I agree with Alan that there is no necessary connection between capitalist economies and environmental pollution, except that capitalism does tend to produce greater wealth and hence greater production and use of resources. I would argue that the actual correlation is distribution of power within in a society. Industrial societies with power concentrated in a small part of the populace generally pollute spectacularly (the Soviet Union, Brazil until fairly recently, China). There is often a large advantage, monetary or otherwise, in making a mess, and someone who’s powerful and not accountable can live upstream. In societies in which power is more evenly distributed, OTOH, most folks want clean water and clean air, are willing to put up with reasonable restrictions on freedom (laws) to get it, and have the power to restrain those who would profit from environmental damage. It’s actually a pretty good correlation, although there’s often quite a lag time before people figure out that there’s a problem.
However, I have yet to hear a coherent libertarian method of controlling environmental damage. Any method that seems to have the least chance of working involves some restriction of freedom. It’s the problem of the commons – one person’s short-term advantage leads eventually to serious trouble for all. I really don’t see any way other than laws/regulations (less freedom) to restrain those who pursue their own short-term interests to the common detriment. One can, of course, argue endlessly about how much and what type of regulation is needed, but “more freedom” in this case seems to lead to disaster. “Less government = more individual freedom” has been politically very useful for conservatives recently, but when much power is in the hands of corporations, the equation is not that simple, particularly when a large proportion of environmental damage is a result of corporate decisions.
[ 11-19-2002, 05:47 PM: Message edited by: Keith Wilson ]
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,
for nature cannot be fooled."