An Annotated Bibliography of the Literature
This bibligography is a work in progress. Submissions of information, articles, web sites, etc are not only welcome, they are solicited. Please include a complete URL and a brief annotative description of the material and mail to: email@example.com. Thank you.
Environmentalism: The New State Religion
Environmentalism as Religion by Michael Crichton A Speech Delivered to the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco , CA , September 15, 2003. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance. Read more.
Environmentalism: The Triumph of Politics By Doug Bandow. There’s no doubt that the environment makes for good politics. Eight of ten Americans call themselves environmentalists. Overwhelming majorities say that gasoline should be less polluting, cars should be more efficient, trash should be recycled, and lifestyles should be changed. Read more.
CAN MARKET FORCES SOLVE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS? NEOCLASSICAL VS. AUSTRIAN ANALYTICS by Sebastian Storfner. This paper shows that a free market solution for environmental problems exists, which can solve environmental problems and therefore government intervention is not necessary. To start with, the methodological differences between the Neo-classical and Austrian School of Economics are introduced. While Neo-classicals are seeking efficiency, Austrians are concerned about removing interpersonal conflicts. Based on that, it will be shown how taxes and tradable permits could theoretically remove inefficiency but fail in eliminating interpersonal conflicts. In order to give free market solutions, privatisation, ‘polluter pays’ and the ‘first comes first served’ principle are evaluated. In the end, it is shown how a definition and enforcement of property rights could successfully substitute government interventions…. Read More.
Heterogeneity and time: from Austrian capital theory to ecological economics. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, July, 2006 by Malte Faber and Ralph Winkler HETEROGENEITY AND TIME are central aspects of economic activity. By heterogeneity we mean the variety of different entities that are involved in the economic process. In particular, this encompasses all primary resources, all intermediate and capital goods, and all final outputs (consumption goods). This also includes natural resources, stocks of pollutants, and species populations, at least insofar as these influence or are influenced by economic activity. With the term time we want to emphasize that all economic activity is dynamic in a twofold manner. First, the different entities involved in the economic process do not stay constant, but change over time. Second, economic activity does not turn resources instantly into final outputs; the production process and consumption itself takes time… Read More.
An Austrian Theory of Environmental Economics. Mises Daily: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 by Roy Cordato . Austrian economics lacks a formalized, self-conscious theory of environmental economics. But in fact all of the major elements of such a theory already exist and in that sense what is needed is to piece together the relevant aspects of Austrian economics in order to draw out and focus a theory that is already there… Read More.
Environmental Protection: The New Socialism? By Jane S. Shaw. In 1990, the economist Robert Heilbroner expressed genuine surprise at the collapse of socialism. Writing in The New Yorker, he recalled that in the debates over central planning in the 1930s and 1940s, socialism seemed to have won. A half century later he realized that he had been wrong and that “Mises was right.” … Read more.
What is Behind Sustainable Development? From the United Nations to Athens, Alabama by Bruce Gant. A chronology of United Nations (UN) land management philosophy and how it was transferred to the local government level. Read more.
Externalities and the Environment. By Andrea Santoriello and Walter Block. We operate under a free enterprise economic system that produces plastic milk jugs and redwood picnic tables. The market is therefore responsible for such environmental problems as too much plastic trash and too little conservation of forests. So goes a common belief, anyway. In fact, it is governmental failure to maintain and defend the institutions of a free market that is responsible for the environmental damage caused by private businesses… Read more
The Economics of Ecology: Angry Planet or Beautiful World? By Mark Skousen. Bjørn Lomborg is a Danish professor of statistics who was an environmental activist and member of Greenpeace for years. He accepted at face value the Malthusian views, expressed by Paul Ehrlich, Lester Brown, and groups such as the Worldwatch Institute, Greenpeace, and the Sierra Club, that the world was running out of renewable resources, clean water, and forest land, and that the earth was becoming more polluted and that population growth was exploding. Along came Julian Simon… Read more.
Thoughts on Freedom ~ Interpreting the State of the World. By Donald J. Boudreaux. Why are optimists about the state of the world disproportionately represented by classical liberals, libertarians, and free- market conservatives, while pessimists about the state of the world are disproportionately represented by statists?…There’s no obvious reason why persons on the left should be biased into perceiving the state of the current world to be especially dire, and no obvious reason why market-friendly people should be biased into perceiving roses where there is really only rot… Read more
Teaching Kids about the Environment, Government Style. Mises Daily: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 by Ben O’Neill . University campuses receive a great deal of attention due to the political and cultural indoctrination and activism that some academics try to pass off as education.  However, government education bureaucrats are eager to ensure that their prescribed views are etched on the slate of the human mind at a much earlier age. For this reason, the most shameless political and cultural activism is often directed, under the guise of environmental and social education, at young children attending government primary schools… Read More.
Do Hurricanes Cause Shortages? Mises Daily: Monday, September 15, 2008 by Art Carden . The Huntsville Times reported on September 12 that, in response to the looming threat from Hurricane Ike, Alabama Governor Bob Riley declared a formal state of emergency. The governor’s declaration of emergency activated the state’s price-gouging law, which makes “unconscionable pricing” illegal during times of emergency. The Times quoted Riley as saying that he thinks “a threat to public health is a strong possibility due to the shortage of fuels.” Hurricanes don’t cause shortages, however. Price controls do…. Read More.
Blame It on the Rain. Mises Daily: Thursday, February 14, 2002 by Robert P. Murphy. New York City is in trouble. Rainfall has been far below its historical level, raising the specter of water shortages. Fortunately, the government has a plan. A three-phase Drought Management Plan, to be specific. …The ultimate reliance on coercion is the essence of all government “solutions.” When the government identifies a problem…it simply declares the relevant behavior illegal, and levies fines and prison sentences to achieve obedience. In the market, in contrast… Read More.
American Dream Turned Global Nightmare By Debra Rae. National sovereignty, decentralized government, rugged individualism, and private ownership of property distinguish our common heritage as Americans. But “times, they are a-changing.” Deep ecology activists, pandering politicians, and moneyed foundations are pulling strings to effect what Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center calls an “ecoligarchy.” Far fetched? I don’t think so. The scientific community has reached no consensus to warrant need for hundreds of environmental treaties already administered by the United Nations; moreover, a hefty hunk of all federal laws focus on the environment. Thanks to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, World Wildlife Fund, and the World Resources Institute, what historically has been celebrated as the American dream is fast becoming a global nightmare. Read more.
Environmental Politics: Public Costs, Private Rewards Edited by Michael S. Greve and Fred L. Smith, Jr. Praeger Publishers, 1992, 212 pages. Book Review. By Brian Doherty The old rationales for central control of the economy have suffered a crippling blow at the hands of history and economic logic. Socialism has proven neither more rational, more efficient, nor more humane than the free market. But could it be more environmentally sound? Read more.
The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area: An Example of How Pork-Barrel Politics Can Threaten Local Rule and Property Rights by Peyton Knight. Just one year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s dreadful Kelo v. City of New London decision that sparked a national outcry against government eminent domain abuse, some in Congress are preparing to bring a new threat to property owners in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Read more.
Some Comments On The Rhetoric Of The Environmental Movement. By Ronald Hamowy. In 1981 the Cato Institute commissioned a series of papers on the law and economics of pollution to be presented at a symposium on pollution in Palo Alto , California that December. Certainly one of the most enduring of the many essays written for this conference and eventually appearing in the Institute’s journal the following year was that by Murray Rothbard, which examined the nature of property rights from a libertarian prospective and offered a prolegomena to a comprehensive theory of pollution-engendered torts.1 Rothbard’s analysis is predicated on the notion that any legal system consistent with a truly free society bars only those acts that involve either the use of force or the threat of the use of force against a person or his justly acquired property and that “justly acquired property” can, and often does, include a homesteaded easement to pollute in a certain way or to a certain extent. Read more.
Regulating Biodiversity: Tragedy in the Political Commons By David N. Laband. Last summer, lightning struck and killed an enormous pine tree on one side of my backyard. At about the same time, voracious pine bark beetles girdled and killed an equally impressive pine tree on the other side. Now bereft of needles, these two arboreal giants pose a potential threat to my house: if they were to fall at just the right angle, the damage could be substantial. In the interest of safety, my wife wants to have the trees removed; for the sake of promoting biodiversity on my two-acre lot, I do not. Read more.
The New State Religion Debunked
The Intergenerational Invisible Hand: A Comment on Sartorius’s “Government Regulation and Intergenerational Justice.” by Arthur M. Diamond, Jr. In “Government Regulation and Intergenerational Justice,” Rolf Sartorius argues that some government regulation is justified in order to protect the rights of the unborn.’ More than half of his paper is a discussion of the theory that views the only justifiable function of government as the “umpirage of the law of nature.” Read more.
The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World by Bjørn Lomborg reveals that claims of overpopulation, declining energy resources, deforestation, species loss, water shortages, global warming, and other global environmental issues are unsupported by the relevant data. Must reading for anyone concerned about the negative impacts of radical environmentalism. Cambridge University Press. 515 pp.
The Mugging of an Environmental Skeptic By Jim Peron. When I read Bjørn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist I felt a sense of déjà vu. As excellent as it is, what Lomborg has to say—that the world is not going to hell—has been said before. But it was ignored because it was said by a brilliant man, the late Julian Simon, who was considered politically incorrect. Simon was never taken seriously by the political or media establishment. Read more.
Overpopulation: The Perennial Myth. By David Osterfeld. ” What most frequently meets our view (and occasions complaint) is our teeming population. Our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly support us . . . . In very deed, pestilence, and famine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race.” …The opening quotation was penned by Tertullian, a resident of the city of Carthage in the second century, when the population of the world was about 190 million, or only three to four percent of what it is today. And the fear of overpopulation did not begin with Tertullian. One finds similar concerns expressed in the writings of Plato and Aristotle in the fourth century B.C., as well as in the teachings of Confucius as early as the sixth century B.C. Read more.
Nature’s Entrepreneurs By Terry L. Anderson and Don Leal. It is impossible to predict the frontiers on which the next wave of entrepreneurs will leave their mark. One possibility is the environment… Read more.
Book Review: The Heated Debate: Greenhouse Predictions vs. Climate Reality by Robert C. Bailing. Pacific Research Institute, 177 Post St. , San Francisco , CA 94108 . 1992. 250 pages. By John Semmens. Industrialization has allegedly led to increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) from combustion of fossil fuels. Higher amounts of CO 2 have purportedly raised global temperatures. Warmer weather could generate significant changes in our climate. The perception that those changes would be a disaster for the planet has inspired demands for drastic remedies. An example is Vice President Albert Gore’s call for a phaseout of the internal combustion engine over the next few decades. Even more desperate are demands that the Industrial Revolution be reversed and mankind returned to a pre-industrial agricultural mode of life. Read more.
A Moment on the Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism by Gregg Easterbrook. Viking. 1995. 745 pages . Book Review. By Doug Bandow. Environmentalists have long enjoyed the political high ground. After all, who could be against clean water? As a result, over the last two decades the environmental movement has swept most everything before it. The result has been draconian legislative enactments, massive regulatory bureaucracies, and inexplicably complex rules. Read more.
Earth in the Balance by Al Gore. Boston . Houghton Mifflin, 1992, 407 pages. Book Review: By Jim Russell. I confess that my mind was too closed to political rhetoric, and my wallet too thinned by involuntary taxation to fork over nearly twenty-three dollars to a then-member of the wealthiest club in America—the U.S. Senate—for a book. My daughter, however, a recently crowned lawyer, purchased Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance with the reckless abandon of the nouveau riche, and gave it to me for my birthday, along with a comment that the author was a man of brilliant intellect, and a pointed remark that “Not all things are subject to economic analysis.” I rightly deduced from that remark what was in store for me, but I read the book anyway…Read more.
Science And The Environment By Bruce N. Ames The Freeman • September 1993 • Volume: 43 • Issue: 9. It is popular these days to espouse an apocalyptic vision of the future of our planet. Pollution is being blamed for global warming and ozone depletion, pesticides for cancer. Yet these and many other purported environmental causes are based on weak or bad science. The reality is that the future of the planet has never been brighter. With the bankruptcy of Communism, a hopeful world is on the path to democracy, free markets, and greater prosperity. Science and technology develop in a free society, and free markets bring wealth, which is associated with both better health and lower birth rates. Scientific advances and free markets can also lead to technologies that minimize pollution for the lowest cost. A market for pollution rights is desirable—polluting shouldn’t be free—and is much more effective than a bureaucratic monopoly. In my scenario for the future, I would like to see environmentalism based on scientific evidence and directed at solving real problems rather than phantoms. Read more.
Ten Years After the Bet: The More Things Change By Michael D. Mallinger. The late Julian Simon’s victory in his famous bet with Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich was a defining moment in the free-market movement’s victory over Malthusianism. In 1980 Simon challenged Ehrlich to choose five commodities that would become more expensive over the next ten years. Ehrlich had long expected the prices of resources to rise because of population growth. Ehrlich chose chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten. By 1990 the price of each had fallen from its 1980 level. As a result, Ehrlich paid Simon $576.07 for the aggregate drop in price for all five metals. Read more.
Book Review: Taking the Environment Seriously Edited by Roger E. Meiners and Bruce Yandle By Jonathan H. Adler . In 1994, the United States will spend .approximately $150 billion on environmental protection and there will be precious little to show for it. Certainly the staffing at environmental agencies will increase, as will the employment of green lawyers and consultants. Bureaucratic paperwork also will continue to grow at an exponential—and dare one say unsustainable—rate. Nevertheless, the countless dollars, opportunities and hours spent to comply with America ‘s environmental laws will yield marginal environmental benefits. Something is very wrong with the conventional approach to environmental policy. Read More.
The Impossibility of Harming the Environment By Roy E. Cordato. “The ‘polluter pays principle’ states that whoever is responsible for damage to the environment should bear the costs associated with it.” …The …principle” appeals to our sense of justice. People should be held responsible for their actions, and polluters who cause damage to others should “pay” for that damage. Furthermore, forcing polluters to bear the costs of their activities would enhance economic efficiency. In other words, appropriately applied, policies based on the principle face no tradeoff between the efficient working of a capitalist system and environmental protection. Read more.
Agriculture and Food
The Farm Problem by Paul L. Poirot (Ed). This 4 part book covers the Problem in Perspective; Domestic Impact of Farm Policies; International Implications and A Brighter Future. Although the book was published back in 1986, the economic problems and principles explained here are as real today as they were then.
Eating Disorder: How Governments Raise Food Prices By Arthur E. Foulkes The Freeman • September 2008 • Volume: 58 • Issue: 7. Higher food prices may be frustrating Americans, but they are literally killing people in the least industrialized parts of the world. Hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people—who live close to starvation even in good years—are facing malnutrition and chronic hunger. The absolute poorest are facing death. Read More.
End the Farm Dole Once and for All By Lawrence W. Reed. A new program to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay the cost of inspecting meat from emus and ostriches. A plan to spend $200 million to buy surplus cranberries, black-eyed peas, and other crops. A $100 million proposal for payments to producers of cottonseed. At this writing (June), these were among a bundle of agricultural subsidy schemes either passed by or under serious consideration in both houses of the U.S. Congress. Read more.
Are We Running Out of Food? by Kel Kelly. Paul Krugman writes …that there is a world food shortage, accompanied by skyrocketing prices. Because of this, poor people in Africa and other places are starving. He suggests that this has come about mostly for these reasons:… Read more.
Running Out of Agricultural Land By Dwight R. Lee The Free Man • July 2000 • Volume: 50 • Issue: 7. Fear that we are running out of important resources is perpetual. Oil is a favorite thing to worry about; landfill space is another, and trees yet another. I could continue listing things (coal, copper, iron ore, even tin) that people have worried would soon be exhausted, and I plan to discuss the persistent fear of resource exhaustion in future columns. In most cases the fear is baseless—fueled by organized interests hoping to capture advantages by scaring the public, by sloppy journalism, and by a general lack of basic economic understanding. Where concern is appropriate, the problem is invariably the lack of private property rights in the threatened resource. Read more.
Food, Famine, and Free Trade: Ehrlich Fails to See That Incentives Change Behavior By James Peron For decades population doomsayers have been predicting that massive famines were around the corner. Yet the United Nations Population Fund recently released its report “The State of the World’s Population 1999,” which says, “The world’s population is healthier from infancy through old age than it ever has been.” 1 In a press release the United Nations admits that “More people are being fed adequately today than ever before.” In fact, “food production grew from the equivalent of 2,300 to 2,700 calories per person” between 1960 and 1991… Read more.
African Famine: The Harvest of Socialist Agriculture By David Osterfeld The popular explanation of the current famine in Africa is the drought. But is this convincing? The North American Great Plains has major droughts about every twenty years, the most severe being the 1934-36 Dust Bowl. A major drought was recorded in California in 1977 and the 1975-76 drought in England was labeled “unprecedented” in its severity. Yet none of these resulted in famine. In fact, the 1977 California harvest was a record high. And food production in England increased by 15 percent between 1975 and 1980… Read More
Agricultural Subsidy Programs by Daniel A. Sumner. Government intervention in food and fiber commodity markets began long ago. The classic case of farm subsidy through trade barriers is the English Corn Laws, which for centuries regulated the import and export of grain in Great Britain and Ireland . They were repealed in 1846. Modern agricultural subsidy programs in the United States began with the New Deal and the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933. With trade barriers already in place for agricultural commodities and everything else, this law gave the government the power to set minimum prices and included government stock acquisition, land idling, and schemes to cut supplies by destroying livestock. Land idling and livestock destruction were sometimes mandatory and sometimes induced by compensation (Benedict 1953). Read more .
