This blog is about protecting the environment using the tools of economics. Your blog manager is Jane Shaw Stroup, a former senior fellow of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC).
While the Liberty and Ecology blog is eclectic in the environmental topics it covers, its approach reflects the movement known as free market environmentalism.
In 1973, John Baden and Richard Stroup proposed selling off the U. S. Forest Service to private owners, some nonprofit and some for-profit. In an article in the Journal of Law and Economics, they argued that commercial timber would be better managed by private companies, and non-profit organizations like the Sierra Club could protect the important environmental areas.
That essay kicked off the New Resource Economics, which is now called free-market environmentalism. In 1980, Baden, along with Stroup, Terry Anderson, and P. J. Hill, started PERC, now the Property and Environment Research Center. It became a major home for thinking about how private markets could protect the environment. Subsequently, Baden started the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE). Other organizations that have adopted the New Resource Economics include the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the Heartland Institute, and a few others. Working for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, R. J. Smith began the project of gathering examples of how private conservation can be effective. Others critique inefficient governmental projects, of which there are far too many.
The New Resource Economics
The New Resource Economics harmonizes three values: ecology, prosperity and liberty. The conventional approach to environmental protection is to assume that government ownership and government regulations are necessary correctives to perceived “market failures.” The new approach recognizes that “government failures” are a curse that can be just as bad and sometimes worse. (For example, government-subsidized dams diverting ecologically-valuable water to subsidized crops.)
Environmental policy typically occupies two realms. The pictures of nature featured on calendars reflect romance. This sector includes parks, wildlands, range, wildlife, and water. All are attractive features of our natural environment. The nasty stuff emitted from pipes, stacks, and mines is the sludge. It’s material people seek to minimize and avoid.
Although the basic principles apply to both realms, those working with the New Resource Economics (NRE) tend to focus on the romance sector. It’s no accident that the New Resource Economics began in Bozeman and within the boundary of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, a 20-million-acre area surrounding Yellowstone National Park.
For more information about this approach to the environment, see this article by John Goodman.
Land conservation, protection of wildlife, and reduction of pollution are all part of the free market environmentalism movement. In recent years, another subject—global warming or climate change—has seeped into environmentalism and somewhat displaced traditional concerns. (In part, that is because private environmental protection and cleaner air and water have become routine.) To be “green” now (in many cases) is to push for reductions in what are called greenhouse gas emissions. Thus this blog has expanded into covering this area as well.
At the very least, we are skeptical of policies based on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Many miles of jet travel and numerous conferences have been spent on trying to force countries to cut back on the use of fossil fuels and even to reduce the number of cattle to reduce these emissions. Yet the experts know that drastic reductions will have little effect on future temperatures—while having large detrimental effects on economies. It seems an exercise in self-satisfaction rather than improvement of the environment. Thus, we question many of the policies surrounding climate change.
We are grateful to the Goodman Institute for providing the opportunity for this blog. The Goodman Institute is a virtual think tank founded and operated by John Goodman. The institute’s mission is to find private alternatives to government programs that aren’t working. These areas include health care, taxation, entitlement, and environmental protection. John Goodman is one of the leading experts in health care, and the Goodman Institute works with many prominent thinkers.