Monday, December 06, 2010

Back in the day, you could sue a railroad for soiling the laundry you hung out to dry. This extension of property rights was cut short, though, by the advent of something called Industrial Policy that we had to have to compete with France and Britain.

We need to back out of that. Trying to centrally manage the optimal tax strategy is never going to be as environmentally responsive as extending private property rights into our rivers, oceans, and air. Imagine being able to sue the farmers for their phosphate and pesticide pollution of your mile of river. Imagine being able to sue oil companies for polluting your cubic mile of ocean, while protecting it from "drive by" fishing. Imagine evil corporations having to buy easements from you in order to dump their pollution into your air or water or food.

Creating laws always creates unintended consequences and groups with a special interests in maintaining them. Look at how entrenched ethanol subsidies are, even though we now know what havoc they reek on the environment and economy. Naturally extending property rights into the Commons will marshal all kinds of motives, not just the noble ones, towards the goal of greater stewardship of the environment.

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