Q: What would 'Party X' do about the environment?– A: They’d use it to push privatisation.
IMAGINE A ‘PARTY X’ that was actually committed to opposing statism ,and to advocating for free enterprise. Imagine such a party had a cabinet committing to rolling back the state, and an environment minister brimming over with ideas to do that.
Here, in several parts, are the sort of environmental policies such a party (and such a minister) could advocate. Seven simple policies using present-day political realities to roll back the state without introducing any new coercion along the way.
Today, “Iwi then Kiwi” - a unique kind of privatisation. A politically viable method of ending the tragedy of the commons by beginning to get rid of the commons.
The leitmotif of this series so far is using existing pressures in the political environment to advance the de-politicisation of the natural environment.
There is arguably no more virulent and on-going political pressure in the wild than those that formed the Maori and Mana Parties. And there’s no more important environmental repair than fixing the Tragedy of the Commons. The water needs it. The land needs it. Even “protected” species need it.(And while the reasons the Commons need fixing are as simple to understand as cocktail party etiquette, the methods by which the Tragedy is overcome are enough to earn people a Nobel Prize.)
Now, I’ve maintained in many posts here that property rights under a common law regime provides superior environmental protection to what we presently endure. Property rights are the key to genuine environmental protection. Property rights in defence of nature. But there’s a problem there too, isn’t there. There’s no property rights without property…
To work effectively, property rights-based environmental protection needs an owner to stand up for it. And more than half of this beautiful country (and, despite the best efforts of Hone, Pita and Tariana, most of the seabed, foreshore and waterways) have no-one to stand up for them but a bureaucrat. [Cue the joke told by Department of Conservation (DoC) bureaucrats: Q: What’s the best way to exterminate possums? A: Give them to DoC to protect. ]
No, most of this beautiful country still has no property rights attached. Most of it is essentially un-owned, i.e., nearly half of the country is still nominally Crown Land, with no owner in the least interested in standing up for their patch. (With about thirty percent of the country being so called “conservation estate,” i.e., “protected” by Kate Wilkinson and her Department of Conservation (DoC).)
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 and Mana Parties something to vote for? Think about that for a moment.
It makes a lot of sense. Who’s going to advocate loudest and longest for title in all Crown land, seabed, foreshore and waterways to be privatised? Just imagine getting the full weight of brown roundtable behind privatisation. That’s a fair old weight!
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 sort of privatisation.
If we can have titles created in land where there are presently no titles at all, 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 it’s perfectly in line with our goal of more freedom, with no new coercion.
THERE”S JUST FOUR THINGS that should be done to ensure that both freedom and prosperity are secured.
- The first thing is to ensure that only Crown Land is involved; that no existing private property will be in the mix. Don’t put it past a bureaucrat to take the chance to effect another confiscation, even while all around are being privatised.
- 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. The only opposition to this condition will come from tribal leaders themselves, of course, 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 is to ensure that all existing interests, such as logging rights, fishing rights, harvesting rights—all existing easements or covenants, whether presently registered or not—are registered and protected on all new titles.
- And the fourth thing to do is to to ensure that all titles created are both fully individualised and 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.
So there you have it. A simple and politically possible way to begin effecting property rights all over the country. In short, this is a privatisation even talkback callers can support.
And 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 thence to reduce the importance of tribalism--and then once land and water end up in the hands of those who value the land and waterways the most, owners who have most to gain from its protection, we’ll have the sort of strong environmental protection across the country that common law was so successful at delivering.
[Tomorrow, a very special carbon tax plan ...]
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THE SERIES SO FAR:
INTRO: 'What Would 'Party X' Do About the Environment?'
PART ONE: Un-taxes
PART TWO: 'A Nuisance and a BOR.'
PART THREE: Making Life Easier for Small Consents
THE SERIES IS BASED ON THE PRINCIPLE DEVELOPED HERE: 'Transitions to Freedom: Shall We Kill Them in Their Beds?'