Should We Buy Only Locally Grown Produce? by Art Carden . Wile preparing to lead a discussion of the merits of trade with first-year students last fall, I came across a depressing headline in the Wall Street Journal. At the time, the Republicans were expressing skepticism about free trade. As a signatory to a petition to protest Hoover-era trade policies (like the Smoot-Hawley Tariff), I was dismayed. The implications of a shift away from free trade are several, first for wealth creation and second for environmental conservation. Read More.
The Tobacco-Quota Buyout: More Legal Plunder by E. C. Pasour, Jr. Critics of tobacco use (and others) have been calling for an end to all government support to the industry for several decades. Now, under the corporate-tax bill passed by Congress last October, owners of tobacco quotas and farmers who produce Read More.
Ending Farm Subsidies Wouldn’t Help the Third World? It Just Aint So! by E.C. Pasour Jr. Talks by the 146 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) collapsed last fall over trade-liberalization disputes between rich and poor countries. The biggest bone of contention was the extent to which the “first world”—mainly Europe, the United States , and Japan —were willing to slash their huge farm subsidies. More than 20 developing countries, including Brazil … Read More
We Can Do Better than Government Inspection of Meat by E. C. Pasour, Jr. Last year’s news reports of tainted beef focused public attention on the safety of the meat supply. In August 1997, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman forced Hudson Foods to recall 25 million pounds of hamburger meat produced at the firm’s state-of-the-art plant in Nebraska … Read More
Book Review: The Ultimate Resource 2 by Julian Simon by E.C. Pasour, Jr. Princeton University Press • 1996 • 734 pages • $35.00 In this powerful and unrestrained challenge to environmental doomsayers, Julian Simon has updated and further substantiated the conclusions of his 1981 book The Ultimate Resource. The standard of living has tended…Read More.
Book Review: Travels with a Hungry Bear: A Journey to the Russian Heartland by Mark Kramer Reviewed by E. C Pasour Jr. Mark Kramer, on assignment for the New York Times Magazine, visited the Soviet Union several times, beginning in 1987, to explore its well-known agricultural problems. This account of Kramer’s journeys shows why neither perestroika nor privatization efforts following the breakup of … Read More
Book Review by E.C. Pasour Jr: Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic: The Environmental Triumph of High Yield Farming by Dennis T. Avery Hudson Institute • 1995 • 432 pages • $12.95 paperback The media is all too eager to spread the message of “doom and gloom” environmentalists. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers pose an imminent and growing threat both to human health and to … Read More.
Book Review by E. C. Pasour Jr: The High Cost of Farm Welfare by Clifton B. Luttrell Cato Institute, 224 Second Street SE, Washington , DC 20003 • 1989 149 pages * $19.95 doth, $9.95 paper. Government programs haven’t solved the economic woes plaguing U.S. agriculture. Despite record expenditures on farm programs during the 1980s, financial stress in U.S. agriculture during the Reagan era was at its highest level since the Great Depression Read More.
A World Without the FDA By Russell Roberts. Back in 1980 I had the good fortune to spend a summer in Santiago , Chile. My woeful high-school French produced an even more woeful Spanish, but I was able to travel about that beautiful country with wonderful people. In the middle of my stay I developed a fearful cold and wandered into what looked like a drugstore in search of comfort for my ailing throat, nose, and head. I picked up a bottle of this, a bottle of that, and tried to puzzle out their purposes. I quickly realized that my command of Spanish, while adequate for getting around on the bus or in the grocery, was a major handicap when trying to figure out the ingredients and expected impact of any of the products lining the shelves. As I stood there peering at labels, it occurred to me that there probably was not a Chilean equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration…. Read more
Agricultural Price Supports by Robert L. Thompson. Most governments around the world intervene actively in the operation of their agricultural markets. The ways they intervene and the reasons they do so depend in large part on the wealth of the country. Governments in poor Third World countries routinely impose price controls to keep food prices artificially low. They do so to gain favor with their more politically powerful urban residents. Though numerous (and partly because they are numerous), peasant farmers do not organize politically and therefore have much less political power than their urban brethren. The irony of this situation is that by artificially depressing the price of food, Third World governments reduce incentives for farmers to produce and reduce the availability of food from indigenous sources. Read more.
Introduction to Environmental & Natural Resource Economics
Linking Liberty, Economy, and Ecology By John A. Baden and Robert Ethie The Freeman • September 1993 • Volume: 43 • Issue: 9. Much environmental writing is marked by a profound disregard, even hostility, toward property rights and individual liberty. Self-interest is an evil to be combatted. And markets, at best, provide mechanisms for people to express their self-interest in ways injurious to the earth. To some Greens, economic progress implies planetary suicide. Instead, environmental groups offer eco-empathy, altruism, and socialism as guides for environmentally correct behavior. However, some are finding that environmental causes fostered through self-interest and property rights are more likely to succeed than appeals to environmental values and bureaucratic micro-management. Even the environmental newspaper High Country News finds “a growing free-market attitude toward environmental protection.” Let’s see why. Read more.
Environmentalism: A Preface by David R. Henderson. Many environmentalists see preserving the environment as a purely ethical issue that has no connection to economics. In fact, as MIT economist Lester Thurow wrote in The Zero-Sum Society, “Environmentalism is not ethical values pitted against economic values. It is thoroughly economic.” What Thurow means is that preserving the environment is what economists call a good, and achieving that good uses up resources that could have produced other goods. Read more.
Environmentalism and Economic Freedom: The Case for Private Property Rights. By Walter Block. This paper attempts to reconcile environmentalism and economic freedom. Read more.
Interventionism (Law & Regulation)
The Obstacle Course of the Takings Clause by Timothy Sandefur. The Fifth Amendment holds that government may not take “private property . . . for public use without just compensation.” The Framers knew that seizing a person’s property always violates his rights, but providing for government payment would at least protect citizens from the worst sorts of abuses. To the uninitiated, therefore, it might seem that the Fifth Amendment protects Americans’ liberty. But the reality is a bit darker. The power of eminent domain has been expanded far beyond its original meaning, and is now hedged with so many procedural pitfalls, that the Takings Clause is now mentioned far more often in the breach than the observance. Read more.
A Victim of Wetlands Regulations By Marisa Manley. Since 1968, James J. Wilson’s Interstate General Co., L.P., has been developing a 9,100-acre planned community in Maryland , called St. Charles . It is located about 20 miles from Washington , D.C. , and some 33,000 people live there. Recently, the Washington Post reported, Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening cited St. Charles , with its clustered houses, apartments, townhouses, and commercial buildings, as an example of his policy initiative called Smart Growth. The Maryland Department of the Environment awarded St. Charles a Certificate of Appreciation for contributions to the improvement and strengthening of Maryland ‘s sediment, stormwater and nonpoint source programs. Read more.
A Wetlands Victory (For Now) by Mila Cobanov. “This is the oldest case in my chambers… [It] is referred to within my chambers … as the “Sandman Case.” Everybody that talks about the Sandman knows that we are talking about Mr. Rapanos because what he did was to move sand from one end of his property to the other end of his property. This all occurred on property he owned. Nothing was brought in to fill this land except sand that was already on that land.” – Judge Zatkoff, Federal District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)…At the age of 70, John Rapanos has finally ended his 18-year battle with state and federal environmental regulators, and has come out on the winning end when the US Supreme Court ruled in his favor on June 19, 2006…Read more.
Clean Water Act Sanity on the Horizon? by R.J. Smith . The June 19 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision in the double cases of Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was another slow step in the long overdue reform of the application of the Clean Water Act’s Section 404 and the rediscovery of the 5th Amendment. The court agreed in principle that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers had vastly overreached in their interpretation and application of the CWA. Read more.
Eco-justice By Jane M. Orient, M.D. In a little noticed speech last year, William Reilly, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), boasted of past success and set the agenda for the future: “George Bush said the polluters would pay if they broke the law and during the past three years the Bush Administration has collected more penalties and sent more violators to jail for longer sentences than in the rest of the EPA’s 18-year history combined.” Read more.
Government Versus the Environment. By Russell Madden. When the subject is the environment, the public perception is that a resource of such importance can only be adequately safeguarded by the benevolent, all-encompassing hands of the government.
