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The Puzzle of Environmental Politics

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Cross, Frank B.; Wiener, Jonathan B.
Journal: Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum
Volume: 9
Date: 1998
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/3307
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Subject(s): environmental policy
environmental law
Abstract: From Introduction: "The Third Cummings Colloquium on Environmental Law at Duke University was an effort to pull apart and piece back together the puzzle of environmental politics. As in past iterations of the Cummings Colloquia, our mission was simple but ambitious: to bring together diverse disciplines to confront the most difficult intellectual and practical challenges in environmental law and policy. "One difficulty with much past analysis of the issue has been the conflation of the descriptive and normative issues raised by public choice theory. Devotees of the theory typically contend descriptively that special interests drive legislation and then slip too easily into the normative position that such legislation must be a bad thing, advancing special interests at the expense of the public good. Critics of the theory, conversely, begin by presuming that environmental legislation is patently a good thing and argue that it therefore could not have been the product of inappropriate special interest influence -- and must instead have arisen from other sources, such as epochal 'republican moments.' But these are not the only options. Another possibility is that environmental legislation is the product of special interests and that it may still be a good thing. Still another possibility is that environmental law may not be the product of special interests, and yet that it may be a bad thing. "This colloquium endeavored to keep the 'is' and the 'ought' distinct. First, we investigated the descriptive explanation of the emergence of environmental law, remaining agnostic about our normative judgment of the results. Second, we asked whether normatively desirable environmental law requires fundamental reform of the political system."

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