Tyndmyr wrote:I'm still curious as if it's that you disagree about agency consolidation specifically, or if you object to the EPA being one of the ones consolidated, considering the others less critical.
Agency consolidation is fine by me as long as needed work is still done. I'm also fine with further shrinking agencies and contracting work to the private sector as needed. Most of their remediation work is done that way already. The EPA [or any other state environmental agency] have few "boots on the ground" sort of employees. They depend on private contractors awarded projects through competitive public bids or private-public partnerships when there are interested purchasers or developers.
Agreed. In almost all cases, the actual work gets contracted out. This is definitely the case for a lot of Forest Service work as well, many tree planting crews are contracted, though the fed workers do oversight, of course.
It's largely an issue of managers to workers. You definitely do need some of the former, but administrative bloat can be a problem. Hell, it can happen even in the commercial sector, despite the financial incentives to avoid it.
Tyndmyr wrote:How much research ought the government to pay for?
I hope that's rhetorical, because it's not really one that can answered empirically...
Well, in a practical sense, it's a question we need to answer. Yeah, assessing the value of research before conducting it is notoriously difficult, but we can't actually fund everything. What things ought to be funded, and who ought to fund them is a thing that, one way or another, does have an answer.
As a general rule, I would consider that any sort of productization research can be handled by the commercial industry. More blue sky experimentation may not be as easy to fund via commercial enterprise, but the line there is a bit fuzzy. There's also research connected to legitimate government interests which most libertarians would agree on, I think. It's reasonable for the government to fund a study for defense interests that no corporate entity would fund otherwise.
Tyndmyr wrote: It's sort of an area of conflict in the libertarian ideology, and while the answer is generally less, how much less is an open question. Environmental research isn't innately bad, but some research does not appear well connected to a government interest.
Of course it's a conflict to libertarian ideology. However, if you break from strict ideology enough to acknowledge that some basic laws/regulations are needed, then you need the science to support what the regulated baseline should be.
How much, and on what basis, though? I don't deny that some environmental research may be necessary, but I don't think that currently, all research is oriented towards supporting law and regulation. A significant amount of environmental research may be purely educational, which is still useful, but isn't justified as a government responsibility by the law and regulation necessity.
I agree that ideology has to translate into reality to be at all useful, but there doesn't seem to be any reason why libertarianism would face special problems here.
Society has reaped tremendous benefits from advancements in industry, technology, and science, but one of the small prices we pay is industrial contamination in our environment and in almost every person's body right now (I'm not exaggerating). Contamination cannot be regulated to zero concentrations [although there are ignorant activists who think that], so you have determine what level of contamination is generally safe for society but as minimally restrictive on the industry of society. Industry has a severe conflict of interest and incredibly terrible track-record [see abandoned Colorado gold mine example], so they can't be trusted to determine was is safe [EDIT: but I welcome them to be in the discussion, because the industry that generates a chemical or waste often has the most technical knowledge of it]. Individuals don't have the expertise, resources, or time to determine this for themselves, [EDIT: but they pay the biggest price to their health when things go wrong]. So individuals and industry depend on gov't to do this research this for them. Without investing in that research regulations would be just shooting in the dark, wasting even more resources, time, and people are dying with ineffectual regulations. If you need regulations that protect millions of people and impact billions or trillions of dollars in trade, then you damn well better do the minimal scientific research and keep updating it as things change to make sure regulations are effective.
This essentially rehashes the preceding reason. Yeah, I agree that lead levels in the water ought not be high, and some degree of research was needed to establish practically permissible levels. That's fair. That is, however, fairly minimal. And once the standards are set, third party testing will mostly suffice for actual implementation. Test, lawsuit if standards are being violated, good to go.
Tyndmyr wrote:The remediation was already done, if memory serves, they were inspecting it. No disaster was looming if they hadn't been there, but thanks to their intervention, one occurred.