Whether that protection comes in the guise of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Service, the Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, or any of their variations at the federal, state, and local levels, many citizens fear that leaving environmental (that is, property) stewardship in the hands of “big business” or “selfish” individuals would result in wholesale destruction of our land, water, and air. Read more
The True Takings Reform Imperative. By Donald J. Kochan. In recent years, a takings revolution has been occurring, with hundreds of reform bills introduced in state legislatures and with historic legislation pending in Congress. The most protective of these efforts aim to require payment of compensation when governmental actions diminish the value of a property owner’s land. One piece of Congressional legislation, for instance, would require the state to compensate an owner any time a federal action diminishes the value of an individual’s property by more than 33 percent. Read more.
Taking Liberties . . . and Properties By Sheldon Richman A local government is condemning a group of homes so the land can be turned over to the developer of a shopping center. Why? The shopping center will rake in more tax revenue than the homes do. The use of eminent domain to raise money for government is catching on. We’ve seen it … Read more.
Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution By Murray N. Rothbard. Law is a set of commands; the principles of tort or criminal law, which we shall be dealing with, are negative commands or prohibitions, on the order of “thou shalt not” do actions, X, Y, or Z.(1) In short, certain actions are considered wrong to such a degree that it is considered appropriate to use the sanctions of violence (since law is the social embodiment of violence) to combat, defend against, and punish the transgressors….There are many actions against which it is not considered appropriate to use violence… Read more.
Book Review ~ Common Sense and Common Law for the Environment: Creating Wealth in Hummingbird Economies by Bruce Yandle By Peter J. Hill. Surely one of the more problematic issues for people with a principled commitment to free markets is the environment. Such people generally have a deep respect for individual rights, and environmental problems do seem to represent rights violations. But, in the modern political framework, saying that tends to put one in league with the denizens of the left: central planners, people who hate modern technology, anti-capitalists, and other socialist fellow travelers. Is there a way of approaching environmental problems that both recognizes the primacy of individual rights and the importance of limited government? Bruce Yandle, professor of economics at Clemson University , provides the best answer that I know of in his most recent book, Common Sense and Common Law for the Environment.
Pollution, Solid Waste & Recycling
Controlling Pollution By Hans F. Sennholz. “Pollution is a classic example of failure of the private enterprise system.” At least this is what we are told by countless critics of environmental pollution. Private property and the profit motive are held responsible for polluting man’s environment with ever-increasing quantities of wastes or effluents… Read more
The Impossibility of Harming the Environment. By Roy E. Cordato. The “polluter pays principle” appeals to our sense of justice. People should be held responsible for their actions, and polluters who cause damage to others should “pay” for that damage. Furthermore, forcing polluters to bear the costs of their activities would enhance economic efficiency. In other words, appropriately applied, policies based on the principle face no tradeoff between the efficient working of a capitalist system and environmental protection. But as with most general principles, the devil is in the details… Read more .
Free Markets and Externalities: The Symmetry of Unintended Effects . By James Rolph Edwards. Consider the theory of externalities, in which a distinction is made between the social costs and private costs of human actions and transactions… private costs exists, however, when unintended costs (often termed external costs) are imposed on third parties…and the private costs are by definition less than the true social costs… The quintessential examples are air and water pollution… Read more .
Recycling: What a Waste! Mises Daily: Thursday, September 22, 2005 by Jim Fedako . This fall, school kids across the country will again be taught a chief doctrine in the civic religion: recycle, not only because you fear the police but also because you love the planet. They come home well prepared to be the enforcers of the creed against parents who might inadvertently drop a foil ball into the glass bin or overlook a plastic wrapper in the aluminum bin…. Read More.
Thoughts on Freedom ~ I Recycle! By Donald J. Boudreau.x I spoke recently to a group of college students on the economics of environmental protection. As I spoke of the market’s amazing ability to conserve natural resources, one young man asked me, “Do you recycle?” “No,” I answered. “Well, thanks for the effort,” he replied with bitter sarcasm. Before I could explain my answer, he gathered his books angrily and marched from the room. While no one else left, I could tell that most of the remaining students shared the sentiments of the student who had left. My talk’s conclusion was awkward and unsuccessful. Only later did I realize that I’d given the wrong answer. In fact, I recycle every day of my life! Consider a typical day… Read more.
Are We Burying Ourselves in Garbage? By Richard Shedenhelm. One of the foremost difficulties facing American cities is where to put the refuse generated every day. It is widely thought that the United States is literally burying itself in garbage-producing mountains of waste and running out of places to put it…If the crisis mentality that shrouds the issue of landfills is found to be largely a matter of political misinformation and factual error, then we will have uncovered a major misdirection of local, state, and federal policy. An objective examination of refuse generation and management is in order… Read more ..
Clearing the Air: The Real Story of the War on Air Pollution by Indur M. Goklany Cato Institute. 1999. 189 pages. Book Review: By Bruce Yandle. From the mid-1960s on into the early 1980s, it seemed obvious: Were it not for the benevolent protection provided by the federal government, America ‘s smoke-filled cities and slime-ridden rivers would have become environmental wastelands. The caves were beckoning. Somehow simultaneously struck dumb, citizens by the millions happily traded the last smidgen of clean air for yet one more Pontiac GTO, another hula-hoop factory, or a chemical plant producing Agent Orange. Read more.
Greenhouse Effect by Thomas C. Schelling. The “greenhouse effect” is a complicated process by which the earth is becoming progressively warmer. The earth is bathed in sunlight, some of it reflected back into space and some absorbed. If the absorption is not matched by radiation back into space, the earth will get warmer until the intensity of that radiation matches the incoming sunlight. Some atmospheric gases absorb outward infrared radiation, warming the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is one of these gases; so are methane, nitrous oxide, and the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The concentrations of these gases are increasing, with the result that the earth is absorbing more sunlight and getting warmer. …This greenhouse phenomenon is truly the result of a “global common” (see The Tragedy of the Commons). Because no one owns the atmosphere, no one has a sufficient incentive to take account of the change to the atmosphere caused by his or her emission of carbon. Also, carbon emitted has the same effect no matter where on earth it happens. Read more.
Making the Polluter Pay. By Jonathan H. Adler. The experience of the past few decades indicates that “pollution control” is often a pretext by which the federal government regulates the minutiae of each and every industrial process and economic transaction. Much of this so-called pollution control is done in the name of the “polluter pays” principle. This principle, which is intuitively sensible, was trumpeted by early environmentalists as a means to discourage environmental harms. Read more.
Maximum Cooperation Means Minimum Cost By Dwight R. Lee. There are two big advantages to a pollution-control policy that relies on transferable pollution permits. First, firms can reduce pollution any way they choose, which will be the cheapest way possible. Second, firms will coordinate their reduction with one another so that the pollution target is achieved as efficiently as possible. In last month’s column, I explained how that coordination causes firms to adjust their pollution so that the greatest possible value is created by the allowable pollution. I now emphasize the other side of the same efficiency coin—reducing pollution to the allowable level at least cost, or the least sacrifice in value. Read more.
Pollution Controls by Robert W. Crandall. While there is general agreement that we must control pollution of our air, water, and land, various interest groups, public agencies, and experts have disputed just how we should control it. The pollution control mechanisms adopted in the United States have tended toward detailed regulation of technology. In 1970 popular concern about environmental degradation coalesced into a major political force, resulting in the creation of a federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by President Nixon, and the first of the major federal attempts to regulate pollution directly—the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970. Since then, the federal role in regulating pollution has grown immensely, unleashing a cascade of regulation upon the EPA, local governments, and the business community. But that has begun to change. Although the command-and-control approach is the norm, environmental lobbyists and legislators are beginning to consider market-based approaches to pollution control. Read more.
The High Cost of Command and Control By Dwight R. Lee. We may not all agree on how much pollution to reduce, but we certainly should agree to reduce it as cheaply as possible. Since cleaning up at least cost is exactly the same as maximizing the cleanup for any given cost, cost minimization should appeal even to those who dislike thinking about the cost of protecting the environment. Read more.
Privatize Public Highways. By Michelle S. Cadin and Walter Block. Across the United States , more than four million roads, streets, and highways tie cities and states together and enable citizens to work, travel, and shop. Americans enjoy unprecedented freedom and convenience, as our whole economy is directly dependent upon this mobility. This makes the entire nation, in effect, one gigantic assembly line for the production and transport of goods. Read more.
Recycling by Jane S. Shaw. Recycling is the process of converting waste products into reusable materials. It differs from reuse, which simply means using a product again. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 13 percent of the nation’s solid waste (that is, the waste that is normally handled through garbage collection systems) is recycled. This compares with 14 percent that is incinerated and 73 percent that goes into landfills. Read more.
