A POPULAR PIECE OF schoolboy doggerel when I was a youngster went as follows: "If you notice this notice, you will notice there is no notice to notice."
That was pretty much everyone's reaction when Trevor Mallard revealed National's Environment Policy had turned up on his cafe table between the baked beans and the toast last week, and then again when the Policy itself was confirmed over the weekend by National's senior liability, Nick Smith.
Fact is, there's pretty much nothing noticeable to notice. The environmental ‘vision’ outlined within is nothing of the sort. It essentially amounts to the same old state interference via continued disrespect, if not complete ignorance, of private property rights -- in other words, the same old "me too" environmentalism Smith has been peddling now for a decade-and-a-half.
- Neither abolition nor change nor even mention of National's Resource Management Act.
- No commitment to reinstating the protection of New Zealanders' property rights that the Resource Management expunged.
- No recognition that it is property rights and common law that provide the most secure environmental protection possible, and did so for most of seven-hundred years.
- A new Environmental Protection Agency to continue the job of doing over New Zealanders' property rights that the Resource Management began.
- The already announced promise to strangle the economy by 50% to half-meet the Kyoto Protocol targets National signed up to on Smith's previous watch.
- National's own Emissions Tax Scam.
Nothing new at all then, just the same authoritarian approach to "the environment" from the dripping wet Nick Smith now as he exhibited when he was a minister administering the Resource Management Act back in the nineties -- the same wet green wet dream as every other politician -- unless of course you count yet another bureaucracy that National would like to join the horde huddled around Wellington's downtown in search of ever more expensive office space: an "Environmental Protection Agency" that will no doubt emulate the expensive disaster that its American progenitor is widely recognised as being, while hoovering up over-earnest young graduates from the inexorably increasing number of environmental psuedo-science courses that are slowly taking over the educational sector, for an agency that will be inexorably doing the same to the economy.
Quite how another bureaucracy to add to Wellington's already replete list is going to lead to fewer bureaucrats rather than more (and a note to National's billboard incompetents: if you're going to lie for your living, then at least try to be grammatically correct), only either a politician or a liar would know. But I fear, dear reader, you've already spotted the repetition there. And quite how another agency with all-encompassing powers second-guessing every single productive person in the country is going to help either prosperity or freedom, only a politician would try to explain.
And they do try. Prosperity? Growth? "Environmentalism and a commitment to economic growth must go hand in hand," said Key's speech writers. "We should be wary of anyone who claims that one can or should come without the other," he read. "Let me be clear that I don't think environmental and economic objectives need always be traded off one against the other," he clarified. "Increasingly, New Zealand's environmental credentials will underpin our prosperity," he insisted. One wonders who he was trying to convince since, as this blog has made a fetish of arguing since its birth, when environmentalism by diktat is the chosen route, freedom and prosperity are the first things to disappear.
Freedom? Prosperity? Environmental values? If those three together are to mean anything, then firm clear property rights under a regime of common law were and are and always have been the only possible way to harmonise the three, and in face the only way they ever have been. Private property rights in a common law system provide the strongest possible protection for the environment and for property owners -- clear property reflect back to owners the consequences of their own actions; common law gives standing to those whose ownership rights are violated by environmental degradation.
If you really wish to improve the environment, with the additional bonus of achieving massive economic growth within a relatively short space of time, just have the guts to abolish the Resource Management Act outright. Don’t tinker; just trash it. That appalling piece of fascism allows others to control the use of one’s property. Further, it is the single biggest impediment to progress within New Zealand. When somebody owns something, they look after it to maintain its value. When the law upholds them in that protection, we all get to kick an environmental goal. In other words, if you wish to maintain the quality of the environment while giving wings to prosperity, which surely even Nick Smith must agree is urgently necessary, you can start by implementing full private property rights -- instead of promising to do them over further.
DESPITE KEY"S LIMP ATTEMPTS to link environment and economics simply by raw insistence, the link between the two fields is clear enough.
After all, economics has been defined as the science that studies infinite wants in a world of scarce resources. That must surely have something to say about things? And effective property rights under a system of common law is demonstrably the most effective method yet devised of 'internalising externalities' -- of reflecting back to owners the real environmental consequences of their activities. (See for example: "The Invisible Hand of the Market Doesn't Deliver a Sustainable Nation": True or False?)
Between them, strong property rights and real price signals are far more efficient at telling us all the real consequences of our own activities and of our own choices-- and they offer the added benefit that they're not just real rather than made-up; they're not just efficient; they're not just moral, but they're good for freedom as well.
That's not something one can say for any the silly statist schemes Smith takes to be 'green.' The biggest long-term cost of all of them is not just for the environment, it's in their cost to the human environment -- the cost to us all of shackling industry and productivity; of the time wasted in fruitless feel-good stupidity; of the larger state needed to administer all these programmes (with the various threats that implies) and in the loss of freedom to live our own lives in our own way.
As I've said before, when they come for you they'll be carrying a clipboard, not a gun -- and the person carrying it will probably be called Jeremy.
If you've got this far, you probably want to know more. Since The Free Radical devoted part of an issue to Nick Smith's authoritarian greenwash two years ago, readers may download a PDF copy of that issue here, or by clicking on the cover above. And for more on the inimitable connection between environmental values and property rights, feel free to investigate some of NOT PC's writing on the subject:
- Cue Card Libertarianism: Environmentalism
- Cue Card Libertarianism: Common Law
- Cue Card Libertarianism: Property
- Cue Card Libertarianism: Rights
- Cue Card Libertarianism: Pollution
- Dirty Dairying
- "The invisible hand of the market doesn't deliver a sustainable nation." True or false?
- Market forces in the Amazon?
- There's lots to celebrate on World 'Environment' Day
And here's a more sane, sober and serious set of environmental policies that could be adopted by any party committed to rolling back statism, instead of advancing it: