Who Owns the Environment?

All environmental issues boil down to either the "tragedy of the commons" or overpopulation.

Old European villages generally had a "commons" where anyone could graze his animals for free. The tragedy of the commons was that this land was always overgrazed. The problem was not that there was a lack of grazing available, but rather that the commons was a limited resource with unlimited access. If you didn't graze your animals there until every blade of grass was gone, someone else would.

A modern example of this would be private vs. national forests. With private forests, logging operations must take into account the value of the land, so practices like clear cutting are the exception rather than the rule. Needless to say, this is the opposite of the case for national forests.

Even when government exerts sovereignty over air and water, it has never done a good job of managing them. In fact, governments (socialist industries and military bases) are the worst pollutors of all.

One of the saddest aspects of environmental regulations is that they always contain loopholes or exemptions so that the worst pollutors are unaffected while their competition has to bear new regulatory burdens and expenses. In other words, major pollutors are rewarded by environmental regulations by driving their competitors out of business. (No bill ever makes through the legislature unless someone can make a buck off it.)

The solution to environmental mismanagement is to make the environment subject to market forces. This can be done a number of ways, such as granting property rights to the air above privately owned land, or by creating air and water usage shares which can be owned and traded on the market.

While there are many other ways to improve the environment which are completely compatible with the free market, these are generally held in contempt by Greens, even though such approaches are more effective than the ones they embrace. For example, while the Nature Conservancy has done far more for the environment than the Sierra Club, they are regarded as corporate lackies since they work with, rather than against, private interests.

Ultimately, every living thing produces pollution (oxygen producing plants nearly wiped out all life when they first appeared). While modern technology produces highly toxic wastes, primitive technology produces much larger quantities of lessor toxic wastes to produce the same quantity of goods. To maintain current levels of population, pollution is inevitable no matter what technology is used.

Environmental regulation strong enough to "save the planet" will inevitably reduce the population by starvation (if not more directly). While Greens may consider themselves worthy of deciding who shall live and who shall die, I certainly don't trust anyone with that sort of power.

Do people seek power in order to further noble causes, or do they embrace noble causes in order to seek power?

See also noble values