Science And The Environment By Bruce N. Ames. It is popular these days to espouse an apocalyptic vision of the future of our planet. Pollution is being blamed for global warming and ozone depletion, pesticides for cancer. Yet these and many other purported environmental causes are based on weak or bad science. The reality is that the future of the planet has never been brighter. With the bankruptcy of Communism, a hopeful world is on the path to democracy, free markets, and greater prosperity. Science and technology develop in a free society, and free markets bring wealth, which is associated with both better health and lower birth rates. Scientific advances and free markets can also lead to technologies that minimize pollution for the lowest cost. A market for pollution rights is desirable—polluting shouldn’t be free—and is much more effective than a bureaucratic monopoly. In my scenario for the future, I would like to see environmentalism based on scientific evidence and directed at solving real problems rather than phantoms. Read more.
Science, Technology, and Government By Murray N. Rothbard The crucial economic question, and one of the most important social questions, is the allocation of resources: where should the various and numerous productive factors: land, labor, or capital, be allocated, and how much of each type to each use? This is the “economic problem,” and all social questions must deal with it. Read more.
Enemies of the Automobile By Ralph W. Clark. The automobile age is approximately 100 years old. With the approach of a new century and new millennium there could be no better time to celebrate the automobile for its profound contributions to human happiness. Read more.
Why Socialism Causes Pollution by Thomas J. DiLorenzo. Corporations are often accused of despoiling the environment in their quest for profit. Free enterprise is supposedly incompatible with environmental preservation, so that government regulation is required. Read more.
Property Rights: Planning, Zoning and Eminent Domain
“Human Rights” as Property Rights by Murray N. Rothbard. Chapter 15. The Ethics of Liberty. Ludwig von Mises Institute. The entire book is downloadable at the link. Liberals generally wish to preserve the concept of “rights” for such “human” rights as freedom of speech, while denying the concept to private property.1 And yet, on the contrary the concept of “rights” only makes sense as property rights. For not only are there no human rights which are not also property rights, but the former rights lose their absoluteness and clarity and become fuzzy and vulnerable when property rights are not used as the standard. Read more.
The Property Basis of Rights By Clarence B. Carson. There has been an attempt to separate property rights from other rights in this century. It has usually been done by labeling some rights as “human rights” and referring to others as “rights” of property. This distinction has been accompanied by the claim that “human rights” are superior to “property rights.” For example, in the late 1950s when the McClellan Committee held Senate hearings on labor union activities, a labor leader put the matter this way: “Well, Senator, my primary concern was the safety and welfare of the people in that area. It simply was against my religion and against my principles and religion at this time to have placed property rights above human rights . . . . I think the obligation was more to protect the human rights than the property rights at that particular time.” Read more.
The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty is the flagship publication of the Foundation for Economic Education and one of the oldest and most respected journals of liberty in America . For almost 50 years it has uncompromisingly defended the ideals of the free society. Go to The Freeman and search the site for “Private Property.” You will turn up 1,000 citations or more. The following is a sampling of the more pertinent.
In the Absence of Private Property Rights by Dwight R. Lee We commonly benefit from things we neither understand nor appreciate. Obviously there are advantages in benefiting from a wide range of things without having to give them much thought. But the danger is that such neglect can often cause us great harm. Good health is an example. For most people, good health is easy to take for granted, and this often results in harmful patterns of behavior. In the case of health, however, most people know something about the risks of unhealthy behavior, and recognize the advantage of healthy habits even if they don’t practice them. Read more.
Private Property and Opportunity Costs by Dwight R. Lee In three previous columns I discussed opportunity cost and the importance of this concept to understanding economics. We have considered the advantage the market has over government at incorporating opportunity costs into the calculus of decision-makers. Markets promote the general interest by revealing costs while governments commonly favor special interest by concealing those costs. In this column I shall extend the discussion of opportunity costs by introducing the critical role of private property. Private property lies at the foundation of market economies because without private property, and the exchange it fosters, people would be unable to consider the full costs of their decisions. Read more.
Private Property and Government Under the Constitution by Gary M. Pecquet . The economic concept of private property refers to the rights owners have to the exclusive use and disposal of a physical object. Property is not a table, a chair, or an acre of land. It is the bundle of rights which the owner is entitled to employ those objects. The alternative (collectivist) view is that private property consists merely of a legal deed to an object with the use and disposal of the object subject to the whims and mercies of the state. Under this latter view, the state retains ownership and may at any time regulate or even repossess the property it temporarily cedes to individuals. Read more.
The Social Role of Private Property Rights by Gene Smiley . Private property rights are the rights of a person to use his property in whatever way he chooses providing that he doesn’t use force or fraud on any other person. One of the first economists to emphasize the importance of property rights was the Austrian economist Carl Menger. Writing in 1871, Menger noted that for most goods the quantities available were insufficient to meet everyone’s needs. Potentially every consumer’s interest was opposed to that of every other consumer’s in the struggle to obtain some of the scarce goods:…Read More.
Private Property Ownership by Al Bellerue . According to the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” This clause, known as the eminent domain reservation, gives the state the legal right to take private property for public use without the consent of the owner. But, the owner has a right to his day in court to insure “just compensation.” Read more.
Private Property Rights: An Endangered Species by Paul D. Kamenar Last July, John Pozsgai, a 58-year-old, self-employed truck mechanic, was sentenced to three years in jail by a Federal judge and fined $202,000 for violating the Clean Water Act. This is the longest prison sentence ever meted out in the United States for an environmental crime. No, Mr. Pozsgai wasn’t the captain of the Exxon Valdez that ran aground in Alaska spilling millions of gallons of oil, nor did he dump toxic or hazardous wastes into any river or stream. Read more.
Book Review: The Economics and Ethics of Private Property: Studies in Political Economy and Philosophy by Hans-Hermann Hoppe by N. Stephan Kinsella . In 1989, Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe published A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism: Economics, Politics, and Ethics (Boston/Dordrecht/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989), arguably the most important book of the decade, if only for the revolutionary “argumentation ethic” defense of individual rights presented in Chapter 7, “The Ethical Justification of Capitalism and Why Socialism is Morally Indefensible.” Hoppe continues to produce a significant assortment of articles elaborating on his argumentation ethic and the epistemology that underlies it, as well as on his impressive economic writings. Read more.
Supreme Neglect: How to Revive Constitutional Protection for Private Property by George C. Leef . The framers of the Constitution were acutely aware that politics—even in the highly limited democracy they envisioned—could be dangerous to private property. For that reason they added the “takings” clause to the Fifth Amendment: “Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” Unfortunately, like so much other constitutional language intended to defeat political attacks on liberty and property, those words have proven inadequate. Read more.
Communal vs. Private Property Rights by James D. Gwartney and Richard . What is common to many is taken least care of, for all men have greater regard for what is their own than for what they possess in common with others. —Aristotle. The point made by Aristotle more than 2,000 years ago is as true now as it was then, and it is as important in primitive cultures as it is in developed ones. When the property fights to a resource are communally held, the resource is often abused. In contrast, when the rights to a resource are held by an individual or family, conservation and wise utilitization generally result. Read more.
Private Property from Soweto to Shanghai by David Boaz . A trip around the world provides evidence of just how wrong Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith was in his influential book The Affluent Society. (Granted, one need not go nearly so far to find such evidence.) Galbratith observed that everywhere one looked, privately provided goods and services — homes, automobiles, factories, “handsomely packaged products” — were clean, shiny, and of high quality. Yet publicly provided services–schools, parks, streets–were old, overcrowded, and poorly maintained. Galbraith called it “an atmosphere of private opulence and public squalor.” Read more.
Property and Prosperity: The Vital Link by Tibor R. Machan . Professor Richard Pipes has written extensively about the connection between property rights and prosperity in the history of Russia. Others have noted the connection in various places around the globe, including Peter Bauer and Amartya Sen. Without the legal infrastructure that recognizes and protects the right to private property, as well as some other, derivative institutions, such as freedom of contract, prosperity is difficult to foster. Read more.
Peripatetics: Property Is Freedom by Sheldon Richman . Capitalism is liberating. Maverick feminist Camille Paglia acknowledges that it was capitalism that liberated women. In this issue of Ideas on Liberty andrew Bernstein points out that it was capitalism that enabled black entrepreneurs to advance in spite of racism and Jim Crow. Undoubtedly, capitalism is the greatest force for individual liberation the world has known. Read more.
Perspective: Private Property by Terry L. Anderson. Perversely, the government sometimes penalizes landowners for improving habitat. Dayton Hyde, who put 25 percent of his ranch into marshes for wildlife, initiated research on the sandhill crane and built a lake with three and a half miles of shoreline for wildlife. But he paid a price: “My lands have been zoned. I am being regulated for wetlands that weren’t there before I created them. Like most of my neighbors I can save myself from financial disaster only by some creative land management, but the state legislature has cut out most of my options.” Read More.
