Sunday, March 19, 2006

Kudos To The Free Market Greenies

The problem with most of the environmental movement today is that the movement is controlled by watermelons. They are green on the outside, but red on the inside. They are former Marxists looking for a home after the fall of communism, and they found it in the anti-progress, anti-capitalist environmental movement.

But conservatives and libertarians care about the environment, too. They recognize that pollution is a social cost not fully burdened on the polluter in most situations. Thus, some mechanism, which means government "regulation" of some sort, must find a way to place the costs on the polluter. Conservatives and libertarians recognize that some pollution and use of resources is good, and the proper regulation comes in fixing cost and letting the market work. Watermelons want government command and control. Watermelons, BTW, suck.

A related issue is conservation. Because the green movement is the watermelon movement, the only answer is to get laws passed preserving land or taking it by the government. As greens have learned however, you don't buy votes in Washington, or in any other government. You rent them. And thus, the answer to the problem is not government, but property rights.

A British paper reports that a British millionaire has figured this out. He has purchased a rainforest the size of greater London, and ordered all tree cutting to cease. So long as his property rights are recognized in Brazil, his plan is the best of all possible worlds. He owns the land and has every right to "preserve" it. I applaud his recognition that the answer to the environmental issues of the day lie in the free market. His whole hearted embrace of global warming theories and his politics in general may make we hesitate to vote for this guy, but his use of his money is just fine with me.

When I was in college some decade plus ago, I did a speech on the environmental movements' need to shift its money spending focus from renting Congressional votes to buying property and mineral rights. Some organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy, are already doing this. Numerous organizations are now promoting ideas such as the Conservation Easement.

Many environmental efforts are not really about science or the environment. Some people just want to live in nature and not have other people's proper use of their property interfere with view. In such cases, these methods are particularly appropriate. They do not seek to use the sword of government to achieve what is simply a private preference objective.

It is no surprise to me that the answer to environmental concerns is in the free market and not the rented power to regulate. But that will not stop other organizations from continuing to waste resources and time doing by force that might be done by agreement.


At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Brad Warbiany said...

You're completely leaving out an important part of the equation. Yes, renting votes in Washington is a temporary endeavor. But as you well know, power (or land), once ceded to government, tends to stay there. Regulation, once enacted, is rarely relaxed.

For the watermelons, if it will cost them $1B to lobby enough Congresspeople to pass restrictions that they want, or $10B to buy the land themselves to preserve it, it's a simple equation. They lobby Congress. It's not the proper purpose of government, nor (IMHO) is it moral. But I'll grant that it makes better economic sense for them to pursue this course of action.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Cassandra said...

I'd be a lot more sanguine about the prospects of this approach (which I heartily applaud) in a pre-Kelo world, KJ. Sadly, the lure of turning my unimproved acreage into a supermall may prove difficult for the humanitarians among us to resist....

And how can I argue?

At 12:53 PM, Blogger KJ said...


I think the approach is one of long term cost/benefit. Buying votes never ends. Owning the land has a permenancy about it.

It is why owners of real estate tend to take good care of their resources, but lessors using government owned land could care less if they over take or destroy. It isn't theirs and they have no expectation of using it next year.


I never said there was a silver bullet, but Kelo may be a temporary phenomena. The political movements are in place. This is still a better long term solution. It probably goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, that land further from large city development is safer from that takings risk also.

At 5:00 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

Oh I'm just snarking KJ. You know I agree with you. I do, however, think that if private property is no longer sacrosanct there needs to be some government involvement in conservation.

At 10:35 PM, Blogger KJ said...

Well, there is govt involvement, and there always will be. But if you want to save land from development for some dumb reason, your dollar is better spent buying the rights rather than renting the regulation. Besides, along comes a Reputhrigan like W and the next thing you know polar bears are sleeping on oil rigs.

At 5:04 AM, Blogger camojack said...

I've supported The Nature Conservancy, et al, for years.

Not only that, but my 3 acres on the Big Island (where I plan to retire someday) are helping to preserve the second largest lava tube type cave system on the planet...

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

the next thing you know polar bears are sleeping on oil rigs.

I still laugh every time I read that line :)


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