Here’s the poet Barrack Obama on the task of providing a sustainable future for our children:
“That bright blue ball rising over the moon’s surface, containing everything we hold dear – the laughter of children, a quiet sunrise, all the hopes and dreams of posterity – that’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for. And if we remember that, I’m absolutely sure we’ll succeed.”
Environmentalists, conservationists, and preservationists have incredibly laudable goals. Conservation is a virtue.
However, in order to provide a sustainable future we must do much more than merely conserve our resources. We must cultivate them.
The only system that effectively conserves resources and encourages healthy production is one of free-market capitalism.
Unfortunately, environmentalists cry with clenched fists and teary eyes that “Capitalism is squandering our precious resources, destroying our forests, and killing endangered animals in the pursuit of profit! Capitalism must be stopped!”
The confusion most environmentalists fall prey to stems from three fundamental beliefs, all of which are patently false.
- Environmentalists claim that there is no way for a completely free-market to discourage pollution; therefore, the actions of individuals must be heavily regulated.
Walter Block, holder of the Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Economics the Loyola School of business, explains how the free-market dealt with pollution (before it was perverted by progressive ideals) in an address to the Mises Institute:
“In the 1830s there was a spate of what were then called nuisance lawsuits… Typically, some old lady would hang up her washing on a line, and some factory a mile away would pollute dark smoke and get her laundry dirty, and she would go to court. Because we had a legal regime of protecting private property rights, the courts were very respectful of that. Namely, these courts would grant injunctions, namely, prohibitions of the violators, the polluters, the people, who were trespassing their dust onto the property and lungs of other people. This was good because not only did companies have to take into account their internal costs (land, labor, capital, insurance), they had to take into account of external costs, namely, pollution. They would be led as if by an Adam Smith’s invisible hand to use clean-burning anthracite coal, even though it was a bit more expensive.”
Block continues to explain how the justice system was perverted during the period of “coercive-socialism” in the 1870s. The courts would now say to the “little old lady, ‘to hell with your stinking, sniveling, selfish private property rights. There’s a higher good, a higher goal.’ The law was changed to undermine property rights. Now there was no incentive to use anthracite coal. There’s no incentive to have research and development to stop pollution.”
Whether dirtying an old woman’s laundry or contributing to lung disease, we must realize that any pollution that causes damage to life or property is no different than physical acts of aggression.
A legal system that is not concerned with defending life and property and instead values abstractions such as the “common good” will find it impossible to ascribe real cost to damaging behavior and fail to muster up benevolence among self-interested people to cultivate and to conserve, which is a job that only a free-market guided by the “invisible hand” can effectively accomplish.
- Environmentalists claim that conservation is diametrically opposed to the purposes of capitalism, as capitalists seek to consume rather than conserve.
Confused environmentalists usually make this claim while not realizing that businessmen are merely concerned with creating a system that improves the value of their property, uses limited resources wisely, and creates sustainable profit.
A sustainable system is the same goal that environmentalists hold, making businessmen self-concerned environmentalists.
Moreover, businessmen are, perhaps, even better environmentalists than environmentalists themselves. While environmentalists can only preserve, businessmen desire to not merely preserve what they have, but to create more of it!
This is the beauty of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.”
This is the unexpected virtue of pursuing profit.
Now, at this point it is important to note that the word “environment” refers to everything around you. Therefore, “environment” must refer to either a person or property. When environmentalists find themselves “fighting for” the “environment,” they are not strictly referring to the natural world, as privatized parts of the natural world need no “fighting for.” Environmentalists are primarily referring to the communized property the natural world has to offer.
It is true that private businesses can and do hurt the environment (and by “environment” I mean communized and privatized property) by dumping their waste in rivers, releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, and depleting common resources on government-awarded leases in the pursuit of profit.
Communized environments are only effectively protected through sheer benevolence, which is a rare commodity in our world; whereas, private property is carefully defended by its owners.
A corporation could easily pollute a public river with little to no repercussions. However, a private business could not get away with dumping waste in my backyard. I would not allow it because I care about the environment (my environment, that is).
Even the ancient Greeks understood this concept. Aristotle writes, “What is common to many is least taken care of, for all men have greater regard for what is their own than for what they possess in common with others.”
And therein lies the tragedy.
Environmentalism is trapped in the world of communized property, creating countless examples of the “tragedy of the commons,” as Garrett Hardin would say.
Good businesses can and do only pursue profit. They do not operate out of benevolence.
Businesses will willfully pollute to cut costs and increase profits.
While there are plenty of businesses that enact “green” initiatives and use “environmentally friendly materials,” these companies only exist in wealthy capitalist nations. No one in a third world country is able or even concerned with “going green.”
It is capitalism, the pursuit of profit, which subsidizes environmentalism and “benevolent” corporations.
So it is pure benevolence or arbitrary, business killing, one-size-fits-all federal (or international) regulations. These regulations often do far more than discourage harmful behavior because governments cannot ascribe real cost to communized losses.