Economics and Property Rights by Walter E. Williams. Economic theory does not operate in a vacuum. Institutions, such as the property-rights structure, do not change economic theory but influence how the theory manifests itself. Similarly, the law of gravity is not repealed when a parachutist floats gently down to earth. The parachute simply determines how the law of gravity manifests itself. Failure to recognize the effect and role that different property-rights structures play in the outcomes we observe leads to faulty analysis. Think about several questions. Which oyster bed will yield larger, more mature oysters—a publicly owned or privately owned bed? Why is it that herds of cows are not threatened with extinction while buffalo were? … Read more.
Private Property and the Environment: Two Views by Jane S. Shaw and John Hospers Jane S. Shaw: People concerned about freedom recognize the importance of property rights as the foundation for a system of cooperation and mutual exchange. Often, however, they abandon their convictions about the value of property rights when they address environmental issues. Yet a more thorough understanding of property rights would lead them to recognize that private rights offer the best hope for protecting many components of the natural environment. …John Hospers replies: Jane Shaw seems to assume that my quarrel is with private property. But it is not: the deforestation of the Amazon basin would be an ecological tragedy regardless of by whom or under what auspices it is done, whether by private owners, communal owners, or government owners. If Brazil had a Homestead Act similar to that of the U.S.A. in the nineteenth century, and the new owners destroyed the forests, the result would be the same as it now is under a government program of resettlement. It is what is done that portends disaster, not by whom it is done. … Read more
Law and Property: The Best Hope for Liberty? by Norman Barry . There is little left of the conventional protections for individualism in the modern world. Whatever theoretical virtues there may be in democracy (and there aren’t many 1 ), in practice it has disintegrated into a struggle among self-regarding interest groups, mediated by government, over wealth that is exclusively created by private individuals. The Constitution has proved to be little more than a parchment protection against legislative predators. Federalism, which once offered the possibility of exit from more burdensome states, has ceased to be an escape route because the U.S. Supreme Court, in upholding virtually every act of centralization since Franklin Roosevelt, has turned the states into mere agents of Washington , D.C. Read More.
John Locke Natural Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property by Jim Powell . A number of times throughout history, tyranny has stimulated breakthrough thinking about liberty. This was certainly the case in England with the mid-seventeenth-century era of repression, rebellion, and civil war. There was a tremendous outpouring of political pamphlets and tracts. By far the most influential writings emerged from the pen of scholar John Locke. Read more.
Today’s Fight for Property Rights by Nancie G. Marzulla. Bob and Mary McMackin bought property in Pennsylvania ‘s Pocono mountains and obtained all the necessary permits to build a retirement home. But four years after they moved in, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decreed that their property was a “wetland” — even though it was dry…Result: they were ordered to destroy all landscaping outside a five-foot perimeter of their home and driveway and restore the land to the way it was before construction. Moreover, they were ordered to buy twice as much property as they had to provide land off-site for a new “wetland.” In this case, there was a happy ending. Defenders of Property Rights, representing the McMackins, helped reach a settlement which rescinded the orders. The Corps issued new guidelines allowing small parcels to be exempted from “wetlands” regulations. Read more.
The Economics of Property Rights by Andrew P. Morriss . Property rights play a critical role in a wide range of economic institutions. From understanding why owners are generally better stewards of property than renters to finding ways to resolve environmental problems, property rights are at the center of the analysis. It is unsurprising, therefore, that economics offers important insights into property rights. The economic approach is not the only way to think about property, and economic analysis is often misused, but it is an important part of understanding why property rights are so important to liberty and human progress. In particular, economics can help us understand two fundamental aspects of property rights: how they change and the types of problems they solve. Read more.
Book Review: Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain by Richard A. Epstein by Joan Kennedy Taylor. Eminent domain is generally regarded as a power of government, not as a limitation on government. But this brilliant new book has the intriguing thesis that the eminent domain or (“takings”) clause of the United States Constitution, properly understood, provides clear limits to government power, protects private property, and forbids any legislation that has the effect of redistributing wealth. Read more.
Book Review: This Land Is Our Land: How to End the War on Private Property by Congressman Richard Pombo and Joseph Farah by Raphael G. Kazmann . This timely book deals with an important subject: property rights. After two short introductory chapters that review the history of property rights and the place of property rights as described in the Constitution, Richard Pombo and Joseph Farah get down to business: How are property rights faring at present? Read more.
Environmental Problems and Private Property by E. Barry Asmus and Donald B. B . Self-interest aside, the environmental movement has appropriately focused our attention on environmental degradation and the importance of our natural surroundings in general. The issue, however, is not whether conservation and pollution are important. The crucial problem is how to develop institutional arrangements to protect our planet’s physical and social habitability in the most efficient and equitable way. In that discussion, environmentalists, with very few exceptions, have assumed government to be the necessary custodian of the natural environment, since capitalism, in the name of profits, will exploit the minerals, forests, wildlife, and other nat ural values to the detriment of the environment. The idea that self-interest and the market economy are at fault has been shown to be in error by the biologist Garrett Hardin in his classic description of the environmentally destructive implications of the commons. (See “The Tragedy of The Commons,” Science, December, 1968.) The promise that government will manage the natural environment in the “public interest” remains to be challenged… Read more.
Today’s War on Property By R. W. Bradford. What is the status of property rights in the United States today? Consider the following true story. When Hurricane Hugo devastated the Carolina coast in 1992, it wasn’t long before local lumberyards began to run out of building supplies. So Selena Washington decided to drive to Florida to buy the construction materials she needed to repair her home. She took cash with her, since she believed the lumberyards in Florida would not accept her South Carolina check. In Volusia County , Florida , a sheriff’s deputy stopped Mrs. Washington ‘s car and searched her handbag, in which he found her money. He took the cash and drove away without taking down her name, refusing to give her a receipt or an explanation. Read more.
Land Rights: The 1990s Property Rights Rebellion by JONATHAN H. ADLER. Richard and Nancy Delene intended to create their own little wildlife reserve in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They purchased over 100 acres of duck ponds and wildlife habitat and sought to improve upon it, making it a more attractive home for indigenous species. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources had other ideas. The Delenes were ordered to cease their activities and were threatened with well over $1 million in fines for not having the proper government permits to shift dirt on their own land. The Delenes are not alone…Read More.
Property Rights by Armen A. Alchian. One of the most fundamental requirements of a capitalist economic system—and one of the most misunderstood concepts—is a strong system of property rights. For decades social critics in the United States and throughout the Western world have complained that “property” rights too often take precedence over “human” rights, with the result that people are treated unequally and have unequal opportunities. Inequality exists in any society. But the purported conflict between property rights and human rights is a mirage—property rights are human rights. Read more.
Property Rights Among Native Americans By Terry L. Anderson. Chief Seattle, a nineteenth-century Native American leader, is often quoted as saying, All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of earth. …It turns out that the words supposedly spoken by Chief Seattle were written by Ted Perry, a scriptwriter. Read more.
Property Rights in the Family and Beyond By David R. Henderson. In 1991, when I was putting together The Fortune Encyclopedia of Economics, an economist friend sent me a story from the Sesame Street Parent’s Guide. I liked it so much that I had my research assistant, Janet Beales, write a shortened version for the Encyclopedia. We titled it Property Rights for Sesame Street . Read more.
The Noblest Triumph: Property And Prosperity Through The Ages. By Tom Bethell. Book Review: By Walter Block. According to the nursery rhyme, “There once was a little girl with a curl, when she was good, she was very, very good; when she was bad, she was horrid.” Much the same can be said about this book. What are the very, very good parts? It is a thorough, lively, and almost encyclopedic defense of private-property rights. In this benighted age, there are not too many of those around. Ranging far and wide, Bethell shows the benefits of private property throughout history and in virtually every corner of the globe. He demonstrates how the institutions of private property can solve environmental problems, were responsible for the success of the industrial revolution in England , how the lack of them accounted for the failures of the U.S.S.R., feudalism, and the third world. His explanation of the Irish famine is alone worth far more than the price of admission. Standing head and shoulders over many purely economic defenses of this institution, Bethell’s book also demonstrates the virtues of property rights on political and moral grounds. Read more.
The Tragedy of the Commons by Garrett Hardin. In 1974 the general public got a graphic illustration of the “tragedy of the commons” in satellite photos of the earth. Pictures of northern Africa showed an irregular dark patch, 390 square miles in area. Ground-level investigation revealed a fenced area inside of which there was plenty of grass. Outside, the ground cover had been devastated. Read more.
