years:

Overview: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/my-plan-for-reducin...

Specific cuts; defense spending: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/more-detailed-look-a

Dudes a wiener.

He'd be singin a different tune if he went to hit the pipe and SWAT busted his head.



The reason why the algal blooms formed was because over the years dishwashers had to become more efficient and use less water. This caused the level of phosphates to become more concentrated in the effluent. These were not problems when dishwashers used water to wash dishes. After the phosphates were banned, the dishes did not get as clean as they did before (a thin film of detergent was left on the glassware and interior of the dishwasher). You may notice that they now sell "dishwasher cleaners". This used to be unnecessary because dishwashers would clean themselves while they cleaned the dishes. I bought a case of the "professional" dishwasher detergent that has the phosphates and never had a problem since.

I have the same problem with shower heads. There is a regulation requiring that new shower heads allow a flow rate of no more than 2.5 gallons per minute. All it does is cause me to have to take more time in the shower to rinse off or soak my washcloth. I wound up buying a German shower head that puts out a good amount of water after I removed the little plastic piece from inside.

Drain the swamp!


Also and as important. If it is true that phosphates are an 'endangered' resource then there the last thing you want is regulation. In a free market as soon as it's understood the current value of a commodity is underpriced against it's future value + the price of money, boom instant hoarding/speculation and the price goes up. This reduces consumption and accomplishes the intended goal of gradually reducing consumption and increasing price so that there is time, opportunity, and incentive to develop substitutes.

This is of course totally defeated when the price of money is artificially manipulated, (by the Fed) and the market is regulated so you can't buy up phosphates in bulk to 'speculate'.

Instead they will wring their hands and regulate up until the point where there is a real shortage and a real market disruption.

Ask Dr. Paul