A policy briefing from the Climate Social Science Network published yesterday looks at “the Mises network and climate policy,” and illuminates how the economic excuses for climate inaction are sown internationally by this organized international denial network disguised as economic policy think tanks. The Ludwig von Mises Institutes and the related Property and Freedom Society is “a network of ultra-libertarian groups active around the world” in opposing climate action. The report found, among other things, that they ramped up climate opposition in 2019, concurrent with the rise of the Green New Deal as a rival to more traditional and limited climate proposals.
The GND’s embrace of a big government approach to climate clearly spooked the network. A defining feature of the Ludwig von Mises school of economic thought is the idea that government intervention in any sort of social issue is, by definition, bad and coercive, whereas anything the market does as a “free exchange of individuals” is by definition preferable. This framework provides “cover for pseudo-scientific attacks on climate sciences,” and is the basis of their policy stances of “radical anti-government interventionism,” expressed specifically through “strong opposition to climate sciences” and climate solutions.
But it also provides “an alternative approach held to be superior to tackle environmental and climate-related problems, namely market democracy (free consumer choice) and related `free-market environmentalism’ — ideally turning all living environments into goods sold in markets.”
The Mises approach consistently posits a “dystopian vision of economic planning in the name of climate change as the ultimate threat to humanity… a form of ‘eco-dictatorship’ imposed upon individuals.” This contrasts with their “libertarian utopia of vastly extended property rights as the basis for market-democratic solutions to all ecological and social problems — “free-market environmentalism,” or the unrestricted right to emit and pollute as long as it is part of a “free market exchange.”
So when young conservatives start talking about climate action in terms of free-market environmentalism, there’s a good chance they’re just regurgitating the excuses for inaction designed by their predecessors decades ago, perhaps unaware that the supposed solutions they tout were never meant to work in the first place.
And we know they’re never meant to work because the Mises network is rife with industry ties that make it clear this has less to do with economic principles than it does with coming up with excuses to protect profits. Overall, the report tallied “a total of about 220 individual staff and board members across 18 institutes in 2021.” Among them it referenced findings that “ties exist to a broad range of business groups ranging from gold, trade and investment firms in Germany, tobacco companies in the U.S., business schools, consulting and service firms in Spain, and metal employer associations and financial groups in Sweden.”
The US Ludwig von Mises Institute, for example, features multiple personnel who have worked on behalf of the tobacco industry: Thomas DiLorenzo, Mark Thornton and Robert Higgs were all members of the Cash for Comments Economists Network that paid economists to defend the tobacco industry.
But the Mises network is quite active globally, with nodes in at least 25 countries established since it received a major $11 million dollar grant in 2000, mostly in (Eastern) Europe but with Brazil’s 35 staff and board rivaling the main US headquarters, signifying a major investment across Latin America.
Perhaps just as concerning is their investment into social media to expand their reach, particularly targeting the youths. The report cites a Forbes post (from a member of the Koch’s similar Atlas network of international political-economists, so take with a heavy pinch of salt) ranking the social media impact of free-market think tanks that shows the Mises Institute punching well above its weight on YouTube with the most views of any of the groups, and maintains a sizable followings on Twitter and Facebook.
So while it doesn’t necessarily have the name-brand recognition of other far-right social media enterprises, like PragerU or Ben Shapiro, their international coordination and real-world dissemination of materials makes them a key figure of organized denial, which relies on their free-market fanaticism to dress up its climate denial.
As the report concludes, the Mises Network has long been “promoting political thinking optimised to produce inadequate solutions in the climate policy planning arena.”