Law, Custom, and the Commons. By Randy T. Simmons. Free and unregulated access to scarce resources has long been recognized as a serious problem. Two thousand years ago Aristotle wrote: What belongs in common to the most people is accorded the least care: they take thought for their own things above all.[ 1 ] More recently, the biologist and human ecologist Garrett Hardin argued: Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society which believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all. Read more.
An Environment Without Property Rights By Richard L. Stroup and Jane S. Shaw. When Eastern Europe began to open up in the late 1980s, one of the great shocks was the severity of its environmental problems. Journalists reported on skies full of smoke from lignite and soft coal, children kept inside for much of the winter because of unsafe air, and horses that had to be moved away from the worst areas after a few years or they would die. Read more.
Adventures in Zoning By Andrew P. Morriss. I live on a quiet dead-end street in a small suburb of Cleveland . A local developer’s plans for a little vacant lot across the street from my house recently led me into the arcane world of municipal land-use planning. The story of this lot illustrates several important lessons about how governments actually function. Read more.
Beyond Eminent Domain By Lee Ownby. “I want your land!” If your neighbor made this statement and you did not want to sell, that would be the end of it, unless he fielded an army against you and took it by force. But, if he persuaded City Hall to take it for him, there is little that could be done to stop him. Read more.
A Popular Insurrection on Property Rights by Richard A. Epstein. The property rights issues that arise constantly in modern life are always difficult and often obscure. Most ordinary people understand the importance of zoning restrictions and environmental protection in their daily lives. They are also keenly aware that the state exercises its eminent domain power whenever it condemns land for a post office or a public highway. Read more.
Environmental Preservation : A Matter of Property by Andrew Packer. The study of the laws of economics has been greatly aided by the development of the idea of the evenly rotating economy (ERE) as an artificial construct wherein the world is held constant in a changeless and endless round of the same repetitive, mindless activities and transactions. Read more.
Environmental Problems and Private Property By E. Barry Asmus and Donald B. Billings. Self-interest aside, the environmental movement has appropriately focused our attention on environmental degradation and the importance of our natural surroundings in general. The issue, however, is not whether conservation and pollution are important. The crucial problem is how to develop institutional arrangements to protect our planet’s physical and social habitability in the most efficient and equitable way. In that discussion, environmentalists, with very few exceptions, have assumed government to be the necessary custodian of the natural environment, since capitalism, in the name of profits, will exploit the minerals, forests, wildlife, and other natural values to the detriment of the environment. The idea that self-interest and the market economy are at fault has been shown to be in error by the biologist Garrett Hardin in his classic description of the environmentally destructive implications of the commons. (See “The Tragedy of The Commons,” Science, December, 1968.) The promise that government will manage the natural environment in the “public interest” remains to be challenged. Read more.
Land-Use Planning: Implications of the Economic Calculation Debate by E. C. Pasour, Jr. The recent widely cited National Agricultural Lands Study (NALS) adds to the growing number of individuals and organizations holding the view that land resources are too important to be left to the “whims of market forces. (l) In this view, there should be a shift from private ownership of land to social or political control of land use. Bjork, for example, suggests that planning policies should be instituted at the federal level to estimate the derived demand for agricultural land for twenty-five to fifty years into the future and then steps taken to ensure its availability.(2) Similar conclusions were reached in the National Agricultural Lands Study and in recent CAST (Council on Agricultural Science and Technology) studies. Read more.
The Commons: Tragedy or Triumph? By Bruce Yandle. We all know the tragedy of the commons story. Wonderfully written by Garrett Hardin in 1968, the highly stylized rendering is about a pasture devoid of rules, customs, or norms for sharing…What could be a story of plenty, if only the shepherds understood, turns into a story of poverty…As Hardin artistically puts it: “Therein is the tragedy… Read more…
Resourceship: An Austrian theory of mineral resources by Robert L. Bradley Jr. Economists inside and outside of the Austrian-school tradition have formulated a subjectivist theory of mineral resources.While vonMises (1940) presented a rudimentary theory, institutionalist Zimmermann (1933 and after) provided an indepth mind-centered approach distinct from the objective, neoclassical theory for minerals developed by Jevons (1865, 1866), Gray (1913), and Hotelling (1931). A full-fledged Austrian theory identifies the fixity/depletionism view of minerals as incompatible with entrepreneurship. Mineral resourceship, praxeologically akin to manufacturing, or the making of capital goods, demotes the distinction between depletable and nondepletable resources for the sciences of human action. Instead of nonreproducibility, the interplay of geography and institutions becomes the locus of mineral-resource theory, given the nonuniform distribution of deposits. An Austrianinstitutional theory is more robust for explaining changes in mineral-resource scarcity than neoclassical depletionism, and offers a wide research agenda for current debates over resource production, usage, and future availability… Read More.
Natural Resources by Sue Anne Batey Blackman and William J. Baumol. The earth’s natural resources are finite, which means that if we use them continuously, we will eventually exhaust them. This basic observation is undeniable. But another way of looking at the issue is far more relevant to assessing people’s well-being. Our exhaustible and unreproducible natural resources, if measured in terms of their prospective contribution to human welfare, can actually increase year after year, perhaps never coming anywhere near exhaustion. How can this be? The answer lies in the fact that the effective stocks of natural resources are continually expanded by the same technological developments that have fueled the extraordinary growth in living standards since the Industrial Revolution…. Read More.
Forest and Range Policy
The Great 19th-Century Timber Heist Revisited By T. J. Iijima and Jane S. Shaw. In the second half of the 19th century, the timber industry cut down large stretches of native forest around the Great Lakes , leaving the land denuded and mills abandoned. Historians and, more recently, environmentalists have portrayed this episode as one of the worst environmental disasters of the 19th century. It has come to symbolize the view that capitalists will always destroy natural resources if they can make short-run profits by doing so. However… Read more.
The Growing Abundance of Fossil Fuels. By Robert L. Bradley, Jr. Only two decades ago nearly all academics, businessmen, oilmen, and policymakers agreed that the age of energy scarcity was upon us and that the depletion of fossil fuels was imminent. While some observers still cling to that view today, the intellectual tide has turned against doom and gloom on the energy front. Nearly all resource economists believe that fossil fuels will remain affordable in any reasonably foreseeable future. Indeed, these fuels have become more abundant even in the face of record consumption… Read more.
Politicians Eye the Oil Market By Robert P. Murphy. With oil prices setting records every week and gas prices topping $4 per gallon, voters are getting increasingly angry. This naturally makes the politicians nervous, so they do what they can to divert blame from themselves at all costs. Two easy targets are “Big Oil” and speculators. In this article we’ll see that the politicians’ accusations against these scapegoats are nonsensical, while the corresponding policy recommendations will only push oil prices higher… Read more…
Oil Drilling in Alaska By Sarah Anderson The Free Man • September 1993 • Volume: 43 • Issue: 9. A large percentage of the two million barrels of oil produced every day in Alaska comes from an area known as the North Slope. The North Slope is on the eastern end of the north coast of Alaska and consists of mostly coastal plains. There are five oil fields currently in production on the North Slope; the biggest of these is Prudhoe Bay, which is also the largest oil field in North America. Another oil field of particular interest is Endicott, located about ten miles northeast of Prudhoe Bay. Endicott is the first continuous, offshore oil-producing field in the Arctic. The field is in fact two man-made islands that require a ten-mile access road and a five- mile causeway connecting the two islands. The other three fields are Kuparek, Lisburne, and Milne Point. Read more.
Ethanol versus the Poor By P. Gardner Goldsmith. It is nearly axiomatic that anything Cuban “President” Fidel Castro says will be false, incorrect, misleading, and downright pernicious…At the end of March Castro spoke out with great fire and resentment about the attempt by the Bush administration and Congress to increase ethanol use in the United States. “More than 3 billion people in the world are being condemned to a premature death from hunger and thirst,” he said in a March 29 op-ed published in Granma, the official Cuban Communist Party newspaper. Coming from a man responsible for the torture, death, and exile of many people, these humanitarian claims are more than a bit hypocritical. But despite the source, and the overblown nature of the rhetoric, there is a barely discernible ring of truth to his words… Read more .
The High Cost of Misunderstanding Gasoline Economics by Arthure Foulkes. Much of the support for price controls stems from a lack of understanding of where prices come from. Many politicians and other critics of markets believe that market prices (or at least “fair” market prices) can be calculated using production costs… Read more..
