Re: MAI and the environment

Michael Lorrey (
Wed, 25 Mar 1998 19:51:52 -0500

Geoff Smith wrote:

> At some point, someone (I think Michael Lorrey or Lee Daniel Crocker),
> mentioned that those states who eliminated their tradition environmental
> laws in favour of laws that allowed private citizens to take legal action
> against polluters ended up lowering their levels of pollution. (this
> sounds exactly like the Coase Theorem in action) Could someone please give
> me some facts and figures on this phenomenon?
> This example came up in a discussion about how the Multilateral Agreement
> on Investment will affect the environment. My argument is that this treaty
> will force governments to get rid of their environmental laws (as these
> laws will put domestic companies at a disadvantage to the MAI-protected
> foreign companies) Therefore, the last line of defence for the environment
> will be to allow private citizens to sue companies for the pollution they
> cause which, according to someone on this list, will actually be better for
> the environment.

Yes, this would be good, however, then corporations would lobby for tort reform,
since foreign countries without populations concerned about the environment (or
without a voice to air those concerns) would still be havens for corporations to
manufacture toxic intensive products in. Unless there are either international
environmental laws with teeth put into force, or unless nations are willing to allow
foreigners to sue for damages to the environment as a whole, then the only real
solution would be to force all products imported to have been produced in plants that
meet the same environmental standards as domestically produced products. In this
manner, the nation with the most strict reg wins.

Another possibility is to allow consumers to sue the distributors of foreign made
products for their part in the externalization of costs that is inherent in

Another solution would be to tax products based on the energy input and waste
produced to manufacture it. Products sold would then have to bear a label
identifying, like a USRDA label on foods, the energy and pollution 'content' of the

Note that all of these, with the exception of the second to last one, require large
government administration, so naturally, I don't like them. The last one could
possibly be performed by an independent inspection corporation like UL or Consumer
Testing, rather than by government agencies.

   Michael Lorrey
------------------------------------------------------------ Inventor of the Lorrey Drive
MikeySoft: Graphic Design/Animation/Publishing/Engineering
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