Nobody wants to live in a world with horribly contaminated air and water. This is why the allure of political environmentalism is so powerful: The idea that we all share our natural resources and must ensure good stewardship through regulations is widely accepted.

Unfortunately, government environmental protection often yields the opposite of what is promised, and even when in some cases it appears to work, it does so at enormous cost that is probably worse for the environment in the long run. This is due to the classic problem of the tragedy of the commons. When the government, accountable only to itself, “owns” a piece of land or a stretch of river, it typically treats it with much less foresight than a private steward.

Moreover, government regulations to prevent pollution often come with perverse incentives. Historically, centralized states in the West took over central management of pollution standards to protect industry from being held locally liable for their pollution through the traditional legal system. In the United States, the modern Environmental Protection Agency often operates in ways that benefit the very businesses that it is supposedly regulating, all the while trampling on the property rights and commercial freedom of smaller businesses and powerless American property owners.

Handling pollution is a very real problem, but the federal government has made as big a mess in this area as any other. Indeed, the U.S. government is the biggest polluter in the nation by far. Its environmental edicts often have more to do with political correctness, junk science, and the urgings of special interests than with the general public’s well-being. Restoring property rights and liability for the damage one causes through pollution is the path to a clean environment and a free society.

Learn more about problems pertaining to the Environment and the solutions:

“Ernest Moniz and Fracking Drive Environmentalists Off of the Rails”
Robert H. Nelson (Forbes) March 28, 2013

“Another Hockey Stick?”
S. Fred Singer (American Thinker) March 13, 2013

“Congress Should Rein in EPA”
William F. Shughart II (Clarion Ledger) January 9, 2011

“An Environment without Property Rights”
Richard L. Stroup and Jane S. Shaw (The Freeman) February 1, 1997

“Bureaucracy vs. The Environment: What Should Be Done?”
Carl P. Close, Michael Shaw, Randy T. Simmons, and David Theroux (an Independent Institute event transcript) June 28, 2006

Saving Our Environment From Washington: How Congress Grabs Power, Shirks Responsibility, and Shortchanges the People
(Book reviewed in The Independent Review) Summer 2006

“Prosperity Without Pollution”
John Semmens; March 1, 1996

See Also:

The Independent Institute’s Archive on the Environment