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Isn't government intervention justified with pollution

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Answered (Not Verified) This post has 0 verified answers | 36 Replies | 8 Followers

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inquisitiveteenager posted on Wed, Aug 5 2009 9:53 AM


Removing lead from petrol was a good thing. The free market would not have done that.

The free market would never take care of the ozone hole problem.

These are two examples where I think the market fails. If someone can prove me wrong that would be nice.

Am interested in hearing your opinions.

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liberty student:

There is a pollution problem.  It's poisonous, and claims millions of lives.  It destroys property, silencing the affected before they can warn others.  It's also known to cause emotional and psychological breakdown.

The danger to our environment is statism.


Damn it.  The scariest part about it is that this pollution is a true externality, allowing some to force the cost on a third party.


Schools are labour camps.

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If you think about what would be necessary to cut CO2 emissions by the required amount I think it quickly becomes clear that the prisoners dilemma and the transaction costs involved prevent any sort of market solution. In order to fight this sort of problem it would be necessary that a potential poluter must contract with every individual that his polution might harm. However, this just doesn't look feasible to me, especially since everybody polutes to some extent or another.

This sounds remarkably similar to what I just read in The Invisible Hook.

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I know it is late (three years) but let me try this about your ozone question.


Did you know that CFCs were five times heavier than air? How could it possibly travel 40 miles upwards and start destroying the ozone layer? In a world like ours with a logical gravity, I don't see how CFCs could be responsible for the ozone depletion.

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Well, since it's already bumped...

you gotta love the setup.


Removing lead from petrol was a good thing. The free market would not have done that.

a)  How is "good" being determined here, exactly?  Relative to what?  Based on what reasoning?

b)  This is how we measure things now?  We've done away with a "cost-benefit analysis" and just do a "benefit analysis"?

c)  What exactly is the evidence that "the free market would not have done that?"


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AJ replied on Mon, May 14 2012 3:12 AM

The question not being asked here is, "A free market in what?" Free market courts would enable private citizens to sue polluters to hell and back for harming them by degrading their water, air, etc. - regardless even of any remaining ownership claim ambiguities like "who owns the atmosphere." It is only by government decree that such torts are largely inadmissable in modern state courts. This is an easy knock-down argument, so the pages of not-so-satisfying answers is a bit of an eyesore (but it was 2009).

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Answered (Not Verified) excel replied on Mon, May 14 2012 7:34 AM
Suggested by excel

We have to ask ourselves why producers used Freon in the first place. 
Producers started using freon because the gases that were already in use were gases like sulphur dioxide and ammonia.
What those gases had in common was that they were toxic, yet in common use.
Thus, the free market operators found a gas that could do the same job just as well, or even better, but as far as they knew wasn't toxic, caustic and flammable. (Unlike the common refrigerants at the time.)
The idea that these market operators would not have changed from freon r-22 to puron because they only care about making money, or that such a change is somehow impossible because it is too costly or too big a paradigm-shift is thus exploded by the fact that they by that line of argument would still be using chloromethane as a refrigerant.

Free marktet operators have a strong incentive to maintain good will, and to provide a product that they can boast of. "Not part of destroying all life on our planet" is a damn good endorsement for any product.

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As Friedman points out, in a statist society good law is a public good and bad "special interest" law is a private good. So the result is that good law is undersupplied and bad law is oversupplied.

For every law that helps the environment, there are probably a dozen laws that give companies a license to pollute it.


As for the ozone problem, international agreements on airspace, frequencies and air quality are between autonomous entities (since governments are sovereign). Governments can respect their contracts with each other because they have a capacity to retaliate via sanctions and war as a last resort. Of course, governments are able to offload the cost of war onto taxpayers, therefore they are predisposed towards it.

 But what is to stop protection agencies agreeing to make the use of certain pollutants a crime, and keeping those agreements for the same reason the Austrian government does not let companies use frequencies reserved by the Swiss government?


As for climate change, I think any action undertaken by governments to solve it, would harm people to a greater extent by reducing prosperity and making us poorer.



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