Book Review: Oil, Gas, & Government, 2 Volumes by Robert L. Bradley, Jr. The Petroleum-Refining Industry Carries a Heavy Legacy of Destructive Government Meddling By Richard W. Fulmer Untold damage has been done by governments that restrict human action in attempts to correct perceived market failures. Like a pebble dropped in a pond, each government action ripples through the economy in ever-widening circles, yielding unforeseen consequences that create demands for additional government intrusion. Ironically, when the market failure that provided the excuse for the initial intervention is closely examined, it usually either vanishes or turns out to have been a failure of government instead. Robert Bradley’s new book, Oil, Gas, & Government, takes a critical look at the supposed market failures of the petroleum industry, and at the confusing swirl of regulations that our government spewed out to deal with them. Read More.
Let’s Not Be Energy Independent By David R. Henderson “Energy independence” is a term that sounds good but falls apart on closer examination. Although the United States could achieve energy independence, we could do so only at an enormous cost. Energy “dependence” is much cheaper and much more desirable. Read more.
Ethanolics Anonymous By Lawrence W. Reed . Someone once said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and each time expecting different results. If that’s so, then what the politicians are doing these days for a corn-based fuel called ethanol would seem to be certifiably insane. Read more.
Mandating Renewable Energy: It’s Not Easy Being Green By Michael Heberling Environmentalists abhor all fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum) and nuclear energy. They collectively refer to this type of energy as “brown” power. Along with a bipartisan collection of Washington politicians, they instead advocate “green,” or “renewable,” power. This earth-friendly alternative energy includes geothermal, hydroelectric, biomass, solar, and wind. While we all know that brown power has its share of problems, a close look at green power reveals a surprising number of serious environmental and consumer-related problems that advocates would rather not talk about. As it turns out, environmentalists are far more united in their opposition to brown power than they are in their support of green power. Read more.
Should There Be a Carbon Subsidy? By Roy E. Cordato The Clinton administration has committed the United States to a massive reduction in the use of energy. That is the implication of its signing the United Nation’s Global Climate Treaty in Kyoto , Japan . If the Senate approves, we will have to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions drastically CO2 is emitted naturally, of course, by everything from erupting volcanoes to exhaling people and animals. Indeed, without it there could be no human or plant life. The alleged problem is that, because of the burning of carbon-based fuels such as coal and oil, “too much” CO2 is being emitted. According to some, this will cause excessive amounts of heat to be trapped in the earth’s atmosphere and ultimately (50 to 100 years from now) lead to “global warming.” This warming could have certain harmful side effects, including increased flooding and droughts, rising sea levels, and even melting of the polar icecaps. Read More.
Climate Change: What if They’re Right? Government Fixes for Climate Change Promise Big Costs with Little to No Benefits By Max Borders What do Pat Robertson, Gregg Easterbrook, and Michael Shermer have in common? They’ve all moved from climate-change skepticism to the “global warming consensus.” These leading lights may help guide others toward this consensus too. And given the possibility that believers in global warming are right, I’d like to be charitable and suppose that, first, this consensus is built on the best available science and not just an academic herd mentality, and second, that anthropogenic climate change will yield predictable ill effects. Read more.
How a Free Society Could Solve Global Warming. The Advantages of Unfettered Markets Offer the Best Way to Manage Climate Change By Gene Callahan . The phrase“global warming” has been around for quite some time, but in the past year it has captured the spotlight as never before. One can’t turn on the radio or open a newspaper without facing ads from “green” corporations, or hearing the latest way to reduce one’s “carbon footprint.” With even prominent Republicans (such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and George W. Bush) on board, it seems all but inevitable that major governments around the world will enact new policies to combat this ostensible threat—and to cripple economic growth in the process. Read more.
Global Warming: Hot Problem or Hot Air? The Earth is Not on the Brink of Environmental Ruin By Jonathan H. Adler The Free Man • April 1998 • Volume: 48 • Issue: 4. El Niño is the overhyped weather event of the decade. It has even made CNN’s “Larry King Live.” A natural warm spot in the Pacific Ocean that recurs every several years, El Niño exerts significant influence on global weather patterns; therefore, it’s news. It was also an opportunity for Vice President Al Gore to bang the drums for a global-warming treaty. Read More.
Free Market Consevation
Conservation, Ecology, and Growth. Chapter 13: For a New Liberty . By Murray N. Rothbard. Left-liberal intellectuals are often a wondrous group to behold. In the last three or four decades, not a very long time in human history, they have, like whirling dervishes, let loose a series of angry complaints against free-market capitalism. The curious thing is that each of these complaints has been contradictory to one or more of their predecessors. But contradictory complaints by liberal intellectuals do not seem to faze them or serve to abate their petulance—even though it is often the very same intellectuals who are reversing themselves so rapidly. And these reversals seem to make no dent whatever in their self-righteousness or in the self-confidence of their position. Let us consider the record of recent decades: Read more
Toward An Austrian Theory of Environmental Economics By Roy Cordato. Austrian economics lacks a formalized, self-conscious theory of environmental economics. But in fact all of the major elements of such a theory already exist and in that sense what is needed is to piece together the relevant aspects of Austrian economics in order to draw out and focus a theory that is already there. …Read more.
Conservation, “X-Inefficiency” and Efficient Use of Natural Resources by E. C. Pasour, Jr.. But in the related field of the exploitation of natural resources, prevalent opinion still is that the peculiar situation existing here requires governments to undertake far-reaching controls… Few arguments have been used so widely and effectively to persuade the public of the “wastefulness of competition” and the desirability of a central direction of important economic activities as the alleged squandering of natural resources by private enterprise. Read more.
Environmentalism, Free-Market by Richard Stroup. Free-market environmentalism emphasizes markets as a solution to environmental problems. Proponents argue that free markets can be more successful than government—and have been more successful historically—in solving many environmental problems. Read more.
The Market and Nature by Fred L. Smith Jr. Many environmentalists are dissatisfied with the environmental record of free economies. Capitalism, it is claimed, is a wasteful system, guilty of exploiting the finite resources of the Earth in a vain attempt to maintain a non-sustainable standard of living. Such charges, now raised under the banner of “sustainable development,” are not new. Since Malthus made his dire predictions about the prospects for world hunger, the West has been continually warned that it is using resources too rapidly and will soon run out of something, if not everything. Nineteenth-century experts such as W. S. Jevons believed that world coal supplies would soon be exhausted and would have been amazed that over 200 years of reserves now exist. U.S. timber “experts” were convinced that North American forests would soon be a memory. They would similarly be shocked by the reforestation of eastern North America–reforestation that has resulted from market forces and not mandated government austerity. Read more.
Linking Liberty , Economy, and Ecology By John A. Baden and Robert Ethier. Much environmental writing is marked by a profound disregard, even hostility, toward property rights and individual liberty. Self-interest is an evil to be combatted. And markets, at best, provide mechanisms for people to express their self-interest in ways injurious to the earth. Read more.
Nature’s Entrepreneurs By Terry L. Anderson and Don Leal. In his book The Vital Few, Jonathan Hughes describes the entrepreneurs of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries who unleashed America ‘s industrial power. Names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Ford, and Morgan lead the cast of characters. In some cases these “vital few” invented new products or production techniques, but mostly they amassed capital, contracted with other input owners, and developed marketing strategies that lowered the cost of products and increased profits. In recent times, industrialists may have fallen from the list of the vital few, replaced by electronic-information gurus like Bill Gates or media moguls like Ted Turner, but the required entrepreneurial skills remain basically the same. Read more.
Stewardship Versus Bureaucracy By Rick Perry. Ensuring a safe, plentiful water supply is an issue crucial to the well-being of every American one that will certainly intensify as we move into the twenty-first century. Thus, we must answer this question: How can we guarantee a sufficient supply of water to satisfy the necessary but competing demands of agriculture, industry, and a population that is expected to increase rapidly in the next 50 years? Read more.
The Market and Nature By Fred L. Smith, Jr. Many environmentalists are dissatisfied with the environmental record of free economies. Capitalism, it is claimed, is a wasteful system, guilty of exploiting the finite resources of the Earth in a vain attempt to maintain a non-sustainable standard of living. Such charges, now raised under the banner of “sustainable development,” are not new. Since Malthus made his dire predictions about the prospects for world hunger, the West has been continually warned that it is using resources too rapidly and will soon run out of something, if not everything. Nineteenth-century experts such as W. S. Jevons believed that world coal supplies would soon be exhausted and would have been amazed that over 200 years of reserves now exist. U.S. timber “experts” were convinced that North American forests would soon be a memory. They would similarly be shocked by the reforestation of eastern North America –reforestation that has resulted from market forces and not mandated government austerity. Read more.
Water Markets Are the Answer by Charles Oliver. The rains spun off by Hurricane Lili and Tropical Storm Isidore brought welcome relief from drought for much of the Southeast. But the respite may be temporary. While the drought may end, the southeast’s water problems have just begun. Read more.