Is climate change a plus for neoliberalism?

One of the biggest challenges for neoliberal public policy is creating artificial scarcity. Competitive markets are regarded by neoliberal policymakers as the ultimate horizon of human meaning and freedom, and creating markets requires creating scarcity in order to motivate competition. Hence the emphasis on strict enforcement of intellectual property laws, for example, to create artificial scarcity in an area where electronic reproducibility has created effectively infinite abundance.

With this in mind, I wonder if destructive climate change is actually a good thing from a neoliberal perspective. It has been difficult to implement neoliberal scarcity in countries with a memory of the postwar abundance and various forms of state generosity — much less to create competitive marketplaces in regions that still lived under more communal regimes. How much easier will it be when there is once again real scarcity, when the earth stops giving as much?

Think of all the salutary competition that will occur once we’re past the 2°C horizon! Think of the exciting new opportunities for technological solutionism — and intellectual property profiteering — that will open up! The problem all along has been that the earth keeps giving, but once we’ve permanently lowered its “carrying capacity,” we’ll finally be able to sort out the real winners and losers!

2 thoughts on “Is climate change a plus for neoliberalism?

  1. I’ve been thinking about this, too. When you primarily operate in the upper floors of skyscrapers and have access to helicopters, who cares if the streets are flooded or not? Wouldn’t it be kind of quaint to turn NYC in to something like Venice?

  2. This will also be wonderfully Hegelian crow to watch Neoliberals eat, since Hayek explicitly identifies natural, spontaneous, cosmic order with the ideal “order” markets can/should/would create if we would only turn social life entirely into markets. As earth systems disintegrate under the strain, will have become extinct by our own neoliberal success, having transmuted nature completely into culture.

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