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The use of torts is an imperfect, albeit valuable tool for environmental protection (I’ll put up lecture notes in the coming months). Think about the implications for the environment of a world where there are limits to private property, or where private property is eliminated.

How would aggrieved parties deal with pollution? If you do not own property, then how can you claim your property was damaged, that your water was fouled, that your air was invaded, etc.? You simply cannot. And in a world where you do not have a claim to your own property and that “non-property” is violated, who can you bring suit against if it were even possible? After all, in a world with no property, what could you possibly receive as compensation? Or who would you even know who to seek compensation from, if the thing emitting the pollution is itself, unowned?

It should not be a huge surprise therefore to learn that the environmental record in countries with limited property rights is downright atrocious.

4 Responses to “Pollution and Property”

  1. Michael says:

    An interesting way to put it! Never thought of it quite like that.
    My current project is to convince someone that a city mandating a once-size-fits-all garbage service is bad. Before hand, people could choose how much garbage service they wanted. But suposedly there was a significant issue with “freeloaders” who would toss their garbage into another person’s dumpster. Since the government mandated one company that everyone must pay for service, rates have gone up (not much, but if there were significant freeloaders, wouldn’t it go down?), collections went from twice a week to once a week, and the collection bins shrunk in size. You’d think it would be pretty simple, but it isn’t. We have to stop those freeloaders, afterall.

  2. Speedmaster says:

    USSR, East Germany, N. Korea, China … seems like the places with the worst environmental records are the most statist/socialist. Yet we are constantly told that capitalism is the problem. Cognitive dissonance?

  3. Harry says:

    Being a property-owning farmer who has milked over a hundred thousands of wintercow’s, I’ve always thought of myself as being a conservationist. Besides being in one’s interest, it is always good to husband one’s property well.

    Without question people who do not own their own property treat other people’s property with contempt. Well, maybe not all, but enough of them. Some are merely careless: I’ve picked up their litter.

    Many more took Environmental Science to get their diploma, where the teacher took them to the creek to measure the effects of the wintercows drinking.

    To me, cow manure is a resource: you can’t get enough of it. The guys who toss their Evian bottles into the ditch regard cow manure as a pollutant.

    To return to Wintercow’s point, the more property is owned privately, the more likley it will be respected and used to best advantage.
    s drinking and perhaps

  4. Harry says:

    Oops. Bad editing. I had thought I had deleted the part about what the cows might have done while drinking, on their way to the barn.

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