Regulations usually prevent competitors from entering markets, which is consequently a policy of favoring big businesses that can afford to keep up with these decrees, and, tragically, these policies drive up energy costs.
Since neither benevolence nor regulations will save our environment, we must find a radical solution.
Capitalists and environmentalists have the same goals: to conserve natural resources and create long-term prosperity. Let us unite them through the power of private property.
To escape the “tragedy of commons,” we must privatize the environment.
We must privatize everything.
- Environmentalists claim that certain parts of the natural world are impossible to monetize and will be destroyed by the greed of individuals in pursuit of profit.
To debunk this claim, let’s look at a few questionable areas where the power private property has typically been restricted.
“What about endangered animals? They certainly have no economic value. Greedy capitalists would kill them off for profit! They must be protected by our governments!”
I would certainly hope capitalists would kill animals for profit! It may surprise you that some of the most thriving populations of exotic and endangered animals exist in Texas, not because of benevolent environmentalists, but simply because people will pay a high price to hunt them.
Those who would kill a certain species of animal to the point of extinction are those who do not own them, such as poachers.
These capitalists are not merely preserving these endangered animals; they are cultivating them. But this only happens when these endangered animals are allowed to be owned privately, not exist on common reservations.
“What about the rainforests? What about the wetlands? The Amazon? National Parks? Greedy business owners would turn Yosemite into a shopping mall!”
Actually, quite the opposite would happen. By selling off these “protected” areas and allowing them to be monetized, capitalists would actually contribute to the protection of these amazing places through ecotourism, driven by the wealthy tourists of “greedy” capitalistic nations.
Capitalists would protect these lands, once again, not out of benevolence, but because they have incentive to save them. And at the worst, these private owners would manage these areas with the same level of competence as the federal government does.
“What about the oceans? Rivers? Lakes? Capitalists use them to dump their waste!”
The rivers and oceans of the world, communized as they are, are some of the most overlooked of our precious resources. An owner of a powerful river could easily monetize the river through fishing licenses and hydroelectricity. Any owner of a private river would not tolerate pollution and quickly seek retribution of any trespassers, like all good property owners do.
Oceans, too, could easily be sectored off and monetized in a similar way, as owners would sell licenses to fishing, cargo, and passenger ships. Oceans could actually become immeasurably more productive as owners of zones would be incentivized to cultivate their share of the ocean by mining for minerals and increasing fish population.
“You would sell away all of our national resources to private business owners? We wouldn’t have a single tree or drop of oil left!”
Owners have every incentive to conserve their resources. Whenever a logging company depletes a forest, for example, it is because they do not own the land. They merely own a lease. This incentivizes them to cut every tree because they only “own” access to the land for a short while.
In sharp contrast, when logging companies own the land they deforest, they end up, over a long period of time, increasing the amount of trees on their land, once again, for profit.
The same reasoning follows for the production of all natural resources. Private owners seek to wisely produce at pace which meets demand, increasing long-term profitability while keeping consumer costs as low as possible. And as resources, such as oil, are slowly depleted, costs will rise, creating a natural incentive for developing alternative energy sources.
Regulations and restrictions on harvesting natural resources drive up costs while supplies remain plentiful. This makes life hard for the consumer, big businesses richer, and fails to create a real incentive to develop alternative energy sources because energy providers do not become desperate to find profit in alternate resources as they would when their supplies are naturally diminished.
“What about global warming? Ha, you can’t sell the ozone layer!”
It is true that the market has not yet devised a way to monetize the ozone layer and that the issue of climate change is global problem, not a private one.
But as Paul Knappenberger would say, “what is the breathless urgency here?”
Before sweeping legislation is imposed upon private businesses, we should take the claims of climate change interest groups with a healthy dose of skepticism, as their models never, ever hold up, and their reports are often intentionally lacking in objectivity.
Privatizing the environment is a radical solution in pursuit of a radical goal.
Privatization of the natural world will not kill environmentalism. Privatization will, in fact, strengthen it! Wealthy environmentalists will be empowered to carefully protect areas that they cherish through ownership, not through impotent, impersonal, government-dictated regulations.
Just imagine a world in which environmentalists could buy stock in the Amazon! What if “going green” was more than a slick marketing ploy? What if buying “green” products meant that you were enabling an environmental group to purchase a national park? The service of preservation could be effectively monetized through the power of private ownership.
We must fully recognize the daunting task of providing a sustainable future for our posterity.
Greed, a constant in the heart of man, is a dangerous thing when not tied to the power of private property.
If we restrict the “invisible hand,” we do our environments and ourselves real damage.
Capitalism has produced an unimaginable amount of wealth and prosperity. The living conditions of modern Americans would cause any medieval king to envy.
Therefore, let us unleash the full power of the free-market on the whole earth so that we may leave this “bright blue ball rising over the moon’s surface” a more cultivated, productive, and prosperous place for our children.
I’ll protect my environment. Now you go protect yours.