Libertarian Derangement Syndrome

The Associated Press had a useful article the other day about California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s ongoing climate change lawsuit against automakers. The central idea here is that carbon emissions from automobiles constitute a “public nuisance.”

Although these suits do pose some interesting legal problems, they do not represent a major doctrinal change–at least for the plaintiffs. The people who are turning themselves in ideological knots are their opponents, such as the libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation:

“We disagree with the way he’s using the courts to set national social and environmental policy,” said Dave Stirling, vice president of the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation.

The Democratic attorney general is “trying to force certain types of solutions on very difficult problems” that should be handled by Washington lawmakers, Stirling said.

Funny–I always thought that libertarians were opposed to top-down regulation by “Washington lawmakers.” When confronted with overwhelming scientific evidence that anarchic markets cannot solve a problem, they are reduced to undermining their own world view.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.