Tyler Cowen responded with an interesting post to my query,"I don’t see just why nuclear power needs “state support,” rather than a clear workable set of safety regulations that are not excuses for anyone to stop any project." (Tyler, originally wrote,"State Capacity Libertarians are more likely to have positive views of infrastructure, science subsidies, nuclear power (requires ...
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"I don’t see just why nuclear power needs “state support,” rather than a clear workable set of safety regulations that are not excuses for anyone to stop any project."(Tyler, originally wrote,
"State Capacity Libertarians are more likely to have positive views of infrastructure, science subsidies, nuclear power (requires state support!), ...,"I interpreted "state support" as massive subisdies to be added to the massively regulated system we have now, adding nuclear to (say) windmills, rooftop solar, and housing. Tyler had something quite different and interesting in mind:
"in general American society has become far more litigious, and it is much harder to build things, and risk-aversion and infrastructure-aversion have risen dramatically....So the odds are that without a Price-Anderson Act [which starkly limits nuclear company's liability exposure] America’s nuclear industry would have shut down some time ago, with no real chance of a return. "A society that allows its lawyers to nearly bankrupt Toyota and Audi over non-existent auto defects, and now is shutting down Bayer over completely unscientific claims that Roundup causes cancer, is obviously going to quickly destroy any nuclear company over harms real and imagined. If we're going to have nuclear, we need some limitation on this kind of adventurism, along with the legal and regulatory knots that make it almost impossible to build any infrastructure in the US today.
I file this in the "lack of state capacity" department. A good (adjective) Libertarian wants clear property rights, and a sensible tort system that pays some vague attention to scientific evidence. That is part of state infrastructure. When we say "infrastructure" people envision roads, but good courts, laws, regulations, property rights, and so forth are perhaps the most essential state-provided infrastructure.
Tyler went on a bit, to comments that made a bit less sense to me:
I am not sure which level or kind of liability should be associated with “the free market,” especially when the risks in question are small, arguably ambiguous, but in the negative scenarios involve very very high costs. Which is then “the market formula”?The free market does involve property rights and payment for actual damages. Airlines, drug companies, car companies, all can function in a free-market property-rights libertarian view (another good adjective!) Of all the problems of nuclear, especially the promising small scale new technolgy nuclear, properly bonding and paying for actual (as opposed to imagined) harm does not seem impossible.
But now we're falling in to another libertarian trap, that of discussion which cloud of libertarian nirvana is better. We're pretty far away from designing tort law for free-market property-rights society.