Environmentalism without Government
A free market, capitalist, exchange, political, economic system is far more environmentally friendly than any statist system, including the welfare state, socialism (whether democratic or centrally planned), or fascism. To demonstrate this, I would like to engage in some conjectural history, that is, to imagine how the world might be different had government never intervened to protect the environment but rather left all matters to property owners to sort out.
When we examine history, part of this involves carefully imagining how things might have happened otherwise. It is plain enough, for example, that without the American Revolution, without slavery, without the Russian Revolution, without Hitler’s Holocaust, and so forth, the world would be better or worse than it is.
In our personal histories, too, we can imagine, with some discipline and understanding of ourselves, of human psychology and of ethics, how our lives and that of those on whose lives we had an impact would be better or worse had we made different choices, taken different actions from those we actually took.
Indeed, the study of history has as one of its purposes to learn how in similar circumstances we can do better. And sometimes doing better means making sure that different laws and public policies from those that actually became part of our history would have had to be chosen.
This fact needs to be recalled when we consider such current problems as those involving what is commonly referred to as the environment. What might have prevented some of the lamentable pollution that we now experience? No, not all of it was preventable. Some environmental problems are inherent in the ecology of the globe—for example, the Los Angeles basin had been subject to atmosphere inversions throughout the past which left it filled with what we now call smog but was the combination of haze, dust, smoke from wild fires, and so forth.
Other so-called environmental problems, such as wildlife extinction, also occurred not through human agency but because of natural events. Only when human agency is involved—so that we can consider the different choices people could have made—can we entertain the possibility of having done things better. Indeed, a point rarely noted these days, the very idea of critically assessing past policies and conduct involves the assumption that human beings can make basic choices and they might have made ones different from those they did actually make.
Reconsidering Approaches to Environmental Problems
Consider the proposal that current champions of free-market environmentalism often make, a proposal that defenders of the politicization of environmental problems oppose almost automatically.
This proposal boils down to the very general principle, namely, that it is better all around for land and other property to be owned privately than publicly. Common or public ownership results, in other words, in what has been dubbed the tragedy of the commons. This occurs when everyone in a given society is convinced that some realm belongs to us all, so t
Article from Mises Wire