Saturday, 17 December 2005

Capitalism is cleaner

Capitalist societies are cleaner, less polluted and environmentally 'better' than non-capitalist societies -- just remember for example the ordure-strewn environmental basket-cases of Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall came down, and compare them to where yo're living now -- yet still the notion persists that capitalism somehow doesn't deal successfully with environmental issues.
Often the worry is put in terms of "What about all the negative externalities that capitalism would create?" [says Tibor Machan] Which means, what about such things as pollution of the air mass, water ways, and so forth. The idea that's put forth in criticism of capitalism is that if we had full scale private property rights respected and protected, people could do whatever they wanted with what belongs to them and this would involve dumping all kinds of harmful stuff around their property-thus, negative externalities.
Tibor Machan considers this notion, and finds it "utterly misconceived," as I do. As he explains,
"Precisely because private property rights would have to be respected and would gain full, uncompromising legal protection, negative or harmful externalities would be prohibited.... As Aristotle already knew, when people need to heed their own stuff, they are more careful than when they deal with commonly owned resources." And when our neighbour dumps one of those "negative externalities" over our fence, if our property rights are properly protected we've got a clear motivation to clean it up, and to ensure our neighbour is legaly required to take responsibility. As Tibor points out,
history bears out these reflections-near-enough-to-capitalist societies are cleaner, preserve and conserve resources more vigilantly than do near-enough-to-socialist ones where-like in the old USSR and even contemporary China-pollution and waste have been immense. So both on the basis of history and careful reflection, it makes much better sense of trust a free market, private property rights based political economy when it comes to environmental values than those that let the state manage it all.
Read all of Capitalism and Environmentalism here. And feel free to explore my sidebar categories on Common_Law, Conservation, Property_Rights, and Environment to see my own contributions to this topic.

Linked Article: Capitalism and Environmentalism - Tibor Machan
Related Topics: Common_Law, Conservation, Property_Rights, Environment, Libertarianism

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with you. In economics classes accross New Zealand it is taught that capitalism must be harnessed and restricted, because capitalism provides no protection against the corporation that pollutes the stream. It's precisely the mixed economy that allows them to do this - no one owns the stream!

    I have problems with this view in the extreme though. I feel like the character Rand talked about who, having just accepted that the Coal Industry shouldn't be nationalised, asks 'What about the gas industry?' Nonetheless I will persevere.

    My question is this: How can we have property rights on air? If I want to pollute the air around the buildings I own, that will inevitably move to someone else's 'air'. What level of pollution is ok?


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