Not true. LaserGuy is right. The acid mine waste was draining into the river at unacceptable levels to the state and local community and they asked the EPA to get involved.
Alright, had time to look at it a bit more. There was a legitimate existing issue, though it'd sat as it was for a while without being addressed. Some level of responsibility for that has to accrue to state and local government. Additionally, the initial mitigation was conducted by the state. It looks as if the state, to some degree, pawned off this problem on the federal gov. Not because it was something that the state intrinsically couldn't handle, but because it didn't want to. Now, the EPA turned this into a proper mess, and then compounded their accident by not promptly informing those downriver, and their actions were a good deal worse than the state's, even. All in all, I think they mostly deserve their PR problems stemming from it, though I do think it's fair to both credit the state with some of that, and also to note that this isn't representative of the average EPA project.
The federal government then went to great lengths to disclaim responsibility for it. Basically, little different from what everyone blames corrupt companies for.
Tyndmyr wrote:And, at some level, local governments are also responsible. *squints at Flint* This isn't a great deal different from what you say, but the EPA basically serves as a way to ditch responsibility. In general, whoever made the mess ought to clean it up, and be forced to do so legally via the court system if they do not. If the original party no longer exists, basically a local government issues. This isn't too different from the modern system, but a libertarian system might give somewhat more standing to individual cases. As it currently stands, the wronged people are rarely actually given reasonable compensation. Class action lawsuits are often something of a joke, with payment mostly going to lawyers, maybe a charity, and with very little effort to actually compensate those injured.
LaserGuy also pointed out correctly that many small local governments don't have the resources to pay for millions of dollars of cleanup, like the rural area near the Colorado gold mine example. Lawsuits are only applicable when there is someone around who can still pay. Contamination that can hurt people is there and it doesn't care about your laws, finances, or ideology.
Well, it was a state project for a while, so that doesn't seem to be a large concern. The locals mostly seemed to fear the impact that active, public remediation would have on tourism. Nobody wants their town to be seen as a toxic waste dump. This problem largely exists regardless of who is responsible.
Additionally, sure, a disaster can impact multiple cities, states, or jurisdictions. That's fine. Those responsible can be jointly liable for all damages, even if states handle remediation separately. Adopting a libertarian model should not impede ability to get recompense if anyone is still around to make pay. If they're not, well, it's going to fall to a government regardless, and it is a bit more fair that more slipshod areas bear the cost for their lack of safety.
And to pull this derailed train back to the point of your discussion some, environmental issues is just one aspect of sensible government that libertarian ideology doesn't satisfy, but there are others. I don't pretend to have the technological knowledge and expertise in civil engineering or finance or medicine or military strategy to say which of those programs are unnecessary and which are not. I can only speak intelligently to the subjects I understand well and I have to have some trust in experts in those other fields who can speak intelligently to them. Strict Libertarians labor under this belief everyone can figure out for themselves all details that matter to the well being of their lives, which I think is nonsense. And I understand how "socialist" that sounds, but truth is we're not all experts in every field and society collectively makes a lot of dumb and irrational choices. We need some smarter people in charge to point us in the right direction on subjects we don't understand well. I stumbled on this old comic/graphic recently from SMBC Comic
and it seems applicable to this discussion.
Most people on most subjects [including myself] are probably on "Mount Stupid" saying and doing things we barely have any knowledge of, but vainly think we do. However, those implementing the regulations in specific a field should be at least somewhere to the right of Mount Stupid.
(Edits were because I wrote most of this late at night before going to bed. I re-read it and found a few typos and minor clarifications/additions. )
We're not all experts, no. That's the thing about democracy, is that voters are not experts on all(or even most!) of the issues they influence. So, either you wind up accepting that, thanks to the wisdom of the crowds, you can have non-experts meaningfully contribute to a good decision, or you end up tossing out democracy as an option.
If you want experts in charge of everything, you've chosen the answer that isn't democracy.