Monday, 17 September 2007

What would 'Party X' do about the environment? - PART 4: Privatisation

Continuing this serialisation based on my 'Free Radical' article 'Environmental Judo' - seven environmental policies that a genuine opposition party could adopt if they were serious about spontaneously shrinking the state, without any new coercion along the way.

Today, a politically possible method of ending the tragedy of the commons, by getting rid of the commons.

4. Privatisation: First Iwi, then Kiwi.
There’s something missing in this series so far, isn’t there. Every proposal presented so far responds to already existing pressure in the political environment, using it to advance the depoliticisation of the natural environment. So far there’s been something for nearly everyone here, something (so far) that nearly every political party could sign up to.

Nearly every party. There’s been nothing yet specifically for the Maori Party.

And there’s something else missing. We’ve said that property rights under a common law regime provides superior environmental protection, but there’s a problem there too, isn’t there. That’s right. To work effectively, property rights-based environmental protection needs and owner to stand up for it, yet nearly half of this beautiful country and most of the seabed, foreshore and waterways still have no property rights attached. Most of it is essentially un-owned, ie., nearly half of the country is still nominally Crown Land, with no owner in the least interested in standing up for their patch. (Yes, that’s right, about thirty percent of the country is so called “conservation estate” that is “protected” by Chris Carter and the Department of Conservation (DoC). Here’s a favourite joke told by DoC employees that reveals their own view of their efficacy: “How do you get rid of possums?” Answer: “Give them to DoC to protect, and wait three years.”)

So what do we do? Using our ‘judo’ principle of using our opponents’ strengths to gain our goals, what do you think the easiest way would be to establish property rights in all that land that needs property rights protection. Anyone? I’ll give you that clue again, shall I?

What about giving the Maori Party something to vote for?

Who’s going to advocate loudest and longest for the title in all Crown land and in seabed, foreshore and waterways to be passed to Maori (or as I like to call it, privatisation) than the same brown roundtable who are presently riding the gravy train. If I may use the expression, that’s a fair weight behind a proposal for privatisation.

So am I really advocating giving all this un-owned land away to a bunch of tribalists!? Well, yes I am. What have they done to deserve it? Well, nothing.

Nothing, that is, except develop rights in land and water over long historic use, and agitate loudly enough today so that they’re on point as the easiest way to effect this privatisation. If we can have titles created in land where there presently isn’t any, if we can extract land and water from the hands of the state and turn it into private property with covenants and easements attached that protect all existing rights, then that’s as good a thing as any peaceful freedom fighter can hope to achieve, and perfectly in line with our goal of more freedom, with no new coercion.

There’s just three things we need to ensure so that both freedom and prosperity are secured.

The first thing is to ensure that only Crown Land is involved. Scrutiny will be essential to ensure no already existing private property will be in the mix.

The second is that tribalism must taken out of the mix: title must be transferred NOT to tribal leaders so they can increase their control or create new tribal fiefdoms, but to individuals. I suspect that the main opposition to this condition will come from tribal leaders who realise they’re being made redundant, and not before time—and that opposition in itself will reveal that the interests of the tribal leaders and the people on whose behalf they claim to speak are not the same, and are actually at odds with each other.

The third thing to ensure is that all titles created must be transferable. As Ronald Coase points out, as long as titles are made transferable and transaction costs are kept low, then land titles so created will tend to end up in the hands of those who most value them. The first holders of these new titles can do anything they wish with them (and making land individually owned and transferable is between them a necessary condition to allow the holders of these titles to borrow against them to advance their wealth), but as we’re all aware the deadbeats and the astute will both quickly sell to those who value them more than they do, and the productive who wish to will keep theirs and use it to produce something more.

The choice will be entirely up to these new first-time owners. Over time we would expect to see this land and water which was initially un-owned and unprotected (the main reason for problems like ‘dirty dairying’) used first to raise people out of poverty who are in urgent need of that boon and to reduce the importance of tribalism, and then (with covenants and easements still attached) it will end up in the hands of those who value the land and the waterways the most, owners who have most to gain from its protection.

In short, this is a privatisation even talkback callers can support.
[Tomorrow, a very special carbon tax plan ...]
* * * *

INTRO: 'What Would Party X Do?'
PART 1: 'Eco n-taxes
Part 2: 'A Nuisance and a BOR.'
Part 3: 'Small Consents Tribunals'

'Transitions to Freedom: Shall We Kill Them in Their Beds?'

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