Free Market Environmentalism: Protecting the Environment Via Private Property

Smith Chapter in Solutions for an Environment in Peril

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There is an alternative to the traditional approach to environmentalism that must initially strike many readers as foreign, paradoxical, or counterintuitive—the idea that the environment is protected best if it is protected privately. And yet that approach continues to draw serious attention, and it has demonstrated some significant successes.

I worked at the EPA in the 1970s, and many of the issues being debated then—pollution prevention, recycling, emission permits, hazardous waste management, pollution taxes—are still of great concern to the agency. But while many of the questions have remained the same, the answers to which I now subscribe are very different. When I was at the EPA, I was a strong environmentalist. I still am today. At that time, however, I had a deeper faith in the efficacy of government than I do now. That broad philosophical turn has influenced my thinking on environmental issues also.