Re: >H ENVIR:Is the planet really dying?

From: Chris Hibbert (
Date: Sun Jul 01 2001 - 20:33:11 MDT

Two weeks ago wrote:
> The progress in dealing with the environment is encouraging and welcome
> news. But those of us who favor individual rights must face the fact that
> this progress was generally achieved only through coercion. People did
> not clean the water and air, and begin protecting endangered species,
> through voluntary actions. The gains were made only by passing laws
> forbidding pollution and harming endangered animals.

I'm not going to disagree that it was government action, only that it
was the sort of action that libertarians (or at least the minarchists,
among whom I sometimes include myself) should be willing to support.

Sometimes these laws achieved their effects by outright prohibition, but
the more effective of them were designed to reduce the impact of
externalities on third parties. As such, they are supposed to make the
choices that individuals make take more account of the costs than if the
effects of pollution are passed on to society as a whole to take care of.

> Success in achieving protection goals doesn't mean that we can eliminate
> the laws that have brought those goals about. When we support and
> celebrate this positive progress, we are supporting the laws which
> brought us here, laws which infringe on individual freedom.

If you read Julian Simon's "The Ultimate Resource 2", you'll see lots of
arguments that many of these changes would likely have come about
without infringing on anyone's freedom. One of Simon's arguments is
that as societies get richer, industry develops technologies that use
ever more of the inputs effectively, and that side effects are mitigated
because companies find it more cost effective to reuse and recycle.
Another driver is that the public wants a cleaner environment for lots
of reasons, and finds ways to encourage their neighbors to not mess up
the neighborhood.


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