Monday, April 23, 2012

Markets, the Solution to Pollution and Overfishing

By far the most common response to providing environmental quality or to conserving natural resources has been command-and-control regulations where the government decides what actions shall be taken by individuals and organizations to meet an environmental objective and enforces them with its police powers. As one would expect, there are numerous problems with this approach; let’s focus on air pollution control and fisheries to illustrate them...
In both air pollution control and fishery regulation there has been an ingenious “property rights” solution. Because air and migratory ocean fisheries cannot be easily bounded into individual property rights, the alternative has been to designate private “use rights” to the resource, while not to the resource itself. What this means is that fishermen have a right to fish, but do not own the fishery. Similarly, firms have the right to pollute, but do not own the atmosphere. While traveling fish stocks and the air cannot easily be carved up into property rights, their use can.
A little, no, a lot long, but worth the read if you're into such things.  We desperately need better solutions than we are using now.

The only problem I see is that there is insufficient room for government to accumulate power and generate graft.

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