Can the Free Market Save the Environment?
In “Free Market Versus Political Environmentalism,” Terry L. Anderson and Donald R. Leal argue that the solution to environmental issues is free market environmentalism. This view essentially claims that the government does a poor job of managing natural resources and that private ownership is more effective. Privatization of nature would be in the best interests of everyone – the environment, the government, and new land owners. I agree with
For those items that can’t really be protected by ownership, like the atmosphere,
Overall, I feel that
Some ideas can sound really good on paper but not work well in the real world. For example, to some people at least, communism is a very appealing ideology; the only problem is that it didn’t actually work in a nation as large as the
Additionally, if industry completely followed
In these rough economic times, privatization and ITQs in particular could also push companies that are already struggling to make ends meet even further towards bankruptcy. In the long run, it would probably all balance out. If a major car producer went out of business, another would likely be hiring with all its newfound ITQ money. The government would be hiring as well; a whole new division would be needed to ensure compliance with new laws. In the more immediate future, however, struggling companies would have to let go of more employees, which is not a future the public will like.
Some parts of nature are ill-suited to privatization and quotas.
With that said, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak. In the long-run, privatization is theorized to lead to more efficient management over the environment, while creating profits for private companies and maybe even jobs. It’s just not a smart idea to rapidly switch the entire nation to a new system and then expect staggering results.
The other part of a gradual transition involves phasing out the laws currently in place. Since some parts of the environment can’t easily be sold, it would be wise to keep some laws in place. Public lands could be auctioned off to the highest bidder but still require protecting their endangered species. New owners should be responsible to meet existing regulations. This may seem to defeat the purpose of selling it, but if the National Audubon Society can protect birds on its land even with oil development taking place, as
Privatization of the environment is only one of many possible routes to its preservation. The free market’s ability to motivate individuals to actually care about their impact on nature makes it stand out. Although privatization won’t work in every scenario, it is a viable option in many cases. In others, use of individual transferrable quotas and existing regulations can ensure the environment’s sustainability and eventual recovery. If done at a measured and thoughtful pace, I believe that this libertarian approach should be actively pursued.
Anderson, Terry L., and Donald R. Leal. "FREE MARKET VERSUS POLITICAL ENVIRONMENTALISM." From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology. Ed. Michael E. Zimmerman et al.
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