… on Googling Bastiat + pollution, I came across a remarkable package in which Bastiat anticipates the climate change debate and takes the denialist side in advance.…
What’s striking, though, is [Bastiat's] a priori faith that everything will be OK because of Divine Providence [compare with "spontaneous natural order"], which ensures that human activity tends towards harmony. If that fails, and a laissez-faire economy does in fact produce unsustainable pollution, his whole case collapses.
Of course, it’s possible to salvage a version of laissez-faire in the way suggested by Coase, using newly created property rights. But this requires the admission that property rights are a socially constructed set of rules, enforced by coercion, rather than a category inherent in the natural relationship between people and things. It’s precisely this admission that propertarians have been unwilling/unable to make, and why they still rely on magical thinking like that displayed by Bastiat.
Bastiat anticipates climate science denialism
John Quiggin | Professor and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government