Squirrel would like to know
How would a free market model deal with human caused environmental problems, specifically those which the individual is unlikely to care about eg a farmer who is degrading his land over the long term. Or an individual who’s lifestyle is contributing to long term environmental change
The key point about the free market is the de-centralisation of power it promotes.
In a corporatist, socialist or fascist state, huge projects or programmes, may be undertaken, millions dislocated or poisoned, huge environmental damage done and no-one is accountable.
Conversely, tour any state housing area in NZ and record the street numbers of the tidiest looking and best cared for houses.
I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that the tidier houses are mainly privately owned.
Now back to the farmer. Why would he not care about degrading his land over time? I can understand that if he was on a five year lease and was just out for a quick buck-not if he actually owned the land and wanted to pass it on to his family, or sell it to support a luxurious retirement.
My point is that private ownership encourages wise stewardship. If you doubt this, assure me that you treat a rental car as well as your own car.
However I will accept that some inbred types may well pollute their rivers, dump car bodies all over their properties, burn off every tree on the place, overgraze their land causing erosion, blanket the place in dioxin, feed their pigs unhygenic meat products which promote disease etc etc.
Now here’s the rub. If said damage is limited to the offenders property, nothing can or should be done. If a rare rich nutcase wants to turn his 10,000 hectare inherited sheep station into a desert, so be it,
If however, his pollution, erosion, spray drift, offensive smell, dioxin based pesticide, pathogens, rodents, rabbits, ragwort or possums, in any way impact on the property rights of his responsible neighbours, he is liable for full damages.
All the neighbours have to do is prove harm and Mr Inbred may lose his farm, or most of his remaining wealth in court, very quickly. Also, if Mr Inbred’s proposed action was likely to cause harm, a legal injunction could be sought to stop the activity until the matter was clarified.
The free market rewards responsible stewardship of resources. It also heavily penalises irresponsibility if in any way harms the property rights or physical wellbeing of other parties.
A key difference is that in a state socialist system, like the Resource Management Act, the onus is on the property owner to prove that his proposed project will do no harm. As it is pretty hard to prove a negative, this is a very expensive process, wide open to corruption and extortion.
In the free market, the onus is on the plaintiff to prove harm. If you can prove that your neighbour’s activities are physically harming your property or health in some way, you can shut him down or seek compensation. If you can’t-mind your own bloody business.
I believe there may be implications for the genetic engineering of crops here. I think anyone should be able to re-engineer any plant they like. However, you must have some way of limiting the effects of that re-engineering to your own property. If you plant genetically modified corn in your own field, how do you stop the modified pollen getting into your neighbour’s organic crops next door? If you cannot limit it, have you the right to do it?
Property rights are the ultimate environmental safeguard. In some ways they can be far more stringent than anything a government could dream up. They are also far more flexible and rational. Property rights and the free market are the real, long term answer to the world’s environmental problems.