Let the Market Save Us

Earth Day 1990 promises to be a replay of Earth Day 1970. The message hasn’t changed: Man and markets threaten Mother Earth. There are too many of us, and we consume too much of almost everything. Such thinking produced the Environmental Protection Agency and laws trying to control almost every economic activity. Theoretically, nothing can be built, marketed or researched without the EPA’s permission.

Earth Day 1990 promoters continue to believe that private rights and market forces are the cause of environmental problems. They still are calling for stronger laws and more powerful bureaucracies. They still argue for massive “back to nature” reforms. They still see disasters everywhere. But the lifting of the Iron Curtain has shown that political control is no environmental panacea. Far from it. Absent private property and individual freedom, neither man nor nature is safe.

On Earth Day, let us reconsider launching an effort. to empower people to address environmental problems directly. After all, where markets have existed, the ecology has flourished. Because they are privately owned, many forests and oyster beds in the United States are not being depleted. Private fishing clubs protect stream quality in Britain. Texas ranchers now raise endangered black rhinos. Owners become powenful stewards. 

Why not extend ownership to more environmental resources? Behind every environmental resource — ree, elephant, stream, airspace — should stand an owner able to protect it.

By Fred Smith and Dan Mcinnis