By Harley Austin | United States
In America, pollution has been a growing concern for decades. Unfortunately, this has led to many so-called “environmentalists” supporting increased government regulations on the economy. However, the free market, which these groups blame our pollution problem on, is actually the hidden answer to this problem. Privatization of land and water, along with the end of regulations that limit the free market, will solve this important issue.
Government Has Prolonged Pollution
To understand why privatization is the answer, we must first analyze how the government has made the pollution issue worse.
The first and most obvious way government has worsened pollution is by directly subsidizing fossil fuel industries. The government spends billions of taxpayer dollars in coal and oil subsidies that go directly into the pockets of those companies. This has allowed those companies to maintain their immense power over the US energy industry. In a free market, inefficient methods of production, in this case fossil fuels, would lose to competitors, in this case renewable energy. However, these subsidies have prevented that from happening, thereby prolonging the pollution issue.
Second, the belief that government regulations help the pollution problem is absurd. The EPA, like most bureaucracies in our crony capitalist system, is full of corruption and waste, especially in the past decade. The EPA has also had a history of ignoring scientific data that’s politically inconvenient for it. This is not too surprising, coming from a government agency. Therefore, the belief that an agency like this could fix our pollution problems is ridiculous.
A recent example of government causing pollution is the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. In Flint, the local government changed its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. As a result, there were many cases of lead poisoning and a state of emergency. This is the same government that “environmentalists” say will protect us from pollution, which shows how fallacious that claim is.
The Solution: Privatization
However, the biggest way government worsens the pollution issue is through its monopoly on America’s rivers, coastlines, and waterways. Murray Rothbard, famed Austrian-School economist and founder of Anarcho-Capitalism, describes this problem in his book For a New Liberty. In which, he discusses how the Economic-Calculation-Problem applies to government-owned water and how privatization would be the answer, saying:
First, the rivers. The rivers, and the oceans too, are generally owned by the government; private property, certainly complete private property, has not been permitted in the water. In essence, then, government owns the rivers. But government ownership is not true ownership, because the government officials, while able to control the resource cannot themselves reap their capital value on the market. Government officials cannot sell the rivers or sell stock in them. Hence, they have no economic incentive to preserve the purity and value of the rivers. Rivers are, then, in the economic sense, “unowned”; therefore government officials have permitted their corruption and pollution. Anyone has been able to dump polluting garbage and wastes in the waters. But consider what would happen if private firms were able to own the rivers and the lakes. If a private firm owned Lake Erie, for example, then anyone dumping garbage in the lake would be promptly sued in the courts for their aggression against private property and would be forced by the courts to pay damages and to cease and desist from any further aggression. Thus, only private property rights will insure an end to pollution — invasion of resources. Only because the rivers are unowned is there no owner to rise up and defend his precious resource from attack. If, in contrast, anyone should dump garbage or pollutants into a lake which is privately owned (as are many smaller lakes), he would not be permitted to do so for very long — the owner would come roaring to its defense.” –For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto by Murray Rothbard
In this, Rothbard claims that private ownership would prevent pollution because any pollution would be an invasion of that property. This way, there would be no pollution because the property owners would not want to devalue their property and nobody else would have permission to pollute it. This same concept could then be applied to beaches, forests, lakes, and any other areas.
The Free Market and Renewable Energy
Finally, pollution can be remedied through new innovations and technologies, notably in the energy industry. As mentioned before, the government has been sustaining the fossil fuel industry and has prevented its replacement. Only the free market, through supply/demand principles, can allow for renewable energy to become affordable for consumers. With government out of the way, renewable energy could finally takeover through the legitimate, natural way: competition.
As private companies, renewable energy companies would have incentives to meet consumer demand and compete. They would also bear the brunt of the losses from any failures. The free market uses these as a form of natural selection to insure high quality products. This way, the energy industry, like any in a laissez-faire system, could finally adapt to modern demands in an efficient, voluntary, and innovative manner.
The free market truly is the hidden solution to the pollution issue. With this problem, like most others, the true answer is in property rights and privatization. So, as a final quote from Rothbard:
If property rights were to be defended fully, against private and governmental invasion alike, we would find here, as in other areas of our economy and society, that private enterprise and modern technology would come to mankind not as a curse but as its salvation.”
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