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Musings on pollution and education

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Wheylous Posted: Sat, Dec 8 2012 8:24 AM

A few months ago, I realized that under free market education, it wouldn't be just children and parents looking for education, it would also be schools and other educational providers going around searching for clients. I don't remember why this was an important realization, but it was.

Recently, I was thinking about pollution, and this thought struck me:

Before the mid 1800s, individuals could successfully sue companies for property damage from pollution. Then, government stifled the lawsuits in the name of national production. Walter Block discusses the idea that if we were to remove environmental regulations and open up the courts once again, you would have specialized environmental forensics companies which investigate pollution claims.

The specific idea I had was as follows:

Just as the schools seek out the students, why couldn't these forensics companies seek out customers? They do the research on the pollution beforehand, find out who is being affected by a factory, and contact them and offer to sell them the evidence for some amount of money (or for a percent of the winnings).

Is this realistic?

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Just as the schools seek out the students, why couldn't these forensics companies seek out customers? They do the research on the pollution beforehand, find out who is being affected by a factory, and contact them and offer to sell them the evidence for some amount of money (or for a percent of the winnings).

Is this realistic?

Not in every case, but in general I'd say it is. Take my town for example. There's a Nestle factory here and every time it's about to rain, it smells like instant coffee outside. I have no idea its health effects. This would obviously attract some interest from research groups. The instant coffee thing affects the tri-town (:P) area and the source is clearly the instant coffee Nestle factory. Other examples where it could work would be around fracking areas and coal mines.

The cases in which I don't think it's very likely to occur is with minimal levels of pollution, or pollution that only affects a couple of people.

Or maybe competing firms will send their own pollution scientists out there. For example, Nestle's rival could hire some scientist to get to the bottom of the instant coffee rain problem. Then, Nestle's rival will seek restitution for the people in my area and maybe it will shut the Nestle plant down, at which time the rival firm can fill the void. Same for the fracking firm and the coal mine.

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Personally, I'd call the smell of coffee when raining a positive externaility. Maybe I could petition Nestle to open a factory near me...

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It gets old fast. I thought all rainy days everywhere smelt like coffee when I was a kid. I didn't smell the actual smell before rain as it occurs in nature until I was like 16, haha. Let's not derail the thread with this, though.

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